Tuesday, April 13, 2010

South of Broad

by Pat Conroy

I said a million times how much I enjoy Conroy's books. This one was no exception. But here's the weird thing: knowing I am way behind on book posts and having read this one almost three books ago, I'm having a bit of trouble conjuring up the feelings I had when I finished it.  I have to go back in the vault because I know I had some pretty strong feelings about it.

The reviews haven't been great for South of Broad. I know I can easily put several other of Conroy's books in front this one. But even if a certain title isn't your favorite, his writing is still so poetic and graceful that you can easily be absorbed into the plot and worry about whether it was "good" later. For me, I was instantly drawn in. The characters were introduced slowly and expertly, so although there was such a variety, I had a clear mental picture of each individual. From the beginning the story was interesting: A senior in high school, Leo King, has recently left a mental hospital due to the suicide of his 10-year old brother and must make penance for the acts he committed and rebuild his life. His friends come from every imaginable walk of life, yet they all seem to work together. Leo also discovers that his mother was once a nun, but left the convent to marry his father. The friendships develop, despite their differences, in quite a believable way, and then we flash forward 20 years to find that even though distance may separate the group, they are still the closest of friends. I personally loved the way that longevity was portrayed. But at about three-quarters of the way through, I watched the book nearly fall apart.

All of a sudden the plot twisted into a bit of a thriller. Really not a strong genre for this author. Luckily, this portion seemed to wrap up rather quickly. Then I was beginning to think that maybe we would never really find out the reason for Leo's brother's suicide. I would have been fine with that because I don't always need a tidy ending. Except, it was bugging me, for obvious reasons. The boy was only 10 when he slit his wrists. Once the reason is revealed, I felt that the ending became extremely rushed and messy. The reason itself could have been the main plot of the whole book. I felt as though there were too many things trying to happen in 500+ pages. As much as I was devouring the book in the beginning, once I closed it I was honesty disappointed. This hasn't turned me away from Pat Conroy altogether though; he's still a brilliant writer. I think he just missed the mark on this one, if even just by a hair. Oddly enough, I would still recommend South of Broad if for nothing but the true friendship of an eclectic group of people.

* * * * *

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Glass Castle

by Jeannette Walls

So, yeah, I'm way behind on book posts. Not good. I even had exciting news to share and didn't get around to that. How rude of me. I got a Kindle for Christmas!! At first I didn't think I wanted one, you know, because real books look, smell and feel so cool. But I'm finding my Kindle to be a delightful sidekick to regular books. Busy me took four trips in three months and my Kindle was the best travel companion. My only complaint is that you have that 20 minute take-off and landing issue where you can't read. I found myself sneaking it into a magazine so I could keep going. I mean, if I shut the wireless off, is there really going to be a problem?!

The Glass Castle was my very first Kindle purchase back in January. I was headed to Chicago to see two dear friends, and I bought the book (in under 60 seconds!) in the airport on the way. Once I was on the plane, in flight, I tried to access the Kindle store with no luck, so I guess there's only so much you can do at 10,000 feet. And since I was on a plane not much bigger than my Kia Soul, sitting in the front row, the flight attendant felt the need to talk to me about my Kindle the whole time. Seriously, can't you see I have a new toy and I'm trying to read it?! I don't care about your Sony reader! She never got my subtle hints, and I'm admittedly not one to just tell some to S.T.F.U. (look it up)

I know I'm way late in reading The Glass Castle too, as it was published five years ago. But it's been on my list forever, so it was a perfect choice for my swanky new book reader. Needless to say I was instantly drawn in. The chapters were short and very honest. Chapter Two's first sentence was "I was on fire." Doesn't take much more than that to be completely drawn in.

This book is a memoir about a family so abjectly poor it made my heart ache for the four little children. They would go so long without food that the kids had to steal it from the school cafeteria and sometimes resort to picking old food from the garbage. It was nothing for them to eat moldy bread because their mother told them it built character. The alcoholic father was a man who constantly ran away from his problems. He moved his family all over, and most of the time, they were squatters in old, abandoned homes or buildings. And at the risk of a spoiler alert (although I think I'm safe since I'm one of the last people to read this), at the very end, we find out that the family had plenty of opportunity to be millionaires, but the whack job parents chose the life they struggled through. That fact is what made it unbelievable to think that this really happened. But I guess you can't make up a life like that.

If there's anyone else out there who hasn't read this book, go now and get it. It puts a lot of things into perspective. It definitely made me reflect on how grateful I am for my family and the priveldges I am afforded.

* * * * *