Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turkey and Magazines

This holiday weekend I found myself doing something I rarely afford myself the luxury of doing: nothing. Actually, lying around and catching up on magazines. I had a huge pile of all my favorites; People, Real Simple, Blueprint, Everyday Food and Body & Soul. I think the reason my periodicals pile up is because I am truly more of a book person. I prefer the commitment of a novel over a weekly gossip rag. But from time to time I have to stay informed and learn new recipes, decorating ideas and what's hot in fashion. From RS I learned that olive oil takes the Christmas tree sap off of your skin. Body & Soul had a great article on compact fluorescent light bulbs (I've been wanting to switch for a while). I was in tears as I read the People article on Good Morning America's co-host, Robin Roberts, and her battle with breast cancer. I have about a million cool websites to check out thanks to Blueprint. And who wouldn't want to try vegetable enchiladas that take less than an hour to prepare (thanks, Everyday Food!)?? But mainly it was so wonderful to relax and spend some quality time by myself.

I also thought about what I am thankful for. My family is small, but close, and every holiday season I thank God that I don't have to drive all over the city eating more than one dinner. We get to stay put in one house all day! I know there are not many people who can say that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Water For Elephants

I read Water For Elephants over the summer, but it was such a great book that I still feel the need to talk about it. When I heard the premise of the story, it didn't really sound like something that would interest me. A guy who runs off and joins the circus? But I was still intrigued because it is such an unusual story.

Jacob tells his tale in flashbacks. He is now 90 (or 93, he can't remember), living in a nursing home, and filling his days with the happy and horrific memories of his time in the circus when he was in his early twenties. At the beginning of the Depression, Jacob is in veteranary school getting very close to graduation when his parents are trageically killed. While he is lost in grief and wandering about wondering what to do with his life, he comes across the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By chance and confusion, he joins this circus. The story that follows is exciting and tragic all at once.

The portions of the story that took place in the present, with Jacob as an old man, were somewhat difficult for me to read. His wife had died, and his five children seem to have their own lives with not much time to fit their father into their schedules. His mind is as sharp as it was in his twenties, but his body is beginning to fail him. Sara Gruen gives Jacob a voice that instills compassion and tenderness on the reader.

The most beloved character, however unexpected, was Rosie the Elephant. Jacob becomes so fond of her, and, as the reader, I quickly came to love this misunderstood elephant. When she is first purchased for the circus, everyone thought Rosie was just stupid or stubborn. They soon come to find out that she only understands Polish! Jacob struggles with her trainer to keep her safe, and the more violent the trainer became, the more I hated his character. It is finally in the climax of Jacob's circus career that his life takes a strange twist and heads in a completely different direction.

That twist wasn't the only unexpected one. The 90 (or 93) year old Jacob has a surprise of his own. Read the book and you too will love the ending.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Some have said that Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns is better than The Kite Runner; that may be true. The story, like The Kite Runner, follows a family in Afghanistan through war, turmoil and uprising and how these people find a way to survive (or not) through it. This book, however, touches on the September 11 attacks and how the Afghan people were affected when the Taliban took over. Hosseini has a superb writing style that convinces the reader to truly hate the lead male character – Rasheed, and to feel nothing but compassion for the lead female characters – Mariam and Laila. The story keeps the reader on an emotional roller coaster, but most of the time sadness and despair rule over any sort of happiness. But the ending is at least as comforting as possible in staying with the reality of the war-torn country.

For me, the book read a little slow, mainly because of the author's use of Farsi words and phrases. But once I memorized the meanings of most of these words I was able to read a bit faster. It was also an abbreviated history lesson about the formation of the Taliban and the acts that led up to the attacks on America. While this book won't make it into my top ten, I would still highly recommend it to anyone.