Monday, July 03, 2006

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite writers. I enjoy the way she can tell stories about ordinary people and uncover the pieces of their lives that make them special and unique. It's the idea that everyone has a story and no one's life is as it seems from outside appearances.

This novel is about two very different families that adopt children from Korea. They meet at the airport on the day their babies arrive. Over time the two families become friends, realizing that they share something that not many others share.

I liked this book because it's about the idea of family, and mostly the idea of family being about the connections you make, and not necessarily the connects into which you are born. While initially this story is about adopting children, it expands into "adopting" brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and grandparents.

This book also is about struggling with ideas of perception, self-perception, as well as concerns about the way in which others view you. What am I supposed to be? Who do I want to be? I especially loved the character of MaryAnn -- the grandmother who moved to the U.S. from Iran as a young bride. She struggles with her ideas of how she should live. Her pride won't allow her to take steps to alleviate her loneliness because it would go against the image of herself that she is trying to preserve. Her ideas seem rooted in her culture, but upon reading it becomes apparant that most of these feelings transcend through cultures. In the end we're all much more alike than we realize.

This is a nice book that provides a glimpse of a world in which the idea of family does actually mean something more than unpleasant holidays and shouting matches.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper

I heard about this book while watching an episode of Oprah. She had Anderson Cooper and his mother on as guests.

This is a fairly short book. A very quick read. Cooper provides small bits and pieces about his family life as well as his observations about news events he has covered. He tries to explain the connections between his need to travel around the world and witness tragedy and the tragedies that happened in his own family.

It's an interesting book. But it doesn't contain anything shocking or revealing. But if you want to know a bit more about Anderson Cooper, this is a place to start. It won't take up much of your time.

The Minotaur by Barbara Vine

Barbara Vine is one of my favorite writers. I have about three modern writers that I'll read anything they write, Barbara Vine (who also writes as Ruth Rendell), is one of them, the other two being P.D. James and Minette Walters.

This book was not one of my favorites though. I enjoyed it well enough, but I didn't love it.

The story is told by someone who is reflecting back on an event in her life. She's telling a story about a situation that she observed, something that was happening around her, but something that did not directly involve her. She was hired as a nurse for a family to care for their adult son. During her stay, she learns many disturbing family secrets and witnesses many strange events, leading ultimately to a tragedy.

But the story doesn't leave much of a impact. I felt no urgency to finish the book. It didn't arouse any intense feelings, no anger or suspense or fear. It does paint an interesting portrait of rural English life, as do many of her books. I felt like there was too much distance between the narration and the action of the story. Readers were never allowed inside the heads of the people actually involved, so you're left to assumption and speculation along with the narrator.

If you're looking for a good suspense, thriller though, there are several others that I would recommend over this. Two of my favorite Barbara Vine books are No Night is Too Long and Dark-Adapted Eye. I highly recommend both of those. This one, though, not so much.