Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, 1992This was one of the Pulitzers I had been looking forward to reading the most because farming has been in my family for generations. I always appreciate books that depict rural living. Farming is a way of life but it is also a business, and when business and family are combined it can sometimes be a touchy situation. This novel explored that aspect very well. Add to that family secrets, problems with aging, and ‘keeping up appearances’ for the neighbors and you have a very interesting and engaging book.One of the interesting sidelines of the book for me was the interest in organic farming and the harm of pesticides, etc. to the environment and human health. I am not a fan of the direction that farming is going with GMOs and the use of hormones for livestock. This has trickled down to the local farmer as well, and is not limited anymore to just corporate farms. It’s unfortunate that many family farms have had to resort to these practices to compete; I don’t think they fully realize the risks being done to human health.I’m not sure I would have chosen this novel for the Pulitzer. To begin with, the plot is somewhat borrowed from Shakespeare’s King Lear. I am of the opinion that the prize should be given to a completely original work. There were also aspects of the relationships among the sisters that were a bit unbelievable for me. Still, I’m glad I read it and deemed it worthy of at least 4 stars.
Gregory Hill won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2011.Disclaimer: I grew up near the area where the story takes place. Due to that fact, I was especially interested in reading this novel. I'd been disappointed in the past by books set in northeastern Colorado -- most notably, Kent Haruf's Plainsong (though I'm still willing to give his other books a chance.) I was impressed, though, by East of Denver. There were still a few elements I didn't like that I won't go into; but overall, I enjoyed the book tremendously. I very much related to the themes of the book involving the decline of the family farm, which is intense and personal for people who are attached to these communities, and Hill captures that very well.There are so many things I could go into that I felt were spot on: declining farming communities, the 'plight' of the people who have stayed there, and the struggle of dealing with aging parents or grandparents who were once the stalwarts of the family.No question about it, I'm looking forward to reading Hill's next book about a rancher (and basketball?) that takes place in the same general setting as this novel. If you have an interest in small town life or farming, I highly recommend this book.
Of course it’s every peasant whose forgiveness must be sought. But the rabbi’s point is even more tyrannical: nothing erases the immoral act. Not forgiveness. Not confession.And even if an act could be forgiven, no one could bear the responsibility of forgiveness on behalf of the dead. No act of violence is ever resolved. When the one who can forgive can no longer speak, there is only silence.Fugitive Pieces is a must read for those interested in Jewish fiction or the history of World War II. The book is told in two parts. In the first we have Jakob Beer, rescued as a child from the forces of WWII by a Greek scholar. He struggles mightily with the memories of his parents and sister. They haunt him throughout his life, overshadowing even the good. In the second, we have Ben, the son of two Holocaust survivors. He is much influenced by Jakob’s poetry, which helps him understand his parents’ deep emotional pain, and, in turn, his own. In this regard, I found the second section a bit reminiscent of Maus. In both parts, there is always the question of whether or not the survivors really and truly survived or if they are hopelessly caught in their pasts.I have a difficult time reading anything about the Holocaust, even if it deals primarily about the aftermath of the survivors. But, I feel it is extremely important for me to do so. I highly recommend this book if you have a similar interest in this topic.1996, 294 pp.
“We’re all so many people, aren’t we, nowadays? So confusing it is, I don’t know how anyone keeps track. There are the people we are inside, then the people we used to be, then there are the people other people think we are.”2012 Orange Prize ShortlistPainter of Silence is a book that easily could have won the Orange Prize, and I’m somewhat surprised that it didn’t. I purchased my copy from The Book Depository, as unfortunately, it won’t be published in the States until September.Set in Romania before and after World War II, it is about two adults who grew up together as children before everything in their world changed. One child from the main house, one child from the servant’s quarters; and one child ‘normal,’ the other deaf-mute. Although Tinu can’t hear or speak, he can communicate by his drawings.Georgina Harding’s writing is beautiful; I had never even heard of her before this book was shortlisted. That’s one beauty of following the prizes — I always find some gems that I would never have read otherwise. I would definitely read more of her work.“[She] prayed away her shame and her disappointment. She crossed herself and kissed the cool metal. Her mind went over other thing the Abbot had said. How God might be found in the performance of simple tasks. How he might be find in silence itself.”2012, 312 pp.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park won the Newbery Medal in 2002. It is a tale of duty, loyalty, and perseverance. The book is set in 12th century Korea.Tree-ear, an orphan, works for a highly esteemed potter, Potter Min. Although Tree-ear would dearly love to be Potter Min’s apprentice, what he really does is just ‘the grunt work.’ Potter Min is unwiling to accept Tree-ear as his apprentice because it is traditionally passed down only to sons, and Min’s son has died. When Tree-ear is sent for a long journey to the Emperor’s palace to demonstrate Min’s work, his character and perseverance is tested.This book is excellent for demonstrating character qualities to children. Recommended.2001, 192 pp.
Winner, 2011 Giller PrizeWinner, 2012 Ethel Wilson Fiction PrizeShortlist, 2011 Man Booker PrizeShortlist, 2012 Orange PrizeShortlist, 2011 Governor General’s Award“It’s like that, I guess, when the past come to collect what you owe.” Amazing, just look at all those wins and nominations. I’m happy for any author that gets that much recognition!Edugyan’s story is very unique. Black jazz musicians in pre-War World II Germany and France? You’ve got to expect that that didn’t go very well. A story of prejudice, acceptance, betrayal, and friendship, the dichotomies really stood out. I did enjoy the story, but I was tripped up at times with the slang (though I have no doubt it was very close to authentic). Her descriptions of her characters, especially Delilah and Hiero, were very striking. I could easily imagine how they looked and acted. The scene at the end in Paris was also vivid, reminding me a bit of Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise.My only real problem with the book was that whenever I put it down, I wasn’t as eager to get back to it as some others I had been reading recently. Not that all the books I read have to ‘zip along’ (ha! – Booker inside joke), but I would hope that I would be drawn in to continue to the end. I was, just not at the level I was expecting.This was the only Man Booker shortlist title I didn’t read last year because I got it in the mail too late. Where does it fall with those titles? I’ll put it 5th, above Jamrach’s Menagerie. It was also 5th in my Orange shortlist reading, above Song of Achilles.I would definitely read another by Edugyan at some point.2011, 352 pp.
I’m beginning to think that Lois Lowry can do no wrong. This is the sixth book of hers that I’ve read, and I’ve enjoyed every single one, including The Willoughbys. While an excellent children’s book, it is also a fun book for adults to read as it pokes fun at some of the cliches of children’s literature, while still being very entertaining for both kids and adults.The Willoughby children have parents who want to get rid of them, but the kids really don’t want their parents, either. A nice nanny, a sweets manufacturer, and the four Willoughby children are the main cast.I highly recommend it. It’s a great story for kids, but it’s also entertaining for those adults who have read and enjoyed the best of children’s literature and who can appreciate a little tongue-in-cheek fun.2008, 176 pages
This had been on my tbr list for soooooo long. My real life book club selected it for August so that gave me the push to finally read it. Actually, I listened to it on unabridged audio narrated by Linda Stephens. It was absolutely fantastic. The narration was excellent, and the story was so much more than was depicted in the movie, which I also love.If you didn’t already know, there is so much more to Scarlett than is in the movie. More marriages, more children, and more selfishness and immaturity. At the same time, we also learn that despite her emotional immaturity, she is a very savvy business woman. In addition, I learned quite a bit about the Civil War that I didn’t know, but at the same time, also learned more about the attitudes that doomed the South to failure. What I really want to know but couldn’t really grasp from the novel or the film was how Margaret Mitchell herself actually viewed the issues facing the South in the Civil War.All in all, this Pulitzer novel is a must read for every American. I can’t believe it took me so long to read it, but I’m very grateful that I finally did and encourage anyone and everyone to read this American masterpiece.
This book has a very different ‘love story’ — one that didn’t appeal to me at all. Mari is a seventeen year old girl working at the front desk of her mother’s hotel when she meets a middle aged man whose voice and manner intrigue her. As they get to know each other, it leads to a sexual relationship involving SM. It wasn’t extremely graphic, but still just not my cup of tea nonetheless. I still enjoy Ogawa’s writing style and the translation was great, but I just didn’t like the subject matter so unfortunately I was extremely disappointed. However, I’d still read another Ogawa novel — I just would learn more about the storyline first. 1996, 2010 for the English translation; 164 pp.
“Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.”2012 Orange Prize ShortlistI loved Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto so I was curious to see if I would love this one just as much. I didn’t, but I did enjoy the novel quite a bit.Right at the beginning of the book we learn that Marina’s colleague Anders has died unexpectedly in Brazil. His body was even buried there and not sent home, much to the dismay of his wife, who asks Marina to go to Brazil for answers. Her boss wants her to go as well to check on the progress of an employee doing research down there, Dr. Swenson.The novel has a lot of elements to it, and it reminded me a bit of Allegra Goodman’s novel that I loved called Intuition. Both novels are about the lengths scientists will go for their research and the motivations behind those actions. In addition, State of Wonder tackles grief and culture shock, and how the characters did or did not adapt to them.I listened to the audio version of this, and the narration was excellent. It only took me two days to finish because the story easily swept me away. I loved it right up until the end. My only quibble is that I did not like the ending at all. I had imagined a totally different scenario happening based on my view of how I thought the characters would act. All in all, though, I’m very glad I read the book and am an admirer of Ann Patchett’s work.2011, 353 pp.