What I’m Reading: We Were the Lucky Ones

From the book jacket:

It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety. 

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere. 

An extraordinary, propulsive novel, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive.

My review:

Up until I read the author’s notes about the story, I was leaning hard towards giving We Were the Lucky Ones four stars. There was a LOT going on; between the number of characters, the numerous events, and variety of locations, it was hard to keep track at times.

That’s not to say that I didn’t admire the characters’ resilience during such a terrifying time in their lives. I found myself reading page after page just to find out what would happen to each of them. I don’t often find myself tearing up over books but there were definitely moments in this one that made me reach for the tissues, not out of sorrow but joy. I definitely wanted the world for the Kurcs but knowing the harrowing time I didn’t ever get my hopes up and always prepared my heart for the worst.

At times I found it all to be a little unbelievable, I mean, the title of the book kind of gives everything away, but then I read the author’s notes and my opinion was changed. It definitely deserved one more star, perhaps not for the writing but for the amazing journey Hunter took in collecting every bit and piece of information to put the story together. We Are the Lucky Ones is truly a family story worth passing down through every generation.

My rating: ★★★★★/5

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What I’m Reading: My (not so) Perfect Life

From the book jacket:

Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle–from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she’s desperate to make her dad proud.

Then, just as she’s finding her feet–not to mention a possible new romance–the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away–until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.

My review:

I have a pile of heavy/emotional books lined up, so I figured this Sophie Kinsella book would a great little read in between. While I finishing it, it was only because I was curious to see if it could get any more ridiculous. (Spoiler: It does.)

The plot vaguely reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada in that Katie/Cat/Kath/Whatever hates her boss and she’s trying to make it in her industry. But something tells me that Kinsella tried just a little too hard to write a ridiculous movie script instead of a light-hearted novel. The whole scene when Demeter is at the farm is just over the top and too much.

I get that the main idea of the story is to get readers to remember that despite the fact that someone’s life may seem picture-perfect in life, there’s always so much more that is untold. Heck, even I remind myself that despite of annoying perfect someone may seem to be, they still have big, stinky poos. No one has their shit together 100% of the time – ever – and don’t forget that.

So, while the message of the book is indeed an important one, it really could have been tackled in a less-than-absurd way.

My rating: ★★/5

What I’m Reading: A Spark of Light

From the book jacket:

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding. 

My review:

I’m not even sure where to start with A Spark of Light, so I suppose I’ll start by saying that I really, really enjoyed it. The reverse timeline, while different, worked so well; I couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to know how everyone got to this point. In a sense, it’s much like how any type of investigative work is conducted: A major event happens, and all the layers are peeled back one by one to see where everything/everyone originated from.

Without getting into what my personal beliefs are on the subject of this book (because that’s not what this review is about), I can understand the anger and frustration from both sides of the equation, and Picoult does a remarkable job arguing both sides.

When you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a good thing. When you say I can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a problem.

– Dr. Louie Ward

I think that quote spoke to me the most, out of everything else in the book. No matter what your beliefs may be, I think the above quote is something everyone should really consider in all aspects of life.

A Spark of Light also made me so thankful to live where I do. Healthcare is an amazing privilege and while there are a few issues, I can find care regardless of my social status.

Anyway – while I’ve read that some readers didn’t like the reverse timeline, I felt that Picoult left just enough information out to keep me intrigued and wondering how everything happened – thank goodness for the epilogue! The small twist near the end was perfect and not too over-the-top, and explains so much. My only desire was to learn more about Beth. At the end of the book I was left wondering what happened to her because in a sense, she had lost the most out of anyone.

Overall, I believe that A Spark of Light is a thought-provoking book that is definitely worth reading. Jodi Picoult nailed it again.

My rating: ★★★★★/5