Friday, January 29, 2010
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Summary: My name was Salmon, like the fish. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her -- her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, and even joy.
Review: When I was first introduced to this book I was told, the first few pages graphically describe the rape and murder of a fourteen year old girl. I was also told despite the disturbing introduction the book is amazing, this is in fact true. What I original thought was going to be a story about a dead girl conducting paranormal activities to aid her family in the capture of her killer, was actually about viewing the living and how they survive such a tragedy.
Sebold shows the reader how the death of a loved one can alter fate and an entire community. The characters left to cope with the tragedy began to drift apart or unexpectedly come together. The common fact remaining, a loved one has died, what do I do now?
This question invites the reader into a series of tales viewed through the eyes of Susie as she watches life on Earth continue. Thou the tales are intriguing, they perform more like character sketches then advancing any sort of plot.
Upon finishing the book, I was left with no sense of enlightenment; except that the dead walked among us and can hear us if we speak to them. I felt dissatisfied with the concluding events that addressed the murderer. I felt no resolution was reached. Nothing was discovered to put the loved ones at ease, to help them move on.
I sense that Sebold is trying to show justice is not always reached, and the harsh truth of reality is unsettling. However, reading in my opinion is to escape reality and therefore should not be present in a story. Who doesn’t appreciate a happy ending?
My conclusion, the book was an enjoyable collection of short stories that answer a bigger question. However, it was amazing and well written. Thou the book lacked a central plot I did enjoy my time spent with it. I can also say the book is before its time, because the contents deal with what most are not ready to face. Evil exists and it will sometimes go unnoticed.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davison
In a burn ward, a man lies between living and dying, so disfigured that no one from his past life would recognize him. Then a woman named Marianne Engel walks into his hospital room, a schizophrenic sculptress from the psych ward, who insists that she knows him - that she has known him for 700 years. She remembers vividly when they met, in a convent in medieval Germany, when she was a nun and he was a wounded mercenary left for dead. Though he has forgotten this, she will prove it to him. So Marianne Engel begins to tell him their story, shattering his disbelief and slowly drawing him back to the past: reminding him of a word he’ll never uttered, love.
Davidson was born in Manitoba and spend seven years researching his debut novel. He took the time to learn about the burn ward, Japanese and folk lore from many cultures. It’s refreshing to hear about an author who takes the time to learn their story. It made the end result nothing short of perfection. Though the recovery for burn victims is a nasty process it was a necessary cog in his master piece.
The book takes the reader on a journey into the past from medieval Germany to Vikings in Iceland. With Marianne for a tour guide into these memories the Narrator recalls his past lives and discovers something about his present state of mind.
I enjoyed reading each mini-story within the book. The stories introduce new characters and I found myself even reading them again because I started to notice similar details in each story. Davidson’s research is reflected in his vivid language to describe each new setting. At times it felt like I was the Narrator seeing these memories for the first time and experiencing emotions I might have once had.
The end of each story left the question, “can souls really transcend time” in the mind of the reader. This aspect also created a romantic love story that implied love could survive anything, from tragedy to time. By drawing on parallels from Dante’s Inferno, this question can almost be answered with certainty.
Though I would not say the book was a page-turn, or a ‘stay up till 2am’ read, I did find myself drawn to its mysteries when it stared at me from my coffee table. I find books that make you question aspects about fate and reality thrilling. The Gargoyle is not a beach read; it’s one of those ‘curl up by the fire’ books and become enlightened. I was still contemplating the questions Davidson gave me weeks after I finished the book. I do believe this book can make one believe in the impossible.
Overall: 9/10 A