Natalia Stefanovi, a doctor living (and, in between suspensions, practicing) in an unnamed country that's a ringer for Obreht's native Croatia, crosses the border in search of answers about the death of her beloved grandfather, who raised her on tales from the village he grew up in, and where, following German bombardment in 1941, a tiger escaped from the zoo in a nearby city and befriended a mysterious deaf-mute woman. The evolving story of the tiger's wife, as the deaf-mute becomes known, forms one of three strands that sustain the novel, the other two being Natalia's efforts to care for orphans and a wayward family who, to lift a curse, are searching for the bones of a long-dead relative; and several of her grandfather's stories about Gavran Gailé, the deathless man, whose appearances coincide with catastrophe and who may hold the key to all the stories that ensnare Natalia.
Pages: 338 (hardcover)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
When I was working in Atlanta, I started streaming radio. I discovered a station out of Dayton, Ohio which featured book reviews by Vick Mickunas. He had a soothing voice, asked great questions, and really loved books. I started corresponding with him and was so excited to find that he was generous, smart, and funny. With various life and job changes, I was not able to listen to him on a regular basis. However, I would occasionally listen to an interview when I had the chance. I heard his interview with Tea Obreht in which they discussed The Tiger's Wife. The interview can be heard here.
Because I am on a book buying diet and my reading schedule is sporadic, I read through the book slowly. Because the story is so rich and layered, I think I enjoyed and understood it more. One of my favorite things about the story was the connection of Natalia with her grandfather. Their shared secrets, outings, and conversations reminded me a lot of my relationship with my own grandfather.
In addition to rich and complex family relationship, I also appreciated the themes of war, public health and aging. Of course, I also liked learning more about the grandfather. At times, I did get lost because of all the different story lines. Overall, I liked all the stories and the richness of the characters.
When I finished reading the book, I was in an airplane bathroom on my way from Honolulu to Baltimore on a red eye flight. Since the flight was so long and I am still giving my child breast milk, I had to pump. The only space to do it was in the bathroom. Let me say that it is truly a humbling experience to be topless with terrible light in a small bathroom while trying to make milk for your child. Fortunately, I was able to bring in a book with me and get lost in a really good story. I wish I had a rating system that included a rating entitled, "Wonderful for distracting while pumping breast milk in a cramped space with poor light."
Counting this book for the following challenge:
2012 Global Reading Challenge: I am counting this for the continent of Europe
Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
Pages: 391 (hardback)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Source: Checked out of the library
Earlier this year, the Professors and Partners book club selected the first book in the Hunger Games series as our selection. I devoured and enjoyed the book so much that I knew I needed to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, my sister-in-law did not have her copy of the next book and the other connection I had was impatient to get her copies back. I put myself on a very long wait list at the library and just waited.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins came into my hands at the beginning of July, just before we were going on vacation. I was going to have extra help with my daughter which meant that I could read while pumping. This book went as quickly for me as the first. I was less surprised with the violence and the intense premise, but still completely absorbed. Some of the plot twists were unexpected and others were just disturbing. I continue to like Katniss and found myself wanting to start the next book as soon as this one finished.
Random note about this note: I am only about to count this book towards my personal goal of reading 12 books this year, not for any other challenges.
The most honest, wildly enjoyable book written about motherhood is surely Anne Lamott's account of her son Sam's first year. A gifted writer and teacher, Lamott (Crooked Little Heart) is a single mother and ex-alcoholic with a pleasingly warped social circle and a remarkably tolerant religion to lean on. She responds to the changes, exhaustion, and love Sam brings with aplomb or outright insanity. The book rocks from hilarious to unbearably poignant when Sam's burgeoning life is played out against a very close friend's illness. No saccharine paean to becoming a parent, this touches on the rage and befuddlement that dog sweeter emotions during this sea change in one's life
Pages: 251 (paperback)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library multiple times
The first night I was with my daughter in her room during one of her sleepless nights, I felt so lonely. I could not figure out what she needed or why she was upset. Partner and I had decided to take turns, so that everyone could sleep at some point. Not to brag too much, but I have three degrees. I have worked with people for whom communicating clearly is a work in progress. Our house was flooded and infected with mold three weeks before my daughter arrived. I was laboring for over 24 hours. None of that compares to the feeling of inadequacy that comes from trying to determine why your infant is upset.
I was so lucky to have family and friend support. People stayed with us and supported us by cooking, cleaning, and snuggling with our baby so that we could rest and be nourished. From the day she was born, my daughter (and my Partner and I) have been surrounded by love. In the middle of the night, the world looks different. All these feelings of self-doubt creep in-- am I good enough? What am I doing? Am I the only parent EVER to not know what to do?!?!? The confidence that the crying will pass is replaced with tremendous fear-- will she ever stop crying? Will I ever sleep?
I started to long for companionship--in the form a best friend who would cheer me on, share her story to make me feel better. However, I did not want to worry about the fact that I looked like crap or have to make a polite exit when the baby finally fell asleep and I could go nap. Operating Instructions by Anne Lammott was just what I needed. On the surface, I wondered if I would be able to relate to anything she wrote given the differences in our circumstances. I soon learned that love, struggling to do right by your child, and marveling at the mess parenthood has made of your sanity are universal.
The book is divided into easy to read chapters. I kept the book in the nursery and read a few sentences when I had a chance or needed a pep talk. I felt like I made a new friend. The book made the experience of being a new mom less lonely and much more bearable.
I am counting the book for the following challenges:
- What's in a Name Five: a journal is something I would carry in my backpack or purse.
- What's in a Name Four: the first year is certainly a life stage
A few weeks ago I participated in a book tour for A Lighter Shade of Grey by Devon Pearse. You can find my review here. When I read on the back cover that ths story is semi-autobiographical, I became curious about how she drew the distinction between what is true from her life and what is fiction. She is gracious enough to answer my question with a guest post. Here is what she had to say:
When I first started writing A Lighter Shade of Gray, I really wasn't concerned with making any distinctions between my personal story (the true part) and what I was writing as fiction. I knew that there would be certain aspects of my life that I would obviously prefer to keep private, and I spoke with my family and friends a lot concerning what things they would be comfortable with, or uncomfortable with, being put into a novel. Everyone's support and encouragement went beyond what I had imagined, so that made it easier.
Of course, I also wanted to create an interesting plot (or several!) around my reality, and so I began to consider what might have happened if my friend hadn't only talked about doing away with that car, but had actually gone ahead and done it. And then, what if that car just happened to have a secret passenger when it went into that lake? So, as you can see, I'm hinting a little at where that idea came from.
One thing I've always wanted to make clear is that the character of Nina is based on a friend of mine from elementary school. Sadly, she was shot and killed on her birthday, in a very similar manner to what I wrote in the book. The rest of the revenge-oriented plot line revolves around the desire we've always had for true justice to be done for my friend, and getting to write it was very cathartic.
Something I get asked quite frequently is whether or not the character of Drew is based on a real person. He's actually based on several guys who each meant something special to me, and those emotional scenes that seem to get to everyone came straight from the heart.
Most of the things about my childhood and family life are based in reality, and out of deference to the one request made by my father, that's all I'm going to say about it!
Once the writing started to flow, I found it was surprisingly easy to marry reality and fiction, and it was an interesting realization that the saying, "Truth is stranger than fiction" is quite often more accurate than one might think. I love to create characters and stories for them, and it was all the more entertaining to be weaving all those threads around my own life. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in writing, especially if they're looking for a practice exercise. After all, what characters do you know better than yourself, your friends and family?
What does it feel like to stare into the face of madness? Or to anticipate your own? Would you drive away your only love? Could you pretend it didn’t matter? How far would you go to protect a friend, or to avenge a death?
Ten years ago, Devon gave up the love of her life, fearing she would one day fall victim to the mental illness that has slowly ravaged the mind of her mother, who is now being cared for in a private facility. Just when it seems Devon might have a chance to make up for past mistakes, her best friend Cass becomes a suspect in the murder of her sister’s drug-dealing boyfriend.
Devon knows Cass is lying about the details of her involvement and the lead detective on the case, convinced that Cass is guilty, is relentless in his pursuit of justice.
When her mother’s young, emotionally disturbed roommate insinuates she knows something about the night of the murder, as well as details from Devon’s own life that no one else is privy to, Devon becomes desperate to uncover the truth before Detective Lake does. As the investigation continues, Devon is led down a path she never expected and forced to face her greatest fears of life and love.
Tangled in a web of lies, regrets and questions, can she find a way to let go of the past and start again? And, once the mystery is solved, can she live with the secrets she’s uncovered?
Pages: 470 (Paperback)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Source: Copy given to me for participation in book tour
I was intrigued when I read the description of a Lighter Shade of Grey by Devon Pearse and excited to be part of her book tour. The novel could actually be broken up into several stories. I enjoyed being swept up into the inner workings of the main character. However, I was frequently confused and had to stop several times to regroup and figure out where I was in relation to all of the stories that were unfolding. I know that the narrator was the connection between all the stories, but at several points I felt like things could have been edited to make the book more succinct.
In spite of these issues, I did enjoy the book. I especially liked the Cass story line. The friendship between Cass and Devon was fun to read. The relationship of Devon and her parents was also page turning. I imagine that it must be hard to experience a loved one having a mental breakdown. The attempts of the narrator and her father to hide her mother's illness and keep things as normal as possible was heart wrenching. As more stories of mental illness are shared, I hope that the stigma decreases.
On the back cover and in the author note, Devon Pearse mentions that the story is semi-autobiographical. As I was reading, I kept wondering how she made the disctinction. With a story so personal and intense, I imagine that it would be hard to know where to draw the boundaries. Luckily for all of us, the author agreed to address this question with a guest post on July 21st. Please come back to read her thoughts. In the meantime, you can check out the other tour stops here.
I am counting the book for the following challenge:
1. 2012 Chunkster Reading Challenge: the book is 470 pages.