Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Books For Big People

My friends Jack and Ruth got married this weekend. It was awesome. I've never had such a good time in South East Michigan, which is sad considering that I used to live there.

Anyway, here are two books that are in no way related except that Ruth loaned both of them to me, so I read both of them last week so I could give them back when I saw her. Also, they're both adult books.

Long Way Back Brendan Halpin

Clare and her brother Francis have always been pretty close, and when tragedy strikes Francis, Clare is there to pick up the pieces. This is a story about many things--

-Clare's awe of Francis's deep and true faith in the Catholic Church and her confusion and pain when Francis loses that faith.
-A man dealing with extreme loss and grief and his struggle to regain "normal"
-The toll it takes when someone close to you is in deep grieving and you're taking care of them
-A brother and sister and how their relationship changes over the years
-Punk rock

It's at turns sad and hysterical and just really wonderful. I believed Clare at 14, I believed her when she was a rebellious punk rocker, I believed her as a suburban mother of two. I believed her relationship with Francis--deeply caring but still mocking him whenever possible. I believed Francis's devastation and his gradual recovery.

I really recommend this--one of my favorites this year.

It also gets me wondering, where is the line between "religious fiction" and "fiction with religious characters"? I wouldn't classify this as religious fiction, because there's swearing and (off screen) sex and a gay-punk band, and anger and betrayal over the scandal involving molesting priests being moved instead of dismissed, but at the same time Francis's relationship with God and his struggles with Him are a huge part of the story. For those of you who read a lot of Christian fiction (because I don't, so I'm less qualified to discuss it) is there a line or difference between the two? And where is it?

The Dirty Girls Social Club Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

Ok authors, this is a reason to be wary of your online presence. Valdes-Rodriguez wrote a post last summer on her blog about race and Twilight, which I read because it caused quite a furor. I can't find it now and imagine it got taken down (but here's a nice rebuttal that quotes heavily from it) I don't doubt she had a point, but she blamed everything on Meyer's Mormonism which seems cheap to me, and she got major plot points just... wrong. It was beyond annoying.

So, that was my mind set when I set off to read this book. I was building myself up to not like it because that post had annoyed me so much. There were a few things about the actual book that irked me:

-The diversity in the group and the political rants various characters went off on sometimes seemed to be there just to educate the white reader about the Latina community in the US today.
-At one point they make a thinly veiled reference to Rupurt Murdoch (sorry, Mandrake). If you can't use the real name, then make something totally different up.
-I wasn't entirely sure why some of them still hung out with the group (by which I mean Amber. She didn't seem to like them and they didn't like her...)

That said, I did, overall, enjoy the book.

Lauren, Liz, Amber, Usnavys, Rebecca, and Sara are six friends from college who still keep in touch and hold a mandatory reunion dinner twice a year. The story fills us in on their past, but chronicles what happens in their lives mainly in the six months between dinners, which a bit of what happens next thrown in. The women all lead very different lives, so there are six plot lines going on.

I liked the shifting P.O.V and the different stories and lives that went through. Parts were a bit issue-y, but it's a soap-opera beach read novel that's designed to make you laugh out loud, and I did. I also liked the struggle some characters had with their own ethnicity and with that of their friends. Sometimes, this was what got overly educational, but I do enjoy a good story about trying to fit in multiple cultures, and trying to figure out what you are, and it was interesting to read one about adults instead of teens.


Amy said...

I'll have to check out Long Way Back.

I think Chrisitan fiction usually follows certain standards to be sold in a CBA store...so it doesn't have swearing, explicit sex, etc.

Really, though, life situations can be quite true though sometimes there are didactic Sunday School type scenes where the character realizes something.

For me, Christian fiction when done right is my favorite thing, but it often gets done wrong. I do genuinely enjoy spiritual quest type books, though, even if not stricly Christian fiction.

Amy said...

OH and I read the follow up to Dirty Girls and liked it and didn't. Alisa also accused Jodi Picoult of being racist. ;)