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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Two Books You Should Read

This month I have two books for you, both about sisters. Entirely coincidentally, I read these back-to-back and decided they’d make a nice pair.

I See You Everywhere
By Julia Glass (2008)

What it’s about: Told from the points of view of two sisters over 25 years, this book explores their lives, how their lives intersect, and their ongoing — sometimes rocky — relationship. The cool thing about the point of view shifting is that each sister’s chapter is told in the present, as if you haven’t read any previous chapters from either person. So the voices mature just as the characters do. Which is rather unusual; aren’t most stories told in the present, with flashbacks?
Why I picked it up: Julia Glass is probably the newest on my list of favorite authors. I picked it up because I saw it on display at the library and said, “oooh, Julia Glass has a new book?”
Why I recommend it: Beautifully written, excellently drawn characters, and lots of character development.
Quotes from the book:
“There you are, diligently swimming a straight line, minding the form of your strokes, when you look up and see, always a shock, that currents you can’t even feel have pulled you off course.”
• “Tighty will never see the talents he’s blessed with, only the ones he yearns for.”

The Weird Sisters
By Eleanor Brown (2011)

What it’s about: Three grown daughters of a professor of Shakespeare return to their small, sleepy college hometown for various interesting reasons. Hint: they’ve all screwed up, big.
   The cool thing about the point of view in this one is it’s told in the first-person-plural narrative voice. In other words, it’s sympathetic to and inside the mind of all three characters, but no matter who is the subject of the chapter, the narrator is “we.” It took a bit of getting used to, but it worked, brilliantly.
   For example: “We don’t think Cordy minds, really, because she tends to take things as they come. Rose minds, certainly, because she likes things to align with her mental image. And Bean? Well, it come and goes with Bean, as does everything with her.”
   And it’s a novel, not a play, but besides that, this book perfectly fits the Shakespearean definition of comedy: “play characterized by its humorous or satirical tone and its depiction of amusing people or incidents, in which the characters ultimately triumph over adversity.”
What hooked me: The references to, homage to, and obsession on the part of all the characters with Shakespeare. If you love Shakespeare, like Shakespeare, want to like Shakespeare, or remember one play fondly from schools days under the guidance of an inspired English teacher or professor, this is your book. Even someone who says “no” to all four, if there is such a person, would still enjoy this book for the engaging characters and snarky humor.
Quote(s) from the book:
“What if the name you were given had already been lived in, had been inhabited so well, as a matter of fact, that its very mention brings to mind its original owner, and leaves your existence little more than an afterthought?”
• “We are all gifted with communicating great depths of emotion though the semaphores of our sighs.”
• “Rose and Bean looked at her as though she were a noxious substance we had just stepped in . . . How was it possible, all these years and experiences later, that no one could wound us like the others?”
• And this direct quote from Cordy: “What I mean is, I still feel like me. It’s not like I wake up and think, I am a responsible adult. I just look in the mirror and see myself. The same stupid person I’ve been looking at for years.”

Possible dealbreakers for both books: There’s a major character with advanced cancer in both. Also both contain a character with promiscuous attitudes, although no racy scenes.

Tip for making reading happen in a busy life: I’m going to let Rose (from The Weird Sisters) answer, as she mentally answered a (former) boyfriend who asked how she had time to read a few hundred books a year:
   “Because I don’t spend hours flipping through cable complaining there’s nothing on? Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pre-game, in-game, and post-game talking heads? Because I do not spend every night drinking overpriced beer and engaging in dick-swinging contests with the other financirati? Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train, eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring myself in available reflective surfaces? I am reading! ‘I don’t know,” she said, shrugging.”

Contributed by Elaine Jack, Assistant Editor, Today's Family magazine


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