My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had this book out from the library for two renewals. I just couldn't get into it. I read and liked the introduction, but then started the first chapter multiple times. Finally, when it was once again due the next day, I decided I would just read the whole thing straight through so that I could return it. So I did.
I still don't really have a fully formed opinion, I guess. I didn't dislike it, but I also didn't LOVE it. It was an interesting book, and I learned about things that happened in WWII that aren't really studied here -- we mostly focus on what was happening in Germany and Poland, etc. I sort of knew that we were on the same side as Russia during the war, but I didn't know how that country figured into history at all. It's a sad story, and once again makes me realize how lucky I am to be born in a place and a time such that my life doesn't involve rationing, soldiers, dead people falling from the sky, etc. A lot of the imagery and occurrences in this book are really horrifying.
I found the way that the author wrote the introduction to sort of make us think it is a true story -- and not just any true story, but that of HIS grandfather -- an interesting choice on his part. The introduction and the main character's last name led me to believe it was a true story until I was reading a little online about the book. I found critics calling him deceitful for writing it in that way and interviews where someone asked about his grandfather, and the author saying all his grandparents were born in America and so forth. The author's response was just that's why it says "A Novel" on the cover: because it's fiction.
Overall, it was a pretty good book, definitely worth reading at least once. But probably not one I'll return to.
Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I was over halfway through this book before I actually started to care what happened to the characters. I know, many people would have stopped reading long before that, especially with a book having as many pages as this one. But I hate to not finish a book if I can manage to get through it. And I figured I could get this through one.
The biggest challenge is the writing style. I often had to read sentences more than once in order to figure out what it was trying to say. Part of it was strange sentence constructions. Another part was different vocabulary and grammar, a stylistic representation of the way these people (southerners of both races during the 1950s) may have talked. Also I think there was maybe ONE person in this entire book who didn't have a really strange name. OK, two.
Still, there's not much of a "plot", so to speak. And the horrible event narrated at the very beginning of the story -- I expected it to be relevant somehow, but it was only ever mentioned again once, and then just in passing. It seemed a lot of this book worked that way; lots of irrelevant information.
By the end of the book I did start to care about a few of the characters, especially Joleb. To me, he was the most "real" of the characters here, with Canaan a close second. I was really surprised about Valuable's fate - was not expecting that at all.
There were some interesting parts and some parts that make you think, those were the redeeming qualities. But not a book I recommend. There are so many better books dealing with this time period and its people.
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