Things to Read - Three Books About Families (For Adults)

I haven't reviewed books in awhile. Book reviewing seems easy enough, but I find it hard to talk about reading without reducing everything to a cliche. Oh well, I'll try my best (actually, that's not really true either, as I'm typing this late on Wednesday night).

I realized last week that most of my recent reads have involved "family" in one sense or another. I didn't exactly plan this, but it seems like a good reason for a blog post.

What Ends - This book starts off simple enough - documenting the daily life of a small family who owns a guest house on an island off the west coast of Scotland. The writing is basic, but beautiful. And I soon found myself entranced by this nice, easy story, despite not quite knowing where the plot was headed. So the end sort of hits like a punch in the stomach. I started crying in the middle of P's soccer practice. The book serves as a strong lesson on what can happen when we put our individual aspirations first; even seemingly non-selfish desires, such as the need to forge one's own path in life. I loved that all of the characters are somehow flawed, but also relatable. Despite the tears, I really loved this book, and will keep thinking about its "lesson" for years to come.

The Goldfinch - Okay, so I'm stretching a little here, as the Goldfinch really is more about the absence of family, then about blood relations. It's long. And hard to summarize - disaster, stolen art, the meaning of "masterpiece", drunk kids in Vegas, furniture restoration, rich people in NYC, etc. But at the novel's core the book deals with creating one's own family and finding a home. At times I found Donna Tartt's prose a little wordy, but still, she writes well (there's a reason she won the Pulitzer) and the characters stick with you (especially Boris).

Big Breasts and Wide Hips - A few years ago, after the Nobel Committee granted Mo Yan the 2014 Prize for Literature, I read his novel the Garlic Ballads and really enjoyed it (if "enjoys" is the right word for an incredibly depressing book (critics have labeled the novel China's Grapes of Wrath)). So this year, I decided to dive into one of Yan's other novels - Big Breasts and Wide Hips, which centers around the matriarch of a peasant family of 8 girls and 1 boy (the youngest), trying to keep everyone fed and alive during the upheavals that define twentieth century China. The book is quirkier and more bizarre that the Garlic Ballads, but also a great history lesson of the last 100 years. The end is also somewhat odd, but then again so is capitalism in a communist country. I'm not sure I can easily recommend this book (it's a tricky read), but if you're sick of slick, page turners and want to try reading something slightly outside the norm, then this is the perfect place to start. Plus, at its core, the book deals with women's power to endure and build and hold things together.

So help me out, what have you all been reading lately?

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