Monday, July 30, 2007

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

This was an interesting and disturbing book.

It follows a 'typical' Afghanistan family for several months in the Spring after the Taliban fled from the country. The author is a female Swedish journalist who moved in with the family. She observed, traveled with the men, worked with the women, wore a burka, and according to her, "I have rarely been as angry as I was with the Khan family, and I have rarely quarreled as much as I did there. Nor have I had the urge to hit anyone as much as I did there."

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the way you see into the family life. Women are trully possessions and slaves. Their value is measured by the way they make their men happy - not only husbands, but fathers and sons as well. A man ALWAYS had more power than the women regardless of the age of the man or the woman. My guess is that was one of the reasons that Asne (the author) was so angry so often.

Although this was a fairly wealthy family - 11 lived in a 2 room apartment with inconsistent water or electricity. Sultan ( the bookseller, father and strongest family member) decided everything including who or if his youngest sister would marry or continue to be a virtual house slave is Sultan's home.

This was a great book to read after A Thousand Splendid Suns. This was the nonfiction version of life at the end of the book.

It is hard for my American sensibilities to understand how the power structure has evolved. It is almost impossible to imagine how it would feel to always accept that my sex makes me second rate. It was not only the Taliban who promoted this - Burkas and female subordination existed before their rule.

This book brought up more questions for me -as we try to understand a different culture there is so much to know.

I would recommend this one too!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Well - I finished it!! And I have to say it's as wonderful as I expected. There are so many pieces tied up - things that I only 1/2 remembered. As those ends are mended - you see Harry and his friends grow and change and grow again!
I completely loved it!!!!

I've read all the books outloud to Rod and we finished number 6 on Saturday. I am now reading Deathly Hallows to Rod. It's even better the second time around. I'm already making more connections...

I also spent a little time reading Harry blogs. Several things made sense that I had missed. But - it's a little disconcerting - people are so into these books. It makes me a little concerned for them - they need to get a life!!!

That's all I can say - but if you've read it and want to comment - I'd love to chat! :)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

This is a heart breaking story of loss and stamina. A great second novel about the beauty and despair and hope of Afghanistan and the people who live there.

I read this book in a long day - I spent much of the afternoon in the hospital waiting room as my mother-in-law recovered from foot surgery. Then I finished it this evening. I think it gives a different perspective in a reading so close together.

The story follows the lives of two very different women - Mariam and Laila. Both are raised near Kabul. But their lives are very different. Mariam is the illigetimate daughter of a prominant Heran resident. She is raised by a bitter and saddened mother. She believes explicitly what her father tells her on the weekly visits to her hovel. Yet, when she comes to him to claim her as his rightful daughter, he sends her away to Kabul to be married to Rasheed, a man 20 years her senior. Years of miscarriages have changed the way this couple functions - Mariam is little more than Rasheed's slave and punching bag.

Laila is the youngest daughter of the local teacher. She is his pet and her learning never stops. That is until the Soviets take over and the bombs begin. After her family is killed she is taken in by Rasheed and becomes the second wife in this disfunctional home.

The years pass with each one bringing additional hardships and increasingly impossible living standards. Then the Taliban takes over.

I kept thinking about how this could all happen. Afghan was a wealthy and culturally vibrant country before.... then the wars started and slowly the people unraveled placing their hopes on different saviours. Each a bit more awful than the one they had lived under. It's easy to imagine that this could only happen over there... but the over there seems to be creeping ever closer.

It drew me up short and forced me to think a bit - or a lot. Would I have the resilence to continue?

I would highly recommend this one - but I would recommend the Kite Runner first - it's his first novel and an amazing story. These two work well together - the first from the man's perspective and this from the woman's. They are equally sad and yet full of hope!

The Camel Club by David Baldacci

This is the book that proceeds The Collectors. I have to admit I liked The Collectors better. In this one you meet Oliver Stone, the leader of the Camel Club and self proclaimed truth seeker. He has a shady and unknown past. He is joined in the club by 3 other eccentric older Washington D.C. gentlemen, each seeking the truth in their own way. All that is well and good - they just seem like some eccentric old fuddy duddies - until they witness a murder and become embroiled in a mass cover-up and plot to kidnap the President.

You also meet Alex Ford, secret service veteran and fellow seeker of the truth. Alex is sent to investigate the death of a young fellow National Security worker. It is here that the Camel Club and Alex join forces - rather reluctantly.

What follows is terrorism turned on it's head. Terrorism for the sake of the world - not for any single government or country. But, things go astray as money is thrown into the mix. Not all the plotters are completely altruistic (sp).

Anyway, this is very political. I liked the more personal side of the second book. Although this introduction certainly made me feel a bit more sorry for Oliver Stone and the things he had to give up. That seems to be a theme in many Baldacci books - men pushed beyond the breaking point due to past losses.

So - a good read - but not my favorite..

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Red River by Lalita Tademy

This was our July book club book. I can't decide how I felt about this one. It's well written and a great fictionalization of an actual event. But, it's really depressing. It's another example of the ways we (White Americans) have messed up the lives of others. I kept wondering how I can help improve this history. What can I do? How can I improve the lives of those around?

The book is a retelling of a Massacre that our history has called a riot. Blacks in Colfax, Louisiana voted Republican and the Democrats in power were unhappy with the change. So unhappy that they kidnapped the sheriff and stormed the court house. A place held by local blacks who were told that the Federals from New Orleans would be coming to help. Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen. Instead 105 blacks were killed along with 3 whites. THe trials went all the way to the Supreme court and the innocence of the mob of whites was upheld. That's really hard to read and understand.

This book follows the Tademy family - the author's ancestors. They played a key role in the uprising and the following years in the Colfax area - including starting a black school.

i think it's really important to read this - but it didn't make it any easier!!!


Friday, July 6, 2007

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

Another AMAZING Picoult book.

Mariah is totally smitten by her husband. Unfortunately he doesn't feel quite the same way about her. When she and her daughter Faith catch him in their bedroom with another woman the marriage is officially over. Seven years earlier Mariah completely fell apart to the point of suicide after the same kind of an incident. THis time she has Faith and things are different and completely the same.

As Mariah fights to keep her sanity Faith begins to talk to an imaginary friend, her Gaurd. When Faith begins spouting scripture from the Old Testament Mariah realizes there is something not quite right. See, they are complete unbelievers - not just lapsed Jews or Christians, but unbelievers. So, Faith has never heard any verses from the Bible.

As Mariah tries to find an answer to Faith's 'problem' word that she is seeing God and a female God at that begins to leak out. People gather at Faith's home - a cult, a group of Catholics for a female God, and Ian Thompson the unevangelist for Aethists.

That is the scene. Catholics begin researching to see if she is really speaking to God - Jewish leaders question her connection as does her father - especially after she begins to bleed from her hands. And she begins healing people - including bringing her Jewish grandma back from the dead!!

Through the entire story I kept wondering....who would God appear to? Is a 7 year old all that unusual? Would I hear the voice if God appeared to me? And what about this bleeding - could that really happen?

This is one of those very thought provoking books that keeps you wondering. I loved it!!!