Friday, May 23, 2008

what I've been reading lately Pt.2

I realized that I never wrote about the other book club selections. The first two books of the book club were Aryn Kyle's God of Animals (which I mentioned before) and Hisham Matar's In The Country of Men.

Both books were coming of age stories. The God of Animals about a young girl who lives on a horse ranch and the story of her life with her dysfunctional family. In The Country of Men about a 9 year old boy in 1970s Lybia who observes the effects of a dissident government uprising on his family and neighborhood. They were both somber stories. I could relate to The God of Animals as someone who has experienced similar struggles of pre-adolescence, the confusing things that adults seemed to do and say (often contradictory), the self-consciousness, the urge to say things that were bottled up and never having the guts to do so.

In The Country of Men was a little harder for me to relate to. The names and some of the vernacular felt exotic to me. And my ignorance of the politics from that time period (globally as well as what was local to the story) felt sort of like a hindrance to really grasping the story. There were some nice literary touches (the descriptions of the heat and the sun) that I could get into, but with a less than satisfactory ending and the overall sadness that I felt about the story, I can't say that this will be a book I will remember fondly.

I also had a problem with the ending in God of Animals. Are endings just hard to write? It felt just a little tidy and glancing. But the rest of the story was enjoyable if a bit tense at times (for me). Also, I think that as both books wrote stories from the perspectives of their young protagonists (in first person narrative even) there were bits of insight that were conveyed in a way that I feel that only an adult would be able to express. It comes from a retrospective with experience and the sort of self-inspection that I just don't think kids are capable of. This is not to say that kids can't be self aware. But it's of a different sort. There's more innocence and naiveness to it and I feel like both writers fell short of satisfactorily conveying this innocence in their protagonists' narratives.

I haven't participated in any of the book club discussions which happen in the comments section of their blog (on their npr site). I guess my two cents aren't worth putting out there and some of the previous commentors have already expressed some of my thoughts. But I'm glad it's out there. It's interesting to read what others have to say and to see how different people respond to each book selection. I'll be looking forward to the future selections and let you know about them too.

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