Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dingley Falls by Michael Malone

imag from LibraryThing
I'm not sure about this book. I liked this but I didn't like it....

I was in the mood for a big old fat book that sucked me in to the world of the story. This didn't quite do that. It was big and fat - 588 pages. It was filled with odd and quirky New England characters. It took place in 1976 -the year of the bicentennial. But, I just couldn't quite get immersed. There were too many story lines, too many characters and not quite enough connection. It had everything it needed - but it just didn't quite make me escape.

So, let's see. Dingley falls is a basic village started by a disgruntled old English fellow who made his money and started factories in the 1800s. The town is divided by a river with the working class and factories on one side of the river and the stores and land owners on the other. Typical of lots of other places.

The story begins with 4 women who are some of the uppity ups. They are sucked in to the world of avant garde art of the 70s and bring a disgusting poet to thier town to read some of his filthy poems. He needs to be shown around the town to kill time and Beanie Abernathy is stuck with that. But, there is a connection between them - and by the end of the afternoon Beanie is willing to walk away from a 30 year marriage to "feel" with Richard Rage the poet.

So - at this point I was intrigued. I kept reading.

I was introduced to Polly and Joy - two girls on the edge of adulthood. A pharmacist, Sammy Smalter, who is also a hidden crime author. Oh yeah, he is also a descendent of one of the town founders and a 'dwarf.' There is also Judith Haig who is a real ice princess with a bad heart and her husband is the town cop. And then there is Limon Barnum, an antique shop owner and hidden neo-nazi with a desire to feel his life - it doesn't really matter if that is a good or a bad feeling. There is Chin Henry, the Vietnamese refugee married to a total wacko, Maynard Henry. A cynical newspaperman, a male librarian connected to the elite and a town dr. sure that people are exhibiting signs of heart problems when none should exist. It kept sounding more and more like Gilmore Girls - a dark Gilmore Girls.

And then.. hidden on a stretch of swamp outside the town there is an odd government facility. A germ warfare facility that noone in town knows anything about.

So these are some of the players. I was waiting for all these players to meet up and explode. But, that didn't happen. Instead some of the players sort of fizzle out to nothing. Others flash and explode in unexpected ways. But, I still didn't really care.

And. then. the. book. just. ENDS....

So, I feel like I've slogged through all these pages, been engrossed and been bored and at the end it just stopped.

I hate books like that!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Three Cups of Tea by Mortenson and Relin

image from LibraryThing
Our April book club book.

What an amazing book! I don't think you can read this book and not be changed. I went right to the CAI website and bought 2 copies of the book to give to others to read, and because a donation is made to the CAI (Central Asian Institute).

Now let me tell you about the story. Greg Mortenson is a failed climber... He was attempting to climb K2 when he got separated from the other hikers and his porter. He was discovered after a cold and miserable night only to be separated a second time. This time he ended up in the village of Korphe. A tremendously remote and incredibly poor northern Pakistani village. As he wandered in he was made to feel so welcome. He was sheltered, fed and sent on the correct path, but not before making a vow to come back and help the building them a school.

So begins Greg's life. He is the child of missionaries in Africa - his dad helped begin a medical school and his mom a different school. But, Greg was a bit of a maverick - not really having a profession - trained as a nurse, but spending most of his time, energy and money climbing, preparing to climb or returning from mountain climbing.

Suddenly, he had a new purpose. He raised the money and returned to the village a year later ready to build the school...but Korphe really needed a bridge to cross the deep river first. And Greg learned his first lesson - listen to the people. Their most important need and his were not quite the same...This was followed by many other lessons - living in a Pakistani world as a Pakistani, not an American, wisdom comes from many different people - often those we don't expect and PATIENCE - with others and with ourselves.

These lessons have carried him across the ocean countless times - through the wilds of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Congress. He founded an organization called the Central Asian Institute to build schools and women's centers in this remote and volitale part of the world. Through his hands on approach to the people both in Asia and here he has successfully built dozens of schools. He has educated girls in a male-dominated world. He has put a face on Muslims in Asia. He has become the voice of reason in the "War on Terror." His philosophy is that education breaks down barriers and leads to true peace. Education and relationship building is changing the world.

The book does not make Greg Mortenson out to be a saint. Rather it shows you his limitations alongside his incredible gifts - just like the rest of us. It makes you believe that each of us has the same potential. He is a reluctant hero...that makes him all the more endearing

Now - I read this and feel guilty for being stressed by the pressure of report cards and life in small town Iowa. But, that is missing the real meaning of htis book. This is an actual hero - and he is inviting us to change the world with him. By helping out this cause, we can be a part of the solution.

This is an amazing and empowering story!!!

I would recommend it with as many stars as there are to offer!1