The Forever War

I am in awe of Dexter Filkins' nonfiction book, The Forever War. The story of his experiences in Iraq (and a little in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan) pulls you in and doesn't let go. My dad gave it to me to read this summer but I ran out of time so I set to read it over this break. Filkins is an American journalist who covered Iraq and Afghanistan for the New York Times. Filkins, through "gut-wrenching and touching vignettes," reveals the human side of war in his book. His book is "not about finger pointing. Nor is it about policy failures or prescriptions. [It] portrays and sympathizes with the men and women facing impossible challenges in Iraq." (x)
He writes about Iraq it in such a blunt manner, but it evokes his situation so clearly. There are so many unbelievable stories in this book, but the most poignant parts come from when he was with the Bravo Company in Falluja (a city in Iraq that was controlled by jihadists) in 2004. He opens the book in Falluja, on the brink of death, with chants of "Allahu Akbar" (god is great) ringing from the mosqus and "Hells Bells" by AC/DC pouring through the marines' loudspeakers. In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company "men had about a one-in-four chance of being wounded or killed in little more than a week." (x) Filkins traveled with Bravo Company with Ashley Gilbertson, an Australian photographer (I've included some of his pictures from Falluja after the break) (who also wrote a book on the Iraq War - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War that I hope to read in the future). One of the many chapters on Falluja is one called Mogadishu, three pages long, and it is a legal advisor briefing marines before the assault on Falluja begins. Filkins presents what he says with no commentary, which makes it so much more powerful. "'Okay, guys, these are going to be the rules of engagement,' the adviser, Captain Matt Nodine, said. He looked across the room. It's going to be slightly different this time, so everybody listen up..." (186)

But the entire book is definitely not just about Falluja; it is about Iraq. It is about SunnisShiitessuicide bombersinsurgents, marines, soldiers, journalists, Abu Ghraib, the Green Zone... The extent to which Americans ignore Iraq is astounding. And that needs to change. But what I loved about The Forever War was that it didn't comment on this fact - it didn't criticize politicians, or campaign for antiwar causes - it simply reported the facts. It gave the readers the story, and let them draw their own conclusions. I don't know Filkins' perspective on the war, but does it matter? His stories helped form mine, which is truly awe-inspiring journalism. Rating: ★★★★★

more pictures and links after the break...


Two Years!

It is unbelievable to me that this book blog has been running for two years now. I've changed so much, and this blog has changed with me. I appreciate everyone that reads it, and I hope to continue working. At the moment, there haven't been as many updates because I have been immersed in my AP English project on Charles Dickens. So I wish everyone Happy Reading over the holidays (a best of 2012 is possibly coming soon) as I continue to get lost in Victorian England!


The Sun Also Rises

I recently read Tender is the Night due to a sudden desire to read literature by the Lost Generation of America. Following that, with a lot of time on my hands due to Hurricane Sandy (check out what to read on a rainy day: a guide by the Burack family), I read the quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, and Hemingway's defining novel, The Sun Also Rises. Having read For Whom the Bell Tolls this summer, and A Farewell To Arms last year, I was ready to read Hemingway's masterpiece. F. Scott Fitzgerald told Hemingway to "let the book's action play itself out among its characters." And it did. The story of Jake Barnes, a hapless war veteran, and Lady Brett Ashley, a seductive British socialite, propels the story. The basis for the novel was Hemingway's life in postwar Paris. Hemingway was part of a society of American writers, poets, and artists disillusioned with America (the poet Ezra Pound, the writer Gertrude Stein, the artist Pablo Picasso, and others).
I think what I enjoyed most about this novel wasn't the story itself, but the idea of the real people who the characters were based upon. This story of Jake, Brett, Robert Cohn, Billy, and others isn't simply a story. It is a portrait of one of the greatest literary movements in America. The epigraph of the novel, "You are all a lost generation" (Gertrude Stein) is what coined the term to describe this movement of writers and artists. I guess why I've been so in love with the Lost Generation recently is not only because I'm looking for answers, as I wrote in my post about Tender is the Night, but because I truly feel as if we're entering a new generation. We're leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, and historically, in the aftermath of wars, it has produced memorable literary movements (such as the Beat Generation post-WWII). I'm waiting for our literary movement; that people will look back on in century, that English teachers will teach about to a mix of bored and enthusiastic high school students, and that I will get to witness. Rating: ★★★★★

Game Change

On the eve of the 2012 presidential election, I am turning my focus back to 2008 - an election of historical proportions. Game Change is the story of the election; the primaries, the candidates, the race itself. Written by political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, the book takes you through the political year of 2008. Part 1 (the longest section) is the story of the Democratic primaries; from Obama's road to the nomination, officially beginning in January 3rd, 2008 in Iowa ("On this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.") to Clinton's exit in June 2008. It was interesting to see a look behind the debates and the news cycle. I didn't really follow the election in '08 as intensely as I am this year, so in reading this I didn't really remember what actually happened during primary season. But it was so powerfully written that it sucked you right back into the election drama. Part 2 (quite short) is the less heightened race of the Republican primaries; McCain's sound defeat of Huckabee and the present 2012 nominee, Romney. Part 3 delves into the race between Obama and McCain, and the choosing of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin for Vice Presidential nominees. Facing backlash over accuracy after it was published in 2010, Heilemann responded, saying, "We tried to tell a story of the intimate reality of what it's like to run for president. Gossip is that which is unverified ... Everything in our book is factual." I read the book at the behest of my dad, who had read it and loved it. Adapted into a film by HBO, focusing on the chapters about Palin's depressive and unresponsive tendencies during the campaign. Game Change received critical acclaim, especially Julianne Moore's portrayal of Palin. So as America prepares to re-elect the 44th president, or elect a 45th, it might be a nice break to reminisce on 2008. Rating: ★★★★


Tender is the Night

The other day, I was really in the mood to read a book by the Lost Generation. So I went out to the nearest bookstore (which happens to be 15 mins away cause bookstores are slowly disappearing) and picked up Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway (I am now currently reading). My interest in the Lost Generation may or may not have been caused by watching Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris; watching these beloved literary figures come to life on screen sparked my curiosity in their work. I watched the film after reading The Great Gatsby (post) by Fitzgerald and A Farewell To Arms by Hemmingway. These authors had just witnessed the Great War, and according to my American History textbook from last year, "believed that contemporary America no longer provided individual with routes to personal fulfillment." They were really upset with the way things were going.

This parallels America today. We just left Iraq, and we are leaving Afghanistan by 2014 (hopefully). While my generation may not realize we're at the end of two seemingly endless wars, we can see that many adults (and young adults) are disillusioned with politics; American approval of Congress fell to a the record-low of 10% in August (source). Voters are upset with the handling of the economy (although its slowly turning around) and the state of foreign affairs (Benghazi, Iran, China, etc). But what is there to do? I guess in reading the Lost Generation's novels, I was searching for some answers. How did they cope with complete disappointment in their government? How did they prepare for what they believed was a very bleak future? Fitzgerald's answer? Write. And so he did...

Tender is the Night is a masterpiece. The writing style is simple, yet elegant; for example, "He saw Rosemary for the first time that morning. They exchanged glances, trying to recognize the emotions of the day before. For a moment each seemed unreal to the other-then the slow warm hum of love began again." (84) The novel took Fitzgerald nine years to finish, and many aspects of the novel are based on his own life (most notably his wife's mental illness and his apparent alcoholism). Published in 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, it was criticized for portraying such a frivolous lifestyle of the Roaring 20s when so many people were living in despair. As the book I read during Hurricane Sandy, Tender is the Night's story - of the tragic romance between Dick Diver and Rosemary, Dick's demise, and Nicole's mental illness - was gripping and kept me reading until the very end. It is well-deserving of its spot on Modern Library's Choices. When you have the chance, pick up Fitzgerald's timeless novel (and maybe watch Midnight in Paris while you're at it). Rating: ★★★★★


What to Read on a Rainy Day

A Guide by the Burack Family

As Hurricane Sandy leaves behind damage on the East Coast, I decided to make a handy list on what books you can download to read in bad weather (it doesn't have to be a hurricane). So as we were waiting for the storm to pass (and miraculously still had power) I asked my family to come up with books they think you will enjoy.

Here are five books that I think you can curl up with as you listen to the rain outside...
  1. The World to Come by Dana Horn. The story interweaves "a real art heist, history, biography, theology, and Yiddish literature." Tells the story of the world to come—"not life after death, but the world we create through our actions right now." It really makes you think about the interconnectedness of the past, present, and future.  
  2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: The beloved story of Alice is timeless. Get lost in her adventures, watch the movie adaptation, read Alice I Have Been (I did, I loved it). This is free on the Kindle and iBooks, so you have no reason not to download this to read before your power goes out.
  3. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah: a story of friendship spanning more than three decades. I think I read this about four years ago, and this is the first book I genuinely remember breaking into tears. And thats what we sometimes need on rainy days - a solid story, a good cry, and maybe a cup of hot chocolate. 
  4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albon. The story of Eddie's death on his 83rd birthday. He wakes up in a place where he finds his life explained to him by five people who were in it - loved ones or distant strangers - and changed his life. A very short read, but a very touching one.
  5. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: sometimes what we need on a rainy day isn't a book that makes you think, or a romantic novel, but a pure international mystery thriller. The DaVinci Code delivers, transporting you to Paris to witness the solving of a mystery - who murdered the Louvre's chief curator? 
After the break, recommendations from my family (five books from my parents and five series from my siblings)...


My Ántonia

My Ántonia is the unforgettable story of Ántonia Shimerda. The novel fictionalizes Willa Cather's (the author's) youth in rural Nebraska. The book begins with the epigraph, "Optima dies...prima fugit" - Virgil. Translated from Latin, this means "the best days are the first to flee." This sets the tone for the novel; the memoir of Jim Burden's childhood with Ántonia and growing up with memories of her. This epigraph makes an appearance in the book; when Jim is away at college, studying Latin, he comes across this quote.
As I sat down to my book at last, my old dream about Lena coming across the harvest-field in her short skirt seemed to me like the memory of an actual experience. If floated before me on the page like a picture, and underneath it stood the mournful line: "Optima dies...prima fugit."
-Page 174, My Ántonia
It reminds him of his childhood; the best days of his life so far. The entire novel is nostalgic for his past; Ántonia and growing up on the prairie. As he grows up, and moves away, his life changes drastically from his childhood. And his memories are all that remain. While this is true for many people, some, like Ántonia, remain where they grow up; their memories and present day in the same place. I have never been out west, or on a farm, yet as I was reading, I was immersed in visions of the prairie  Cather's beautiful prose evokes the Nebraska landscape. Exemplifying this is a passage where Jim and Ántonia are watching the sunset.
"On some upland farm, a plough had been left standing in the field. The sun was sinking just behind it. Magnified across the distance by the horizontal light, it stood out against the sun, was exactly contained within the circle of the disk; the handles, the tongue, the share—black against the molten red. There it was, heroic in size, a picture writing on the sun." -Page 156, My Ántonia 
While this is not on the Board of Modern Library's Choices list, is is on the Reader's list, cementing its status as a cornerstone of American literature. I highly recommend you to read it as soon as you get the chance. Rating: ★★★★★


The Last Life

The Last Life is the story of Sagesse LaBasse, and her French-Algerian family, which left Algiers during the political upheavals of the 1950s to settle in the south of France. I thought The Last Life was a memoir, until about a quarter of the way through I looked up the author, Claire Messud, and read her brief bio on Wikipedia. I found out Messud was born in Greenwich, Connecticut and grew up in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Messud's mother is Canadian, and her father is Algerian. So while her book is not a memoir, as a reader, I feel as if many of the underlying themes are true to Messud's family (but I am just making assumptions here; I do not know). Sagesse's family, French colonists who fled Algeria, are pieds-noirs, "torn between their country of origin and their national identity, doomed to be refugees in what ought to be their home." (source) Writing in first person perspective, Sagesse tells the story from two perspectives, recreating her 14- and 15-year-old self while at the same time looking back on her choices with an older self's retrospective wisdom. As a result, the reader gets a layered view of the LaBasse family. Behind the family drama lays a mythologized Algiers, a lost paradise; a vision of "sparkling white buildings climbing the hillside behind the port, the azure glitter of the bay, the alleys of steps winding towards the sky..." The story itself was interesting enough to keep you reading, but I don't think I would recommend it to you unless you really have nothing else to read at the moment. Rating: ★★★


The Cellist of Sarajevo

Before I go into my review of the book, a brief history lesson. We never learned about Bosnia in history class, because its too recent to be deemed history but its too far away to be current. So it is just skipped. During the Bosnian War, Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina) was besieged by Serbian forces for 44 months beginning on May 2nd 1992. The Bosnian government defence forces inside the besieged city were poorly equipped and unable to break the siege. During the siege, 11,541 people lost their lives and 56,000 people were wounded (UN report on the Battle & Siege of Sarajevo). The siege was finally lifted due to the Dayton Agreement and the civilian casualties. During one event, a motar attack while people were lining up for bread, 22 people died. A musician, Vedran Smailović, decided to play his cello at the site of the attack for 22 days to honor the victims. And so he becomes the center of the story, and with him, three strangers (fictional): a sniper, a baker, and a father. I'm torn about liking this book. On one hand, it was a really interesting story about Sarajevo during the siege, and the lives of three characters as they try to cope with life during wartime. And the novel does show, remarkably well, their resilience. But, Galloway (the book's author) fictionalized the main plot point in the story: that of the cellist. Smailović publicly expressed outrage over the book's publication. He believes Galloway stole his name and identity to write his novel. One reviewer asks,"Does an author of fiction owe a duty to the reader to present history accurately, or does the fact that he claims this is fiction absolve him from that moral responsibility?" (source) I think that this would have been a fantastic novel if Galloway had received Smailović's permission to write his story and if it had erred on the side of historical accuracy, not creative license. However, it did prompt me to learn more about the Bosnian War, and for that, I encourage you to read it. And on a side note, in April of this year, Smailović returned to Sarajevo (after he fled in 1993) to play his cello on the 20th anniversary of the start of the siege of Sarajevo (read more here). Rating: ★★★★


Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children is an awe-inspiring novel of epic proportions. Rushdie tells the story of Saleem Sinai, born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the moment of India's independence. Saleem becomes linked to India; his life is inseperable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. What drew me to this book was (apart from its critical acclaim and place on Modern Library's Choices) but the promise of a magnificent story. Filled with magic and mysticism; Saleem and the 1,000 others born during the initial hour of India’s independence (Midnight’s Children) possess magical talents; the more potent the gift, the closer to midnight they were born. Saleem is telling his story to Padma, looking back on the past thirty years of his life (and of India’s history). As Rushdie writes in the introduction to the 25th anniversary edition, “Like all novels, Midnight’s Children is a product of its moment in history, touched and shaped by its time in ways that its author cannot wholly know.” Midnight's Children concerns itself with the character and history of India and Pakistan. It goes into detail about the struggles between different religions, classes, languages, and geographical regions. Out of the 13 books I've read so far this summer, Rushdie's novel has taken me the most time to read by a long shot. I don't think this is due to the difficulty of the story but the complexity of it. The novel is both old and contemporary; tradition is juxtaposed with modernity and both mythology and religion play large roles. It was a fantastic novel, to say the least. Fun fact: it's being made into a movie, premiering this fall. Rushdie helped with the screenplay, so the adaptation is bound to be good. I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes, with Saleem discussing Snakes and Ladders. Snakes are a motif throughout the novel, and here, Saleem is hinting at Shiva, the other boy born at midnight, destined to be his counterpart.
“All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will compensate. But it’s more than that; no mere carrot-and-stick affair; because implicit in the game is the un-changing twoness of things, the duality of up against down, good against evil; ... but I found, very early in my life, that the game lacked one crucial dimension, that of ambiguity—because, as events are about to show, it is also possible to slither down a ladder and climb to triumph on the venom of a snake...” 161
Rating: ★★★★★


The Chosen

The Chosen tells the story of a friendship between two Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn at the end of World War II. Reuven Malter, the narrator, is an Orthodox Jew. Danny Saunders, the other protagonist, is a Hasid. Hasidic Jews are the most conservative members of the Orthodox branch of Judaism. Chaim Potok, an American rabbi and scholar, was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in 1929. Potok takes you on a journey as these two boys come of age and become friends. The outside world groups Reuven and Danny together due to their shared religion; but in reality, they are quite different. The Chosen highlights the tensions between Jewish tradition and modern American life. Potok explores this theme by writing about the ways in which Reuven and Danny's Jewish communities attempt to strike a balance between tradition and modernity. The Chosen traces the intellectual, moral, and psychological growth of Reuven and Danny; they develop along parallel lines due to their strong friendship. What I really liked about this novel is the fact that it immerses its readers in the time period effortlessly. World War II is ending and stories of the Holocaust are just beginning to emerge on the shores of America. The impact that this monumental loss of life has on the American Jewish population varies from community to community and Reuven and Danny's fathers react very differently. Which is interesting to me, growing up where it seems like American Jews are united in their basic perspectives on the Holocaust and Israel. This novel is profound and very well written. I highly recommend reading it. Rating: ★★★★★


Primary Colors

Primary Colors is truly "A Novel of Politics." The novel is a roman à clef, a work of fiction "that purports to describe real life characters and events." The book is a version of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign in 1992. It has been compared to the other definitive novel about American politics; Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men (which I read earlier this year and absolutely adored). I began reading the novel with the thought that it would take me a while to finish; it was just over 500 pages and all about politics. But to my astonishment, I was drawn into the story from the first page, and I could barely put it down. The book is narrated by Henry Burton, who describes the primary campaign with southern governor Jack Stanton. As the back of the book says,
Primary Colors puts you inside the hotel rooms, the bedrooms, the cell-phone conversations, the power plays, the media frenzy. And leaves you wondering: Is this man just an insatiable political animal? Or is he America's last best hope?
The novel itself is an American classic. It is more current than Penn Warren's All the King's Men because it focuses in part on the 24/7 news cycle that is such a part of politics today. It is also a true testament to the behind the scenes work that goes on constantly during political campaigns for office. Behind every politician is a large team that the public barely knows about. If you haven't had the chance to read this novel yet, I highly recommend it. Rating: ★★★★★

The Dubious Salvation of Jack V.

The Dubious Salvation of Jack V.  is South African Jack Strauss' debut novel of 11-year-old Jack growing up in apartheid South Africa. As one reviewer writes, "Childhood innocence can be hilarious. And brutal. This searing debut by a young South African writer captures the grotesque horror of apartheid in daily life." Strauss' novel takes the issue of apartheid indirectly. For Jack, politics is not an issue. The story is a light read, definitely aimed at young adult readers. Jack narrates the novel, looking back from an older age. The premise of the story is how, at the age of eleven, he “betrayed Susie, our housekeeper, my friend, my second mother.” He gives readers a sense of what South Africa was like under the last days of apartheid (though that word is never mentioned in the novel). It is very interesting to see this through a child's eye; children have different a perspective from adults on the way the world works. Change may have been imminent, but there were still housewives in Jack’s neighborhood in a white part of Johannesburg who said, “A dishwashing machine? What would I need with one of those? All you need is a little black magic.” The story really revolves around Jack and Susie, his housekeeper. Overall, an easy young adult read. Rating: ★★★★


The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show is one of Larry McMurtry's most powerful, memorable novels and the basis for the enormously popular movie of the same name. Set in a small, dusty, Texas town, "The Last Picture Show introduced the characters of Jacy, Duane, and Sonny: teenagers stumbling toward adulthood, discovering the beguiling mysteries of sex and the even more baffling mysteries of love." It is, pretty much, a coming-of-age novel. While I enjoyed reading it, it wasn't my favorite of the novels I read this summer. At times, it got tedious to read. The story was a familiar one; two high school seniors preparing to face the world. Although facing the world in the 1950s is totally different than 2012, similar themes resonate. Maybe I didn't like The Last Picture Show as much as I thought I would because even though it was difficult at times to relate to Sonny (the main character) usually if I can't identify with the character personally, the story keeps me going. But the story wasn't that interesting that I had a burning desire to keep reading. Therefore, I would only recommend this book to you if you have a strong penchant for western, coming of age, 1950s novels (which is quite specific, but I honestly think that's the only audience that would appreciate this novel). Rating: ★★★


For Whom The Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway was a writer who took many of his personal experiences and used them as inspiration for his novels. In 1918, he was a volunteer ambulance driver for the Red Cross, serving in Italy. He was soon injured and hospitalized, subsequently becoming involved with a nurse. This provided the basis for his famous novel, A Farewell To Arms, published 1929. After World War I, Hemingway lived in Paris, where he socialized and worked with other disillusioned American artists and writers (known as the Lost Generation). Hemingway became interested in Spain, writing The Sun Also Rises about Americans in postwar France and Spain. This brings us to For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the Civil War that was happening there. And so comes the story of Robert Jordan, an American working with Spanish guerrilla fighters. The story begins as Jordan is assigned the task of blowing up a Fascist-controlled bridge. I will not go into the plot any further for fear of spoiling it, but it does keep the reader very invested in the story. The phrase for whom the bell tolls is from 17th century British poet John Donne. The epigraph to Hemingway's novel reads
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee.
In Donne's essay, he writes about a man hearing a funeral bell and asking who has died. In this excerpt, it shows Donne answering the question by saying each death affects of all. Every funeral bell "tolls for thee." Therefore, the fact that Hemingway chose this as the title of his novel is poignant in multiple ways; it highlights the importance of community (why Jordan is fighting in a foreign war that doesn't impact him), it shows how the brutality and killing during the war impacts those who witness it (or partake in it), and it reflects Hemingway's political stance (Robert Jordan states he is anti-Fascist, not pro-Communist). Overall, this is a fantastic novel that you should read if you have the chance. Rating: ★★★★★


Digital Fortress

Digital Fortress, the techno-thriller novel written by Dan Brown, is not the type of book I normally read. However, Dan Brown is the author of The DaVinci Code, a novel I read a few years ago and absolutely adored. Therefore, I figured I would try his other famous story. And I was not disappointed. Digital Fortress grabs you tight and doesn't let go. The story revolves around the National Security Agency's code-breaking supercomputer (keep in mind this was published in 1998 so the technology is a bit out of date now). When the this supposedly invincible code-breaking machine encounters a code it cannot break ("Digital Fortress"), the agency calls its head cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, the protagonist of the story. As the description reads, "What she uncovers sends shock waves through the corridors of power. The NSA is being held hostage--not by guns or bombs -- but by a code so complex that if released would cripple U.S. intelligence." Susan's subsequent attempt to decipher what is happening keeps the readers wanting more. The story is exciting and keeps you reading until the very end. It also raises many questions about the questions of government surveillance and the privacy of e-mail and other technological communications. Rating: ★★★★


The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath is the harrowing tale of the Joads, an Oklahoma farm family during the Great Depression. In 1940, John Steinback won the Pulitzer Prize for his work of fiction, and he rightly deserved this honorable prize. Steinback, after deciding to write about migrant farm workers who were pushed out of their homes in the Dust Bowl, lived with an Oklahoma farm family and journeyed with them to California. Interwoven with the story of the Joads are short, expository chapters describing migrants. These descriptive chapters that are interspersed with chapters about the Joads and often foreshadow tragedy; often discussing a certain hardship facing the migrants at large that the Joads then encounter. As I was reading the novel, I came to look forward to these brief intermissions that were rich in description and insight into the migrant life. The introduction to one such chapter (chapter 12) is the perfect example of the masterful writing of Steinback:
[Highway] 66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert's slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road, the road of flight.
A theme that emerged throughout the novel is the mistreatment of migrant workers; the poor conditions in which they are forced to live and work in. While this is the story of America during the 1930s, it can very realistically be applied to America today. Most migrant workers nowadays are illegal immigrants, yet farm owners should not deny them basic rights. Tom Joad, the protagonist the novel, epitomizes the struggle that migrant workers undergo on a daily basis: focusing on one's own immediate needs or risking one's safety by fighting for the common good. In conclusion, The Grapes of Wrath rightfully deserves its #10 spot on Modern Library's Choices (a list that I hope to complete one day). Rating:★★★★★


The Submission

A riveting story, Amy Walden's debut novel tells the story of the (fictional) attempt to chose a memorial for the victims of the September 11th attacks. As it was advertised, "Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath." The story begins with the jury debating between the two final designs in the anonymous competition for the memorial. Claire, a juror and a widowed New Yorker, the representative representative of the families, is pushing "The Garden" design, which ultimately wins. When the jury goes to find out the architect, they learn he is Muslim. And suddenly, they are all thrown into a quandary. The choice of the title is a really clever and interesting one; Islam can be defined as "submission to the will of god" and of course, the plot of the story revolves around submissions to a competition. The dual meaning of submission in the context of this novel struck me as very poignant. The story is interwoven with multiple narrators, but it never feels too complex or confusing. The different voices and perspectives were welcome in advancing the flow of the story. The aftermath of 9/11 for American Muslims was multi-layered, and I found it really interesting when the story addressed the problems American Muslims encountered (and still do). I was hooked on the novel immediately and it was a rather quick read for me. The actual 9/11 memorial architect is Michael Arad, an Israeli-American architect. The composition of the jury that eventually picked Arad's design ("Reflecting Absence") was similar to that of the book. Another historical parallel this novel calls to mind is Maya Lin and the Vietnam Memorial controversy. Maya Lin is a Chinese American who faced accusations after her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was chosen in a blind competition. Amy Waldman was a reporter for the New York Times for eight years, and she covered 9/11 as a journalist. In her novel, Waldman goes into the conflict between one's principles and one's emotions and the tangled relationship between religion and politics. Does religion have a place in politics? Many Americans would say so, but America was founded on "separation of church and state." The Submission is not only a 9/11 novel but a novel about the character of American politics, and I highly suggest you read it (thanks to my mom for telling me to read the novel after her book club did) Rating:★★★★★



 A young adult novel, Hero is the story of Thom Creed, a teenager who is dealing with growing up, discovering his sexual orientation, and the emergence of superpowers. Although it sounds like your typical coming-of-age novel, Hero is unique in the way it goes about this oft-told story. As Maurice Sendak (best known for Where the Wild Things Are) reviews, "Perry Moore brings an enticing new genre to the world of young adult novels." Thom's father is a disgraced former superhero who is also homophobic. So when Thom is asked to join the League (the organization of superheroes that disowned his father), Thom can't say no.
To survive, Thom will have to face challenges he never imagined. To find happiness, he'll have to come to term with his father's past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be.(inside cover) 
At first, I was unsure if I really wanted to read Hero because I wasn't sure if I would enjoy the story. However, I started reading and was sucked in immediately. I know I write this a lot, but I honestly could not put it down. I was lost in the world of Thom, where superheroes can fly by and no one blinks an eye. Moore, who is gay, said "My passion is infinite for more gay heroes in all genres and in all media" (x). I think he did a superb job of creating a realistic gay character, not overly stereotypical as many TV shows and movies do nowadays. Thom is not your average hero, by any means. His story enraptured me, and I recommend all young adults to read this (adults, it may be a bit out of your demographic). Rating: ★★★★

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes its readers on a wondrous journey through the deep South, through the eyes of Huck Finn. Commonly considered a Great American Novel, it was one of the first novels in major American literature to be written in the vernacular. Intended to be a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Sawyer took this on a more serious note, with the themes of slavery, racism, and society in the South taking a more prominent role than the themes highlighted in Tom Sawyer. Huck Finn is the protagonist of the novel, a formally uneducated thirteen year old who is easily influenced by others in his life. After a turn of events that lead to his father regaining custody of him, Huck Finn fakes his own death and escapes into the wilderness. And so begins his adventures. The novel is a perfect balance; lighthearted enough that you enjoy reading it, but serious enough in the sense that you can see Twain's commentary on American southern society in the antebellum period. I thought I was going to have to drag myself through the book, originally reading it just to say I did, but it turns out that I really enjoyed it. If you haven't read this American classic yet, I suggest you add it to your reading list and start the novel as soon as possible! Rating: ★★★★★


The Magician King

The awaited sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Magicians (see my post on the first novel), The Magician King  allows the readers to return to Fillory, the magic realm that Quentin and his friends discover in the first novel. Quentin Coldwater should be happy. "He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood, matriculated at a secret college for magic, and graduated to discover that Fillory - a fictional utopia - was actually real. But even as a Fillorian king, Quentin finds little peace." He is restless, and the premise of the novel is his desire for a quest. Paired with this "quest" is Julia's backstory; how she learned her magic and how it impacts the journey Quentin and Julia are on. In my opinion, I liked the first novel better - we were learning about magic and discovering Fillory with Quentin. The second novel is less so about the magic itself. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading it and could hardly put it down. There are plot turns and twists that the reader doesn't expect, and it was enjoyable, yet I feel like it could have been better in some aspects. For example, the plot doesn't come together until the very very end, leaving the reader a bit confused until the last few chapters. I believe there's going to be a third novel in the trilogy, which I cannot wait to read. This was my second book on my Summer Reading 2012, and it was a perfect summer read. But I only suggest reading it after reading the first novel. Rating: ★★★★


On the Road

The beat generation a movement of young people in the 1950s who rejected conventional society and favored Zen Buddhism, modern jazz, free sexuality, and recreational drugs. The main writers associated with the movement were Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road was published in 1957, and it came to be the epitome of the beat generation. Much of the story of the novel can be taken as autobiographical. Kerouac took events from his life on the road with Neal Cassedy and turned them into the novel. Supposedly written in one sitting, this novel grabs hold of you and doesn't let go. The narrator, Sal Paradise, tells the story of his life on the road with Dean Moriarty, and the story is told in a stream of consciousness method (á la To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf). Dean is reckless, energetic, and a womanizer. Sal is drawn to him because he wants to experience things to write about. On the Road symbolizes the search for fulfillment. It portrays the story of a "fierce personal quest for meaning and belonging." [x] America in the 1950s was a time when WWII had just ended and the Cold War was just getting started. As Americans fought against communism, conformity was welcomed. The beatniks rebelled, and this rejection of the typical life is clear in Kerouac's novel. The excitement they had for the life they lived is evident, such as in this quote from chapter one, as Sal comments on Dean and his friends dancing, "the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn..." On a side note, the movie adaptation of this novel is coming out soon (watch the trailer here), and it hasn't received good reviews, with critics saying it was not the movie they had hoped it would be. If you haven't read On the Road yet, I suggest you do! It was a lovely way to start off my 2012 Summer Reading. Rating:★★★★★


Summer Reading

As summer 2012 begins, I wanted to share 20 books I plan on reading this summer
(which I will update with links to reviews as I read).
  1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac, the defining novel of the Beat Generation of the 1950sPOST
  2. The Magician King by Lev Grossman, the sequel to The Magicians (post here), about Quentin and Julia's adventures in Fillory, POST
  3. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, hallmark novel in American literature, a tale of adventure, POST
  4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, "story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles - and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined." I couldn't get through it, eek!
  5. Hero by Perry Moore, about Thom Creed, a boy with super powers who has a rocky relationship with his father, POST
  6. The Submission by Amy Waldman, jury choses a memorial for the 9/11 attack only to find out the architect they chose is Muslim (fiction), POST
  7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinback, another landmark American novel about a family of Okies during the Great Depression, POST
  8. Digital Fortress by Dan Brown, when NSA's code-breaking machine encounters a mysterious code it cannot break, the agency calls in Susan Fletcher, who discovers something big, POST
  9. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway, hailed as one of "the best war novels of all time", it tells the story of an American during the Spanish Civil War, POST
  10. The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurty, a coming of age story in a small town, POST
  11. The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. by Jacques Strauss, a novel about 11yr old white boy, Jack, living in Johannesburg during apartheidPOST
  12. Primary Colors by Anonymous, a "look behind the scenes" in American politics, POST
  13. The Chosen by Chaim Potok, the story of two fathers and two sons "and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each", POST
  14. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, about a boy born at the stroke of midnight as India got her independence, and how his health is bound to that of his country, POST
  15. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, about a young musician determined to play his cello at the site of a mortar attack, his story interweaving the lives of four strangers, POST
  16. The Last Life by Claire Messud, a novel about the history of a French American family, narrated by a young woman with a "ruthless regard for truth", POST
  17. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, the story of a man who turned himself invisible and becomes crazy. A hallmark science fiction novella. 
  18. Suite Francaise by Iréne Némirovsky, a book written during the Holocaust only to be discovered 64 years after the author was killed at Auschwitz
  19. Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward, an inside look at Obama's presidency
  20. Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan, a mystery about a man hoping to escape his past
If you have any suggestions, please, feel free to comment!
Happy summer! 


Cry, The Beloved Country

Cry, The Beloved Country is a fantastic novel by Alan Paton. Evoking biblical language, this three part novel tells the story of South Africa before apartheid. The protagonist is Stephen Kumalo, a Zulu reverend from what was the Natal province of eastern South Africa. The story begins when Kumalo receives a letter from a fellow reverend in Johannesburg telling him that his sister is ill. From there, the plot delves into Kumalo's experiences in Johannesburg and highlights three main themes; the bonds between father and son (Kumalo searches for his son, Absalom who has not responded to his father's letters in quite some time), racial inequality and injustice in South Africa, and the influence of Christianity on South Africans. The title is in one of my favorite quotes from the book;
This is no time to talk of hedges and fields, or the beauties of any country... Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.
What I found was really interesting about this novel was that it was written before the policy of apartheid was implemented. Actively fighting for equality wasn't the major focus of the story, so the natives fight against the British is more subtly discussed. The novel became a tad too religious at times for my liking, but I nonetheless thought it was extremely well-written. Many scenes are written so similar to the Old Testament and other ancient books that you half-expect them to be quotes. All-in-all, it wasn't a very long read so I highly recommend picking it up if you have the time. Rating: ★★★★


Reading Lolita in Tehran

A memoir framed through western classics, Azar Nafisi's story of her defying the Islamic Republic of Iran to teach this literature in her country, where anything remotely western is looked down upon, is a gripping and insightful read. The memoir is divided into four sections, Lolita, Gatsby, James, and Austen - each focusing on their titular book or author.
As Nafisi writes in the beginning of part one, about Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov, "Against the tyranny of time and politics, imagine us the way we sometimes didn't dare to imagine ourselves...reading Lolita in Tehran...against all odds." Having read Lolita earlier this year, it was really interesting for me to see Lolita through the eyes of these Iranian women. Nafasi, after quitting her job at the university, decides to hold classes once a week in her home for students who truly want to learn. Part two, Gatsby, about The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald, was my favorite section. It takes place 11 years before Lolita (part one). Before reading part two, I decided to read The Great Gatsby so I had a better understanding of what was happening. And I fell in love with the story. Fitzgerald, a writer from the the Lost Generation (a period in American history following World War I), tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man hopelessly in love with Daisy (the movie looks fantastic). In Nafisi's class at University, the Islamic fundamentalists denounce the book as a sign of Western decadence and extravagance, claiming it condones adultery. In an exercise, Nafisi decides to put the book on trial, with Mr. Nyazi (leader of the fundamentalists in her class) representing the prosecution and Nafisi representing Gatsby. I won't ruin what happens, but suffice to say, it is truly one of my favorite scenes in the novel. Part three,  James, about Henry James, takes place right after Gatsby (chronologically). The Iran-Iraq war is underway, and Nafisi is expelled from the University of Tehran. Part three served to give the reader a greater sense of Nafisi's backstory and the political/religious climate in Iran. Part four, Austen, about Jane Austen, occurs after Lolita. Pride and Prejudice is the main focus of the section. I had not read Pride and Prejudice, so I decided before reading part four I would read it. I thought it was amazing - I was completely swept up in Elizabeth Bennet's and Mr. Darcy's relationship. In Nafisi's book club, they discuss marriage, men, and sex in Iranian society. Overall, this was a really interesting way to look at Iran - through western literature. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice as companions to Reading Lolita in Tehran. Each of the four parts could be read as their own story; together, they make a masterpiece. Rating: ★★★★★


Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling are probably my favorite books of all time. I don't know how eloquently I'm going to be able to express my love for these novels, but, bear with me, I'm going to try. My earliest memory of Harry Potter is my dad reading the first book to me and my sister, Sami, when I was 8 years old and Sami was 5. The story of Harry, Ron, and Hermione enraptured me. I fell in love with the world of magic and wished desperately to be a part of it. I also romantically attach my love of reading to starting the Potter series. As you might be aware, I am an avid reader. I attribute the Harry Potter books for being the catalyst to my love of reading. 

The rest of this post is after the break - it's very long! (I could go on forever...)


Purple Hibiscus

The conflict between religion and tradition is an often-told story, yet Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (known for award-winning novel Half of a Yellow Sun) makes this conflict interesting and fresh, as the subject of her debut novel, hailed as "one of the best novels to come out of Africa in years." Purple Hibiscus is the tale of 15-year-old Kambili. Kambili and her brother have grown up under her repressive and fanatically religious Catholic father, Eugene, who has subjected his family to both physical and emotional pain. While the conflict between religion and tradition is skillfully interwoven throughout the novel, Adichie also focuses on Kambili's coming of age journey, struggling to balance what her father has taught her and what her aunt and cousins are attempting to show her. When a military coup destabilizes the country, Kambili and Jaja, her brother, go to live with their Aunt for a few weeks. There, Kambili begins to understand that life doesn't revolve around money, social status, and religion, but family, education for the sake of learning, not being the best, and other values that her father has looked down upon. The language in the novel is very potent, highlighting the Nigerian landscape and Kambili's reactions. When Kambili returns home after living with her Aunt for some time, she writes, "I wanted to tell Mama that it did feel different to be back, that our living room had too much empty space..." (192). She reminds me of a quote from, surprisingly, the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, "It's a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realized what's changed, is you." I think this is definitely applicable to Kambili in the sense that after realizing that her father's way of life is not necessarily the one she wants to have, she begins to truly find herself. Overall, I think this was a fairly easy read dealing with difficult material - domestic violence, the struggle "between the old gods and the new." If you enjoy reading Purple Hibiscus, I also highly recommend The Thing Around Your Neck, Adichie's most recent novel. It's a collection of 12 short stories about Nigerian families in America and Nigeria. Rating: ★★★★



The tale of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, Marjane Satrapi's graphic-novel/memoir is brilliant and unique. Telling the story of the fall of the Shah and the triumph of the fundamentalists through a child's point of view makes for an extremely interesting story. At first, I was hesitant to read a book that was a graphic novel, but I was drawn right in immediately (After the break for a scan of one of the beginning). This is "the story of a childhood" and it takes you through the turbulence of Iran in the 1980s - the war with Iraq, the takeover of the American embassy, the increasingly severe regime. Marjane's parents were at first overjoyed with the overthrow of the Shah, as were most Iranians. Yet they were soon disillusioned with the new regime. For example, shortly after the revolution, Marjane's mother is assaulted by a group of men because she wasn't wearing the proper clothes - a shapeless chador. As she says, "'They insulted me. They said that women like me should be pushed up against a wall and f*cked. And then thrown in the garbage. And if I didn't want that to happen, I should wear the veil.'" and Marjane comments, "That incident made my mother sick for several days."(74) Soon, Iran is attacked by Iraq and Marjane grapples with the meaning behind these attacks. In the beginning, she is extremely patriotic and sympathizes with the plight of her people under Iranian invasion. Marjane's father believes that "the real Islamic invasion has come from our own government." (81) and that the real danger in Iran isn't the invading force, but the ever-radicalizing citizens within. Marjane wrote a sequel, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, which tells the story of living abroad during her teenage years and her desire to return to Iran. The complete memoir was published (parts 1 and 2 together) in The Complete Persepolis and was made into an animated French movie in 2007, aptly titled Persepolis. Overall, Marjane Satrapi's memoir is not only a fantastic work of literature but a stunning work of art. Her childhood is so interesting and enthralling that you simply cannot stop reading. An inspiring quote to end with - "It's fear that makes us lose our conscience. It's also what transforms us into cowards." Rating: ★★★★★


Brother, I'm Dying

The second book I read by Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat (see the first one here) is her memoir, with focus on her father and uncle. When Edwidge was four, her father left for America, leaving her, her mother, and her brother behind. He promised to send for them in a few years. Two years later, her mother left for America and Edwidge and her brother, Bob, went to stay with their uncle, a preacher. He became a replacement father for the two young children. When her parents finally sent for them, Edwidge was already 12 and she wasn't even sure she wanted to go to America - everything she knew was in Haiti. Alas, it was her real parents, so she had to go. The entire memoir is framed by Edwidge's first pregnancy and her father's terminal illness. Her story is interesting but what I really loved about the memoir was when we learn about Uncle Joseph and her father (the brothers in the title). Haiti's history is not a happy nor stable one, and the turbulent life of Joseph, living in Bel Air (one of Haiti's most dangerous slums, plagued by poverty crime, violence, and political unrest). Throughout the memoir, as one reviewer wrote, "Danticat also tells a wider story about family and exile, the Haitian diaspora, the Duvalier regime, and post-9/11 immigration policy...[the memoir] offers insight into a talented writer, her family history, and the injustices of the modern world." [x] What is also remarkable about the memoir is that while at some parts it reads like a political novel, at other times it is a tragic story, or a story about family - yet it is truly her story, and her story alone. Rating:★★★★


The Dew Breaker

This is the first of two posts about Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat (see the second one here). This collection of short stories, all linked around the story of a Dew Breaker, which according to Danticatcomes from a Creole phrase which refers to those who break the serenity of the grass in the morning dew. It is a Creole nickname for torturer." The titular dew breaker is introduced to the readers in the first story, as a Haitian émigré who has settled in America and whose daughter, Ka, is now a sculptor. We don't see them again until the ninth and final story of the novel, where it gives the reader his history. The stories are all indirectly related to this Dew Breaker. My favorite story was "Night Talkers" about Dany, a young man who has traveled back to Haiti to visit his aunt. He his there to tell her that he found the man who murdered his parents (his landlord, the Dew Breaker himself). It's interesting to see how the aunt reacts to finally finding the murderer and Dany's struggles with whether the Dew Breaker should be allowed redemption. In other stories, Danticat delves into the troubles of making life in America as a Haitian immigrant, or the problems encountered under François Duvalier's regime. Under "Papa Doc" (François) and his son, "Baby Doc" (Jean-Claude Duvalier) Haiti suffered greatly, thanks to men like the Dew Breaker in the novel. Not until Jean-Claude was overthrown by a popular uprising in 1986 was Haiti free of the dictatorship that they had been under for almost three decades. Danticat's collection of short stories is wondrously written. It is the story of a man's history intertwined with that of his nation's and of many other immigrants. Rating: ★★★★


All The King's Men

Called the "definitive novel about American politics" by the New York Times, and rated the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize winning 1946 novel All The King's Men is centered around the corrupt political boss Willie Stark in Louisiana in the 1930s. The novel's fictional story is the based on the true story of Huey "Kingfisher" Long, a charismatic and popular governor and senator who was criticized for his demagogue-like tendencies. On the outside, the novel is essentially the story of the political rise and fall of Willie Stark, as narrated by Jack Burden. Yet truly the novel is the story of Jack Burden. In many ways, Jack is the novel's protagonist. He has no ambition or desire to do anything with his life; he falls easily into the role of Willie's right-hand-man. Willie comes into power by determination and hard work. I think Jack admires him for this - yet he can't accept the fact that he has responsibility to work in life. By working for Willie, Jack undergoes a remarkable transformation: he matures and begins to grasp what it means to have consequences for actions. Jack, trained in school as a researcher, uncovers people's deep dark skeletons for Willie to use - only until later in the novel does he realize how potent uncovering the truth truly is, narrating "For the truth is a terrible thing." The book starts off a bit slow, but stick with it. The ending gets very intense - you can't put it down! Plus, it's a nice classic book to have read. Rating: ★★★★★


House of Sand and Fog

A story about an Iranian family's interaction with a troubled American woman, House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III is truly a masterpiece. Kathy Nicolo is evicted from her house because of a bureaucratic error and Colonel Behrani, once a wealthy Iranian who has to flee because of the 1979 Revolution, buys her house in government auction. Sheriff Lester Burdon finds himself inexplicably falling in love with Kathy, even though he is married, and determined to help her fight with whatever means necessary to regain her house. The Colonel, at the start of the novel, is working two jobs a day, picking up trash on the side of the highway in the blaring California sun and working in a convenience store at night. Yet, he doesn't want his family to think he's not working like pooldar (the weathly) and wears a suit out of the house in the morning to keep up appearances for his wife, Nadi and son, Esmail. I admire the Colonel for what he is doing. Although he might have a shady past in Iran, it's his desire to protect his family that makes him do what he does. So when he sees a house put up for a good sale, he immediately jumps on the opportunity to create a profit to get the funds necessary for a university education for Esmail. It's not as simple as that, with Kathy and the Sheriff fighting as hard as they can to stop him from doing so. Yet neither the Colonel nor Kathy have broken the law - so they're in this terrible moral quandry. Kathy has a troubled past; her husband left her, she's a recovering drug addict, and refuses to reach out to her family. So while there's this sense of sympathy the reader feels for her, she just keeps making the wrong decisions. It was made into a movie in 2003 (trailer here), and reviews were positive, one saying "You feel you not only know these people but where they come from" [x] The novel turns into a thriller in the end (brace yourself for a surprising ending) and Dubus does a fantastic job of giving the reader a peek into the dynamic of a once-wealthy Iranian family and the struggles of woman attempting to gain stability in her life. Rating: ★★★★


The Stolen Child

A fairy-tale for adults, Keith Donohue's novel The Stolen Child is the story of the double life of Henry Day. Inspired by the W. B. Yeats poem The Stolen Child, "...Come away, O human child!/To the waters and the wild..." Donohue's novel centers around the idea of changelings, faeries who kidnap human children and replace them with one of their own. Then the kidnapped child becomes a changeling and waits for his turn to re-enter the world. The changelings live for decades, frozen in the body they were kidnapped in, unable to grow until they switch with a human children. The real Henry Day is kidnapped, and switched with a changeling who has been waiting for a little under a century. The human Henry Day becomes Aniday, the changeling. The unnamed changeling becomes Henry Day, a perfect son. The parallel stories of the Henry Days unfold through their respective perspectives. Originally, I found Henry Day's narration (the new Henry Day, not the changeling Aniday who was formerly Henry Day) more riveting because it showed him struggling with concealing his history, pre-changeling and changeling, as he tries to fit back into the human world. Yet, at the end of the novel, I liked Aniday as a narrator better because of his overarching transformation. The novel itself a really interesting commentary on identity - how the changelings completely transform into a human - the physical appearance is identical, yet the personality and the qualities change. Mr. Day had his suspicions about the changing nature of his son, but Mrs. Day never seemed to notice - or didn't want to. The Stolen Child is completely grounded in reality, besides the idea of the changeling, and the novel scarily seems completely plausible. The novel is prefaced with lines from the poet Louise Glück, "We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory." Rating: ★★★★