Half Life & Brida

Neither Half Life nor Brida appealed to me. I actually did not finish either of these books. They were both extremely strange. Half Life is fantasy, a genre I dislike. I can never truly picture what the author is trying to impart. Brida is just weird. I like magic, but this is too out there.

Half Life is set in a world somewhat similar to our own. The most blaring exception is that due to nuclear explosions the world has a population of conjoined twins large enough to have their own lobby groups. Nora no longer wants to share her body with her conjoined twin, Blanche who has been in a state of unconsciousness for over twenty years. Nora wants to have Blanche surgically removed so that she can live life without the burden of her comatose sister. I thought that this sounded like an interesting premise for a book so I picked it out of our lending library at work. I hated it! The writing was convoluted. The plot was difficult to follow as Shelley Jackson tackles too many ideas and is trying to make heady philosophical points. Jackson adds in strange prose that has no purpose. Nora’s character was extremely unlikable. I could only read about a hundred pages when I decided it was time to give up. Jackson, you had a good idea, unfortunately it was poorly executed.

A colleague was passing around Brida. My boss read it and commented multiple times that it was a strange book. The jacket description sounded interesting to me, as I usually love books with magical themes. I wrongly presumed I would enjoy this read. Brida is a story about a young Irish girl, Brida who has a special gift. She is a witch. I only read to about page fifty as I became too frustrated with the bizarreness of the subject matter. In the few pages I read, Brida is drawn to a forest where, Magus a teacher of things mystical leaves her alone on a rock to learn her first lesson. This experience annoys Brida, so she finds another teacher, a middle-aged woman named Wicca. Magus was a teacher of the Tradition of the Sun, whereas Wicca is a teacher of the Tradition of the Moon. (Yes, I know what you are thinking. What the hell is Tradition of the Moon/Sun?) Something happens with tarot cards and the telephone. Wicca explains to Brida that through the telephone people with gifts can experience magical things. A few pages later Wicca takes Brida on a far away journey where she begins to hallucinate. At this point, I had to stop reading. I did not understand what was happening. It was too off the wall, eccentric, peculiar. (The list of  adjectives could go on and on.) What is this touted as acclaimed, even brilliant author, Paulo Coelho freaking writing? I read some of the reviews on goodreads. I’m glad I stopped, as the book seems to get stranger and stranger by the page.

Goodness, two awful books in less then three days. Oye! Both of these books were completely unreadable! 

In One Person

In One Person reads like a memoir, although this is not John Irving’s story. The book is raw, poignant, and often heartbreaking, especially as Billy experiences and copes with the deaths of so many friends afflicted by AIDS. Irving brilliantly explores and celebrates human sexuality, identity and desire. His newest novel has a strong voice as well as critically important messages. I believe In One Person will soon be required reading for college sociology and psychology courses, just like James Baldwin’s works. Irving’s compassion and belief in tolerance shines throughout the piece. However, he also reminds the reader that lingering intolerances of sexual differences remain alive still today. Finally, Irving illustrates that regardless of our genders, orientations, or identities we should not be labeled. I love the following quote from the book. “Please don’t put a label on me – don’t make me a category before you get to know me!” Less marginalization may occur if we could truly live this quote.  

My opinion of this book is of a straight woman. I would love to dialogue with other readers of this book. I would especially like to hear from the LGBT community. Please feel free to make a blog comment. 

Whistling in the Dark

Blah. What a disappointing read. My colleagues really seemed to enjoy this book. I am trying to figure out why as I felt the story was implausible and contrived. I disliked that the author pepper the story with every subject matter possible. Lesley Kagen’s story introduced extramarital affairs, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, substance abuse, neglect, the mentally disabled, bullying, racial injustices, loss, serious illness, coming of age, murder and molestation. (The list of topics is just so ridiculously long.) It was unbelievable that one little Milwaukee town would experience so many startling events. Additionally, many of the topics would have been clandestine or glossed over during the late 1950’s, definitely not common knowledge by the town’s children. What I found incredibly frustrating about this book is that Kagen tried too hard to make comparisons to a now versus then while forcing countless subjects rather then just being content with creating an interesting story about two little girls and their very eventful summer. If the story were the later I would have enjoyed it more, being able to write that the book was a success.  

The Whisperer

The Whisperer is a terrific, cleverly crafted crime, thriller fiction novel. The pace was fast and the author was excellent at layering the story with nasty, skin crawling secrets and twists that kept me turning the pages. The characters were fascinating and extraordinarily well developed. The only challenge of this book was that I had to continuously get into the author's rhythm. Perhaps it was not his writing style but rather the translation, which made the book a bit awkward at times. I noticed I had to reread pages to make sure I was grasping the concept. The book, although extremely engaging took me four days to complete due to the choppy mode, which again I can only attribute to the poor translation. Despite this small critique I was immensely impressed with Donato Carrisi ability to constantly turn the story on its head while keeping the reader guessing, revealing the truth at the very end.

Spoiler Alert –

I also enjoyed learning of and being perplexed by 'whisperers'. The basis of the book introduces an interesting thought provoking concept that had me questioning and wanting to learn more about whisperers. Can people influence others to do harm? How weak is your sense of right and wrong that you could be manipulated to commit heinous crimes?  Who’s more monstrous the swayer or the doer? Without questions both are sinister, atrocious beings!

The Lake Shore Limited

Sue Miller’s character development was excruciatingly slow to start. I was initially bored by the story. The characters of Leslie and Pierce whom establish the novel were flat. I didn’t know where or if the tale was going anywhere. I drudged through the first twenty-nine pages. It took me two days to read pages one through twenty. Finally, I choose to commit. I finished the book this afternoon. Luckily the story progressed more rapidly with Miller’s introduction of additional characters that were much more compelling, ultimately carrying the book. I did not dislike the work, but I wasn’t thrilled either. The subject matter was depressing. The author has created a book comprised of extremely sad people coming to terms with loss or impending loss while trying to find ways to move on in their lives. None of the characters beckoned me. They were lost and damaged.
I am very excited for my next reads. I picked up two new books: In One Person by John Irving and The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi. I also have an extremely long book by an Indian author given to me by a colleague. This book is over one thousand pages. It’s very daunting. I haven’t even brought it home. I will have to gain more courage.