At last, something worth reading

Once again, it’s the mid-week book review.  I picked up two books just prior to my Iowan Odyssey last month, (which was wonderful thankyouverymuch and I really should blog about THAT) and have now finished both of them, plus one more. And since I’m on a major deadline with four things on my to-do list that MUST be done in the next 90 minutes, why not stop everything and blog about books?

Things I Want My Daughters To Know, by Elizabeth Noble

Unlike Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons, Noble’s earlier books The Reading Group and The Tenko Club did not send me raving to friends about them. (all had similar premises, but only Angry Housewives, by Lorna Landvik, stood out for me). However, I didn’t dislike them enough to not want to try Noble’s latest venture, Things I Want My Daughters To Know.

It was much, much better than Noble’s other books I’ve read.

Structured around a dying mother and how her letters and journals carry her daughters through their first year without her, there were times when I felt the corners of my eyes prickling with tears as I imagined what I’d tell my own daughters – or what they might wish I would have told them. The fear that time will run out before all the right things have been said or done – is that everyone’s fear, or only my own? The daughters were sympathetic characters and written as one would expect sisters to be written – different enough to be individual but similar enough to be connected.

Huge thumbs up for this one, and enough to make me take my place firmly among those called Elizabeth Noble’s fans.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

I’ve seen Picoult’s books on the shelves (who hasn’t?) and heard her name mentioned now and again in book talk, but it was seeing the trailer for the upcoming movie version of this novel that prompted me to buy. The importance of artwork – in the last few years, despite seeing entire shelves filled with Picoult’s distinctive covers, all facing front, I have never been curious enough to pick one up and read the cover copy.

My Sister’s Keeper, for those out-of-the-know, is about 13-year-old Anna, who was born for one reason – to keep her older sister from dying. The crisis is that Anna has decided she doesn’t want to do it anymore.

My 17-year-old and I talked about this book for close to an hour once we’d both finished it, and that alone would have made it worth reading.  But the story is captivating. So often, we read headlines, and studies, or listen to debates about the struggle between science and ethics, butit’s hard to attach a face to the theory. Stem cell research, genetic manipulation, etc. are so abstract for most of us – we pick a side or develop an opinion without fully internalizing that cells and embryos become peopleSister’s Keeper posed some hard questions, and as the narrative moved back and forth through each character’s point of view, I found myself changing my mind and then changing it back again. Several times. In the end I found I really didn’t know where I stood after all.

The one thing I didn’t like, and the daughter agreed, was the ending. It was shocking and unexpected, and felt like a major cop-out on the author’s part.  So I put it down feeling pleased with the story and cheated by the conclusion.

Note: In my copy, Picoult’s Handle With Care is previewed at the end. I ploughed through the preview, but found the story so disturbing that I doubt I will be picking it up. The few pages there have actually instigated a few bad dreams and one nightmare. But maybe that’s just me.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Having disregarded Handle With Care as a possibility, I at least decided to check out the cover copy on some of Picoult’s other offerings during my next book purchase. I chose Vanishing Acts and I’m glad I did.

Delia’s life is turned upside down – at least the life she thought she had, that is. From that pivotal point, Delia’s journey and those of those she hold dearest is also told from several different viewpoints, and Picoult does this well. Again, you find yourself taking sides, but for me there was no doubt at all, start to finish, of which player I was rooting for. Complex characters that evoke both sympathy and empathy narrate, in distinctive voices, their side of the story.

An interesting thing happened about halfway through though. I remembered the end of Sister’s Keeper, and all of a sudden, I wondered what Picoult was going to pull this time. I didn’t trust the author to deliver the ending I was half expecting and mostly hoping for. That has never happened to me when I’ve been reading before – liking a story and suddenly not wanting to finish it because I was afraid I wouldn’t like the ending. Authors might want to keep that in mind – reader loyalty is vital: don’t toy with it.

However, Picoult didn’t cheat me this time. Read it – you’ll like it.


One Response to “At last, something worth reading”

  1. slsherwood Says:

    I love Picoult, but I agree — I hated the ending to Sister’s Keeper, and I also hated the ending to Handled with Care, but I loved the stories of both of them. I really like the multi-character view of a controversial issue. She does this so well, and she really does a great job researching everything.

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