Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics–their passion for the same woman–that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him–nearly destroying him–Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.
Pages: 688 (paperback)
Rating:10 out of 10
Source:Purchased from Target, I think, but cannot recall for sure
When we needed a selection for the Partners and Professors book club in MA, I looked at the NPR book list and as a group we discovered that Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was available in paperback and had an intriguing plot. Unfortunately, the book club meeting took place during a hectic time and I was not able to complete the book. I kept meaning to return to it and finally found my way to the pages while I was on vacation two weeks ago. I started at the beginning and could not devour the story fast enough.
At the risk of sounding trite, I LOVED THIS BOOK! I thought it was an amazing and powerful story. I found myself thinking about the characters when I was away from them. While there was a powerful personal story unfolding, I also learned a lot about the history of Ethiopia. I also appreciated the social justice undertones. I thought that some of the medical jargon and descriptions would be hard to get through, but the way things were described made the information very accessible. In fact, one of my favorite things about the book is the way medical phrases and philosophy were applied to personal interactions and ways of being in the world.
** Spoiler Alert**
My favorite characters were Ghosh and Hema. I loved how they grew individually and as a couple. Their interactions were sweet and filled with tenderness. The way they parented Shiva and Marion gave me a good picture of how I would like to parent. I also had a special spot for Hema because she reminded me of my mother-- the way she navigated the world of medicine and provided a healing touch while adorned in traditional Indian clothing.
My least favorite character was Genet. I hated her behavior and choices. Mostly, I hated the impact her choice and behavior had on Marion and Shiva. It infuriated me that she had sex with Shiva and then forbid Marion from telling the truth. The demise of the closeness of Marion and Shiva was tough to witness. When Genet returned to Marion's life, my stomach was in knots. As Marion's health deteriorated, I was glad that the disease brought Shiva and Marion together again. While there was much sweetness during Marion's time in the hospital, I wish that Genet had never returned to their lives. In case you cannot tell, I was really attached to these characters!!
I am counting the book for the following challenges:
2011 Global Reading Challenge: Much of the book took place in Ethiopia, so it is a bonus read for the continent of Africa.
South Asian Challenge 2011: Some of the characters are of Indian origin and the author is also Indian.
Chunkster Reading Challenge 2011: The book is 688 pages and meets the requirements of a chunkster.
What's in a Name Four: I am counting it for the movement category as cutting is a movement.
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey
Pages: 326 (paperback)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Purchased from Borders in Silver Spring, MD as they were going out of business.
During the National Book Festival in September, I got to hear Jonathan Safran Foer speak. It was really warm and the tent was crowded, so I took a seat on the grass. After a few minutes, I did not notice the heat and was transfixed by him. He was promoting his latest book called Eating Animals which sounds good, but he quote about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close stuck with me. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the exact quote (thanks a lot--pregnancy brain), but the essence of it was that through Oskar we break down grief that seems so large into a small task.
In March, I was with Beth at the Borders book store in Silver Spring and I was trying to decide which book to purchase. I picked up Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Beth convinced me that it was the best option of all the ones I was considering. I am glad I listened to her.
Based on the premise of the book, I knew that I was going to be really sad. Reading about a child grieving the loss of a parent is probably not the most appropriate subject matter for a 5 month pregnant woman. However, I was immediately drawn in and loved Oskar. The questions he was asking and the ways in which he was trying to find out what an object meant to his dad were heart warming and also heart wrenching. He was not only processing grief, but also figuring out how things were connected and unfolding the complex relationship with his mom and grandmother. One of my favorite things about Oskar was his imagination and how at several points in the book he described what he wanted to do which was an expression of his frustration or hurt. However, what he ended up doing was something much more subtle and socially acceptable. Even though I am much older than him, I can certainly relate to that. I enjoyed meeting and learning about the history of his grandparents, but their story was not an intriguing to me as Oskar's. Also, I found that I was impatient with those passages because I wanted to hear more about Oskar.
An unexpected gift of reading the book was how it made me think of what I would wish for Partner and my child if I were to die when the kid was young. Partner and I had some good conversations about this which I think will help us parent mindfully.
I am counting the book for the Global Reading Challenge 2011. The book took place in New York. I am counting it as a bonus for North America.
On a stifling day in 1975, the North Vietnamese army is poised to roll into Saigon. As the fall of the city begins, two lovers make their way through the streets to escape to a new life. Helen Adams, an American photojournalist, must take leave of a war she is addicted to and a devastated country she has come to love. Linh, the Vietnamese man who loves her, must grapple with his own conflicted loyalties of heart and homeland. As they race to leave, they play out a drama of devotion and betrayal that spins them back through twelve war-torn years, beginning in the splendor of Angkor Wat, with their mentor, larger-than-life war correspondent Sam Darrow, once Helen's infuriating love and fiercest competitor, and Linh's secret keeper, boss and truest friend.
Tatjana Soli paints a searing portrait of an American woman’s struggle and triumph in Vietnam, a stirring canvas contrasting the wrenching horror of war and the treacherous narcotic of obsession with the redemptive power of love.
Pages: 416 (paperback)
Rating: 9 out of 10
When I came to the DC area to begin my fellowship last August, I was lucky enough to be able to join the book club organized by Planetbooks. I have not been the best member as work commitments and social obligations keep me from making all the meetings. When I got my free copy of The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli, I was intrigued. I had other reading commitments, so I began the book about two weeks before our meeting. I was not sure if I was going to be able to finish.
Much to my surprise and delight I was so taken with the story that I was gulping down passages and constantly craving more. I loved Helen's constant struggle with and desire to be I brave. The ways she navigated the all male photo journalists club and connected with the soldiers illustrated both her persistence and the unique challenges of a woman working in a combat zone.
At the book club discussion, I know that Sam was a favorite character. However, I found him cocky and annoying. His career ambitions have there appeal and I think his work ethic is admirable; however, as a partner for Helen, I found him irritating. He reminded me a bit of the popular guy in high school-- the one who makes all the big plays and gets the attention of the ladies.
I much preferred Linh whose keen observation skills and quiet demeanor made him more sensitive and genuine. The ways in which he struggled with his past to figure out how to be in the present made him the most relatable character. I must admit that at times I thought he was too good for Helen. Although, I did enjoy reading about how he and Helen fell in love with each other. He reminded me a bit of the reserved guy in high school who was an amazing person once you got to know him better.
In addition to reading the book for a discussion, I am counting it for the following challenge:
Global Reading Challenge 2011: Most of the book took place in Vietnam; I am counting it for Asia.
When the Sultan commissions a great book to celebrate his royal self and his extensive dominion, he directs Enishte Effendi to assemble a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed, and no one in the elite circle can know the full scope or nature of the project.
Panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears, and the Sultan demands answers within three days. The only clue to the mystery—or crime?—lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Has an avenging angel discovered the blasphemous work? Or is a jealous contender for the hand of Enishte’s ravishing daughter, the incomparable Shekure, somehow to blame?
Pages: 417 (paperback)
Rating:7 out of 10
Source: checked out multiple times from the library
I picked up My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk to fulfill the November destination of the World Party Reading Challenge. It took me much longer than expected to finish the book. While the story was interesting, it is a murder mystery with many possible suspects, I found it hard to get through in the beginning. I was confused by the cast of characters, but I grew to enjoy the subplots as well as the main plot. Looking at paintings and artistic style to determine a murderer was very intriguing. I learned a lot about the connection between art and Islam.
The format of the book also drew me in as each chapter is told from a different perspective, including objects like coins and colors like red. The book one many awards and while I appreciated the story, I felt like I was not fully grasping all of the historical information. In spite of my slight feelings of inadequacy, I did appreciate the longing of the miniaturists to protect a practice which they had spent their whole lives perfecting.
For me, the character of Shekure best represented the tension between the modern and traditional world. She navigates societal norms and expectations in order to secure a place for herself and her children. It is impressive that she manages to create a life with one of the men she loves.
I am counting the book for the following challenges:
- 2011 Global Reading Challenge: The book is set in Turkey and I am counting it for the Europe continent.
- World Party Reading Challenge: Better late than never; the book is set in Turkey and counts for the month of November.
In the fall of 1900, Dr. Gustav Uyterhoeven left the chess garden that he and his wife, Sonja, had created together in Dayton, Ohio, and journeyed to South Africa to serve as a doctor in the British concentration camps of the Boer War. Over the next ten months he sent twelve chess pieces and twelve letters back to Sonja. She set out her husband's gifts as they arrived and welcomed all the most faithful guests of the garden to come and hear what he had written - letters which told nothing of his experience of the camps but described an imagined land called the Antipodes, where all the game pieces that cluttered the sets and drawers of the garden collection came to life to guide the doctor through his fateful and wondrous last adventure. Brooks Hansen offers a tale of spiritual progress disguised in the most exotic visions of the imagination. And yet The Chess Garden encompasses a very real world, too. Alongside the doctor's visions of the Antipodes, the story of his life gradually unfolds as well. History and allegory are expertly woven until finally both lead back to the chess garden itself, a place where ideas give way to vision, reason meets faith, and fact and figment are finally reconciled.
Pages: 481 (Hardcover)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Source: Checked out a copy from each of the following libraries-- Natick, Alexandria, and Rockville
I began The Chess Garden or the Twilight Letters of Gustav Uyterhoeven by Brooks Hansen all the way back in May 2010; it was the second selection in the Natick book club I joined. While the member who selected the book was very enthusiastic and excited about the story, I had a very hard time getting into it. At our book club meeting in June, I loved her perspective so much that I was determined to finish the book. It took me almost a year to finish the book. I finally got into the story during my third attempt.
The process of reading the book also tested my commitment to the public libraries of MA, VA, and MD. All of the libraries have a two term renewal limit. I was super slow in reading, so I had a lot of pauses in my reading.
While I questioned my decision to finish the book several times, I am glad that I continued. In the end, I loved learning about the Doctor and his wife. His personal journey and the way he used to stories as a way to cope with the horrors he was witnessing in concentration camp. I liked the way the letters were a way for him to connect with his wife and also to continue the sense of community they had created in Ohio. I even cried a little towards the end of the book.
I am counting the book for the following challenges:
2011 Global Reading Challenge: Part of the book took place in South Africa, so I am counting it for the contintent of Africa.
Chunkster Reading Challenge 2011: The book is 481 pages which meets the requirement.