Monday, August 15, 2016

August 2016 "Quick Lit"

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy again for her monthly Quick Lit linkup, where we share short reviews of what we've been reading. 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. I've read two of Cleave's other novels -- Little Bee and Gold -- and loved them, so I was eager to read his latest. It didn't disappoint. (I run the risk of oversimplifying the plot here, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone.) Set in World War II England, the novel is about a young woman and man who have a fateful meeting near the start of the war but are forced apart by the circumstances of battle and other commitments. Cleave is so good at blending realistic detail with a true love of his characters -- as well as plenty of witty dialogue. The World War II setting has become such a common one for fiction that it risks being overdone, but Cleave gives it a fresh take as he plumbs the significance of small moments of friendship, sacrifice, and courage in the midst of world-changing events.

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold. This book by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two teenage boys who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999, is absolutely riveting. The contrast between Dylan's totally normal, healthy upbringing and the terrible events he perpetrated comes through starkly, showing how the stereotypical answers -- neglected, outcast kids and clueless parents -- don't always apply; sometimes there truly is no rational explanation. An amazing book by a woman whose life (like those of the people Dylan killed and wounded, and their families) was forever altered by her son's actions and who now works to bring attention to issues of depression, suicide, and violence.

On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light by Cordelia Strube. Don't let the lyrical title fool you the way it did me. This gritty novel is about Harriet, a precocious, foul-mouthed 11-year-old whose divorced parents are distracted by what she sees as their selfishness and immaturity as well as by her handicapped brother Irwin's needs. She dumpster-dives to find scraps for her art projects and makes money by running errands for the elderly residents of her building. I sympathized with the resourceful but lonely Harriet, but I quickly tired of her unrealistic language (really, what 11-year-old says "Beat it"??) and of the onslaught of interchangeable, eccentric old people with their odd last names (Mr. Shotlander! Mr. Pungartnik!). There are some humorous moments, and there's a somewhat redemptive thread running through the book -- but there's also a shocking plot twist that really disappointed me and made the second half of the book seem like a retread of the first. This novel got some great reviews, but though I was glad I pushed through and finished it, I can't say I recommend it.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Eighteen is excellent

Today is my daughter Allison's 18th birthday. It's hard to believe my little girl has grown up. She has become a kind and funny young woman who has many gifts to share with the world.

Last night we had a family party to celebrate her birthday, and I prepared a Mad Lib story of Allison's life to read aloud. Here is the finished product (words in blanks supplied by Allison's uncle Alan, aunt Genevieve, and cousin Sadie):


Allison was born at 5:41 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4, 1998 in Munich. When she was born, her parents Richard and Jeannie said, “What a beautiful unicorn!” The doctor thought she had a striking resemblance to Beyonce, and the nurses were amazed at the huge tuft of yellow hair on top of her larynx. Allison was a very horrifying baby who liked to ride around in her Porsche. Her favourite toy was her yellow stuffed gorilla named Oink. Allison could read before she was 3.14159 years old. One of her favourite books was Lovely George, about a funny little caterpillar who was always farting into trouble. Allison never got in trouble; she was very slowly-behaved and meanderingly followed the rules. When she went to school, the underwater welders always praised her smiling skills and her ability to laugh details. Allison is now 18 and is still just as curious and indestructible as she was when she was little. She enjoys smudging the Internet and going to the McMurdo Research Station, Antarctica, to take out Cheezies to read. She is kind and always sympathizes when Jonathan makes unhealthy noises. She is very intelligent, too: her average in school this past year was 573, and she passed all her courses with flying Cheetos. Now, on her eighteenth Christmas, we want to let her know that we patrol her with all our follicles, and we hope that she has a very hairy and friendly life.