Thursday, February 12, 2015

Occupy and Overcome

The book list has gone to war. I actually wanted to read The Book Thief as well this week to get all of the war books over with in one fell swoop, but I didn’t have a copy. In retrospect, I think this was a good thing. This was a lot of war. A lot of bloodshed, heartbreak, and writing about non-fiction in a fictional way that in no way lightens the original facts. If you pray at all, I think you should pray that war never, ever comes to your door. 

#18 - Mornings in Jenin – Susan Abulhawa
Recommended by: GP

This book was hard to write about because it was hard to read. It was a fictionalized account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as told from the point of view of a Palestinian family. It went through their exile, the refugee camps, the wars, and the aftermath of it all in unflinching detail. I will admit, freely and with much embarrassment that I don’t follow politics. The more I see and read, the less I want to know because it always ends in blood. In the movies, we root for the cowboys, but in the history books, we root for the Indians. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter and I believe that God must weep for every person slaughtered in his Holy name (whichever one that may be.) I am lucky that I am entitled American who has never slept through gunfire, has never had to worry about water, or food, or medicine, and that I live in a place where tolerance is so prolific that even the Redskins are now just that Washington football team. So this book was horrifying, terrifying, and flat our paralyzing in some sections. But in others, I found it curiously empty. As always, I don’t do spoilers but the third and final section of the book enraged me. I feel like wheels flew off the narrative bus. You know how in a movie, the same ten people always keep running into each other and are always in the center of the plot? Or when the movie does a fast-forward in time and location and suddenly no one acts the way they acted in the first half of the movie? While I might tolerate that in a Hollywood action movie, I find it intolerable in what would have been a truly moving piece of literature. In fact, the final chapters pissed me off so much I almost couldn’t believe they made it past an editor. Should you read it? Yes, but with the caveat that someone else should read it at the same time so that you have someone to discuss it with when you finish. I believe that discussion will be lively and passionate and filled with emotion, as all good book discussions should be.

#19 – The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society
– Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Recommended by: MG

I read this book a few years ago and didn’t think much about it afterward. The first time through, I found it slight and trifling, enjoyable, but overly sweet and instantly forgettable. It was the literary equivalent of a lemon meringue pie. I put off rereading it for a few days until this morning when I started it, and now, this evening, after finishing it, I realized how hard it is to have such a light touch on such a heavy topic. The German occupation of the Channel Islands is not a breezy topic, and the horror visited upon the people of Guernsey is not to be taken lightly, yet the tone of the book is filled with joy and delight. The book shows how high the human spirit can rise, how people can band together to find the light in the darkness and how books, blessed books, will always help show you the way. The love of books is the central theme in this book and how it doesn’t matter what type of book, be it cookery or philosophy or romance, as long as it means something to the reader. While I am not usually a fan of letters as a form of storytelling, the different voices of the characters really comes through in each of their writing styles. This is a very quick read – I reread it in a few short hours. I don’t think you should rush right out to buy it, but when you see it in the library, or the book store, or the book sales, pick up a copy. Treat yourself to a well baked literary confection. 

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