I needed a vacation to bring me back into reading!!! Yes, 2014 has not been The Year of Reading for me! Perhaps it is the new job or maybe it’s been the books I’ve been choosing. Who knows! But hopefully I have broken out of my rut because on my vacation to Drummond Island in Michigan’s BEAUTIFUL Upper Peninsula I found 2 EXCELLENT reads!
All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Toews
Ever since I read A Complicated Kindness I’ve been waiting for this book! I have always enjoyed reading Miriam Toews but none have really measured up to the first until now. Unfortunately the story is somewhat autobiographical — perhaps that is why it feels so real.
This is the heartbreaking tale of 2 Mennonite sisters, Elfrieda (Elf) and Yolandi (Yoli). Having somewhat rejected a lot of the Mennonite traditions, Elf becomes a world renowned concert pianist. She is beautiful, happily married, loved around the world by fans and adored by her family. All she wants from life, however, is to die. Yoli is a bit of a fuck-up. Twice divorced with 2 kids and 2 baby-daddies, she is the writer of a children’s book series about a rodeo girl that is no longer popular. All she wants from life is for Elf to live.
Not much goes on in the book but it is far from dull. It starts off with Elf being admitted to the psyche ward, once again, following a suicide attempt. Yoli is getting used to traveling from Toronto to Manitoba to make sure that Elf does not succeed in achieving her ultimate goal. Awesome secondary characters help to keep the story moving and interesting (their quirky mother and Aunt Tina, Nic, Elf’s tortured husband and Nora and Will, Yoli’s children who mainly correspond from Toronto via text message) and there are flashbacks to happier times (when Elf is a vivacious girls with a personality that does not quit) and not so happier times (when you find out that mental illness runs in this family) but it is the real life conversations between the 2 sisters that is enough for you to get sucked in. You can feel the frustration on both sides as Elf tries to persuade Yoli to help her in a way that she cannot believe she is even considering — but all Yoli wants is for her sister to be happy.
This is a story that makes you think about the debilitating effects of depression. It truly is a complicated disease that can have devastating effects on more than just the person suffering. 4.5 stars.
Summer House with Swimming Pool – Herman Koch
Hold onto your hat and make sure you have some time because you WILL NOT be able to put this one down! If you have read The Dinner you will recognize Herman Koch’s style of absolutely sucking you in from the first page!
Something has happened to famous actor Ralph Meier and Doctor Marc Schlosser has some questions to answer. He has a reputation of being an excellent doctor — not because he is the best at what he does but he gives his patients what they want, time and a sympathetic ear. Make no mistake though, he cannot stand any of them. He intimately describes his distain for the human body both physically and mentally and what goes throughout this man’s head is all laid out in the pages!! WOAH! Sure makes him seem capable of what he has been accused of.
The story starts with Marc being publicly asked to leave Ralph’s funeral by his widow. He is being investigated by the medical board for some kind of “medical error” that may or may not have been a direct cause of the death. And then the story leading up to this event unfolds and it is best that that is all you know!
For me, everything in this story was a surprise because I had not read any of the reviews or any of the detailed synopsis’s and I think that I enjoyed the story all the more because of it! An event takes place while the families are vacationing that makes you change your original opinion of Dr. Marc and even makes you think that he may have been justified in his actions — but then again, maybe not!! Like The Dinner the majority of the characters in the book are loathsome people and you do not want to even like them all that much but you find yourself defending their actions at one point or another because the story telling is just that good. An EXCELLENT summer read to take to the beach or to the Summer House (with Swimming Pool). 4.5 stars.
Glad you are back into the reading frame of mind. Koch’s book makes a perfect vacation read. I haven’t read the Toews, but i don’t always like her books. Maybe I’ll give it a try. Who knows?