What I’m Reading: All the Light We Cannot See

18143977From the bookjacket:
A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

My review:
I’m ashamed to admit that I had originally started reading All the Light We Cannot See back in July. (Or maybe it was June?) To say I had a hard time getting into the story would be an understatement!

Regardless, the storyline eventually picked up and I couldn’t put it down. Doerr did a good job bouncing back and forth between storylines, which kept me engaged (once the storyline got interesting) and wanting to read on to find out what happens next to either Marie-Laure or Werner.

I really enjoyed how descriptive Doerr was in writing All the Light, which was expected since one of the main characters is blind. It was refreshing to have things described by smell or touch rather than just appearance, but even then Werner’s description of Marie-Laure was anything but basic.

I’m trying hard to think of something in particular that I didn’t like about this book, and other than the slow pace of it, there really isn’t anything. It gives a good perspective into life in German-occupied France during the war, and I think it’s important to remember how much fear there was during that time.

Overall, I give All the Light We Cannot See 4 stars out of 5.

 

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What I’m Reading: Small Great Things

28587957From the book jacket:
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My review:
I don’t believe that I have been so moved in so many different ways by a book until I read Small Great Things. I laughed, cried, and was enraged. I questioned my own believes. I think Small Great Things did everything it was supposed to do, and that was to help in opening your eyes, if only a mere millimetre more, to show how regardless of how non-racist we may make ourselves out to be, can we really comment on it?

Small Great Things made me reflect upon my own experiences with racism and how it’s affected me and how I reflect it. Do I overcompensate to try “show off” my acceptance? Does the fact that I’m bi-racial make it OK for me to joke about race? (Specifically my own.) Is race an issue in the city I live in? The province? The country? There’s a thousand different answers and depending on your own beliefs, there’s no wrong one.

I know many other readers were skeptical of Picoult tackling this subject because she is, by the book’s very own standard, privileged, but I believe it takes a certain amount of guts to delve this deep into racism, especially considering today’s political issues. She acknowledged the fact that she felt out of place writing a book about race, but I think she gave it her all and did the best she could.

I know no one, no matter what your race, can relate to or know what it’s like to be someone else – White, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, etc., but we can at least open our eyes and try to understand.

I feel like I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, so back to the book itself. Safe to say – I loved Small Great Things and its characters, yes, even Turk. While his beliefs are obviously filled with hate it was heart-wrenching reading about what he went through with his son. I can appreciate Ruth’s apprehension working with Kennedy and ultimately deciding to go with her gut. I can understand Edison’s turn in personality and attitude as he tries to figure out who he is.

Small Great Things is a timely read and I highly recommend it. I give it 5 stars out of 5.

What I’m Reading: The Nest

25781157From the bookjacket:
A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the future they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

My review: 
I picked up The Nest on a bit of a whim/because it was on sale after hearing some pretty decent reviews about it. Who doesn’t love a story about a dysfunctional family?

So yes, the Plumbs are certainly dysfunctional, but I would hardly say that they’re testing the power of family. The Plumbs, in my opinion, are nothing but of snivelling, whiny WASPy-types with a sense of entitlement. How ironic that they put all of their eggs in this one financial basket they call “the Nest” only to have it fail.

Beware for beyond lay spoilers!