Wednesday, June 29, 2016


I liked this better than I thought I would. It's a version of the Cinderella story: Lou Clark is a twenty-something girl, aimless, poor, recently let go from her job at a tea shop, and underappreciated by her family (her mother even behaves with evil step-motherish coldness at one point). The fairy godmother appears in the guise of a job counselor, who finds her a position taking care of Will, now a paraplegic, but formerly a wildly successful banker, world traveler, and scion of a rich family; there's even (yes) a castle. But (spoiler alert!!) Moyes doesn't give us the cheap, romantic, happy ending. Will has promised his parents he'll give them six more months, and then he is allowed to go to Switzerland for assisted suicide. Lou gives him months of happiness, but she doesn't change his mind. If she had, I'd have hated the book; but Moyes doesn't back down, and the book acquires a surprising depth by having Lou (and the reader) recognize the ultimate grace occurs when we allow others to make their own choices about life and death, and to understand that it isn't about us.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


I realized half-way through that this book reminded me a good deal of *Code Name Verity*, another book I liked very much, a YA about two heroic girls in WWII, each doing dangerous work, with the more heroic of the two dying as the other watched, near the end. Even having two different viewpoints was similar, though *Nightingale* switched back and forth frequently. It's a painful read at parts ... and (spoiler alert) I found myself wondering if it was necessary that it was kept secret that the first-person narrator, in present day, who has been invited to France to attend a ceremony celebrating the heroic women, is the sister Vianne instead of the more heroic Isabelle (the eponymous heroine). But I realize it had to be so, so that we don't know Isabelle dies in the end. Toward the end of the book, the atrocities committed by the Nazis came at me like a jackhammer ... but felt (wretchedly) true. Some of the metaphors are so spot on, from page one: "My skin has the crinkled appearance of wax paper that someone has tried to flatten and reuse"--genius because that tells us not only what this woman looks like, and how old she is, but the fact that she's the sort who is so thrifty she would reuse wax paper. A lovely first line: "If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

David Levithan, EVERY DAY

It's an original premise ... a 16-year-old wakes up every day in a different body, falls in love with a girl in one day (in retrospect, it's funny that *that* is what my suspension-of-disbelief snagged on), so much so he's willing to risk changing how he minimizes his effects on his hosts' lives. But hey, a novel begins on the day everything changes.

This book felt akin to *Forrest Gump*, for me, because it provided such a rapid and comprehensive "survey"--not so much of events, as FG did (from the Vietnam War to AIDS), but of people, both teens and parents. This makes the book feel a bit like a parable for adolescence. We have the mean girl, the fat boy, the nice boy who's into computers, the girl who's hungover, the girl who's suicidal; we have the type-A parents, the absent parents, the grandmother who watches TV, the caring parents, the single dad. We see why the boy (I call him a boy b/c the first host is a boy, and his heterosexual romance with the girl is the one consistent thread from host to host) comes to a certain kind of experience-laden wisdom. At times, he felt preternaturally adult and wise. My favorite line: "Part of growing up is making sure your sense of reality isn't entirely grounded in your own mind" (p.123).