I’ve been a little slack with my writing lately. Traveling from SC to ME and back via car completely stripped me of daily routines, especially the early morning writing one.
Oh sure, there’s a chronicle of daily events carefully recorded in my journal, but it’s pretty boring. Example: “We went to Kennebunkport and took lots of pictures of President Bush’s house and then went to downtown Kennebunk to do the tourist thing. Lots of people there, especially Senior citizens like us. Pretty place. Purchased an ice cream cone for $5, and it wasn’t even a big one! Then we jumped in the car and headed to Gloucester for the night. Had haddock (me) and salmon (him) for dinner. The next morning we………..”
Get the picture? It’s boring. Later, I’ll spice it up. In the meantime, I’m posting a few book reviews that I’ve recently put on Amazon. I’ve been doing more reading than writing lately, but that’s part of a writer’s “job,” right? Like Stephen King said in his book On Writing, “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
We Are Water, Wally Lamb
We Are Water is a story of a family with secrets, secrets that come to surface during a wedding weekend and alter the lives of members of the Oh family.
Masterful at character description, Lamb skillfully draws pictures of Annie, the mother of the three Oh children (two of them twins), her selfish lesbian lover, her former husband, and a cast of other interesting folks, not all of them nice. As a psychology instructor, I found the psychology behind the relationships, behavior, and perceptions of the characters captivating.
One of the things I especially liked about this novel was the way in which Lamb gave each of the major characters a chance to “speak their piece.” Instead of just one point of view, Annie and her children and husband tell stories from their unique vantage point. Use of this literary device worked well in this instance and reminds the reader that perception is reality.
If you want to read a novel about the impact of family secrets, this is the one for you. When the secrets are intertwined with hot modern topics of homosexuality, racism, child abuse, and even mental illness, the combination makes for an enjoyable, thought-provoking read.
Until I Find You, John Irving
Although I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit it, I stuck with the novel until the bitter end. Why embarrassed? Because the book has many, many, many scenes that involve sexually explicit material, including those involving children. By the time Jack’s wrestling partner, an older woman, began molesting him, I was too far into the story to stop reading cold turkey. From then on, I just skipped over the disturbing parts because I HAD TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED. Where was Jack’s father? What really happened between Alice and William? Was William the cad he was portrayed to be?
When the mammoth novel begins, Jack is a 4-year-old child living with his mother Alice, a tattoo artist and occasional prostitute. Just when I was thinking that Jack’s memory was incredibly sharp, I learned that he was remembering events incorrectly. Was that a protective mechanism? Or was it just proof of the human fallibility of memory? Psychologists believe that personal memories are part fact and part fiction, and that certainly seems to be the case with young Jack.
Years pass, and Jack grows up and goes away to school. He discovers his proclivity for acting and later becomes a top rated movie star. However, he is quite unhappy and harbors resentment towards his mother, especially after he learns the twisted truth about what happened between William and her. Wait! Is William the good guy and Alice the villain? You’ll need to read that for yourself.
This is a long, long novel with disturbing scenes and language that could have been omitted without harm to the novel. People’s family relations are complex and affect us in a myriad of ways. If you don’t believe me, read this novel…just be prepared for some disturbing scenes.
The Pilot’s Wife, Anita Shreve
Although not large in scope or filled with interesting, eccentric characters, the novel hits on issues of importance and shows how the decisions of one person can profoundly affect others. Shreve also demonstrates that it’s probably impossible to truly know another person, even those you live with.
The basic plot is that Jack’s plane crashes, killing both him and all of the passengers. Though there is talk of suicide, it turns out that something else even more startling caused the crash. As reporters and airline personnel swarm Kathryn’s home and the crash site, news leaks out that there has been an affair going on between Jack and a former flight attendant. The plot thickens!
I’ll leave it to you to read this engrossing novel to find out just what happens. How does Kathryn handle the situation with Mattie, her daughter? Can she protect her child forever? And just who was she talking to about “the children” at the end of the book?
Have you read any of the above books or any others by those three authors? If so, then what did you think?