Posts Tagged novel

Plain truth. (Jodi Piccoult, 2000)

Plain truth. (Jodi Piccoult, 2000)

After enjoying a Jodi Piccoult’s novel for the first time recently (Change of Heart), I was excited to read another of her literary works.  Plain Truth, though, lacked the fluidity and can’t-wait-to-get-to-the-next-page suspense of Change of Heart.  Plain Truth is one of her earlier works so perhaps Piccoult didn’t grow into her literary skin until later.  I very very almost read the book in it’s entirety despite not being fond of it.  I finally gave up on the mundane plot and methodical dialogue 40 or so pages from the end.  The storyline and ending were predictable from the first few chapters so reading as far as I did felt like a waste of time.  Even the few “surprises” thrown in every hundred pages weren’t all too interesting.

I did learn quite a bit about the Amish lifestyle and their way of thinking.  Previously, my only conceptions of the Amish were old-fashioned clothing, the lack of electricity, and farming.  Heck, I wasn’t even aware that Amish people followed Christianity.  This novel at least allowed me to gain a sense of respect for the selflessness and incorruptible nature of the Amish.

Towards the end of the novel, I still didn’t feel an emotional connection to either of the two main characters.  Katie, a young 18-year old Amish girl, has been accused of committing neonaticide of her first-born son.  Yes, the thought of a naive conscionable person being imprisoned for something she didn’t purposefully do is sad, but I didn’t really care what happened to her because  she wasn’t all that likable and I didn’t get a chance to really “know” her.

I’ll give Piccoult another chance before turning my back possibly for good…

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The host. (Stephenie Meyer, 2008)

The host. (Stephenie Meyer, 2008)

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away.

Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy.  Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies reamin intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged.  Most of humanity has succumbed. 

When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end.  Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human:  the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories.  But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect:  the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. 

Wanderer probes Melanie’s thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer’s mind with visions of the man Melanie loves–Jared, a human who still lives in hiding.  Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing.  When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

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It’s been a few years since I’ve finished the Twilight series, and I’d forgotten how well Stephenie Meyer could appeal to the longing heart.  I was completely enamored with Edward by the time I’ve finished New Moon, the second book of the series (sorry to those on Team Jacob).  Still, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Host.  Apparently, this book is a rip-off of Animorphs by K.A. Applegate, but I’ve never read or even heard of Animorphs so I’ll just pretend Meyer’s ideas are original (for now, at least).

Like Twilight, there are two guys chasing after one girl.  Well, one girl in the physical sense.  There’s actually two personalities trapped within one body–Melanie is the original human part of the body while Wanda is the alien invader using Melanie’s body as a “host”.  Melanie, for the most part, has no control over her body’s actions since the invasion.  Jared was Melanie’s lover before Wanda took over and is still in love with Melanie.  Ian, a human, fell in love with Wanda as he became acquainted with her.  I admire Ian for his capacity to love Wanda even though she’s just a silvery worm-like alien in reality.  He loves the essence of Wanda–her mind, her soul.   It reminded me of the time I asked my boyfriend what he loved most about me, and he replied that he loved my personality the most.  I was a little offended that he didn’t find me physically attractive, but I was just being too shallow.  Hopefully, my boyfriend loving me for more than my looks means that our love can endure past the onset of wrinkles and age spots.

The Host, being the science fiction novel that it is, got me thinking about the possibility of other worlds in the universe with life.  It seems so unlikely for us to be the only life forms in the extremely vast and seemingly endless expanse of space.  How long will it be before we finally find a planet with “beings”?  How long will it be before they find us?  Or has either of these things happened already and us, the common people, are just ignorantly unaware?  There are too many unanswerable questions that exist, and that’s part of what makes life so profound and interesting.

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Change of heart. (Jodi Picoult, 2008)

Change of heart. (Jodi Picoult, 2008)

“One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family, and the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart.  Now her life is a waiting game.  Waiting for time to heal her wounds, waiting for justice.  In short, waiting for a miracle to happen.

For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises.  The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world.  In a heartbeat, though, something happens that changes everything.  Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June’s eleven-year-old daughter, Claire.  But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child.

Father Michael’s decisions as a young man led him to devote the rest of his life to God.  But when he comes face-to-face with Shay, he is forced to question everything he’s been taught to believe about religion, about good and evil, about forgiveness.  About himself.”

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This was the first Jodi Picoult I read, and I have to say I’m excited to read more of her books.  It’s not that Change of Heart was particularly suspenseful or surprising.  I guessed the main plot by page 10.  I think I just like her writing style–very easy to read and I didn’t have to look up the definitions of words too many times.  During this leisure reading experience, I learned a few things about medicine, theology, and the justice system.  Not bad for slightly over 400 pages of one-and-a-half spaced medium print.  The characters are interesting with a little romance and a little mystery intertwined with a lot of spirituality.

Sorry, I need to gripe about another ending so you might not want to read on if you don’t want a spoiler.  I just don’t get June Nealon’s character.  I tried being sympathetic towards her, but it became increasingly harder as the story progressed.  By the end of the novel, I couldn’t stand June Nealon.  I don’t know how it feels to have my children taken from me by a murderer or, for that matter, have children at all.  I don’t know if it would be possible for me to reconcile with someone who’s killed a person so dear to me, but I know I would at least try for my own sanity.  I know that whenever I felt hate in my heart, it caused me more internal torture than anything else.  I find that it’s easier to accept people as they are.  If someone’s wronged you, remember what they did but move on and forgive.  That doesn’t mean you have to completely trust them again.  You can choose to not include that person in your life anymore while forgiving them at the same time.

Anyways, back to the story, the reason I don’t like June Nealon is because she decides to take Shay Bourne’s heart to save her second daughter even after she discovers that he might not have murdered her husband and elder daughter.  She was fine with not only stealing 11 years of Shay Bourne’s life as he rotted away in a penitentiary for a crime he might not have committed, but also killing him through capital punishment.  I don’t think I could live with killing someone else to save my own child, especially if the person I’m killing is innocent.  The guilt I’d feel would be endless because the person I’m killing must be loved by someone as well.  Yes, Shay Bourne insisted on giving his heart to June’s daughter, Claire, and was willing to die to do it.  That still doesn’t make it right.  June never contested or even questioned if what she was doing was right.

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Every man dies alone. (Hans Fallada, 1947)

Every man dies alone. (Hans Fallada, 1947). Original title: Jeder stribt fur sich allein

Every Man Dies Alone gives a poignant look into Nazi Germany during the second World War.  The main characters are based on a real-life couple that rebelled against the Party and their sadistic ways.  Anna and Otto Quangel are representations of the millions of working class Germans struggling to stay humane despite the many hurdles that come their way.  Following their son’s death fighting for Hitler in the War, Anna and Otto conjure up the idea to leave postcards with anti-Naziism phrases in busy office buildings for people to read and hopefully become inspired by.  Little do they know that these postcards strike mostly fear into the people who pick them up and are quickly turned into the police without even a whisper of inspiration instilled.

I bought this book because it was on the recommendations list of a local bookstore.  It’s not the typical book I would pick up, but I’m glad I read it.  The only other Nazi Germany-based book that I read was The Diary of Anne Frank ages ago while I was still in grade school.  I don’t think I was mentally mature enough to understand the implications of Anne Frank’s words then.  The strength of human character that lives in the face of tremendous turmoil, indecencies at every corner, and every-present fear is astonishing.  Leaving postcards at the doors and windows of office buildings may not seem like much of a stand against injustice, but just the simple fact that these two people never succumbed to the lures of the Party, ignoring its advantages in status and wealth, is commendable.  There were so many normally good-natured people that became greedy snitches to eliminate suspicions of themselves.  But really, you can’t blame those people for trying to survive under such harsh circumstances.

Although the story ends with Anna and Otto’s deaths (Otto by execution and Anna by accident), there’s still an undertone of hope and accomplishment through it all.  When I reflect on the book, I feel sadness when I think of all the suffering but I also feel proud of the perseverance of decency.

Perhaps even more fascinating than the book itself is the story of the author, Hans Fallada, an incurable addict who lived in and out of prisons and psychiatric institutions for most of his life.  He attempted suicide as a teenager with a childhood friend.  The two boys were to shoot each other with pistols and die together.  When Fallada’s friend missed, Fallada took it upon himself to end his own life.  Somehow, Fallada managed to survive the incident despite shooting himself in the chest.  Crazy, right?

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