I just spent a long weekend in Boston where I lived for a year. It was really a fantastic little get away from New York. I love this city, but sometimes it gets to you and even going to visit another city can be a relief. I sort of decided that you can have a somewhat better quality of life in Boston, but New York is a more interesting city to live in. So for now I guess I'm choosing the interesting one :)
During my visit, I stayed with a friend from my JVC year and I got to visit with other friends and see the (now very grown up) kids I used to work with at the after school program. I also had lots of reading time on my four hour plus bus rides back and forth between cities. I realize that I haven't mentioned my book club in a while....for some reason most of my postings here have been about cooking. I wanted to do a quick review of a few books I've read over the past few months. Just something brief to whet your appetite--if you are interested in them, I suggest you pick them up (or you could always ask me to to borrow them!!).
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I can't say enough about this book! If you haven't read this yet, go out and get it!! This book is told from the perspective of three women living in Mississippi during the 60s. Two of the main characters are black maids that practically raise the children of the local white families and the other main character is a young white woman who is anxious to find out the truth about what happened to the maid who raised her. There is much more to this book than just that basic description--race relations from several perspectives, all kinds of female friendships, struggles, successes, sadness. I loved the plot and the characters--both developed in such a thoughtful way and I came to feel that knew the places and people intimately. Often I don't care for either the plot or the character development but here, Stockett definitely didn't let me down!
In Other Rooms Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
This is an interesting book of short stories that take place in Pakistan. I have to say that I didn't truly love this book but it did hold my interest and some of the stories stayed with me a bit. This may have been the first book I ever read by a Pakistani author and I was pleased to read something from a new voice. I think I learned a bit about the complexity of life there--especially given that all most Americans know about Pakistan is in relation to terrorism. It was really nice to get a sense of the people who live there. I think this would be a good summer read since you can just read a little bit at a time, a chapter here and there.
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
This book has been around for a while (published in 1997) and I saw the movie a few years ago. I had wanted to read it since I saw the movie way back when but I was motivated to suggest it to my book club after visiting Carin back in February. It is one of her favorite books and the actual mountain has had a pretty significant impact on her life.....it's the place where her soon to be husband proposed to her (how much more romantic can you get?!).
I was definitely not disappointed--although perhaps some fellow book clubbers were :) The book is a challenging one, that is for sure. Don't start digging into this if you are looking for an easy chick-lit, beach read! This is much more a work of great literature than a best seller trendy paperback (not that there is anything wrong with those books, they have their place!!). Despite the challenge, I loved this book. I think the minor difficulty is worth it!! If you enjoy nature and a love story that is not mushy, this could be your book. Essentially, the story is a sort of re-imagined Odyssey that is set in Tennessee during the Civil War. Ada and Inman met briefly before the war began and both struggle during the war. Inman is a wounded soldier who ultimately decides to take his chances, leave the hospital, and head back to home (by Cold Mountain). Ada is struggling to learn how to take care of herself and her farm after her father's death, having been coddled and sheltered by him all her life. Each chapter is a window into either Ada or Inman's life as we learn of both their pasts and their presents. Mixed into all of this, Frazier provides his reader with beautiful descriptions about the life of the local people, the countryside, nature, and animals of the rural South. I could write so much more--I have many dog earred passages that I was very moved by--but I'll leave it to you to discover the full pleasures of this novel.
And now, book club is on to American Taliban by Pearl Abraham. I won't say too much since I need to save it for the book club meeting next week, but this was a really interesting read. It's a pretty intense book and a lot happens very quickly in it. In a nutshell, it's an imagining of the John Walker Lindh story. The main character is a different John but one who is a very young American who gets wrapped up in Muslim life and eventually gets involved with the Taliban when he travels to Pakistan to study Arabic. I also think this one is a good summer read--easy to read and moves very quickly.
Hopefully these can help you figure out your summer reading list. Any suggestions for me for my new book club book? Happy reading!!