We Rejoice ‘Cause The Hurting Is So Painless From The Distance Of Passing Cars

I haven’t gotten as far with my 50 book reading goal as I would like, but I guess that’s to be expected.  Between work, spending time with Eric, going out with friends, various responsibilities (volunteering, running errands, cooking meals, etc.), and just wanting to do other things from time to time, reading is often pushed to the back burner.  I thought I might read more while I was sick, but unfortunately most days I could barely stay awake long enough to finish a chapter.

There was one day, however, that I read a lot.  I think I read more than half of this book in a day, though that was mostly due to the fact that I was so congested that I couldn’t breathe when I tried to sleep … So basically I was so exhausted that I was just trying to do something quiet and calming in hopes that I might be able to nap a little here and there.

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Image courtesy of bookcoverarchive.com.

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

260 pages

I specifically chose this book to read while I was sick because I’d read it before.  Generally rereads are pretty quick for me (unless it’s a more “challenging” novel, like Anna Karenina or something similar), and Chuck Palahniuk’s books are typically quick reads for me as well.

I feel like when it comes to Chuck Palahniuk, a lot of people either love him or hate him.  For the most part, I love him.  (I was pretty disappointed in Snuff, however, and I haven’t picked up a lot of his more recent work, including Tell-All and Damned.)  I am, however, a big enough fan to drive 3 hours just to attend a reading/book signing.  (I did this back in 2007, when he was on his Rant book tour.)  I’m glad I had the experience of meeting him, even though I got completely tongue-tied when it was my turn to have my book signed.  I told myself I wouldn’t be lame and “star-struck,” but I totally was.

Want proof?

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As I said, this was back in 2007 (literally a couple of weeks or so before I met Eric, in fact!).  The wedding stuff is related to Rant, so it’s not completely random.  The biggest thing to note here is how terrified I look … Like a deer in the headlights.  I wish I’d gotten a better picture in which I didn’t look so scared/crazed, but it is what it is.  Personal photo.

I at least managed to handle getting my book signed, though, and it’s been proudly on display ever since.

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I actually have 2 copies of this novel now.  The signed copy, which is just for show, and a copy to be read.  Personal photo.

So now you know all about my love for Chucky P.

This post isn’t really about that, though.  It’s about Lullaby, which I first read back in … 2006, I think.  Lullaby is the story of a journalist named Carl Streator who is working on a piece about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  As he visits several homes to get information from grieving families, he begins to notice a pattern … A book entitled Poems and Rhymes from Around the World is found in each home.  On page 27 of this book, there is an African chant/song.  It’s known as the culling song, and it kills anyone it is read to.

As the story unfolds, readers learn that he has experienced tragedy in his own life and is perhaps too close to the subject he’s researching for his story.  He meets a real estate agent named Helen Hoover Boyle, who has suffered a similar loss.  They team up to find and destroy all copies of Poems and Rhymes from Around the World as well as to discover the origin of the song (a book of spells known as the “grimoire”).  In meeting Helen, he also gets to know her young assistant Mona, who is into witchcraft, and Mona’s boyfriend, Oyster, who has his own agenda when it comes to the culling song.

If you’ve never read any Chuck Palahniuk books, this summary probably sounds insane.  And the book is weird … But in a good way.

Lullaby isn’t my favorite Palahniuk novel.  It’s good, but not my favorite.  From a review standpoint, some sections are a little too repetitive for my taste.  The ideas are interesting, but the execution falls flat at certain points.  Overall, it’s dark but funny and it makes you wonder what you would do if you had the kind of power the grimoire (or even the culling song alone) could give you.

One thing I will freely admit about Chuck Palahniuk’s books is that they often make me sad.  I’m an extremely sensitive person anyway, so this probably isn’t too shocking … But I feel like most people read his books and don’t cry.  I won’t give details of the part that made me cry because I hate spoilers, but it’s near the end of the book (so if you choose to pick it up, you’ll probably figure out what I’m talking about).  It’s not really meant to be sad … I mean, it’s completely bizarre and a little disgusting.  Yet for whatever reason, it just made me so sad that I cried a little.  (I don’t remember if I cried the first time I read this or not, but I’ve definitely cried over a few of his other books in the past.)

I’d obviously reread this book in the future, and would recommend it to those who are interested in reading something strange.  If you’ve never read Palahniuk, I wouldn’t start here, though.  There are much better novels to start with, including my personal favorite, Invisible Monsters (I may reread and review that one later this year).  If you’ve read some of his other work, though, this one is at least worth checking out.  As I said, it can get a little repetitive at times, and I don’t feel like the writing is as good as it is in some of his other novels … But it’s worth a read simply because the ideas are pretty interesting.

I give Lullaby THREE STARS.  It’s probably closer to three and a half, but I don’t think it warrants a four star rating since I know he can do much better.

Cake On Some More Makeup To Cover All Those Lines

I know I’ve been MIA all week, but I’ve been a little preoccupied.  On a very positive note, I was offered a new position at my current company!  I won’t begin working in my new department until either the middle or end of this month (they’re still figuring out the best time for me to transition), but I’m very excited about the new opportunity.

Despite the flurry of excitement/nerves in preparing for my internal interview, being offered/accepting the position, and making the announcement to my current coworkers (who were all amazing and supportive of the move!), I managed to complete my third book of 2014.  I realize that’s nothing in the grand scheme of things, and that I’ll need to read like 10 books in a month or something crazy like that in order to reach my goal of 50 for the year … But it’s still something.

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Image courtesy of www.goodreads.com.

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

317 pages

I’ll be honest … This book has been sitting untouched on my bookshelf for quite a long time.  Each time I’ve scanned my books to select a new one to start, it’s been noted as one I haven’t yet read … But I always fail to even pull it from the shelf to read the summary.

It’s not that I thought it wouldn’t be an interesting book.  I mean, I bought it for a reason.  But I just wasn’t really in the mood to read a Danish crime thriller.

I’m not sure what prompted me to pick it up this time, but I’m really glad I did.

The Boy in the Suitcase begins by introducing readers to several characters in both Denmark and Lithuania.  The authors do a great job building up the suspense, so much so that I found myself glued to the book, desperate to know what happened next.

The heroine (or, perhaps more accurately, the anti-heroine) in this story is a Danish nurse named Nina Borg.  When an old friend asks her for a huge favor, she finds herself unable to say no.  The favor?  Nina is to pick something up from a public locker in the Copenhagen train station.  She is to pick it up discreetly, and she is not to open it until she’s completely alone.

Inside the locker, Nina finds a suitcase.  And inside the suitcase, as the title suggests, is a naked, drugged three-year-old boy.

Kaaberbol and Friis spend the rest of the novel slowly peeling away the layers of the mystery.  Where did this boy come from?  Does he even have a family?  Why was he targeted specifically?  Who kidnapped him?  What do they want with him?

I won’t go into much detail because I’m very anti-spoiler … But I will say that the authors did a great job of tying all of the characters’ stories together and throwing in a few plot twists that actually kept me guessing.

Although the novel was pretty solid, there were a few things that knocked the rating down a bit.  First, there were several errors (mostly spelling).  As I mentioned in my last book review, this is just something that annoys me and kind of takes away some of the enjoyment of the book.  It may sound a little dramatic, but I’ll be caught up in the story and then suddenly I’m thrown off when I notice that the word “European” is missing a letter.  I know something that trivial wouldn’t bother a lot of people, but it bothers me.

The other issue I had was the fact that some of the characters were only partially developed.  Sure, we don’t need to know everyone’s entire history, but it seemed as though Kaaberbol and Friis initially wanted to share more about specific characters but then changed their minds.  These partially developed characters left me wanting more … But not in a good way.

Overall, though, The Boy in the Suitcase was a very enjoyable read.  I didn’t see the ending coming a mile away (which is, as I’ve mentioned before, a very good thing in my eyes!), and it was one of the better translated novels I’ve read since there weren’t a lot of awkwardly worded phrases.  I’m glad I chose to read it, and would recommend it to anyone interested in crime fiction.

I’d rate The Boy in the Suitcase FOUR STARS.  I would read it again in the future, and I’m now interested in checking out the other novels by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis that feature Nina Borg (there are three so far, including this one).

That What You Fear The Most Could Meet You Halfway …

So I’ve finally finished my second book of 2014 and have moved on to my third.  I’m actually making a lot of progress with my third novel, though, so hopefully I’ll have yet another new book review to post next week.

This week’s Saturday Book Club post is all about the book I just finished, though.

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Image courtesy of www.barnesandnoble.com.

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne

470 pages

After reading only a couple of chapters in this book, I was kind of dreading the thought of suffering through the rest.  To start, there were a ton of spelling and grammatical errors.  That always annoys me.  I understand that sometimes it’s easy to overlook a mistake or two before a book goes to print, but seriously … Where were the editors on this one?  One of the main characters even has her name butchered in the last third or so of the book.  I was like, “What?  How could no one catch such an obvious mistake?”

I know I just sounded like an incredibly pretentious asshole, and I’m sorry for that.  Like I said, I understand that mistakes happen.  I guess I just feel like so many people read and edit and then reread and make more corrections in the publishing process that it’s hard to understand how simple spelling errors slip through.  Maybe I’m the only person who cares about this sort of thing though.  (If so, sorry for the rant!)

In addition to errors, the beginning was slow.  Readers are introduced to a bunch of characters in various periods of time (including a younger version of the aforementioned main character, Simone), and the chapters skip around between them without much warning.  I’m usually a fan of books that skip around in time because they often offer glimpses into events in a character’s life that may help explain why certain things are happening in the present.  With A Dark Dividing, there was almost too much going on … At least within a single chapter.

The novel begins with an introduction to Harry Fitzglen, a journalist working at a London gossip rag (and hating every minute of it), who has been given an assignment to cover a new art gallery opening.  His boss isn’t just interested in the art gallery (or even the socialite who funded it), though … He wants more information about a photographer being featured there, Simone Marriott.  He has suspicions that she’s actually Simone Anderson, one of a set of conjoined twins with a mysterious family history.

The focus then shifts to diary extracts from 1899.  These are written by a woman named Charlotte Quinton, who is expecting twins at the time the diary entries begin.  Charlotte’s entries are scattered throughout the novel and span about 15 years.  As the story progresses, we learn that the Quinton twins are conjoined.

In addition to these characters, readers are introduced to present day Simone Marriott/Anderson and, a bit later, a younger Simone.  The glimpse into her past allowed Sarah Rayne to give readers a more complete picture of what happened to Simone’s conjoined twin sister following their separation surgery and why she and her mother were constantly moving around England.  We also get to know Simone’s mother, Melissa Anderson, and her husband, Joe.  Their story begins around the time that Melissa discovers she’s expecting twins … Conjoined twins.

And then there’s Roz Raffan, a nurse working with the obstetrician who will be delivering Melissa’s twins (and later working to create a top-notch surgical team to separate them).  Roz was, for me, one of the most interesting characters.  She wasn’t overly interesting in the beginning and only made a few minor appearances, but as the novel progressed, she became an important part of the story.  I don’t want to spoil too much in case anyone reading this decides to pick up the book, but I will say that she was interesting because she was so batshit crazy.

Obviously there were several subplots going on in the book.  And if that wasn’t enough, Rayne tossed in another.  Harry gets his hands on an old, out of print novel written by none other than Charlotte Quinton’s secret lover, Floy.  This book within a book appears multiple times throughout and appears just as suddenly as all of the other subplots.  And while I understand why she included the excerpts from Floy’s novel, it became kind of distracting since readers were also “treated” (I’ll use that term loosely) to Harry’s reactions as he read it.

I really wanted to like this book a lot, and at times I did.  There were definitely sections that were pretty suspenseful, and each time I hit one of those, I found myself wanting to stay glued to the pages.  Unfortunately, there were also sections that just sort of dragged on.  I think she definitely could have cut some of these things out (such as Charlotte’s descriptions of World War 1, which honestly weren’t that important to the overall story) and easily shortened the novel by 50 or even 100 pages.

I almost feel as though Sarah Rayne read House of Leaves and thought, “I’m going to do something like that.”  (By the way, that book is seriously complex and fascinating … And it literally took me something like 6 months to finish it because it is so complex.)  But A Dark Dividing could not even begin to compare to that book.  Though, to be fair, I doubt many authors could create something like that.

Overall, A Dark Dividing presented some interesting plot twists, a few sections of suspense, and I thought Rayne did a nice job of connecting all of the subplots to one another.  However, my issues with the large number of errors, several boring sections that I had to force myself through, and the cheesy ending (even one of the characters makes a reference to the situation being kind of cheesy) were enough to knock the rating down a bit.

That said, I give A Dark Dividing TWO STARS.  If I gave half stars with my ratings, it would probably be bumped to two and a half stars since it wasn’t absolutely terrible … But I felt kind of “meh” after reading it.  Although I own it, I doubt I’ll read it in the future.  I may have to take it to a used bookstore or something to see if I can trade it for something else.

There’s Never Gonna Be A Moment Of Truth For You While The World Is Watching

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m back to posting recycled LiveJournal book reviews.  I haven’t finished my second book of 2014 yet (and at this rate, I definitely won’t be hitting my goal of 50), so I’ll have to share something I read (well, reread) back in 2012 until I finish the novel I’m currently working through.

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Image courtesy of www.amazon.com.

The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess

285 pages

I first read this book the year after I graduated from college, when I was living completely alone for the first time in an apartment in West Virginia.  I remember liking it, though it didn’t have the same type of impact as something like The Bell Jar (which I reviewed here: And I Said I Know It Well).  I originally picked up the book because I knew Anthony Burgess was the author of A Clockwork Orange and because it sounded interesting.  I’ve never actually read A Clockwork Orange (though I definitely plan to in the future), but I enjoyed the movie when I saw it years ago.

Like A Clockwork Orange, The Wanting Seed is a dystopian novel.  The novel is an imagining of what would happen if the world became overpopulated (though I guess these days that doesn’t take much imagination).  It begins by focusing on a husband and wife, Tristram and Beatrice-Joanna Foxe, and the death of their young son.  Due to overpopulation, there is a strict one birth per family limit.  Living or dead, single or multiple, it doesn’t matter … A family just cannot have more than one birth.  In addition, gay people are given preference for prestigious positions (especially in the government), as they will not be adding to the overpopulation problem.

Tristram’s brother, Derek, pretends to be gay to secure a cushy position with the government.  Behind the scenes, though, he’s meeting up with Beatrice-Joanna in an ongoing affair.  She becomes pregnant after sleeping with both Derek and Tristram in the same day, and decides she must run away to her sister’s house in the country before the pregnancy progresses to the point that it cannot be hidden.

Things become crazier as the novel progresses.  Their once peaceful (but strict) society becomes a police state.  A war breaks out, but no one knows who the enemy is … Not even those fighting.  Everything is kept a secret, which is terrifying.  Imagine being sent out in the dark to obliterate some unknown enemy for an unknown reason … That’s what’s happening here.

In addition to a mysterious war, the streets become a dangerous place where only the strongest can survive.  Everyone else is killed and eaten.  Yes, that’s right … Eaten.  The world’s food supply is dwindling … Crops aren’t growing, fish are dying, etc.  The government sets up rations, but the rations continue getting smaller and smaller.  When people are starving, they’ll do pretty much anything to ensure survival … Including engaging in cannibalism.

The Wanting Seed is good, though certainly not the best book I’ve ever read.  Parts of it drag along (especially the sections about the war), and Beatrice-Joanna is a poorly written female character.  I don’t mind a character who can’t make up his/her mind with regard to love, but she was all, “Oh, Derek, I love you!  I can’t live without you!  Being with Tristram makes me sick!” and then later she randomly decides she loves Tristram and is like, “Oh, I made a mistake!  Derek is nothing!  You mean everything to me!”  Just … No.  I don’t even think this would have bothered me as much if there had been a reason for this change.  But there isn’t.  She literally just decides she still loves her husband while she’s at her sister’s house for no apparent reason.  If the story wasn’t as interesting, I probably would never have given it a second read.  I don’t think I liked it as much the second time around, but it wasn’t a complete waste of time or anything.

I rate The Wanting Seed THREE STARS.  As I said, I liked it enough to reread it, but Burgess could have made a good book a great book with better characters and fewer war scenes.  Though maybe I just don’t really like reading about war.  For example, I also found the war scenes (which is basically all of Part Two) in Atonement incredibly boring.  I actually started that book, stopped reading it about halfway through Part Two, and then picked it up and forced my way through the entire thing several months later.

Tomorrow Is Blank, We’ll Just Fill It In With Our Own Answers

I’m actually really excited to write this post today because I’m reviewing my first completed novel of 2014 instead of recycling a review from one of the many books I read in 2012!  (Yeah, I know … 1 out of a goal of 50.  In February.  Pathetic.  But I’m determined to at least try to make reading more of a priority!)

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Image courtesy of thedailynewsonline.com.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

415 pages

I felt like literally everyone was reading this book at one point.  And honestly?  It kind of weirded me out.  This is a “Kristen” book (a.k.a. a book that might not appeal to the masses due to explicit language, graphic violence and/or sex, disturbing subject matter, etc.  What can I say, I love dark and disturbing entertainment.).  And yet there it was, at the top of the bestseller list.

I really wanted to read it, but much of 2013 was spent in a haze of wedding planning so I never got around to it.  Until now.

The chapters alternate between the two main characters, a married couple named Nick and Amy Dunne.  In the beginning, Amy’s chapters are excerpts from her diary which covers around 7 years of her life and discusses everything from the first time she met Nick to the beginning of the end of their happiness (they were both laid off from their jobs in New York City, which was just one in a series of events that caused great tension in their marriage).

I don’t want to include any spoilers in this review.  I mean, I know a lot of people have read this book, but there’s a chance that someone who hasn’t will stumble upon this and then feel irritated that everything was laid out for them in one blog post.

So I won’t get into all of the details.  What I will say is that nothing is as it seems.  In the beginning of the book, I had a couple of theories about what happened to Amy.  (For those who don’t know the basic premise of the book, Amy goes missing on the day of her fifth wedding anniversary.  When Nick returns home from work after getting a call from a neighbor that his cat is outside, the door is open and it looks as though there was a struggle of some kind.)  None of my theories were even remotely correct, though, which was actually a relief.  I hate figuring things out early on.

This is my third Gillian Flynn novel, and I’ll definitely continue to read her work.  Her books are always well-written and keep me engaged.  Gone Girl was less extreme in certain ways than her previous novels, which I suppose explains the mass appeal and bestseller status.  And while it definitely kept me interested, I found myself putting the book down quite a bit (sometimes for days).  I felt like I read through her other two novels much more quickly, though I’m not sure why … Perhaps it was a pacing issue?

Before reading Gone Girl, I’d read several reviews (without spoilers, of course!).  Almost all of them complained that none of the characters were particularly likable and/or that the ending sucked.  I don’t really care whether or not I like the characters (you can read more about my thoughts on that, at least as it relates to female characters, here: You Know You’re Better Than This).  As long as the author can write well and somehow make me care about what will happen next, I’m happy.  And Gillian Flynn does this.

As for the ending, I honestly didn’t think it sucked.  It wasn’t what I expected (not at all), but it wasn’t horrible.  I’ve read so many books that just completely fall apart at the end, but this was not one of them.  If I’d written the book, I would have ended it another way, but I assume Flynn realized there were several ways she could end it and chose the version that best suited her overall vision.  It wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t make me feel like I’d invested too much time only to be let down.

As I said earlier, I will continue to read works published by Gillian Flynn.  She has a way of making her characters seem real (which is probably why I like “unlikable” characters: they have flaws) and is particularly good at creating dialogue.  A lot of authors can’t do this for whatever reason, so their characters end up sounding stiff and ridiculous.  Additionally, Flynn spices up her novels with plenty of twists that keep readers guessing.  I can really appreciate that since, as I mentioned before, I really hate when I see the “twist” a mile away.  It’s like, “Seriously?  This is all you’ve got?”  So disappointing.

I would recommend Gone Girl to others.  It’s definitely not as dark as her other two novels, so it might be a good place to start if you’re interested in checking out her work.  If you’re a fan of mysteries/thrillers at all, it’s certainly worth a read.  As I said, there were definitely lulls in the book but there were also a couple of points that kept me up late reading until I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer.

I give this novel a solid FOUR STARS.  I’m glad I started off my (hopefully!) 50 books in 2014 with a great book.  It wasn’t phenomenal enough to warrant a perfect score, but I’d be happy to read it again in the future.  I’m also kind of intrigued by the upcoming movie, though I’m not sure how I feel about Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne.  He’s just … Not what I pictured, I guess.

Marked In Your Words: I’m The Joke, I’m The Bastard

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s work in 2012.  I’ve only reviewed a few of those books here so far, though, so I’ll be sharing my thoughts on another today.

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Image courtesy of http://www.vonnegutreview.com.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

275 pages

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is, quite simply, about a man named Eliot (one t, not two like my beloved Elliott Smith) Rosewater.  He is fabulously wealthy, as he is heir to a large fortune that has been placed in the Rosewater Foundation to prevent outsiders from getting their hands on it.  Unfortunately, he is also an alcoholic with questionable sanity.

He desires to help others, claiming to love everyone no matter what.  He sets up shop in a dilapidated office in Rosewater County, Indiana using the Rosewater Foundation to help others however he can.  It’s a very bizarre setup.  People will call him at all hours of the night crying about their problems, and he will then offer them something (usually a fairly small amount of money) to make them happier and allow them to make it through yet another day.

In Rhode Island, his cousin Fred Rosewater (who doesn’t know until about halfway through the book that he’s Eliot’s cousin) is a poor insurance salesman.  When he finds out through a lawyer that he’s related to the Rosewaters, the lawyer suggests they set out to prove that Eliot Rosewater is certifiably insane and unfit to be in charge of the family fortune.  Since Eliot has no children, the paperwork for the Rosewater Foundation states that the money would go to Fred if something should happen to him.

Overall, this novel is pretty light and humorous.  Poor Eliot just wants to be a good person … And though he’s definitely weird, I don’t think he’s actually insane.  I think he just can’t wrap his mind around the fact that so many people in Rosewater County feel so unloved and unimportant (mostly because they’re poor, unattractive, etc.), so he makes it his mission to make them all feel better about themselves.

It’s a very weird book (though, to be fair, most of Vonnegut’s books are weird), but an overall enjoyable read.  The main issue I had with it, however, was the fact that the reader never really gets to know Eliot.  He’s written to be a fairly likable character, but maybe that’s because the reader never really gets inside his mind.  I don’t necessarily need books to be written in first person (though I do tend to like that), but I like when an author will at least allow his/her readers a glimpse into the mind of (at the very least) the main character.  If I don’t know much about them, sometimes it can be difficult to care about them, understand their actions and motivations, etc.  As I said earlier, I don’t think Eliot Rosewater is actually insane … But the key word there is think.  I honestly don’t know whether he is or not since I never got to know him well enough.  Yes, it’s just a fictional character.  But when I’m reading something (or watching something, for that matter), I want to be drawn into that world … I want to experience life through the eyes of those characters.  And, perhaps more importantly, I want to give a shit about what happens to them.

I would recommend this book to others, though I’d probably also issue a warning that it’s a little weird and sometimes difficult to really get into.  I may or may not reread it in the future.  I don’t think I’d buy a copy for myself, though, unless I found it on clearance at a used bookstore or something.  Again, it’s not that it was a shitty book … There are just a lot of other books I’d much rather have taking up space on my bookshelf. 

That being said, I would rate God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater THREE STARS.  Basically, I enjoyed it for what it was, but it wasn’t the best Kurt Vonnegut novel I’ve read.

Time Will Come When We Are All Condemned For All The Damage We Have Done

I was pretty recently tagged in a friend’s Facebook post requesting that I list 10 books that have stayed with me in some way.  I decided to come out of Facebook hiding (I mostly just lurk, reading my news feed … Occasionally I’ll comment on or like a status or picture) to respond since I (obviously) love to share great books with others.

The novel I’ll be reviewing today made that list.  Although it’s an easy read, it stirred up a lot of emotion as I got further and further into the book.  The subject matter is dark but relevant (the plot centers around a school shooting).  Although many might argue that this topic has been played out, the author introduced an interesting twist early on and built upon that twist throughout the novel to create a fascinating piece of literature.

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Image courtesy of http://www.bookcoverarchive.com.

A Thousand Cuts by Simon Lelic

294 pages

The chapters alternate between witness statements and a more typical narrative as Detective Inspector Lucia May tries to uncover some meaning behind the seemingly senseless tragedy of a local school shooting.  The book is set in London, but it could just as easily have been set in the U.S. (or anywhere else for that matter).

Lelic tells his readers who the gunman is in the second chapter … There’s no mystery there.  What kept me reading was the way he wove the different points of view together to give an incredibly chilling look at the cruelties both children and adults can be capable of.  I found it both interesting and refreshing that the gunman wasn’t one of the students, though … It was actually a young teacher who was bullied as much (or more, in some cases) as some of the kids.

A Thousand Cuts isn’t disturbing in the way that some books are … There aren’t a lot of really graphic descriptions of violence or anything like that.  It was, however, disturbing to think that the bullying, the lack of action from those in positions of power, and the terrible consequences are all too real.  It actually made me nervous about the future, when I have children to send to school.  I mean, a lot of the time kids won’t tell their parents what’s going on with them, especially if they’re being harassed … So the parents may have no idea until it’s too late.  That’s pretty fucking scary to me.

Overall, this was a wonderful novel.  The only issue I had with it was the fact that some parts were a little difficult for me to understand since I’m not overly familiar with British slang (where’s my pretend celebrity boyfriend Alex Turner when I need him?).  Obviously that has nothing to do with the story or author, though, so I wouldn’t even consider it a “problem.”  Impressively enough, this is Simon Lelic’s debut novel.  I definitely want to check out some of his other work to see how it measures up.

I would recommend A Thousand Cuts to others, but I’d warn them that it’s pretty bleak.  There were parts that made me incredibly angry and parts that just made me really sad.  It’s definitely not for everyone.  But, if you’re like me and like fucked up entertainment (I’d say that’s the best way I can describe a lot of things I enjoy), this is an excellent read.

I give A Thousand Cuts FIVE STARS.  It was one of the best books I read in 2012.