Sunday, August 16, 2009

Africa, Kansas, Detroit

I read three extremely different books in the last couple of months. I will review them for you now so that you don't have to read them.

What is the What - This is an amazing book. It follows a Sudanese refugee as he walks across Sudan to get to a refugee camp in northern Kenya. The book is heartbreaking as people are dying all around the hero. With all of this darkness, there is also a lot of light. This is a story of survival and the strength of humans. It makes you want to go out and save the world. Anything else that I could write about this would dwarf the story and it was too beautiful to do that. So...5/5 or 10/10 stars. Best book I've read all year.

In Cold Blood - I sort of had a different idea of what this story was going to be. I thought it was going to be a real life murder mystery a la one of those 48 hours reports. It's not really so much of a mystery as we know what happens at the very beginning, so that was kind of disappointing. What wasn't disappointing was the actual story. It follows killers in Kansas and enters their psyche to see what drives someone to commit murder. Capote is an amazing character writer. He makes you feel sympathetic for one of the killers. He makes them people, not monsters...and it's disturbing. It makes the reader feel terrible for thinking that these people are anything other than monsters. The one thing I couldn't get behind was Capote's knack for extremely long sentences. Sentences that go on for lines and lines with no punctuation. I get to the middle of the sentence and have no idea how it started. RUDE! 3/5 or 7/10 stars.

Middlesex - When I started this book, the only thing I knew about it was that it dealt with hermaphrodites. But that's really simplifying things. What it's really about is family and immigration, growing up and realizing who you are. The story unfolds in gorgeous layers. First in Greece/Turkey, then in Detroit and Berlin, then in New York and California. What I loved most about this book was that you couldn't see what was going to happen next. There were many times when I thought, Damn, that's a shock. I was nervous about the book too because while I love The Virgin Suicides, I'll be the first to admit that it was a little bit boring at times. Middlesex is not boring, it's fine storytelling. 4/5 or 8/10 stars.

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