The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 36)

In the middle of colder days and longer nights, this book was a ray of sunshine and delight.

Osman’s septuagenarian sleuths who meet every Thursday in the Jigsaw Room of their retirement community (hence the name “The Thursday Murder Club’) have become quite adept and tenacious at investigating unsolved murder cases. The members of the group rely on their wide ranging experience; a police officer, a psychiatrist, a nurse, a scientist, a union agitator and one who seems to have many friends in many high places in government, to help untangle these unsolved mysteries.

But when a local developer and his partner are killed under suspicious circumstances, The Thursday Murder Club decides that they will investigate. While their methods are unorthodox and the police are skeptical, this brilliant group begins to make some headway into solving the murders, until another body is discovered.

Osman hits all the right notes. He is witty but never patronizing. His characters are three-dimensional who carry the accumulation of both joy and regret which comes from living long, full lives, but instead of wallowing in the past they are living life to its fullest and finding ways to be both relevant and helpful.

This was a delightful read. I hope we hear more from the Thursday Murder Club!

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian, Lauren and Keith.

Book Study Worthy? Yes!

Read in ebook format.

Posted in Books to Read During a Pandemic, Detective novel, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 64)

Sometimes, during hard times it is helpful to be reminded that there have been other hard times in our past, some that were even more tragic or more difficult than the ones we are currently going through. In The Four Winds, Hannah reminds us of the catastrophic consequences of the drought and Dust Bowl that followed in the wake of the stock market collapse in 1929 which ushered in the Great Depression. 

Four WindsIn 1921, Texas was thriving. Many farmers from the east had been encouraged to come were thriving and families like Elsa Wolcott’s lived comfortable lives. But Elsa, desperately wants to leave her bleak, constrictive life, as a childhood illness has labeled her “delicate,”  “weak” and “unfit.” Tall and thin, she also does not fit the image of beauty like her sister, and so she is stuck, living with her parents with marriage being her only option of escape. That is until she meets Rafe Martinelli. Like her, Rafe wants to escape as well, away from the family farm, away from the constant responsibility. Inevitably, however, these two who dreamed of escaping become trapped when Elsa discovers she is pregnant. Disowned by her own family, Elsa is taken to the Martinelli farm and left to face the consequences. Strong Catholics, the Martinelli’s insist that the two get married, and Rafe too is trapped along with Elsa on the farm.

Two children later, Rafe and Elsa and the Martinelli family have settled into their life. Although difficult at first, Elsa and her mother-in-law have now forged a strong bond of mutual respect and love. Elsa, who was always taught to believe she was fragile, has grown strong on the farm and is able to contribute to the family in ways she never thought possible. Rafe, however, still longs to leave, and is often restless and often shares his dreams with their daughter.

Then the rains stop coming. The land that was so productive is now hard and unyielding and soon dust storms come, burying the landscape and causing death and illness in livestock and humans. By 1934, there is not enough food for the whole family and eventually, they must face into a difficult choice; should they leave their farm and look for a life elsewhere or do they stay and face what looks like certain starvation.

Hannah captures the desperation of these times so well. It was often difficult to read about their terrible choices, the bitterness and guilt that Elsa felt, the content stress and anxiety of having enough to eat or a safe place to sleep. The courage of these desperate people who migrated to California, hoping for a better life, is astonishing, and it makes their bitter and insufferable reception in California all the more galling.

Hannah’s characters come to light in the conflicts between Elsa and Rafe and his unmet expectation and dreams, the tenderness between Elsa and her mother-in-law who both need a solid grounded love, and between Elsa and her daughter who blames her mother for all their hardships. Through it all Elsa tries to navigate a new world where the old rules no longer apply.

Which is something we too are learning to do as we emerge from fifteen months of this pandemic.

Brenda’s Rating: **** (4 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Marian, Sharon, Keith and Ken

Book Study worthy? Yes

Read in ebook format.          

Posted in Books to Read During a Pandemic, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 63)

Alchemists DaughterMary Jekyl is strangely unaffected when her guardian dies. When her parents died when she was a child, she was left in the care of her guardian  for whom she felt very little affection. Now in her twenties, with her guardian gone, she feels a sense of freedom and possibility that she had never previously been allowed to feel. There is just one thing holding her back and that is the fact that she is almost penniless. But Mary believes that she may be able to find her father’s killer, Edward Hyde, for whom there is still large outstanding reward, which would solve all her current financial problems.

After the funeral and the sale of the contents of the small little house where she had lived for most of her life, Mary travels to London by coach with the goal of consulting with Sherlock Holmes. But no sooner has she arrived in London, then she finds that she is in danger from persons unknown. Nevertheless, she perseveres in following the clues she has about Edward Hyde, until they lead her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a mostly feral child who was abandoned to be raised by nuns. Unable leave Diana with the nuns, and hopeful that she might be able to jog Diana’s memory of her father, Mary takes her into her own home.

Then the case seems to take an unexpected turn, merging with a strange case of disapearing women that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been pursuing. As each woman is found and rescued from torture and foul experimentation, Mary takes them in: first, Beatrice Rappaccini, then Catherine Moreau, and finally, Justine Frankenstein.

Pooling their knowledge and gifts together, Mary and the women begin to unravel a diabolical and monstrous plan concocted by a society of immoral and power crazed scientists with only Mary, the gifts of these extraordinary women, and Sherlock Holmes’ powers of deduction to keep the evil this society wants to unleash at bay.

Goss proves that you can improve on a classic! She has created a whole new world of possibilities for the Sherlock Holmes’ genre. The addition of Mary, a smart, intuitive young woman, who is shockingly unfazed by current conventions to the storyline is refreshing and startling. She more than holds her own against Sherlock Holmes, who gives her a certain amount of respect and deference. The other women are also quite intriguing as we learn more about their backstories and what they have had to endure. This is book one of a series called, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, and I am looking forward to reading all of them!

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian and Lauren

Book Study Worthy? Sure, why not!

Read in ebook format.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Books to Read During a Pandemic, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Mystery/Detective, Prize winner, Series, Suspense, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Last Flight by Julie Clark (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 62)

Last FlightClaire is running away from her perfect life. Married to man from a rich and famous family with his own political aspirations, Claire knows the importance of looking perfect all the time. But behind the scenes, her husband is controlling, and has a volatile temper and now she suspects that he is hiding a dark and terrifying  secret. For months Claire has been plotting how to leave and today is her chance to disapear.

Eva is at the airport hoping to leave everything behind. Someone once told her that the best way to do that is to find someone who is willing to switch tickets and their identity with you. But how will she find someone who will be wiling to do that? As she watches the door to the airport she spots a woman who looks haunted, talking one her phone. “I have to get away,” the woman says, and Eva thinks she might have found someone who would be willing to switch identities with her.

Claire, is unsure how to proceed. Her carefully planned escape is not going as planned and she realizes that her husband will quickly see through the back up plan she had to devise on the spur of the moment. Then a young woman approaches her and proposes they help each other.  Once Claire hears the woman’s plan she seizes the moment and agrees to switch identities, clothing, handbags, keys and gives the other woman her ticket to Puerto Rico while she uses the woman’s ticket to Oakland. In that moment it seemed like an answer to prayer.

The next morning, however, Claire sees on the news that the plane she was suppose to be on had crashed and there seemed to be no survivors. While watching the broadcast however, she sees a woman walking behind the reporter in a bright pink sweater just like Claire had been wearing when she switched with Eva. Could Eva still be alive? 

As Claire tries to fit into Eva’s life in Oakland, she realizes that Eva was also running from something. Claire notices that the apartment building where Eva lives is under surveillance and someone seems to be following her as well. Who was Eva and what had she been doing?

As the investigation into the crash continues, media reports of Claire’s death begin to emerge and the swirl of media begins, with Claire’s husband giving a tear filled press conference. But Claire knows that he will never be satisfied until he knows for certain that she is dead, for she knows too much and is threat.  As Claire tries to thread the needle between Eva”s life and her past, she must also find the courage and strength to find her true self and build a life of her own.

This was a truly engrossing and fun read! Filled with lots of clever plot twists, it keep your interest to the very end. A great summer/beach read! 

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Marian, Lauren and Sharon

Books Study Worthy? Just enjoy!

Read in ebook format.

 

    

Posted in Beach Read, Books to Read During a Pandemic, Fiction, Mystery, Psychological Mystery, Suspense, Thriller | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Is that a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos and One Hundred Frogs by Hiroaki Sato (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 61)

As a translator I am fascinated by how words, phrases and texts morph from one language to another. For example there is a famous haiku poem by the Japanese poet Basho about a pond, a frog, and the noise of its jumping that has been translated many times into English. Here are three examples:

Into the old pond

A frog suddenly plunges,

The sound of water.

By Daniel C. Buchanan

old pond

a frog leaping-in 

water note

by Cana Maeda

Old pond, yes, and,

Frog jumping into 

the water’s noise.

by G.S. Frazier

All of these poems and many others are collected in a wonderful book called One Hundred Frogs by Hiroaki Sato, which is a handbook on the art of translating Haiku and Renga styles of poetry. The differences in the tone, the choice of words, the way different things are emphasized in each translation are fascinating to me. Do you emphasize the act of jumping or the noise of the water? Which word do you use: jumping, leaping, plunges or something else? Is the pond old or ancient? Such are the dilemmas translators are faced with!

David Bello explains the idea of translation and its meaning in his book Is That a Fish in your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything. His title is a humorous riff on Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in which a babel fish inserted into your ear would allow you to understand everything that was being said. Although Bellos, a professor of French and comparative literature at Princeton and who teaches courses on translation, maintains a lighthearted tone through out the book, his discussion about translation is actually quite serious. After all, wars have been started on no less than the the placement of a comma, or the mistranslation of the word “adjunct!”

Bellos explores the idea of meaning in translation and how words are always part of a context. If you order a coffee in the morning at your local coffee store the words you use to order, “a tall latte,” have a certain meaning, but those exact same words may have a completely different connotation when used in another context. Common understandings between cultures is also necessary for some translations. For example if you ask someone in China, “Do you promise, cross your heart and hope to die,” in order to extract a promise of them, it would be important that they understand this common childhood understanding of making a promise, otherwise they might think that they will be cursed! In another chapter Bellos also explores the conundrum of translating words from one language into a language where such things do not exist. How do you translate the biblical phrase “white as snow” when snow does not exist in that language?

I found Bellos discussion of the ways in which the ways translations flow in a hierarchically very troubling. Since English is currently the dominant language in the world, translations into English are very important to authors from other countries, as their works can then be read by a wider audience. In fact recently many foreign authors are now writing in English directly rather than go to the trouble of having their works translated. However, what do we lose when one language becomes so widespread and other languages less accepted? If a Haitian author writes in English do we as an international community lose something?

Bellos and Sato have both stimulated my thinking and I often return to these books as I think about the impact words have on ideas, culture and society. We have recently seen #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo cross international boundaries in protests all over the world, There is a universality to the human experience and yet there is also diversity in understanding, and the context in which these ideas take root and grow.

Brenda’s Rating: ***** (5 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend these books to: Keith, Sharon and Ken

Book Study worthy? YES!

Read in ebook and paper format.

Posted in Books to Read During a Pandemic, Non Fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 60)

Spooky, ethereal, and unsettling are the words that come to mind about this book, but strangely this is not a syfi, fantasy or a horror novel, instead it is firmly based in reality.

In the 1900’s three men stationed on a remote lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides, simply disappeared. No one knows what happened to them. Stonex took that historical incident and updated it, setting her story in the 1970’s in a tower lighthouse located on a rocky outcrop off the coast of Cornwall.

lamplightersThe story begins when the resupply boat with a relief keeper comes to the lighthouse tower. Situated on a rocky outcrop the lighthouse is just a tower with no land around it and rough seas which constantly batter the rocks around it. The keepers usually stay on the tower the entire time they are at the lighthouse, as even in calm weather waves can appear without warning and take a person out to sea. Although the resupply boat is usually greeted with excitement by the men on the tower, this time no one appears. The door to the tower is locked and when the men on the boat finally breakthrough the door they find the tower empty, a table set for two people not three, and the meal uneaten. The weather log kept by the principal keeper describes terrifying storms in the last few days, but the mainlanders have not seen any sign of a storm the entire week, much less the kind of storms described in the log. Another strange and unsettling detail is that all the clocks are stopped at 8:45.

An investigation is conducted but no real answers were found. Now some twenty years later, a writer comes to interview the women the men left behind asking questions and stirring up old memories and feelings that might have been best left alone. Weaving between the stories of the women and the keepers at the lighthouse, Stonex fleshes out the sequence of events that led to the discovery of the empty tower.

Stonex’s prose is quiet and subtle. The revelations in the plot seem to float to the surface creating a different kind of tension than the usual high drama that accompanies these revelations in other suspense novels. Stonex spends a lot of time with her characters, slowly developing and nurturing our understanding of their personalities and motivations. Interestingly, the writer, who unleashes the storm of revelations, is the least developed of the characters, creating a subtle but important distinction between the real actors of the drama and the person who serves as a midwife to the story. Stonex, draws us into the lives of the these people, letting us feel both the isolation and freedom of living apart from family and society. She draws us into the obsessions that can cloud our judgement and the ways that truth and lies, reality and illusion can become twisted, causing a darkness in our minds. Her question to us seems to be: What kind of courage does it take to tend the light when darkness surrounds us?

Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon, Keith, Marian and Lauren

Book Study Worthy? Yes

Read in e-library format.

Posted in Books to Read During a Pandemic, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Psychological Mystery, Suspense | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 58)

Anthony Marra is truly gift writer. His Constellation of Vital Phenomenon is on my, “All Time Best Books I Ever Read” list. I don’t actually physically keep such a list, but if I did it would be one of the top books on that list. This book is similar in its evocative stories and the way they weave in and out against the back drop of the Russian experience from the 1930’s through to what is now the era of the former USSR.  

We begin in 1930, with an artist who must artfully remove offending images from photographs and other records. He deftly removes or repairs the faces of men and women Tsar of love and technowho have become persona non grata in the current Communist regime. Stuck in a basement in Leningrad, the artist works on his current project, the photograph of a ballerina who has recently fallen from grace. Mesmerized by her grace and beauty, he fails to remove all of her, leaving a ghostly image of her hand behind. Now he himself becomes suspect but even as he suffers the same fate as the people whose images he so carefully removed, he leaves behind another legacy that will not be discovered until many years later.

We move on to hear the stories of women in a Siberian mining town. Descendants of prisoners of a gulag who chose to settle here. The women know the hardships that their mothers and grandmothers endured. But as the stories are told one young woman, who yearns to leave this accursed town, finds hope in a legacy that she did not know she had.

Marra continues to weave more stories, which jump back and forth in time until the present; the legacy of love between two brothers, or the fate of a landscape painting with its view of a peaceful garden, all come together in a strangely satisfying whole.

Marra’s gift is to drop little hints, little ‘easter eggs” of information, that when you look back begin to build a bigger holistic picture from so many disparate lives and events. Marra expects his readers to work a bit, to find and use the hints and the clues that he leaves behind, rather than spoon feeding you with what you need to know.  His descriptions are immersive and you feel present at a ballet performance, or in the middle of a skirmish in Afghanistan, or in a garden watching the sun slowly sink down behind the hill. He never wastes a word or an image or a conversation, each one adds to our understanding of the characters and the choices they make. This is defintiely another book to add to the “All Time Best Books I Ever Read List,” that I don’t actually keep!

Brenda’s Rating: *****( 5 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon, Keith, Ken and Marian

Book Study Worthy? YES

Read in ebook format.

 

 

 

Posted in Books to Read During a Pandemic, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 57)

The year is 2045. All the things that humanity worried about; climate change, eco destruction and gross inequalities between the haves and have nots, have come to fruition. Earth is a dying planet and the only escape is OASIS, a virtual world where most of life happens now.

For Wade Watts, who lives in a stacked container apartment with his abusive guardian, OASIS is where he goes to school and where he meets his friends and is the place where anything important happens. So he is shocked when the reclusive creator of OASIS dies and leaves his fortune to anyone who can solve the bewildering and confusing puzzles he left behind. Wade decides to enter the contest and is gratified to find that the puzzles are based on the OASIS creator’s love of classical pop culture. Since Wade is also interested in this arcane topic he feels he may have a leg up on his competition, that is until he finds out that some of his best virtual friends are also in the hunt.

This is a ridiculously fun and unexpectedly satisfying read. I was hesitant, since I am not all that into computer games, or virtual reality for the matter, but maybe having to be on Zoom all the time this past year has given me a much better appreciation for immersive virtual reality and, as I say this, I realize how completely fuddy duddy I sound!  Wade and his friends begin to emerge from behind their virtual personalities and are developed into interesting and defined characters. Cline keeps the suspense and adrenaline going with each new clue and does a great job in describing the various virtual worlds in which the answers are found. This is the first in a series of YA novels by Cline and if you have a tween in your family it might be fun to read this together or just go ahead and read it on your own!

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Lauren, Marian, Keith and Ken.

Books study worthy? Sure, with kids included!

Read in e-library format.

 

Posted in Adventure, book to movie, Books to Read During a Pandemic, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Series, Uncategorized, YA | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

An Ode To My Parents

My father passed away last Tuesday. He was 93. My mother passed away in 2007.  I know that my love of books, the joy I find in stories, the way my curiosity is fed by books is because my parents read to me from an early age, so this post is dedicated to my parents who taught me to love reading.

One of my very first memories is sitting in church. I was probably squirming as little kids do, and I remember my mom pulling out one of those small baby books and showing me the pictures. She had several books in her purse when I was younger and she continued to do so after my sister was born. We began appreciating books at an early age!

My mother was a high school English teacher and she was also on the debate team in college so her love of words ran pretty deep. She loved word puzzles and one of my favorite memories is her sitting in her chair, a puzzle book on her lap and a pencil in hand with a slight frown of concentration on her face. 

When I was little, Golden Books were a staple and of course various Bible story books, but as I grew older we switched to chapter books and my favorites were Heidi and The Little Prince. I looked forward to our nightly ritual of reading and sometimes I would beg my mom to read the next chapter to me when I crawled into bed with them early in the morning, impatient to hear what happened next. I don’t remember my mom falling for that very often, but when my dad was reading to me it often worked!

Dad read different kinds of books. He liked nature and adventure stories, so we read this fascinating book about a beaver of which I have vivid memories but cannot for the life of me remember the title. We also read a children’s version of Call of the Wild. I remember we both got choked up at various points of that story and cried together over what happened to Buck. Then there were the magazines that Dad got. He subscribed to Popular Mechanics and Popular Science and when one of them came in the mail he would sit in his big chair and I would sit on his lap and we would look through the magazine together while he explained what the various pictures showed and what new things were being invented. 

One of my dad’s favorite books to read to us was Dr. Goat, where a goat who is a doctor rides his bicycle, making his rounds caring for sick animals until he himself gets sick and then all the animals come and take care of him. 

Dad loved to mix up the words or make voices for the various animals when he read, which made both my sister and I laugh. He read that book so many times I memorized it and when I was too old, he read it to my sister. It was a bit tattered but very well loved.

Just recently, Dad asked us if we still had that book. One of the families in his church often came to visit him and they had small children and he wanted to read it to them. My sister found it and gave it to him. It was one of the first things we found in his apartment after he passed away and of course we kept it.

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The Lost And Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 56)

It’s been a long slog through this pandemic. Slowly we are getting vaccinated, and things will start to open up, (although some are doing it too soon) and we will get back to “normal’ whatever that might look like. But in the meantime we still need to keep up whatever we were doing to keep ourselves and others safe. But sometimes I just want to escape from reality!

Romance as a genre has often been dismissed, but I think there is a real place for this genre, particularly during rough times. There is something comforting about knowing that everything will work out and that love wins in the end. Of course even romantic novels need to be well written and have characters who are interesting and not one dimensional. After all escapist literature needs standards too! Susana Kearsley, Julia Quinn, Karen Marie Morning, Katherine Howe, Elin Hilderbrand are some of the authors I turn to when I need a romantic escape. Now I can add Susan Wiggs to this list

Natalie Harper, was expecting her mother and her boyfriend to come to the special event where she was being honored by her company, but they never showed. Disappointed but not completely surprised, she heads home after work, only to learn that they had been planning to surprise her by flying in her boyfriend’s small plane, but during the flight the plane crashed and both of them had perished.

Although she is devastated by her loss, Natalie must begin to settle her mother’s business affairs and decide how to take care of her grandfather. Taking a leave of absence from her work, Natalie returns to San Francisco and to the bookshop her mother owned and where she and Natalie’s grandfather lived. To her surprise she learns that her grandfather still owns the building where he and her mother lived and housed the book shop her mother owned. Even though her grandfather is suffering from early signs of dementia, he is still unwilling to sell and move to a nursing facility. Faced with caring for her grandfather and running a bookstore, Natalie quits her job and moves back into the home where she had grown up to take care of her grandfather and run the bookshop until she can sort things out.

One of the first things she discovers is that there are many repairs that have been delayed and renovations that need to be done to make her grandfather’s rooms safe and more accessible for his wheel chair. Peach Gallagher, who had been hired by her mother right before she died shows up to begin the repairs, and Natalie, although aware that there is no money to pay for these renovations decides to go ahead, hoping that she can improve book sales to pay for the renovations. But as Peach begins to open walls and repair leaks, he and Natalie discover that within the walls and rooms of this old building are treasures of family and city history, stories of loss, loyalty and joy which offer the opportunity for unexpected connections tying yesterday and today together.

The theme of this book is: If you had to start over, what would you do and who would you be? An intriguing question for anyone to consider. Wiggs is good writer, takes care to develop her characters, and keeps just the right amount tension in the plot to keep you interested. I am glad to have found another good author to add to my escapist literature list!

Brenda’s Rating: **** (4 Out Of 5 Stars)

Recommend this Book to: Sharon, Marian and Lauren

Book Study Worthy? Just Enjoy!

Read in ebook format.

Posted in Books to Read During a Pandemic, Fiction, Romance | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Exhalation by Ted Chiang (Books to Read During a Pandemic, Part 55)

I am not really a short story person. I like long novels where I can engage the characters and the end comes after a long circuitous path. Then I read an article where they interviewed famous people and asked about their favorite books and Barack Obama said Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.”  I thought that was intriguing and so I investigated, and it turns out that Exhalation was considered one of the  “10 Best Books of the Year”(2019) by the New York Times and had gotten similar accolades from the Washington Post.  So I caved and bought the book, and then it sat on my Kindle shelf for a long time. In fact it got so lost in all my other books that when I Exhalationhad to get a new iPad this year, it got sucked into an “Uncategorized” file and would have languished there if I hadn’t done some digital spring cleaning. As you can see, I am sometimes pretty stubborn about what I like and don’t like, but reading this book taught me two lessons: Do not be afraid to go outside your comfort zone, and if Barack Obama recommends a book, read it!

Exhalation is a grouping of various stories that wrestle with the great existential question of what it means to be human; questions about what is memory, and if we could contact alternative selves who made different choices than we did how would that impact our lives?

In the story Exhalation, an alien scientist makes a life changing discovery, that affects their entire life form, but the discovery is also applicable to our current human condition. In The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, the ability to go back and undo past mistakes is examined with cautionary results. In The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, the idea of how technology, in this case writing things down on paper, begins to change the way we think, feel, and understand the truth of things. Alternate realities and the the ability to see multiple alternative selves make different choices that than the ones we chose is the topic in Anxiety in the Dizziness of Freedom.

Chiang, is gifted writer, with profound things to say. He raises more questions that he answers, but I think that is what he is offering to us, the chance to engage in some of the hardest questions we face and to frame them in new and engaging ways, so that hopefully we can come to some new understandings. This was a delight to read!  Thoughtful, engaging, and it made me really wish some of these stories were full length novels!

Brenda’s Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Everyone!

Book Study Worthy? YES!

Read in ebook format. 

 

 

Posted in Books to Read During a Pandemic, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Prize Winner, Science Fiction, Short Stories | Tagged | Leave a comment