Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Books: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I read these books last week, but also cut my left hand while chopping veggies, making typing difficult. That's why I haven't been so posty lately (no, it wasn't because I had the baby...but my due date is one week from yesterday, so he should arrive soon).

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
I read an interview with Jones in Poets & Writers, and thought this book sounded good. Then I heard another interview with her on NPR, and that sealed the deal. I had to read this! It's a story about bigamist in Atlanta who has two daughters (one with each of his wives) that are the same age. The "second" family knows about the "first" family, but the "first" family does not know about the "second" family. The book is divided into two parts, one from each daughter's perspective. It takes place mostly in the 80s, when the girls are teens. Jones' writing style has an unadorned, very readable feel to it, with a sneaky depth that kept me thinking about the book even in the rare moments that I wasn't actively reading it. One thing that especially struck me was the compassion she showed to each of her characters - they were full and rich and when they were in conflict with each other it was hard for me to choose a side! My only complaint was that I wanted more...I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the characters when the book ended. I highly recommend this book.

ETA: I forgot to mention, my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, gets a shout-out in this book :)

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
I don't remember how I heard about this one...I think maybe Amazon recommended it? It's been out for a few years, but the Kindle edition just came out a couple of months ago. This was one I knew I probably should stay away from in my sensitive pregnant state...yet I couldn't resist. It's written from the perspective of a mother whose teenage son has killed several of his classmates, around the same time as the Columbine shootings (this book is fiction, it's not about a real school shooting). The mother, through a series of letters to her estranged husband, reflects on her relationship with her son, which was essentially a hostile power struggle from the day he was born. Her son was a mean, nasty kid. But why? This is what his mother attempts to figure out.

Shriver's style is wordy and somewhat rambling, which seemed to me like a choice based on the character (and it worked...though it was a bit hard for me to get into immediately, especially in contrast with Jones' book, which I'd just finished), although I haven't read any of her other books so I can't say for sure.

This book is very, very disturbing. I sat on the couch with my Kindle, occasionally asking my husband questions such as "Has there ever been anyone in your family that you'd describe as a psychopath?" and "Do you believe in bad seeds?"

So, yeah. Maybe not the best choice of reading material right now. But it was excellently done, with touching and even funny moments interspersed with the general tone of doom. I recommend this one if you think you can handle it!

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