She not only travels and writes, she reads a lot – Kindled books, audio books and actual books. I imagine she also reads the backs of cereal boxes, directions that come with tech gadgets, trashy murder mysteries, Shakespeare’s sonnets and everything put on paper by the six people in our writing group.
Nancy prefers nonfiction, but dabbles in fiction. She wants us to keep this in mind while reading her comments on novels.
Here are her takes on three books she read last year:
Cutting for Stone, a novel by Abraham Verghase
“I read this nearly 500-page book in two parts – a four-month period in between. To the author’s credit, I did not need to review any of the beginning when I returned to it. All the characters and the story line were still embedded in my memory. That is not a tribute to my memory, but to Verghase’s story. Most of the book is set in Ethiopia where twins are born to a Caucasian surgeon (named Stone) and a nun from India.
I know … you need to trust the author.
The book takes place during the 1970s when Haile Selassie was emperor and then overthrown. The author is a surgeon himself and, therefore, there is a lot of medical description in the book. Somehow this did not slow the story – the poetry of his writing kept me fascinated. I think I loved the reading of this book so much that I subconsciously spread out the reading of it so as to “keep” it longer.
Toward the end there are some implausible events, but it was easy to forgive them considering the absurdly wonderful read the author created prior. ★★★★ out of four stars.”
A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother by Janny Scott (nonfiction)
“The criticism I’ve heard about this book is that it never would have been written had Stanley Ann Dunham not been Barack Obama’s mother. It’s true – I wouldn’t have read of such a person; however, her life was far more interesting and she was far more singular than I and most everyone I’ve ever met. As an anthropologist, Dunham’s work may not have been as fascinating as that of Margaret Mead’s, but still, it was definitely
We learn of the trials and tribulations it takes to be a cutting-edge anthropologist in an age when people scarcely have the wherewithal to finish long, technical projects. I also understand more about why Barack Obama is how he is.
His “No drama Obama” moniker probably came from spending his formative years in Indonesia. Calmness (and developing a thick skin) is a cultural feature particular to Indonesia. His mother helped foster those traits in him along with the importance of learning. There are also some wonderful black-and-white photos in the book. The picture of the President’s mother at high school graduation shows an uncanny resemblance. ★★★ out of four stars, only because I think the detailed description of her dissertation bogged the reading.”
Little Bee, a novel by Chris Cleave
“Sarah and her husband are trying to reconnect their relationship while vacationing on a Nigerian beach. I know. Who goes to a Nigerian beach for a vacation? Apparently the Brits do.
A brief yet horrifying event occurs on the beach among the British couple, two young Nigerian girls (one of whom calls herself Little Bee) and ruthless soldiers. A moral dilemma ensues and Sarah steps up to the plate; but her husband doesn’t. This decision haunts him for the rest of his life.
When Little Bee (who ended up in a British detention center after the beach incident) is released and has nowhere to go, she turns up on the couple’s steps. Although the story is somewhat implausible, I found it riveting. If they ever make a movie of it, though, I will not be among its audience for there is brutality and sadness beyond the pale.
I listened to this book on CD and heartily recommend it for the voices of Sarah and Little Bee are rendered distinct and beautiful by the reader. Not only that, but the British couple has a preschool boy who not only insists he’s Batman but also is irresistibly cute. The narrator makes his voice indelible as well.
Despite all the sad things that happen in this story, I fell in love with Sarah, Little Bee and Batman. ★★★★out of four stars.”