Friday, January 27, 2012

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Plot: When housemaid Anna Frith's village becomes infested with the plague, they make the decision to quarantine themselves to protect the outside world. Through these grueling times of sickness and tragedy, Anna rises to the challenge and proves herself an able healer and strong young woman.

Comments: This is a story filled with imperfect people struggling in a cruel world. Anna is strong in some ways and weak in others. I love her capability and willingness to help but dislike her subservient nature. Every person in Year of Wonders has flaws, creating a mismatched, conflicting reality of strained relationships and deteriorating faith.

The story was fairly predictable, disappointingly. What was probably meant as merely foreshadowing completely gave away important aspects that would appear later in the book. Nothing came as a surprise or very impacting in any way. I didn't feel very attached to any characters, and so everything that happened was rather insignificant. However, the tales of survival and failure were intriguing and somewhat inspiring. The story was enjoyable and at times captivating, though I was not able to feel much empathy for the characters.

Rating: I rate Year of Wonders a seven out of ten.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Plot: After spending years in prison yearning to see his wife, Shadow learns days before his release that she has died in a car accident. Then Shadow meets the mysterious man Wednesday, who drags him into a powerful battle between gods for the soul of America. In the midst of the intrigue, confusion, and danger, Shadow discovers that everyone, including his dead wife, has a secret side to them that no one sees.

Comments: An intricately woven tale of many stories together, American Gods is vividly haunting. Dark themes react with light parables to create a beautifully colorful slurry of emotions. This story combines hilarious wit, poignant real-life moments, and drastically tragic endings exceptionally.

Shadow appears to be a fairly two-dimensional character at first, but slowly reveals aspects of himself that even he didn't know existed. Throughout the book, Shadow becomes more complicated and human until he is absolutely lovable. His childlike simplicity and innocence cause the reader to be protective of him; his righteousness and determination inspire pride. Similarly, the other characters invoke different emotions and embody indefinite concepts, serving individual purposes through the story.

A problem I uncovered with the complexity of American Gods is failing to remember minute details when they become significant later in the book. Because of the vast multitude of names and descriptive explanations for each side story, things muddled together a bit in a dizzying swirl of letters and ideas. However, the important points of the story serve as landmarks to follow, and the book as a whole is worth mild confusion.

After reading American Gods, I had difficulty deciding whether I actually enjoyed it or not. Either way, this story left an impact that will not be easily forgotten. It is truly haunting.

Rating: I rate American Gods a nine out of ten.

Friday, January 20, 2012

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

Plot: In order to escape a constricting life, May Dodd joins a government program in the late 1800's in which white women are sent to marry Cheyenne Indian men. The hope is that these "civilized" ladies will assimilate the Indians into modern society. Along with a motley group of eccentric women, May experiences the true life of a Cheyenne and realizes that everything looks different from the other side.

Comments: This was a very interesting story, with engaging imagery and creative characters. The idea itself was intriguing. I didn't feel much of a connection with May, but I absolutely loved a few of the other women. They were all quirky, different, and very strong. Their sisterhood among themselves and with the Indian women was touching and light-hearted. Furthermore, the relationships between the white women and their new Indian husbands were at times sweet, at others amusing. I loved learning about the Cheyenne culture and their beautifully purposeful ways.

Once again, I wasn't a huge fan of May Dodd. She was very casual about sex and not terribly compassionate. However, she was independent and determined, both admirable qualities. Her story is unconventional and wound into the lives of others.

Rating: I rate this a seven out of ten.