Monday, September 13, 2010

Trail of Crumbs

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for HomeTrail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunée

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel like memoirs are tricky to critique. These are memories of a person's life--would I make the same decisions as them? Is the story of their life interesting? Do I like the person telling the story?

I will say that Sunee is a good, solid writer--full of imagry, concrete details, good dialouge. I found her story interesting and exotic--a Korean orphan abandoned in the marketplace when she is three and haunted by that abandonment ever since. She travels abroad, meets a wealthy stranger and falls in love, and becomes mistress of his house in Provence and step-mother to his daughter. They travel and eat, and she includes delicious-sounding, if esoteric recipes (most would require a trip to a gourmet grocery store).

But then she decides she isn't happy and leaves in search of happiness. Here, the book gets a little tedious with her list of men, her back and forth with her wealthy ex, her sessions with a psychiatrist. Then it neatly wraps up in one page during a trip to the jungle, where she is finally able to "forgive herself" and look forward. Why? How? But I did want to keep reading to find out what happened next.

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stuart: a life backwards

Stuart: A Life BackwardsStuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think I was expecting a different type of book. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood, but I could never fully get into the life of Stuart, a homeless man in England. Masters writes Stuart's life backwards as a sort of mystery to figure out how Sturart ended up on the streets. That was actually Stuart's idea, and the best idea of the whole book. The rest seems sort of rambling, too much about Masters trying to write the book, and in the end, what makes Stuart homeless is pretty much what you'd expect: abuse, mental problems, drugs. No great mystery.

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The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best books I have read this year, and certainly one of the best books about the civil rights movement ever. Stockett alternates between 3 voices: Skeeter, a white woman graduated from college trying to become a writer and find her own voice in a town where the girls are expected to behave properly and marry well; Aibileen, a black maid that has raised countless white children and lived through the unjust death of her own son; and Minnie, another black maid that has a fiery temper and sharp tongue. Together, they unite to write a book about what it is like to be the help in Missippi during the 1960's--the good and the bad.

It is touching, funny, suspenseful. Stockett does an amazing job of writing each character as a complete person and completely believeable.

I loved, loved, loved this book.

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