Being the ever aggressive reader that I am, I hope to have a mass book review session at the end of every season. With fall right officially beginning tomorrow, it seems appropriate to now to reflect and review all the books I read, which, this time around, is a lot. Summer was really a season of reading for me. After moving and dealing with the extreme heat, I wasn’t really as into being outdoors as I normally would have been. I was also in a blogging rut and financially broke, so naturally, I read a lot. It began with a few books about oppression in the Middle Eastern cultures and climaxed with rereading Harry Potter 1-4, which I won’t review here, because really? Who doesn’t love Harry Potter?
When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi. A heartbreaking tale of what it’s really like to be a refugee, I read this over Memorial Day weekend. It’s about a family whose lives are turned upside down when the Taliban takes control and their struggles to get to freedom. Have an opinion on refugees? Read this book immediately.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. When the Moon is Low started a trend: reading about Middle Eastern life and refugees. I couldn’t get enough, so I picked this up from the library. Amir describes his life as a child and his relationship with his servant/friend Hassan, who, as a victim of racism, is generally looked down upon in society for being a Hazara. Hassan faces a lot of bullying, including a horrific incident that changes the course of Amir and Hassan’s life forever. Later, the Taliban takes control and the boys are separated as Amir and his wealthy father flee to America. Grab the tissues for this A+ book.
The Pearl that Broke it’s Shell by Nadia Hashimi. Ah, here we are again… another heart wrenching tale of oppression, this time at the hands of child marriage. With no brothers in the family, Rahima and her sisters can only attend school sporadically, so Rahima takes up an ancient custom: bacha posh. Essentially, Rahima can act and dress as a boy until puberty, thus being allowed to work, escort her sisters to school, and run errands for their mother. The story crosses with the history of Bibi Shekeiba, who had also performed this custom. The horrific encounters these women face as they are forced out of being a bacha posh and into what is essentially slavery will have you biting your nails hoping for their survival.
Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz. Jealous of her sister’s happiness, Amanda seeks out a new life in a new city, becoming a nurse. She goes on to have a love affair and returns home to her sister Matilda when she realizes she is pregnant. While they are hiding the pregnancy by living on an island in a rural Wisconsin lake, Mathilda drowns after falling through the ice. Her toddler daughter, Ruth, also falls into the ice, but together the women save Ruth, who nearly dies in the process. Unfortunately, there is no way for Amanda to save Mathilda without also falling in, so Mathilda lets go and accepts her death.
Amanda manages to keep her illegitimate child a secret, later adopting her out to a local couple. The drowning, however, haunts her. Mathilda’s husband returns home from the war and he and Amanda continue raising Ruth whilst Amanda tries to keep her past a perfect secret from the town.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Yeah, you already know what this about. I should’ve read this one in high school, I know. Next.
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright. Don’t be fooled with the romantic title – this is one of the few books that I have actually finished and loathed it. Don’t get me wrong, the prose is beautiful, but heaven help us the characters are ugly. So ugly. This book is about a love affair between two married individuals, how they tear apart their families, and show absolutely no remorse for the destruction. Instead, the protagonist acts as if you should feel sorry for her for having to deal with the whole mess. I kept reading because I was hoping they would come around… no.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. One of my favorite books in a long time! Set in the early 80s, the book follows three recent college grads, Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell on their post grad journey. There’s a nice little love triangle going on as well as a touching look on mental illness and how it affects those around you. I think part of why I liked this one so much is all the English major references (I have an English minor). Madeleine’s specialty is the work of Eliot and Austen and the marriage plot that is so central to the great romance novels of history. Eugenides addresses this plot so gracefully… is the marriage plot dead, or are we rewriting our romance novels to adapt with modern society? At the very least, romance novels do not have to be riddled with cheese wiz. Pick this book up! If you are artsy, I guarantee you will love it.
Miss Willie by Janice Holt Giles. Before I provide this review, let me say this: I have a thing for literature that is set in the country and especially if it is about older times. It may seem a tedious subject to many, but the idea of someone’s life being so drastically different from mine is fascinating. Anyway, Miss Willie is a 45 year old “old maid” school teacher who moves out to rural Kentucky in an effort to provide a better education system in the late 40s/early 50s. She tries her best to educate the populace about hygiene and health, but along the way she manages to learn a few things herself. Not all different ways are wrong, and you can never change tradition overnight. Overall, I really liked this book up until the end. Why? Because ***spoiler alert***, at the end of the book she marries a local and gives up teaching! Because once married women are needed at home! WTF??? How was the guy doing just fine without a wife before but now that he has one he has too much work for a wife to return to a passion she has been building her whole adult life? I mean, I know feminism was not really a thing back then, but still. WHY?????
What did you read this summer? Anything stand out in particular? Share your favorites with me and maybe I will add them to my list!