Rating: A-/ I can’t remember the last time I felt this emotionally drained after reading a book. It’s a tricky business to write a novel in an intentionally childish and grammatically incorrect style so as to capitalize on the narrator’s illiteracy, but I think this book pulled that off wonderfully. Although that sounds like it would be difficult to read, I found myself getting pulled into the pragmatic and plain-spoken heroine, Mary’s world without too much confusion. Moreover, I fell in love with Mary’s voice and, withholding spoilers, it broke my heart that things didn’t work out better for her than they did. Continue reading Book Review: The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon
Rating: B/ Celie isn’t a slave, but she might as well be. At the tender age of fourteen, Celie’s abusive father passes her off to an equally abusive man in an marriage the two have already arranged. Celie’s only joy comes from her younger sister, Nettie, so when Nettie is sent away and becomes a missionary in Africa, Celie is understandably devastated and writes her sister hundreds of letters in order to keep in touch. The Color Purple is written in epistolary format, and the narrative comes either in the form of letters Celie writes to God attempting to reconcile with her horrid living situation or notes that Celie and Nettie write back and forth to each other, attempting to provide comfort in sad and desperate times. Continue reading Book Review: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Rating: B+/ Call me crazy, but I count Patrick McCabe’s 1992 novel The Butcher Boy among my favorite and most influential books of all time. Sure, it’s Bleak with a capital B, but it turned me on to my current fascination with books featuring unreliable narrators. It was made into a 1997 movie by Neil Jordan, and while it was surprisingly good with a convincing performance by Eamonn Owens as the book’s mentally disturbed narrator, Francie, some of the book’s brilliance was lost in translation. Continue reading Book Review: Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe
Rating: B+/ Not as crudely irreverent as the title might suggest, The Dirty Parts of the Bible is the surprisingly touching and sweet story of Tobias Henry, the nineteen-year-old sexually frustrated son of a born-again Baptist preacher. Struggling with his sexual urges and skeptical of his father’s teachings, Tobias is sent out on a journey to his uncle’s farm in Glen Rose, Michigan after his dad suffers a bizarre accident and is temporarily blinded. Tobias’ goal is to uncover a large sum of money that his dad hid in a well on his family property years ago.
Continue reading Book Review: The Dirty Parts of the Bible by Sam Torode
Rating: A-/ There is occasionally something cathartic about reading books that are real downers, if they are well done. A truly bleak book does something that a funny or light book can’t, which is to put the shittiness of the reader’s life into perspective. If nothing else, Push by Sapphire, an excellent book that was also made into an excellent movie called Precious, will make you want to hug your mom and buy her flowers. Whatever issues you might have had with her at the moment, by the end of this book you’ll probably be buying her free passes to the spa so she can treat herself. Continue reading Book Review: Push by Sapphire
Rating: B/ Behold the Many is kind of a strange book, and one that is hard to summarize and describe, but I’ll try my best to put my feelings about this novel into words. I had never heard of it when I picked it up but I was immediately sucked in by the beautiful cover art, featuring an a black-and-white picture of an innocent-looking Asian girl overlaid with colorful flowers. The image, much like many examples of cover art on the front of novels, has very little to do with the actual story, seeming in this case to have been randomly picked out with little correlation with the plot itself. Continue reading Book Review: Behold the Many by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Rating: B/ I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such mixed feelings about a character as I had about the tough-as-nails protagonist of Walls’ biographical novel of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. As for this book’s story, it’s pretty much more of the same; don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean ‘more of the same’ as a bad thing necessarily. Anyone who has read a book by Jeannette Walls knows she tells a good and compelling yarn, whether it be mostly true (as is the case with her memoir of her neglectful upbringing, The Glass Castle) or straight-up fiction (like her also-delightful novel, The Silver Star,) but if you’ve read her other two books and expect something drastically different with this one, you would be wrong. Well, they say ‘write what you know…’ Apparently Walls knows a lot about childhoods that curl the toes of anyone with any protective instinct toward children whatsoever. As for her family history, it’s astonishing that any of the Walls children made it to adulthood. Continue reading Book Review: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls