Monday, July 31, 2017

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

A girl is entrusted with a very special box yet given little information on its use or implications.

When almost-middleschooler Gwendy meets the suited man, she is strangely drawn to the box he offers. She needs to have that box! But then he's gone, and she's left with a million questions and one strange, small box with a series of colored push buttons on top.

This is my favorite kind of Stephen King story: it's creepy and sinister, yet really left up to your imagination to fill in the blanks. Because what's scariest is very personal, and you create your own nightmare with his subtle framework and direction.

Also, this audiobook recording includes a bonus short story, "The Music Room," based on an Edward Hopper painting. Also fantastic, and very, very minimal.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

When a lonely teenager attaches herself to the new neighbors, their problems become a part of her, too.

This was a strange story. When it finished I sat for a minute just trying to figure out what really happened in the end. I'm still not sure why the book is entitled, "History of Wolves."

It shifts back and forth from the summer she - Madeline, Linda, whatever her name is - was 14 and babysat for the family across the lake, and to more recent times, as she's still affected by the traumas of her childhood.

We know right away the little kid, Paul, is dead (in the current timeframe). We don't know what happens to him until halfway through the book, and really, the book isn't about that. It's about Linda's needy, strange relationship with Paul's mom, Patra. It's about Linda's strange relationship with a girl from school. Or about her strange relationship with a teacher. Or about how she was born into a commune. OK - so it's about Linda's strangeness? I'm just working through it here.

I listenened to the audiobook, which was well-read by Susan Bennett. The story keeps you going, and it's well written. I'm just unsure about my own feelings about the conclusion.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Addressed as a letter to a friend seeking advice, Adichie gives a brief, powerful primer on feminism in a changing world.

While it's addressed to a new mother on raising her daughter, the lessons are equally important for anyone. We all impact the next generation, and the first steps to change must be our own.

It's an amazing, succinct piece with a lot to ponder. It's probably worth repeated reading and is truly the kind of book you should buy to revisit annually.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Naked Without a Hat by Jeanne Willis

When things get crowded at his mother's house (with the new boyfriend), Will gains his first taste of independence by moving into a rooming house. It's the start of an eye-opening adventure in friendship, employment, and the many flavors of love.

I enjoyed the book and its cast of lovable oddballs. His mom is overbearing, but it's a realistic protectiveness she shows - they're both ready for something new in their lives, but it's hard to let go of the comfortable, usual patterns of life. His flatmates are all wacky in their own ways, but together they form a new kind of family.

Will's holding onto a big secret - and I'm not giving it away here - that left me dumbfounded. I had no idea such a thing was possible (I turned to Google once I was finished with the book).

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

A truly odd woman navigates modern life, awkwardly. It's also a wonderfully weird book about the power of friendship!

Eleanor goes to work, does her job, and then goes home. Her wardrobe and meal plan - actually her whole existence - are designed for simplicity and hardiness. Except for the vodka, which gets her through the weekend.

We don't know much about Eleanor at the start, but throughout the story more information is dosed out in drips and drabs. Some truly startling pieces are laid down almost casually when you least expect it. She's a tough nut on the outside, but that protective shell hides the true core of her story - and things she's been trying to protect herself from, too.

Eleanor almost accidentally makes a friend one day when her work computer goes on the fritz and the IT guy pays a visit. Through that friendship, Eleanor also gains lots of perspective on human interactions, common pleasantries, and social mores. She goes to a party! She attends a funeral! She orders a drink in a pub!

This blossoming throughout the book is funny and inspiring (don't we all feel a bit socially awkward at times?) and offers hope that no one is ever too damaged to move forward.