Saturday, October 3, 2009

Reading Log - August and September 2009

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

What a fantastic book! The story’s main character is Amir, who is only twelve years old in 1975, when the story opens. Amir lives with his wealthy and influential father in a comfortable house in Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir’s constant childhood companion is Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. Hassan and his father live in a small hut in the back yard of Amir’s father’s great house. Despite that fact that Hassan and his father are of the oppressed Hazara class, they are loved by Hassan’s father and considered “family.” The tragic fate of Afghanistan, as it plays out over the next 30 years, is woven into the story of Hassan’s life – a story of personal relationships, family secrets, moral failures, guilt, betrayal, love, hope and redemption. I highly recommend this book.

Nemesis, Agatha Christie

Years ago, when my children were middle-school-age, I did my own Agatha Christie read-a-thon. I read every Christie mystery I could put my hands on at Newberg's public library. Having read what I thought were all of her works, I moved on and never looked back. But as I was browsing for another book to read, recently, I ran across Nemesis. Try as I might, I couldn't remember ever having read it. As I read through this novel, which was a sequel to another one she wrote - one I do remember reading, A Caribbean Mystery - I was reminded of why I devoured her novels back in the late '80s. This particular one featured Miss Marple, one of Christie's recurring mystery-solvers. Miss Marple is an elderly lady who, by all appearances, is a little "dotty," and who spends her free time knitting baby jackets out of fluffy pink yarn. But inside that rather frumpy old body lies a sharp mind with a keen sense of peoples' true character. In this novel, Miss Marple is left both a mission and a sum of money at the death of an old acquaintance. The mission seems impossible in the beginning, but Miss Marple's attention to details and ability to engage anyone in conversation bring this novel, like all of her novels, to a successful, if surprising, close. I find Agatha Christie stories to be fun flights of fancy, as well as a window into a simpler time and place (early twentieth century England). Do I recommend it? Not if it's the only Christie you are going to read; it's not one of her best, in my opinion. But she was, indeed, a talented mystery writer, and I think that at least one or two Agatha Christie detective stories should be on everyone's reading to-do list.

Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents and the Language of Love, Myron Uhlberg

Myron Uhlberg, in this book, writes an autobiographical story of growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 1940s, the hearing son of two deaf parents and the elder brother to a child with epilepsy. The book presents insight into the difficulties and abuses suffered by the deaf in those decades. Even as a young child, Myron was thrust into the responsibility of interpreting for his parents. Although he is honest about the resentment he sometimes felt about being in this awkward position, he is also clear about the deep love that held his family together. Each chapter of the book is a vignette told from the perspective of the boy, Myron. It’s a nice blend of pathos and humor, resentment and love, naiveté and umbrage. I have some deaf friends who have two daughters, one of whom is hearing. I’m thinking of recommending this book to them, because of the sensitive way it treats the issue. I’d love to learn about their reaction to the book.

The Weight of Silence, Heather Gudenkauf

This was, for me, a real page-turner. Until the age of four, Cassie was a normal child. But something happened in her world, at that tender age, that left her unable to speak another word. Three years later, Cassie and her best friend, Petra, are involved in another traumatic incident. Although this story, full of suspense and emotion, revolves around this nightmarish event, it is also a testament to the healing power of love.

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