Things are picking up around here. Orientation for the nursing program is in two days and I have been running around in circles trying to get my head out of my ass long enough to complete piles of paperwork, take exams (yes, exams, as in TESTS) before the semester has even begun, try on and order the ugliest uniforms I’ve ever laid eyes upon complete with TAPERED LEGS and ELASTIC WAISTBANDS, and attempt to learn how to save lives via CPR. Which, by the way, I just recently learned what this acronym stands for after thirty years on this earth. Pathetic, I know.
In my spare time, I have been ignoring July’s book. I’ve read exactly three and one half paragraphs…approximately. Regardless, I will finish it before the end of the month, and I will post more discussion questions and reactions, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads. Is anyone even reading with me this month? No matter…I will amaze you with my punctuality. By August first, we will be moving on to the next book.
To prove my commitment to this book club, I am offering a list of possible choices for August’s book that I would love for you to VOTE ON (yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition, but I also say ‘member, as in, “‘member when…” so my English degree should probably just be ripped off my wall and shredded). Please leave a comment with your vote, and I will announce the chosen book on Friday. Without further ado…a few precious gems for you to drool over (I did it again):
1. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy – At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer. When she returned to school with a third of her jaw removed, she faced the cruel taunts of classmates. In this strikingly candid memoir, Grealy tells her story of great suffering and remarkable strength without sentimentality and with considerable wit. Vividly portraying the pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasure of wanting to be special, Grealy captures with unique insight what it is like as a child and young adult to be torn between two warring impulses: to feel that more than anything else we want to be loved for who we are, while wishing desperately and secretly to be perfect
2. The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton – The Book of Ruth is a virtuoso performance and that’s precisely why it can be excruciating to read. Author Jane Hamilton leads us through the arid life of Ruth Grey, who extracts what small pleasures and graces she can from a tiny Illinois town and the broken people who inhabit it. Ruth’s prime tormentor is her mother May, whose husband died in World War II and took her future with him. More poor familial luck has given Ruth a brother who is a math prodigy; Matt sucks up any stray attention like a black hole. Ruth is left to survive on her own resources, which are meager. She struggles along, subsisting on crumbs of affection meted out by her Aunt Sid and, later, her screwed-up husband Ruby. Hamilton has perfect pitch. So perfect that you wince with pain for confused but fundamentally good Ruth as she walks a dead-end path. The book ends with the prospect of redemption, thank goodness–but the tale is nevertheless much more bitter than sweet.
3. The Confessions of Max Trivoli by Andrew Sean Greer – Out of the womb in 1871, Max Tivoli looked to all the world like a tiny 70-year-old man. But inside the aged body was an infant. Victim of a rare disease, Max grows physically younger as his mind matures. In Andrew Sean Greer’s finely crafted novel, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Max narrates his life story from the vantage point of his late fifties, though his body is that of a 12-year-old boy. He has known since a young age that he is destined to die at 70, and he wears a golden “1941” as a constant reminder of the year he will finally perish in an infant form. His mother, a Carolina belle concerned over her son’s troubling appearance, curses Max with “The Rule”: “Be what they think you are.” Max fails to keep this Rule only a handful of times in his life, but it is the burden of living by it that wounds him and slowly alienates him from the people he loves.
4. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry – In mid-1970s urban India-a chaos of wretchedness on the streets and slogans in the offices-a chain of circumstances tosses four varied individuals together in one small flat. Stubbornly independent Dina, widowed early, takes in Maneck, the college-aged son of a more prosperous childhood friend and, more reluctantly, Ishvar and Om, uncle and nephew tailors fleeing low-caste origins and astonishing hardships. The reader first learns the characters’ separate, compelling histories of brief joys and abiding sorrows, then watches as barriers of class, suspicion, and politeness are gradually dissolved. Even more affecting than Mistry’s depictions of squalor and grotesque injustice is his study of friendships emerging unexpectedly, naturally. The novel’s coda is cruel and heart-wrenching but deeply honest. This unforgettable book from the author of Such a Long Journey (LJ 4/15/91) is highly recommended.
(All Editorial reviews courtesy of Amazon.com)