Wednesday, May 30, 2007

caviar and twinkies

The last two books I've read are like caviar and Twinkies. One was a delight, nuanced and complex. The other managed to be even less than the packaging promised, and that's saying something.

First, the caviar. If you haven't read Jodi Picoult's latest novel My Sister's Keeper put it on your list. The book follows Anna, youngest of three. Anna's older sister Kate has a rare and aggressive cancer. Anna knows from the beginning that her parents went to great lengths to have her because she is a perfect genetic match. Anna can donate anything Kate needs and gives, literally of herself, over and over again.

As the story begins, Kate needs a kidney and this time, Anna finds a lawyer and begins the process of medical emancipation. But the reasons behind her decision are not clear and the fissures her actions send through her family are far more than she could have predicted.

Picoult spins a complex tale of love and sacrifice, of need and sustenance. Can a parent value the life of one child more than another? Is there ever a time when the child dying of cancer is not the one most in danger of being lost? I wanted to savour this book, to stretch out in it like warm sunshine but I couldn't. Picoult's story took hold and everything else, other plans for the day and even the sunshine itself had to wait until it was done.

And then there was the Twinkie. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't have high expectations going into this book. I was on day three of horrible cold and wanted a story that wouldn't ask for much. You know how sometimes you really just want nachos for dinner and not the good kind, but the ones with the cheese-type sauce served at movie theatres and bowling alleys? That's what I was looking for with this book. It didn't deliver.

Leah McLaren's The Continuity Girl is listed as chick lit, and I love a good girlish book from time to time. It's also a first novel and I'm willing to cut some slack for that, but come on. This one claimed that the author was "Canada's Carrie Bradshaw" . . . not so much. (Although when you get to the end of the book and realize that the cover quote almost certainly comes from a work colleague it makes a little more sense.)

If I had to say something good about this book it's this: Leah McLaren, I want your agent. Clearly he or she is a miracle worker. This book could win a prize for most cliches in 300 pages. It alternated between plot points so obvious they screamed at you from five chapters back to holes in the plot that you could drive an entire convoy of trucks through. It was the proverbial train wreck, I had to keep reading just to see how far she would go, how bad it would get. If for some reason you want to read this anyway, you can have my copy.

Next up:
28 Stories of AIDS in Africa
Special Topics in Calamity Physics (A Novel)

Not necessarily in that order.

5 comments:

ramblin'andie said...

I'm so glad you critique your books on here. I can always tell if I'm going to like a book or not based on what you say. Thanks!

◄THIS IS ME said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
◄THIS IS ME said...

I always find a scathing review to be a good read :)

Beck's Bulletin said...

Glad to see that My Sister's Keeper ranked as cavier! I thought of you as I read and am delighted to see that you too were captivated by it! Yeah for me lending you a good book instead of the other way around! I do love reading your book reviews!

DAve & JAnie said...

Your mom sent me home with that book you have brought her (something or other memory) to read. I am just waiting for a lazy afternoon when the house is all clean, school work is done, I am on top of corrina activity planning, and we have no one to visit.... so in about five years! Then I will sit down and red that book! Ha ha, I hope a moment like that comes sooner than 5 years... but at this rate!
mini update: corrina is doing well. She was in the sound booth today and wasn't really paying attention to the noises being presented... we could usually tell that she was hearing them but she wasn't interested in responding to them! She's sleeping now... she gets very tired out with this listening thing. I don't think I will get a post up today, but i wanted to let you know the scoop!
Love Janie