Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published by Knopf on May 14th 2013
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The first time I attempted to read this book – I did not finish it. I had a very hard time getting into it. I re-shelved it and put it on my dnf list. There was so much hype surrounding this book but for some reason it just did not grab me the first time around. Then KUYH was doing a reading challenge and I decided to try this book again. The second time was the charm. I know the first time I tried to read this book, I got it from the library and I didn’t like the print of the book. It was small and bothered me for some reason. The other part, the bigger part, was that I just wasn’t grabbed by the story. The book was very slow starting for my taste. But I kept reading good reviews and decided maybe I was missing something. There are times when I start a book and I am just not in the mood for that genre, or it is too much work at the time, but I am able to come back to it later and I am fully able to enjoy the story. This is what happened to me with this book.
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love living in Nigeria. Due to the political climate in Nigeria and their difficulty obtaining/completing an education there, they both apply for visas to the United States to complete their education. They have dreams of a better life in America. Ifemula’s visa is approved while Obinze’s visa is denied. Ifemula achieves academic success in America; however, she struggles with racial issues. For the first time in her life she has to deal with racism and racial distinction. She begins a blog about her experiences which becomes very popular. Obinze who has been denied a visa to the United States, travels to London where he eventually becomes an undocumented immigrant. He experiences racial issues in the U.K. and finds that he is only being employed for jobs for which he is over qualified. He is always thinking about Ifemelu but never hears from her. He is deported to Nigeria and is quite content when that happens. He is comfortable in Nigeria, gets married and builds a successful life.
Years later the two meet once again in Nigera where Obinze is living a prosperous life. They are left with questions about being in a relationship again after so much time apart and differing life experiences. What power does first love have? Do you destroy one relationship/family for the sake of another?
This book is about so many things: love, education, acceptance, race, racial identity, racism, immigration, belonging, choices, hair, relationships, and starting over. The writing was wonderful but the story felt slow in parts. I wanted to move it along at times. This book was more social commentary than love story for me. This book also felt very long to me. The writing was beautiful but at times felt a little wordy. This book was about so many things and had a lot of minor characters. This would make a very good book club book as there is a lot to discuss with this book.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Published by Knopf on June 7th 2016
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“Jo used to worry that his family line had been cut off, lost forever He would never truly know who his people were, and who their people were, and who their people were before them, and if there were stories to be heard about where he had come from, he would never hear them.”
Homegoing is a little book really. Three hundred and five pages, but it contains so much information about the generations of family members from two sisters, that this book feels BIG. The family members are spread across two continents and their stories are told from mid 18th century Ghana to the present day. The generations experience the British Colonization of Ghana, the slave trade, slavering in the American South, the Civil War, Jim Crow south, the great migration to the northern states, mines, drugs and jazz clubs.
Effia and Esi are half sisters who grew up in different villages in Ghana. Effia is considered to be a great beauty and is raised by her Aunt. She is promised to a tribal chief but when he is tricked into believing she can’t bear children, her step mother marries her off to a British man involved in the slave trade. She lives a very comfortable life in the Cape Coast Castle. She forms friendships with the other wives and later gives birth to a son. Esi is captured during a battle and is taken to the Cape Coast Castle where she is kept in the dungeon with the other slaves. Eventually she is put on a slave boat and sent to American where she will live the rest of her days a slave. Both women do not know the location of the other. Both are bound together by blood but separated by circumstance.
But this book is not just about these two women. It is also about the generations of family members. Those on Effia’s side who remain in Ghana and those on Esi’s side who live in the United States. I did appreciate the family history chart in the beginning of the book. Each subsequent chapter in the book is about a family member of each of the women. At times it was helpful to look back and see who was a descendant of who. Obviously in most cases it was easy depending on what continent the person lived on but in some cases that is not revealed right away, so I found it helpful to look back. The telling of each person’s individual story was powerful and poignant. We get little glimpses into a life before moving on to the next family member. There is also not only the passing down of family heirlooms but the oral history that is passed down as well.
In reading this book, I was in awe that this was a debut novel. It was a well thought out labor of lo
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Published by Knopf on February 3rd 2009
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I read this book years ago and I still find myself recommending it at least monthly to someone. It is so beautifully written, so moving, so involving, so perfect. I loved every single page of this book.
Marion and Shiva Stone are twins born to a Nun (yes you read correctly) and a British Surgeon in Addis Ababa (I know right, Where? ). They are orphaned after their father’s disappearance and their Mother’s death in childbirth. The boys are then raised by Hema and Ghosh, the two Indian doctors with a unique relationship of their own. I actually really liked these two characters and how they installed a love of medicine for the boys. The twins are always joined, well by being twins and by their fascination of medicine. But things are not always smooth for them. You see, they love the same woman and Marion flees to the United States upon completion of Medical School. But the past is not always in the past. The past has a way of catching up with us. Sometimes tapping us on the shoulder, sometimes giving us a firm shove from behind. This is what happens to Marion. He learns that sooner or later the past will come back and he will need to deal with his past.
Lets talk medicine for a moment. I really liked how the Author, A Medical doctor himself, described the medical procedures in a way that did not A. Gross me out or B. confuse me. I think this is a gift in and of itself. I actually found them to be fascinating.
Love and Betrayal are a theme. There is also lust, envy, grief, emigration, friendship, disease, poverty, education, love, family, death, loneliness, basically everything that makes a book good.
I highly recommend this book!
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published by Knopf on January 6th 2015
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Wow Wow and Wow
I often feel weird about saying how much I enjoy a book especially given the subject matter. But here goes…..I really enjoyed this book! It’s funny, sad, heartbreaking, endearing and beautifully written.
Theodore is constantly thinking of ways to kill himself. Violet is counting the days until she graduates and can leave her hometown behind (and hopefully her grief over her sister’s death). They know of each other but meet while both are standing on top of a bell tower contemplating to jump. Ultimately, Theodore speaks up and saves Violet’s life. Both characters are different- Theodore is considered the school freak and Violet is the popular pretty girl. Both, however; have their demons. His is a strained relationship with his father and depression, hers is her guilt and grief over her sisters death.
Just who is saving who up on that tower? How can you save someone when you, yourself do not want to be saved?
The two pair up on a school project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state. During this process they begin to discover each other. Young love ensues in which Violet blossoms and her world begins to get brighter, happier….but what of Theodore?
Such a beautiful and heartbreaking book. It really gets in there and stirs up the reader’s emotions. So many themes are here: depression, suicide, grief, love, acceptance, family issues.
Grab your tissues the same time you reach for this book.
Sugar in the Blood: A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart
Published by Knopf on January 22nd 2013
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**Received from Goodreads first reads.
This is such a well written book and an obvious labor of love from the Author. This book is also dense with history. It is obvious that the Author did a tremendous amount of research prior to writing this book. Not just research about her family but research on migration, life onboard a boat/ship, life of the endendured servent, slave trade, life of a slave, and life on Barbados. This is not a fast read. The amount of information that is presented does take some time to get through, but it is worth the time and effort.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Published by Knopf on June 3rd 2014
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Good book about a family that moves to Delaware to seek better educational opportunities for their daughter who suffered a brain injury in Mexico. I did like that toward the end of the book, Maribel’s parents finally talk about the accident that caused her brain damage. Both talked about guilt and how their daughter is “not like before.”The book also contains testimonials of individuals from various countries who are looking for a better life. Although the testimonials are good, I felt they got in the way of learning more about the two families in this book. I wanted to learn more about Maribel and Mayor. They develop a romance that is sweet but ends in tragedy. Good book. I think it gives an honest portrayal of the immigrant experience. I really liked this quote from the book: “we’re the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we’re not that bad, maybe even that we’re a lot like them. And who would they hate then?”
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Published by Knopf on February 14th 2012
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Loved it!!!I think this quote from the book sums up this book very well
“Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world”
I would like to give this book a standing ovation. It is wonderfully written and full of messages about being kind. It is a children’s book but one that is loved by adults for it’s message.
Ten year old “Auggie” was born with a facial deformity and was home schooled until he begins school in the Fifth grade at his Mother’s gentle urging. Throughout the book we are told the shocking and cruel reactions people have to seeing Auggie’s face. It is understandable why Halloween is his favorite Holiday and why he wore the helmet for so long. It also shows how this effects him, his self esteem and how he views himself. It is no wonder that he is anxious about beginning school. This is a big change for him, but he is not the only one who encounters change when he begins school. WE see how both he and his peers adjust to him attending school. We see how children, like adults, can be both cruel and kind. I loved Auggie’s gentle strength, sense of humor and courage. Throughout this book, I rooted for Auggie but I also rooted for the other characters as well. One part that stood out for me was when his father told him that he loved his face. It was a beautiful conversation.
This book is told from various character’s POV. This really worked for me. I especially liked his sister’s POV chapters.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Published by Knopf on May 26th 2015
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Our Souls at Night is the last novel by Kent Haruf. It was published after his death. It is a beautiful and touching last novel for the Author. It is a quite and small piece of work that touches on human beings need for connection and warmth from each other.
Addie, a widower pays an visit to her neighbor, Louis, who is also a widower. They have lived across the street from each other for decades and are familiar with each others lives. They knew each others spouses and saw each other grieve the loss of their spouse. During her visit to Louis, Addie makes a proposition to him. She suggests that they spend their nights together in order to ease the loneliness and to have someone to speak with before falling asleep.
This is a bittersweet tale about longing and the need for intimacy. Two elderly widowers come together at night to talk about their lives and to feel connected to another human being. Will their families approve? Will there be scandalous talk in town?