Friday, May 29, 2009

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir by Elizabeth McCracken


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
McCracken re-lives her pregnancy and stillborn birth of her first child and the pregnancy and birth of her second. It is elegantly and beautifully written, even if the subject matter is heartbreaking at times. It is an amazingly self-aware memoir--she describes her feelings as best as she can remember, trying not to color her memories with hindsight; and then she tries to explain why she felt that way. I always find people who write memoirs brave, for while they document their struggles and lives for the world, they open themselves up for judgement, as the rest of the world tries to figure out what you did wrong so that they can avoid the same fate. McCracken does a lot of her own soul-searching as to what went wrong, and your heart aches for her. It ends on a hopeful note as she holds her newborn in her arms--"It is a happy life and someone is missing. It is a happy life--"

Obviously I would not recommend it to any of you about to have a baby, or are planning on having one in the next year. But for anyone else, I would say it is more of a tribute to life, and the blessings of being with child.

On another level, I love how memoirs reveal how our lives are as wrought with symbolism and absurdities as the most clever novels. The day McCracken scatters her babies ashes, and a week before she finds out she is pregnant again, she and her husband see a stag, and then turn around to find a whole herd of stags. (If I'm not mistaken, seeing a stag in the wild is supposed to bring good luck). And then they name their first child Pudding which is the most right, most precious name they could have given him--but one in which you usually only find in novels. Then there is the story of her friend, the telephone psychic, who used to be a telephone call girl, but all the women who worked together had their cycles sync up and had to quit the business--that actually happens in real life?


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Monday, May 11, 2009

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved this book, as much as for what it is as what it is not. The first chapter was a little dark, with the man Jack killing Bod's family, and little Bod escaping to a cemetary where the ghosts who live there decide to keep him and raise him. It sounded hauntingly familiar (Harry Potter) but it soon (thankfully) became a wonderful tale of growing up in its own right. In fact, Gaiman claims to have drawn inspiration from another childhood classic: The Jungle Book (which I haven't read. Yet.)

The book takes us through the childhood of Nobody Owens, how he learns the ways and secrets of the graveyard, his relationsip with the ghosts and other entities that live there, and how the man Jack is still hunting him. In the process The Graveyard Book tells an entertaining story and shows us what it means to be a family, what it means to be honorable and most of all, what it means to be alive.

I read this with my 11yo son for a school project and would highly recommend it for kids (9 and up) and adults alike.


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Sing Them Home

Sing Them Home Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos


My review


rating: 2 of 5 stars
During the first few chapters, I thought, wow, what wonderful, descriptive writing. During the next few, I thought, O.k. that's too descriptive (second by second recount of how a character eats a candy bar). But by the middle, I was comfortably tucked into the tale of 3 siblings whose mother was carried off by a tornado when they were children and now have reunited with the death of their father (by lighting). Kallos tries to follow each sibling as they deal with issues surrounding their childhood, and look for love in their present lives. And for the most part she succeeds in fleshing out these characters until the end, when suddenly it wraps up neater than a birthday package. To delve so deeply into 3 separate, messy lives and then gloss over the ending to "they live happily ever after" feels like a cop-out and frankly, makes the time invested getting to know these characters feel like a waste.


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