Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BACK IN THE STACKS: "The Giver" by Lois Lowry


I chose this classic, award-winning novel for my Bookish Libraria Blog as a "Back in the Stacks" review book this past week.

It's actually, unbeknownst to me prior to my reading it, a dystopian novel about the coming of age and the coming to wisdom and understanding of a young boy in a futuristic society. A book I missed reading in school, but which my children were exposed to in my own childrens' time, this is somewhat dated in spots, I felt, but held the same sort of message that we hear and see in our own world and society today through a plethora of young adult literature. That alone makes it worthy of reading!

It's a small book, but every page is profound. Lois Lowry knows how to write exactly like my Rhetoric professor wanted us to write...with precision and acuracy. Her every word has a purpose and meaning. And, in that instance, we discover that we need to pay attention, acutely, to what she's telling us. This is a serious book with a warning for young and old, alike.

I found it most poignant that Ms Lowry wrote "The Giver" for young people at their pivitol age. It's a book that is meant to make them consider the society they are apart of without a doubt, but it's also meant to make them question the world and the ways of life they've taken for granted. It hopes, it seems, to help them shed the scales from their eyes and take the plugs from their have the courage to rise up again the norm. For that alone, I found it worthy of the Newberry Prize.

It seems to me that as adults we fear young people. We want to corral them, to keep them in check, to make sure they don't skate board near the Library. There's alot about them that reeks of uncontrollable power and unhinged disaster. There's impulse on edge, and the half-here-and-half-there sense of what's going to really damage their lives and the lives around them, and what's not. Because of this, teens and pre-teens have this magical quality to them...this freshness of vision coupled with this wildness of vision like the boys in "Lord of the Flies," like those vampires and psychics and witches they "wanna be" in the YA novels.

In "The Giver" we see such power in the young protagonist. He is pent up and on the verge of destruction in several instances. We see him risk breaking serious rules only to see him pull back and turn to the side of wisdom to protect those he loves. This is the quality that Lois Lowry is telling the young to emulate, this is the hidden treasure that the Giver has to offer~this potential to create a new system lovingly, or simply to destroy mindlessly.

Ms Lowry acknowledges the terrible strength and power of the young adult to be victorious or to vanquish and offers an instruction of vision, values and valor. In a society where everything is ordered, equal, peaceful and is not valued, and people deemed less than fit for society are done away with like old newspaper.

"The Giver" is a book worthy of literary and humanitarian awards, and it's a book worthy of being the classic it's become.

I strongly recommend "The Giver" to everyone, young and old, who hasn't already read it...and even to those who have. It's a good time to reread this book. It's an especially good time to read it...


Monday, May 9, 2011

"More Than Good-Bye...As One Journey Ends, Another Begins" by S. Carol Crovo

What happens when we die? Have we been here before, and if we made mistakes in our lives, will we get an opportunity to make them up to our loved ones? This is the stuff of S. Carol Crovo's new novel, "More Than Good-Bye~As One Journey Ends, Another Begins..." She poses the questions and spins a story that will answer these questions in her own way.

Through the eyes and lives of her main character, Jane, who has died suddenly and is given a second chance at her own life, we see how one can become a more fulfilled person by experiencing life to the fullest with love, joy, acceptance of sorrows, forgiveness and sharing a spiritual kindness. Expressing love to others becomes a significant key to Jane's happiness and completeness. Her life and her connection to her loved ones is made more significant, infinitely more meaningful; and, she's able to "relive" it without feeling she's left messages to them undone. We learn along with Jane that love is the answer to life's meaning.

S. Carol Crovo writes her novel from a gentle and caring perspective. Her sense of timing in the character interactions is spot on, as is the fleshing out of her characters. We come to believe the people and places of the novel can actually be found somewhere in mid-America. Jane is an "everywoman" with the mind of any woman who has died without being able to say good-bye to her children and husband.

I was particularly interested in Ms Crovo's handling of Jane's connection with the spiritual. By means of "Golden Boy" who served as guide on her relived journey, there was less confusion and more a sense of clarity in the story as a whole. This clever device was one that was not intrusive, but fit the storyline perfectly.

"More Than Good-Bye" is a gentle and sweet book. Written by an author who has a message of hope and meaning. This is not a book for those seeking a deep literary experience, however, but for those seeking an answer to what it might be like to be able to "come back" and relive their lives. It is a sort of confirmation of life in another stage and dimension~life continuing on after this earthly existence. I must be clear that it is not a Christian novel, however, rather it's a book that works to transcent religions in a "what-if" manner in order to reach a wider audience.

If you're looking for a novel that's one to sail through and that may answer some of your musings about life after death, this one might interest you. It's a charming book that's light-hearted for the most part, as well as being a map of dealing with tragedy and loss. It might bring some comfort in the loss of a loved one to a sudden death without having time for final good-byes.

While I cannot recommend this book to all my readers, I can recommend it to those mentioned above.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Insanely Fantastic Book! "INZANESVILLE" by Jo Ann Beard

Book Summary:

The beguiling fourteen year old narrator of Inzanesville is a late bloomer. Even in her small midwestern city, where modesty is prized and self-assertion is a faux pas, she flies under the radar--a sidekick, a third wheel, a marching band dropout, a disastrous babysitter, the kind of girl whose eureka moment is the discovery that "fudge" can't be said with an English accent.

Luckily, she has a best friend, a similarly undiscovered girl with whom she shares the everyday adventures--sometimes harrowing, sometimes embarrassing--of a 1970's American girlhood, incidents through which a world is revealed and character is forged.

In time, their friendship is tested--by their families' claims on them, by clique of popular girls who stumble upon them as if they were found objects, and by the first startling, subversive intimations of womanhood.

With dry, irrepressible wit and piercing observations, Jo Ann Beard shows us that in the seemingly quiet streets of America's innumerable Zanesvilles is a world of wonders, and that within the souls of the awkward and the overlooked often burns something radiant.
About the Author:

Jo Ann Beard is the author of The Boys of My Youth and the recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation of the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She teaches nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Rhinebeck, New York.

What Others Say:

"Sixty years after Salinger's portrait of a sensitive young man, we have a sensitive young woman that is every bit as poignant and powerful as "The Catcher in the Rye."

My Review:

"Inzanesville" is a steady walk through the mire and joys of insanity called adolescence while trying to navigate the delicate, treacherous landmines of a dysfunctional family. Inzanesville, a euphemistic "insanesville" abruptly draws us into the place and time of what we understand is going to be a crazy ride and a gripping story.

Jo Ann Beard is enchanting and brilliant with an uncanning frankness that's irresistible. She is an earthy writer, one who doesn't use flowery language and whose story packs more punch for it. An author of grass roots, when she writes she shows us with descriptions moments and places we can remember and see as flashbacks from our own lives. This is a skill so rare in fiction today, it's a wonder to experience.

She had me laughing through my tears. This timeless use of humor to cover pain is piercing and effective. Her prose is tight and she doesn't mince words to get across her message as there's no time to waste in gift wrapping such a ribauld herstory in anything other than straight talk that magnifies its impact and hilarity. At the same time it's an unflichingly beautiful tale in its realism, it's also one of angst and emotional and circumstances inflicting pain and epiphanies that are the essence of growing up, survived through a warped sense of humor and a mind not given over to the wellsprings of "insanesville."

I asked myself how such a book could be both enjoyable to read and hold such childhood nightmares at the same time. I could only come up with this: A writer of remarkable courage and gifts could only have written this through personal experience.

Ms Beard's protagonist, aptly and coincidentally named Jo "after one of the "Little Women, but not the one who was (her) my favorite--Amy," is wise beyond her years. As the narrator of her own story, Jo brings us along with her in a journey of awakening and a growing up that she must do....her mother having told her it's time she gets beyond being a "late bloomer." What seems sad is that she finally attains this putting aside of childhood, only to give up what's won in what I felt was a sort of acceptance of the inevitable. But, this is generally the outcome of coming-of-age, isn't it? All childhood illusions are crushed, the barriers of innocence and disbelief are torn down and eyes are opened to reality for better or for worse.

I'm walking a tightrope here, being somewhat vague because this is a book that must be read to be grasped in its impact, which is both moving and lasting. Along the difficult road she treads, Jo finds lasting friendship and its meaning, her personal "calling," and a way to work out her emotional struggles and world-view through art. It's delightful to me that she stumbles upon Surrealism and chooses that as her artistic vehicle! She begins to understand her parents, friends and family dynamics, and; consequently, that she has choices to make for her own life.

 "Inzanesville" is a book that will touch your heart, make you laugh heartily; one that will stop you dead in your tracks and open your eyes. It will recall to you your own junior high years, absolutely, possibly including that late 60's-early '70's basement den where lots of partying took place! And, if you happen to be one of those unfortunate children who had to tread (perhaps still tread) the inelegant, ugly and treacherous waters of a dysfunctional family, it will give you something to think through. I was particularly impacted by Jo's constant worries nearly every day that her depressed and alcoholic father was planning and attempting suicide.

This book will undoubtedly rank in my Top Ten Favorite Books of 2011. Despite its blend of the tragic with the hilarious, ultimately, it is downright fabulous reading! Jo Ann Beard is a truth-teller, and a court jester of a word spinner tossing out unexpected jolts of humor, catching us off guard; then, as the illusion of laughter begins to crumble, leaving us with a sinking feeling of contemplation.

Do yourself a favor this year and read "Inzanesville" by Jo Ann Beard. It is fabulous!

Please visit Little, Brown & Co.'s link to read an excerpt (and note my Amazon store link for ordering! :]


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