Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan ****

I found this book on a list from NPR of recommended first books from new authors. I was having a heck of a time finding one of them at my local library, & it just happened that they had this one.
I have to say up front that I have no desire to go to Mississippi--it just sounds hot, humid, poor, racist, & just plain foul. I know that's not what the state really is (I know there are probably even more people out there that have an even worse view of Missouri, maybe deservedly), but I've got to say that this book doesn't help. Alright, it takes place in 1946, so it's not like things were very progressive back then. But I think the reason that this book makes me feel that way about Mississippi is because the main character, Laura, feels that way. She's from Memphis & when her husband, Henry, uproots her from her large extended family & plops her down on a muddy Mississippi farm she's understandably upset. The change in her scenery makes her act in ways she never thought herself capable of, both positive & negative.
The character of Ronsel is wonderful too, you just want him to get the hell out of there & go somewhere he can grow & expand & fill up the space made by his potential. Jamie is the imperfect person that always is there, reminding us of our failings & weaknesses. And of course there's Pappy--you gotta hate him.
I suggest you give this one a try.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards **

You know how you can read a book & not really figure out how you feel about it until later? That's how this book was for me. Initially I thought I liked it. It's about how people deal with a child with a developmental disability so I should like it, right?
It has a great premise, the giving away of an infant because she has Down's & how that haunts the rest of her family all of their lives. But I just got tired of it all. It's one of those books where you think you should have a real emotional epiphany at the end of it, but all you feel is glad that it's over. I've read some of the other reviews on Amazon & I have to agree with a lot of the 1 & 2 star ones in that it's just a bunch of slow, repetitive cliches. By the end you just don't care very much about any of them, & the reveal is so late in coming that it's very anticlimactic also.
Not recommended by me.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain ***

I know, I know. I've been very lax. I have good reason, what with the holidays & all. But have I stopped reading? Not really. I usually do limit my reading at this time of year just so I can get everything done for Christmas. But I have read 3 books since my last posting & I'll share them with you.
The first, of course, is Huck Finn. It starts out very promising, but I have to say that once the Prince & the Duke join them I lost a lot of my interest. It seemed like it got way off track, & major characters (like Jim) were suddenly ignored. Once Tom Sawyer was in the book again that did it for me--I had to skim the rest of the book just to get through it. Tom's character annoyed me in the first book, I certainly didn't want to see him again in Huck's book.
I have to admit that this book isn't fresh on my mind (I read it about a month ago), but my overall impression is that Mark Twain didn't know what he himself thought about slavery in America. He built Jim up into a very real person, someone we could all find something to identify with, then discarded him when that became too uncomfortable for him. I can't help but look at the book from my own time period & perspective, & maybe that's why I judge Mark Twain too harshly. I suppose most of it has to do with the building up of Mark Twain himself--especially with living in Missouri I've heard about how great he was all my life. It's probably just natural that he couldn't live up to his own legend. I think sometimes we do a disservice to authors by putting them on a pedestal.