ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Daily Archive: July 29, 2017

Saturday

29

July 2017

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COMMENTS

The Hypnotist’s Love Story

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Someone who wants a quick read with some interesting explorations of loss.

In a nutshell: Ellen (they hypnotist) has just started a relationship with Patrick. Patrick’s wife died seven years ago, when their son was only a year old. Saskia was Patrick’s first relationship after his wife died, and after they broke up, Saskia began to stalk Patrick. It continues.

Line that sticks with me: “You weren’t meant to admit, even to yourself, how badly you wanted love. The man was meant to be the icing, not the cake.”

Why I chose it: I’d downloaded it during my Liane Moriarty phase two years ago but never got around to reading it. But I was just on a cruise, so it was perfect.

Review:
This book reminds me a bit of “What Alice Forgot” in that it doesn’t quite follow what I now consider the Liane Moriarty formula: two or three interweaving story lines told out of order with a great mystery revealed. This has elements of it, but felt fresh to me.

I enjoyed the storytelling and the elements of mystery – some characters pop up unexpectedly – but the main plot felt a bit deeper than one might expect from a beach read (which is where I think her books often end up). Saskia is a stalker, and in general I wouldn’t be interested in their perspective. And she is not made out to be any sort of victim, but as the story progresses, I think we start to recognize that her motivation is more complicated. But that said … if the genders were reversed, I’m not sure if I would feel as much empathy for Saskia as I found myself feeling. And regardless of the amount, is it odd to feel any at all?

The book also looks at how we view losses differently when it comes to an unwanted break-up versus a death. We all carry bits of previous relationships, but when someone leaves us through death, they can become canonized. And the next person who dates the one left behind is there because the previous person isn’t. How do you handle that? How long ‘should’ one grieve a death? And is there a particular reason why we allow for more grief over a death than over the end of a long-term relationship? Is it reasonable to expect someone to get over being left in a few weeks when they thought they had a life with someone? And how can their grief be directed in a healthy way. Moreover, how does it all change when there are kids involved?

I enjoyed this book a lot. The ending was satisfying to me, although I could have seen it ending differently and also being enjoyable.

Saturday

29

July 2017

0

COMMENTS

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: People who like good, intense writing and want a bit more insight into slavery in the U.S.

In a nutshell: Cora escapes the plantation she is enslaved on and faces more challenges and danger.

Line that sticks with me: “Truth was a changing display in a shop window, manipulated by hands when you weren’t looking, alluring and ever out of reach.”

Why I chose it: It’s been on my shelf for a few months; my visiting brother-in-law suggested it was a good book to bring on our family vacation last week.

Review:
Colson Whitehead is a talented writer. He tells a compelling story about a brutal time in U.S. history, weaving in components that aren’t necessarily accurate from a time perspective but that still happened. He doesn’t pull any punches with the horrors of life as a slave and punishment of slaves, but this book doesn’t feel like torture porn. It is graphic but not voyeuristic.

The story itself is fascinating. Mr. Whitehead follows Cora but also tells some of the story of her grandmother and mother, as well as of the people she encounters along the way. We never sympathize with slave owners, but Mr. Whitehead also allows them to be more than just caricatures with twirling mustaches. But what’s better, he allows for the people helping out on the underground railroad (which, in this telling, is an actual railway that is buried underground) to be less than saintly. I also appreciate that the individuals in this book are fully developed and provided with things to do that aren’t just in service of the main character.

Cora, however, is a remarkable woman. She is conflicted. She is brave, but not reckless. She thinks things through. She is skeptical (rightfully) of others. She doesn’t start out totally naive, but Mr. Whitehead draws her out so that she matures in her understanding of the motivations of others. She wants to survive, and she wants to believe that perhaps better things can happen for her.

I’m happy that this book moved up to the top of my to be read list; if you have it on yours but haven’t picked it up yet, I promise you won’t be disappointed if you start it today.