Wednesday, October 5, 2016

2016 Recaps (thus far)

The Turner House
A stately house in Detroit is all but abandoned, but the thirteen children who lived there with their parents are determined to save it in spite of the value.  The dwelling is the center of the story of the siblings, their parents and a snapshot of life in modern Detroit.  ChaCha is the oldest of the siblings and is determined to find out if his haint (apparition) is real.  The youngest sister is a portrait of the struggle to be an adult and face the consequences of your own actions. 

A Man Called Ove
Give the curmudgeon in your life a second look.  Maybe he’s soft and squishy on the inside or at least worthy of the effort to befriend.  Ove is cranky, holds a grudge and likes things just so.  He's not the first cranky old man we've read about but he may be our favorite.

Girls & Sex
The seven of us think we are pretty aware of how things go these days when it comes to sexual awareness and experiences of women.  However, we learned a lot while reading this study of young college aged women and their sexual interactions.  The first take away for us was that the sex-ed classes we got in the 1980’s hasn’t changed much, it is very focused on the male sexual response, and reproduction.  Sounds good right, but no one talks to girls/women about their sexual response, what they can and should expect?  Sex Ed for girls still has a shame factor and has lots of repercussions as girls turn into women who have sexual interactions with others (or themselves). 

We were shocked to read that many of the women interviewed reported that they used oral sex as a way to end a date with someone they didn’t want to have sex with.  WHAT!?  How is that better? 
The discussion over dinner went on and on and on, and when our hostesses’ family came home the teenagers ran for the safety of their own spaces and their dad joined us for a brief moment before realizing we were in deep on topics that weren’t really meant for mixed company.
This book has been characterized by us as a horror genre.  We clearly have a lot of work to do to help our own daughters as they grow up. 

The Sellout, Paul Beatty
An alternate version of the modern day inner city community as told thru the voice of a black small businessman who somehow becomes a slave owner in an attempt to save his corner of Los Angeles.  The language is uncomfortable, the story telling is humorous and awkward, but the lens Mr. Beatty uses to explain this “fake” world says more about how we live today than an academic study of racism or poverty. 

The story has an arc, but each chapter is a contained exploration of a thought, experience or topic the author wants to explore.  It isn’t always easy to see where that chapter might lead, but we were happy to go.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
A sweeping plague, survivors and actors oh my!  If you set aside the extreme unlikeliness of survivors having being connected (even tenuously) in the pre-plague world this is a fantastic book.  The concept is dark to be sure, how could it not be with the majority of people on earth being dead but unlike The Walking Dead, or Camus’ The Plague, or even Blindness the worst of humanity is not the primary result of all the loss.  Ms. St. John Mandel finds hope and connectivity as our band of survivors make their way to Station Eleven.  There is loss, there is the brutal reality of what one might need to do to survive but it is not a lord of the flies situation. 

Little Failure, Shteyngas, Gary
A humorous look at the life of a Russian immigrant.  (Have to admit – didn’t finish it.  This was not a failing on the book, but a lack of time management.)

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Because we loved the book Inside Alice we gave this novel a try.  She so adeptly explored early onset Alzheimer’s that the impact on a large family when the father’s Huntington’s disease progresses.   

For the most part, we all finished the book and had a robust conversation about the story, the characters but our discussion revolved around the difference in the story telling between Alice and the O’Briens.  Inside Alice really brought us into the headspace, fear and uncertainty of Alice as her illness progressed, the story of the O’Briens was far more focused on the family and their relationship with the father than the impact of the illness.