Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig

Title: Ruth’s Journey
Author: Donald McCaig
Read by:  Cherise Boothe
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 14 hours (12 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

Ruth’s Journey is subtitled “the authorized novel of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.”  I am a huge Gone with the Wind fan.  I obsessively watched the move as a kid and then read the book first when I was around 13 and a few times since then.  It is a sprawling masterpiece of historical fiction with a great cast of characters, especially Scarlett, who is a heroine that you often find a hard time liking.  One great character in the book and movie is Mammy, who is one of the only people that truly understands Scarlett and isn’t afraid to tell her what she thinks about her actions.  Ruth’s Journey finally gives a name to Mammy, Ruth, and tells her story from childhood through the picnic at Twelve Oaks where Rhett and Scarlett meet and the very start of the Civil War.

Ruth’s Journey starts in Saint-Domingue which is undergoing a revolution.  Scarlett’s grandmother, Solange Fornier lives on the island with her husband Captain Augustin Fornier.  Captain Fornier finds a young child amongst carnage and the only one left living amongst her family.  He takes her home to his wife Solange and she names her Ruth.  Ruth stays with them as they flee the island for a new life in Savannah.  Ruth has some adventures of her own and eventually becomes Mammy to Solange’s daughter Ellen and then moves up country to Tara when Ellen marries Gerald O’Hara and becomes a mother herself.

As a fan of Gone with the Wind I enjoyed the story and getting more background about different characters, in particular I loved learning about all of the neighbors of Tara and their life before the war.  What I didn’t like is that this didn’t really seem like Ruth’s Journey at all.  It was Solange’s journey with Ruth as a bit side character until CD five when the story abruptly shifts to Ruth as the main character.  At that point I missed Solange as I felt it was her story. The story of Ruth as a wife and a mother was the strongest part of the novel for me.  There was one heart breaking scene that had me in tears.  It’s hard to believe that human beings treated others that way.  When Ruth is no longer a wife and mother and becomes Mammy again the story is once again really about everyone around Ruth and not about Ruth herself.  I wish we could have gotten a more in depth look at Ruth as Mammy and the doings downstairs versus upstairs like the novel Netherfield (Pride and Prejudice told from the servants’ point of view).  I also wondered how this book could have gone if it had been written by Alice Walker or Maya Angelou.

Cherise Booth was a fine narrator and was the voice of Mammy to me.  The audio story kept me interested on my long drives to work. 

Overall, I would recommend this to fans of Gone with the Wind with the caveat that you will find out a lot more about Scarlett’s grandmother, childhood, and other side characters, but not as much about Mammy as you would like.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband’s Secret is our January FLICKS Book and Movie Club pick.  I knew there were a lot of holds on it at the library so I put mine on as well . . . and it came very early!  I read it and really enjoyed it.  I can’t wait to discuss it in January.

Cecelia Fitzpatrick is a very successful Tupperware saleswomen in Sidney, Australia and runs her family life with precision.  One day while her husband John-Paul is on a business trip in America, she discovers a letter addressed to her to be opened upon his death.  When Cecelia reads the letter, it makes her world implode.  Tess has recently discovered that her husband and her best friend / cousin have fallen in love.  She takes her son Liam and returns to Sidney to help her mother out and also to get away from the situation and have time to think.  Rachel is nearing retirement, but still works at the Catholic school that her children attended.  She loves her grandson, but his parents are about to move with him to New York City.  She also can’t stop thinking about her daughter Janie that was murdered twenty years previous. When the worlds of these three women collide, there will be much drama.

The Husband’s Secret was a book that I literally could not put down.  I guessed the “secret” early on, but it did not lessen the impact of the story to me.  How one secret would affect and change so many lives was intriguing.  Moriarty also wrote the characters in such a way that I really identified with them and was very interested in their lives.  I enjoyed the ending when Moriarty showed how different choices and secrets could have led to a very different story and ending.  I thought it was interested to contemplate.

Overall, if you are looking for a great character driven story, look no further.  This is the book for you.  I can’t wait to read more by this author.

We have recently read other books with the book club that I had read previously and did not re-read.  This included Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult for October and The Life of Pi by Yann Martel for November.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You by Caroline Kepnes

Title: You
Author: Caroline Kepnes
Read by:  Santino Fontana
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 13 hours (11 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

You was an audiobook that I couldn’t stop listening too.  I’ve been very busy working and feeling tired, but I haven’t been worried about my drive home as the story kept me riveted.  It is a unique story about one man’s love, or rather obsession, for a woman.  The man is Joe Goldberg and he works at a bookstore.  One day the perfect woman stops by the bookstore, Guinevere Beck, and Joe is hooked.  He wants to know more about her so starts to look for her online and soon is hanging outside her apartment to learn her movements and more about her.  How can he orchestrate the perfect meet cute?

I first must say that this book is quite vulgar so if that is something that offends you, this isn’t the book for you.  The vulgarity is in character as the book is through the viewpoint of Joe and what he is thinking.  And what he is thinking is about sex with Beck pretty much constantly.  I grew concerned as I listened on – do men really think about sex this much?  I was turned off by the vulgarity at first, but grew so interested in the story I forgot about it.

I thought the book was very interesting as a look at the other side of a typical romance novel or movie, can what people think of as romance actually be the work of a creepy stalker?  I thought about popular books such as Twilight.  Edward is thought of as romantic, but he is in Bella’s room watching her when she sleeps, etc.  Even Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre does strange things like dress up as an old Gypsy woman so he can be alone with Jane, touch her hand, and try to manipulate her.  Don’t get me started on Fifty Shades of Grey.  What is all stories thought of as a romance by ladies were really on the other side really a story of a creepy stalker?

You had pop culture references on books and movies sprinkled throughout – I highly enjoyed them although I hadn’t quite read all of the books or watched all of the movies.  It showed how Joe is highly self-educated and aware of the world around him.  He also hated “phonies” just like Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, yet he seemed to long for their world and a sense of belonging like Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.  I thought this juxtaposition was interesting.

This book worked well as an audiobook. Santino Fontana is Joe to me.  It was almost creepier hearing Joe tell his own story.

This book is rather horrifying, and I wondered what it said about me and the author that I thought this creepy stalker was identifiable and funny at times.  This was very well written and it definitely made me think.  It’s not a book I will soon forget.  I highly recommend it.