Sunday, September 3, 2017

Lilac Girls

by Martha Hall Kelly
July 29-Aug 20, 2017

It's been two weeks since I finished Lilac Girls and I still can't get it out of my mind. While most of the WWII books I've read are simply historical fiction, this one includes real people and historical figures to authenticate the horrific tale. I didn't realize this at first. I assumed that the experiments performed at Ravensbrück were factual, and that this was the single, female-only concentration camp, but it wasn't until I started to research these experiments that I learned that Gerta Oberheuser was, in fact, real. A real monster who convinced herself she just needed the work.
“It only hurts you to hold on to the hate.”
There isn't much more to be said about the horrors of Ravensbrück; at least from a book synopsis standpoint. But what intrigued me about this story was that the war only encompassed the first third of the book, the rest was the aftermath and how the survivors struggled every day to move on. I was fascinated by this perspective and appreciated this difference from all the other WWII novels I've read. I will say again, especially when people wonder how one can read books about such heinous events in history, that we need to continue to speak and learn about the past, lest it repeat itself.

* * * * *

Sunday, July 30, 2017

This is How It Always Is

by Laurie Frankel
June 25-July 29, 2017

I feel like I'm supposed to love this book. I might actually have a slight pang of guilt for not loving it. One reason it took so long to finish was because I was slogging through part three. I was bored. And I feel a little bad about that. The subject couldn't be any more current, more now, more relevant. But the delivery was lacking in more ways than one. Here's why.

While I would certainly hope that all parents of a trans child would so willingly except that child with no hesitation, it seemed a bit too par-for-the-course with Rosie and Penn. They immediately accepted Poppy/Claude and knew exactly what to say to her. Yes, Penn spent countless hours researching online, but they never seemed to struggle with what to say or how to react.

Second, while Rosie was a doctor and had the opportunity to go to Thailand for work, it's simply not realistic to pack up your 10-year old child and travel across the world. I get that the "enlightenment" came from these travels, but it was a very odd way to present it. I found myself drifting quite a bit here and wondering why there was so much focus on Rosie's dying, underprivileged patients.

Finally, the ending was a bit too tidy, especially for the seriousness of gender identity. I find it incredibly hard to believe that a 10-year old child who hated Poppy when he found out she was actually Claude would suddenly accept her AND ask her to dance. Again, wouldn't it be lovely if this were more the norm than not, but I can't imagine that it is. It's a shame really.

I found the writing to be a bit too disjointed and it was easy for me to wander off. I understand the connection to Penn's fairy tale, but too much time was spent on it and its blatant comparison to real life. The author speaks from experience; having a trans child of her own, but her execution here just wasn't successful in my eyes.

* * * * *