June Reviews

I started the summer off right with eight books read. Truth be told, part of it was some much needed escapism after May being so rough, part of it was taking Sawyer to school and having time to myself, and part of it was simply not having to grade papers anymore. Here's a super quick rundown:

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett 
322 pages
This was a reread, since it was last month's book club selection, but basically, Patchett chronicles the lives of two families that are enmeshed together, looking at various aspects of familial relationships. The novel teases about a great tragedy throughout and we finally see it unfold towards the end. 

Verdict: This is not my favorite Patchett book, but I still enjoyed it. I identified with the idea of a family tragedy that was sort of tiptoed around for years, but also with how the Franny character struggles to find her voice at times and ends up not taking enough of a stand. I think it's easy to attack her character, since she is weak and directionless, but I definitely could relate with her at certain points.

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor 
281 pages
I wrote about this memoir here.

Calypso by David Sedaris
259 pages
In this collection of essays Sedaris mainly focuses on life at his beach house (The Sea Section- ha!) and how it connects the members of his family, who come to stay often. He also writes from the vantage point of middle-age, offering observations from this stage in life. One of my favorite accounts was when he let a woman he met at a book signing who had been a doctor in Mexico cut out a fatty tumor from his abdomen, since he had wanted to keep it to feed to a turtle (his surgeon said he couldn't let him keep it). I also appreciated a few that had to do with his Fitbit, since we crazy step-counters must stick together.

Verdict: I read this book while going through a tough day or two, so it ended up being the perfect source of comic relief. At one point I thought I might need to order every text he's ever written, but I refrained (for now). I've read his essays before, and have even taught a few, but I've never actually read one of his actual books. It was such a treat. 

Pops by Michael Chabon
127 pages
This was another collection of essays, although it focused on snapshots of fatherhood instead. Chabon built the book around an article he had published for GQ about accompanying his teenage son to Paris Fashion Week, which is definitely one of the strongest pieces in the text. He writes about what it means to parent in a way that fosters independence but also provides guidance. He makes mistakes along the way, but you can tell that he truly loves his family and takes parenting seriously. 

Verdict: I really enjoyed this slender volume, the essays witty and the stories about his family poignant. I saw him a few days after I read this and after hearing him speak I wanted to rush home and read everything else he's written that I haven't gotten around to yet (we have all of his books between my husband and I, but... time).

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
325 pages
This was also a reread, since I was able to attend an event that I won through Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club. I feel like I've written about that and this book in excess, so we'll move on!

Florida by Lauren Groff
275 pages   
I'm a big fan of Groff, so when I heard she had a collection of short stories coming out I preordered it immediately. The stories in this volume are all set or connected to Florida, but not the bright, beachy, Walt Disney World Florida most of us envision. These stories are filled with darker shadows about human relationships, emotions, and trials.

Verdict: I think I prefer her novels, but this was still a really solid group of stories that haunted me after I finished them. These were more about the writing than anything for me, as she's able to combine a subtle wit with tougher emotions, like melancholy and defeat. Her descriptions of the setting are just as powerful as the way she quickly and expertly develops her characters as well. 

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
324 pages
It seems necessary to preface this with the fact that I am not a YA reader and maybe read one a year, at most. Therefore, I am not the target demographic or reader, although I did try to keep an open mind since I adore Pessl. 

This novel is about a group of friends, including Beatrice, who are reunited after the they graduate. The elephant in the room is the unresolved death of Bea's boyfriend, Jim, which she thinks her friends know more about than they've said. After a night of partying they find themselves in an accident and then thrown into this sort of weird purgatory that they need to get themselves out of. They relive the same day over and over again and are supposed to vote for one of the group to make it out alive. Trials and tribulations ensue.

Verdict: This was definitely my least favorite book the month. I tend to find the dialogue in YA books fairly unrealistic, which I have at least some authority on, since I work with teenagers and hear them ALL DAY for 10 months a year. That aside, I just don't like fantasy stories and found the ultimate end predictable.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
454 pages
This lengthy novel focuses around Greer, a bright young woman who ends up dipping her toes into feminism after some unwanting groping at a frat party (the guys ended up being the Harvey Weinstein of their campus). Soon after, Greer attends a talk by the famous feminist and journalist Faith Frank, where she's inspired and soon becomes a bit obsessed with the lady. Meanwhile, Greer must maintain a long-distance relationship, develop friendships, and come to terms with the failures of her parents. As the book unfolds, Greer ends up working with Frank and ends up questioning her role in the world as as a woman and how she will leave her mark while still handling her personal life.

Verdict: There were many things I appreciated about this book, and a few I did not. First of all, I liked that Wolitzer incorporated many types of feminists in the novel and subsequently offered perspective from each. Greer was the young idealist who wanted to be both feminine and powerful, her friend Zee navigated what it meant in terms of sexuality, Frank Faith was the old-school women's-lib leader who also had to balance that with business, and Greer's boyfriend Cory represented the male attempt at feminism. The message was strong, and the side plots helped move the story along, for the most part. I did think the book was too long, though, and the length at times detracted away from the power of feminism. I also didn't necessarily care for the way the novel was set up- it felt disjointed at times (and I have no problem with nonlinear stories). It's definitely not a quick read, but I'm still glad I went for it. 

 2,367 pages

1 comment:

  1. These sound like some great books. Not all my cup of tea, but interesting just the same. Commonwealth, Pops, and The Female Persuasion all catch my eye. Neverwold Wake is something I might give a go to. Hope you have a nice week.