Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
In the end, Forrest Gump came to mind. Could one family’s life and its most immediate network be touched by so many (if not all) of the twenty-first century crises facing the world, including the story’s setting of the United States? Dysfunctional families, self-sufficiency, existential depression, chemical depression, teenage sex, 9/11, Bush-Cheney-Obama, corrupt multinational military contracts, Middle East conflict, elected officials, Zionism, appointed philanthropists, old money, new money, illicit affairs, divorce, illegitimate children, college athletics, gay rights, the arts, the Appalachian region, mountain top removal (MTR), coal versus oil, wildlife conservancy, entrepreneurism, carbon footprints, stock market collapse, housing market losses, overpopulation and the Catholic Church, struggling musicians who would have written serious music “if not for the accident of success,” underground Battle of the Bands in West Virginia, drugs, alcohol, peripheral internet porn, Blackberrys, texting, global outreach, anger on the fringes, access to everything and nothing simultaneously, “the beating wing of a single butterfly,” deep abiding love and loyalty – other topics blended into the story told through different people even when Patty kept the center. The sharp and developed social criticism that emerged shaped my view of global engagement. The author’s energetic, kinetic, and frantic syntax filled my head and one night, my dreams were narrated by his writing voice.
Freedom serves as the compelling commonality – as a choice, an outcome, a right, a by-product, a motivator, or an expectation – of each individual’s experience. And the author is almost, but not quite, guilty of trying to balance too much of too much when he finishes the novel through a classical American storybook ending.
A Dog’s Purpose by R. Bruce Cameron
This is the story of our lives. Give this book to people you love. Tell this story to your family. We have all known this to be true. Simple, complex, heart-breaking, and affirming. One of my new favorite books ever (The Story of Little Tree, The Shipping News, The Old Man and the Sea, and A Moveable Feast)
Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
What is fear? Where do we find security? How big is the world and how much of it do we need to know to be safe? How much do we need to know to function? This is a brilliant book. I can’t imagine being able to write it but I can certainly imagine thinking about such things. It is dark and chilling for it’s beginning and it jabbed my soul. Nothing is better than evil being brought to the light through a child’s eyes.
Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent
Dad gave me this one. Cajun country Louisiana, black/white difference and discovery, doing the right thing and “shit happens” anyway. It is a beautiful story even with the “uh, oh” moments of “good to be a Christian” tendencies that made me wonder if I would finish reading it before I was witnessed to in a book. I finished it and didn’t feel like I had to been subjected to a Baptist born-again revival so I recommend that you stick with it until the end. The writing is excellent, the humor is laugh right out loud, and the tears are genuine. This is a true story. Be prepared to see yourself in the mirror.
The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva
The premise seemed promising; stolen art, murder, and discovery of horrible secrets along the way. But a tale of universal interest is lost in the author’s true storyline that is painted poorly with huge brushstrokes – bad Nazis, good Zionists, pro-Israel global citizens and small-minded provincial anti-Semitics.
The Millenium Triology (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked Over the Hornet’s Nest) by Stieg Larsson.
I liked the first book the best. I understood the characters and their motivations. It was exciting to read about a place that I did not know. It made me want to bring a map and chart the streets, the “gates,” and paths taken. I was especially intrigued by Kalle Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander – great characters, well developed. Early on, I thought that Lisbeth was the main character but now I wonder if it is Kalle. Excellent work. The last installment…. I think was a compilation of all that had been discussed and said before. I don’t think it is a lie but I do think it all occurred after Larsson died. Whoever completed that work told the truth – the entire book reflects the intent of the author but not the author’s work. A read worth the time.
Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber.
Okay - it will be THE Hallmark movie of the 2010 or 2011 holiday season and everyone will feel good about giving it to their aunt or grandmother for Christmas. Like all of the Jan Karon books, no one will be embarrassed to recommend it. Jessica Lansbury will be asked to play Mrs. Miracle.