Monday, October 25, 2010

Me & Emma

Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock

This story is told through the voice of an eight year old girl, Caroline (Carrie), growing up in a poor family in North Carolina. She and her little sister Emma are taunted for their unkempt appearances and Carrie in particular for her wandering mind. Carrie loves and admires her tough little sister who always seems to rise above the taunts.

Before the story begins, these girls have lost their father. He was the victim of a murder which Emma witnessed. Their mother has remarried a cruel alcoholic drifter. Their lives are full of violence which causes these girls to try to stay as unobtrusive in their home as possible as they watch out for each other. Carrie often drifts back in thought to the happier days when their father was alive.

The book is as easy as talking to an eight year old but as difficult as interviewing the victims of abuse. This book will make you angry and sad. Unfortunately, there is no fairy tale ending.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel

There is not a lot I can say about this book. It's a holocaust survivor story from a man who was 16 when he was liberated from the camps.

It's horrific. It's terrifying. It's simply stated.

The fact that any man, woman or child had to endure such atrocities is beyond comprehension and probably explains more than anything why the book was written.

It's required reading in many high schools now and I highly recommend it. It seems more pertinent in today's world than ever. Where there is so much hatred toward groups of people, it's so very frightening to see what can happen.

This story differs somewhat from others I have read in that Wiesel expresses more hopeful thinking toward the beginning of his town's eventual evacuation of Jews. If it was reality or his youthful opinion, at each step of narrowing down their world, from complete freedom to living in ghettos, he talks about the Jews thinking things weren't so bad. They had heard and had been warned, but in the beginning they more or less accepted the German invasion and their moves as signs of protection.

There are a few places in the story where Wiesel and his family or father can make some choices. It's particularly heartbreaking when the realization hits of how differently things could have turned out if only the other choice had been made.

The book ends with Wiesel's liberation, leaving me with questions about the females of his family, if his mother or sisters made it through the camps or if he ever heard of their fate.

Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I finished this book over a week ago and I just couldn't bring myself to review it. I loved the book, much more than I ever anticipated I would, but I don't know how to share it.

Gilbert shares a year of her life and whatever background necessary to understand it. The year is spend in Italy, India and Indonesia. The months in Italy are about pleasure, her love of all things Italian and especially the language and food. In India she lives in an Ashram searching for her inner peace. Indonesia, Bali in particular, she "studies" with a medicine man and falls in love.

That's the simple version.

My reluctance to ever start this book was that it just didn't sound interesting. Not only that, but I was a little worried about it being preachy as well.

Not to worry.

The book is completely and totally about Gilbert and her experience. And Gilbert writes in a totally entertaining manner.

What I came away with instead was a desire to travel and immerse myself in another culture. She writes so easily and humorously about her experiences, I wanted to be there, or at least in the country of my own desire having my own experiences.

Each section of her book has it's own personality. "Eat" is about letting herself follow her nose and enjoy everything around her, each and every experience. "Pray" becomes more somber as Gilbert faces her own demons and tries to get herself out of her own way to overcome her life's obstacles. I have to say there were many times in this part of the book I simply wanted to shake her. But I also wanted to experience real mediation and what it could bring to me. "Pray" was so much more informational than "Eat" and I loved the education she gave me. "Love" I have to describe as the afterglow. Gilbert had come a long ways personally when she arrived in Bali and her story was more relaxed. Different from "Eat" in that she didn't seem to be pursuing pleasure as much as just letting her life and her learning be pleasurable.

This book is truly a vicarious pleasure. It left me wanting more in my own life, particularly spiritually. My only peeve about the book? The chapter breaks.

This is going to sound silly and petty but....

Each chapter has a big black dot at the beginning of it, representing a bead. There is a particular symbolism to this and I understand the meaning, it's explained at the beginning of the book. However, where the chapters are particularly short there may be as many as 3 of these "beads" on a page and they jump around.


Maybe it's my astigmatism, or not. But those "beads" flashed at me, black & white and jumped all over the pages. I had to physically cover them with my hand to continue reading.

And that is my only complaint.