Book reviews

Well here’s an eclectic mix. I was so depressed after reading Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites that I needed to read something a lot fluffier. As luck would have it, just when I was looking over my stack of entirely-too-serious books, I received a birthday package in the mail, which included Sophie Kinsella’s newest novel, Wedding Night. I’ve mentioned before that I read one of her novels on a previous birthday, so it seemed only fitting that I dive into that one as I turned thirty-cough.

Then it was right back into the serious ones, but I was back in a place where I could be challenged a bit by my reading. So here’s an update on what I’ve been reading:

Wedding Night, by Sophie Kinsella

Book description: Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose, but then his big question involves a trip abroad—not a trip down the aisle. Completely crushed, Lottie reconnects with an old flame, and they decide to take drastic action. No dates, no moving in together, they’ll just get married . . . right now. Her sister, Fliss, thinks Lottie is making a terrible mistake, and will do anything to stop her. But Lottie is determined to say “I do,” for better, or for worse.

My review: If you’re in the mood for something light, then what is there not to like about Sophie Kinsella’s books? Wedding Night did not disappoint – it was frilly, fluffy and I got to momentarily shut my brain off and indulge in a little escapism – to a Greek island, no less, which is where I would like to be anyway!

I’ve always felt that Kinsella is really good at building suspense. Like, whenever I read a Shopaholics book, I always end up squirming. Even though I know things are going to turn out okay in the end, I’m happily strung along by a ditzy heroine who makes baffling choices but in the nick of time manages to pull everything together. Wedding Nights is a little different as it is told mainly from the point of view of the ditzy heroine’s sister, who is equally as baffled by her sister’s choices as the reader is. Although then she starts to make baffling choices of her own and it turns into a farcical romantic romp that makes little sense but is highly enjoyable. Totally recommended for a beach read or for new moms who are drooling almost as much as their baby from exhaustion and just need something easy to read.

A Walk Across the Sun, by Corban Addison

Book description: When a tsunami rages through their coastal town in India, 17-year-old Ahalya Ghai and her 15-year-old sister Sita are left orphaned and homeless. With almost everyone they know suddenly erased from the face of the earth, the girls set out for the convent where they attend school. They are abducted almost immediately and sold to a Mumbai brothel owner, beginning a hellish descent into the bowels of the sex trade.

Halfway across the world, Washington, D.C., attorney Thomas Clarke faces his own personal and professional crisis-and makes the fateful decision to pursue a pro bono sabbatical working in India for an NGO that prosecutes the subcontinent’s human traffickers. There, his conscience awakens as he sees firsthand the horrors of the trade in human flesh, and the corrupt judicial system that fosters it. Learning of the fate of Ahalya and Sita, Clarke makes it his personal mission to rescue them, setting the stage for a riveting showdown with an international network of ruthless criminals.

My review: Wow, this one really pulled at the heart strings. Entering the world of international sex traffickers is dismal and horrifying. What makes this so compelling and sad is how realistic it is – it happens all the time, all over the world. So get ready to wring your hands over this one. The characters, particularly young Ahalya and Sita, are tragic figures that the reader emphasizes with. What I kind of liked about A Walk Across the Sun is that it isn’t high literature – rather, it’s written as a thriller. Think John Grisham (who recommended it, I believe). I suppose that makes sense, since Addison is a lawyer-turned-writer, so he’s writing from his strong point. It’s a strong read, though, well written and captivating.

A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews

Book description: “Half of our family, the better-looking half, is missing,” Nomi Nickel tells us at the beginning of A Complicated Kindness. Left alone with her sad, peculiar father, her days are spent piecing together why her mother and sister have disappeared and contemplating her inevitable career at Happy Family Farms, a chicken slaughterhouse on the outskirts of East Village. Not the East Village in New York City where Nomi would prefer to live, but an oppressive town founded by Mennonites on the cold, flat plains of Manitoba, Canada.

This darkly funny novel is the world according to the unforgettable Nomi, a bewildered and wry sixteen-year-old trapped in a town governed by fundamentalist religion and in the shattered remains of a family it destroyed. In Nomi’s droll, refreshing voice, we’re told the story of an eccentric, loving family that falls apart as each member lands on a collision course with the only community any of them have ever known. A work of fierce humor and tragedy by a writer who has taken the American market by storm, this searing, tender, comic testament to family love will break your heart.

My review: This is the third time I’ve tried to get through Toews’ modern Canadian classic, and I finally finished this time. I’m not sure that I’m happy I did. A Complicated Kindness is supposedly a dark comedy, but while I found it dark, I found little humour in it, other than a few embittered laughs that came with Nomi’s increasingly disturbed behaviour. This was intense, and really well written, and there was a huge amount of edge to it. It terrifies me that places like this still exist. I want to go and rescue all the children. Toews did such a good job of describing the rather horrifying existence of a place like a Mennonite town, as well as the eventual atrophy of families and faith under a regime of oppresion. While it left at an unsettled note, there was very little hope to offer the reader. While I’m glad I read it, I feel that need to read something a little more hopeful again, maybe something in the YA genre.

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2 thoughts on “Book reviews

  1. Read Partials next! Or The Way We Fall. OR Swim the Fly if you don’t want a depressing apocalyptic book (but why wouldn’t you?) Or! OMG The Sweet Life –> Sweet Valley High short story follow up!

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