It’s another post about books! I know, you’re thrilled. But I just started the 2011 A-Z Challenge, I’m three books in, and the one I just finished almost made me cry, so now I have to write about it/them.
In the order I’ve tackled them, here’s what I’ve read so far:
Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamist Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, Elissa Wall & Lisa Pulitzer
I’ve been on a polygamy kick recently. I love and am fascinated by sociology, studies of culture, of how we tick and how we interact, of what is “normal” to others versus “normal” to us. This fascination is why I love fantasy and science fiction: every (well-done) book is basically a big thought experiment in another “normal.” I firmly believe that getting outside of your normal is necessary to being a well-rounded and intelligent person, and I love books that take you there. This one is one of my rare non-fiction reads, and it will plunge you into a world outside your comfort zone.
This book is definitely biased, as is clear in the title’s use of language. But still, it is an insider view into a large polygamist sect in fairly modern times, and how difficult it can be to break free. The story is fascinating and appalling all at once, as Elissa tells us the story of her life, starting with her parents’ marriage (her mother is her father’s second wife) and coming up to present day after she testified against Warren Jeffs for his responsibility in her repeated rape. Elissa was born into the FLDS church and raised in polygamous families (yes, plural, her mother was “reassigned” to a new husband when her father was deemed incompetent by the prophet). She attended FLDS school, wore FLDS clothes, was brainwashed and indoctrinated with FLDS teaching, and at 15, since she was proving troublesome, was married to her first cousin. This is not a light read, but it is extremely detailed and fascinating, and it does have a fairly happy ending (as real-life stories so rarely do). I recommend it to those interested in the topic; if you’re not particularly interested there are definitely lighter reads out there that can still give you a glimpse into this intriguing lifestyle.
My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult
This book and author were pointed out to me by the fabulous Corey when she did her book giveaway, and I secured my own copy when I wasn’t lucky enough to win one. (It’s OK. I have still won her give-aways. Twice. Only drawing(s) I’ve ever won!) The story is about a thirteen-year-old girl, Anna, who was conceived by her parents using science to ensure she would be a perfect genetic match for her older sister. Her sister, Kate, has a form of cancer that is aggressive and “learns” each treatment thrown at it, meaning that once you’ve used a treatment it will never work again. At this point in the book Kate is near death, not from the cancer, but from a kidney shutting down in response to the aggressive treatments it has had to endure. Anna sues for medical emancipation, meaning that she can make her own medical decisions instead of letting her parents decide for her, in order to avoid having to give up a kidney against her will. The book follows the family during the legal struggle and includes many flashbacks to give us background.
Each chapter of the book is told from a different character’s point of view, and I must say, I love that every character has their own font. The book is good, and definitely pulled me in. It was a page-turner and I went through it quickly. But boy is it high on melodrama! Reading the reviews, it seems Picoult’s books aren’t always this high on the melodrama, but this one screams “Lifetime Original Movie.” So if you go into it, go into it knowing that that’s what you’re getting into (complete with corny ending!). But if you don’t mind, and you want some engaging brain candy and/or are interested in the topic, then this is a good, enjoyable book that really does look at some hard questions. Things like, what obligation does Anna have to be a donor to Kate, given that she is the only one who can be but that being a donor is dangerous, painful, and has life-long implications? What happens when a baby, conceived for her cord blood, grows up? How can parents make medical decisions for their two children, when what is best for each is opposite? The ethical questions are fascinating, and are given a fair shake in this book.
The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
This book is fabulous. I’ll just start right there. Fabulous. I totally get why it is a New York Times Bestseller. It is appealing to almost everyone. There is no niche target audience here. It’s just good.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the point of view of Enzo, a Shepherd-Poodle-Terrier-who-knows mix. I know, sounds like a corny concept. It makes a great book. And looking at reviews, people who aren’t animal-lovers agree. Which I get. Since the other major aspect of this is racecar driving, something I have absolutely zero interest in (really not a big sports fan at all, let alone car racing), and yet, in this book, it’s made fascinating.
The book starts at the end of Enzo’s life, and then Enzo takes us on a recap of all he has witnessed. Enzo was brought home by Denny when he is just a puppy, and watches as Denny goes through life: finding a wife, having a daughter who he is devoted to, becoming a semi-professional driver. And then he watches as it is all torn apart, by fate, by others’ selfishness, by trickery and lies. Enzo is there for Denny through it all, with a unique and insightful look on everything as it happens. As one reviewer on Amazon says, “Bad things happen to good people in this novel, and then worse things, and soon you are so angry, so hurt, so tear-stained and concerned that you do not think for one second to step back and say, hey, wait, this is just a story! A shaggy dog story, at that!” This book Sucks. You. In.
It is fabulous. There is no way to describe it. No way to convey its power. All I can say is: read it.
(As I was reminded today by a client and friend, a warning (and semi-spoiler alert): a dog dies in this book. This is no real spoiler, as I said, the book starts at the end of the dog’s life. But still, if you have lost a dog recently and are still hurt by that loss, this book may be too painful to handle for now. But remember it. And when you’re ready, come back. Because Enzo’s view of death for a dog is a beautiful, if heart-wrenching, thing.)