Monday, January 30, 2012

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Website for the Book

I received an advance reading copy of this tender novel last year and was reminded of it when I saw a full page ad for the book in the New York Times book review a week or two ago. I'm glad I dug it out because it sheds light on a historical event that I don't know much about. Ruta Sepetys wrote the novel out of the experiences of her Lithuanian refugee parents. The novel concerns 15 year old Lina, who is snatched by Soviet secret police from her home in her pajamas one morning along with her mother and brother, and taken by train to a Siberian prison camp. I was unaware the Baltic States lost more than one-third of their populations during the Russian genocide. It is a loss-of-innocence narrative that would be interesting and informative for high school readers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief and Small Boats by Roger Rosenblatt

I have long been a fan of Roger Rosenblatt's reflective writing. Back when he wrote a regular column for Time magazine, I would turn to the back of the magazine first to read him before any of the headline news. His "Man in the Water" essay is up there with Annie Dillard and Emerson in my book. So I have followed his recent career and read an excerpt from Making Toast, the book he wrote following his 38 year old daughter's unexpected death, that was printed in the New York Times. In Kayak Morning, Rosenblatt describes the cloak of grief and meditates about the business of keeping afloat among the living which he is achieving through excursions in a kayak he bought and has learned to paddle recently. My husband and I bought each other kayaks when we were married. I understand the balance metaphor that Rosenblatt is using in this lovely, little book. Like a paddle in shallow water, his narrative dips into passages of poetry, memories of stories from war zones he covered in his reporting, and daily reflections. This book should be a gift for any dear friend who loses a loved one - or a reminder to the those not enveloped in grief that loss comes without invitation and lingers like a wind on rough water.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

This book was an unexpected surprise from David for Christmas. I think he selected it for me because it is reminiscent of my son's high school straight edge, tattoo fascination days. The novel begins with the fatal drug overdose of a high school boy, Teddy, on New Year's eve. Teddy and his best friend, Jude, ended up at a party with Eliza, who gives Teddy cocaine and becomes pregnant with Teddy's child before his body is found the next morning. The novel seemed a bit preachy in places - certainly these character lives were messed up, but Hare-Krishna-to-the-rescue did not seem the most obvious solution. The book takes on drugs, homosexuality, AIDS, parenting, adoption, tattooing and the hard-core music scene. I stayed interested to the end - although the last chapter (two pages) seemed a forced conclusion. The book has received much praise - New York Times Book Review – Top 10 Books of 2011; New York Times – 100 Notable Books of 2011;
New Yorker – A Year’s Reading selection; O Magazine – Top 5 Fiction; Amazon – Top 10 Debut Fiction. And it was a great Christmas present.