Saturday, July 21, 2007

Summer 2007 - Best Books

Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Setting: Contemporary USA. An unexplained cataclysmic disaster has swept through America, completely burning it to the ground. No vegetation survives and the few animals that do are quickly killed and eaten by the few human survivors. Small pockets of people soon form cannabalistic, slave societies and hunt lone survivors for food. Babies are born only to be eaten.

Plot: A father and young son make their way through the dead of winter from New York to the southern coast of America by walking the dangerous interstates and highways. The father is challenged every minute with the decision to face the risks of their long walk to the coast or to simply end his misery and mercifully kill himself and his son. This decision is exacerbated by his realization that a persistent illness may be the death of him. Yet he clings to hope.

Wow, what a book!! This has to be the most heartbreaking, terrifying book I have ever read, and it's not even full of ghoulies and ghosts!!! The story reminds me of the movie The Postman with Kevin Costner but with much more realism and soul. There is a scene that just broke my heart wherein the father finds a can of cola and reverently gives it to his son. Although you might think this book is gory based upon my frequent mentions of cannibals, it is actually a very emotional, introspective tale of a father-son relationship and the strength of the human spirit in the face of despair.

There were two things working against this book, but you can ignore them all completely. But in all fairness, I'll share my concerns. First of all, The Road is endorsed by Oprah's Book Club. Hmm, you read it and then tell me whether you can imagine housewives sitting around reading this book. It's just incongruous in my mind. But Oprah, girl, you sure made a good choice! Second concern, lists this book under Science Fiction. I've read quite a fews books in that genre and The Road is just too contemporary. Nothing futuristic or sciency going on here. I'm just afraid the genre listing will turn off a majority of the general public. SciFi is an acquired taste. But like I said earlier, these are so trivial. YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!!

Title: My Sister's Keeper

Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Plot: A young girl named Anna has always known that she was born for a very special purpose - to help her terminally ill sister Kate. However, as she enters her teens, she realizes that she no can longer be the savior that her family imagines her to be. Therefore, she petitions the courts for medical emancipation from her parents, in the hopes that she will finally have a say so in what happens to her body.

The strength of this book lies in Picoult's amazing portrayal of family dynamics. She effortlessly switches among the different voices of the characters (written in a 1st person POV), and you easily get sucked into the little dramas in the family. On the one hand, you may feel the mother is a single-minded monster with no thought for anyone but her eldest daughter Kate. On the other, I dare you to come away from this book without a drop of sympathy for the mother's struggles. Picoult excels in delving into the motivations and selfishness of each character. Then....BAM!!!!! She wallops you with an ending that will have you gasping so quickly that you'll choke on your own spit. Believe me. I know. This is the best book I have read in the past few years. And, amazingly, I actually gave it to my mother to read (a lady who reads nothing but the Bible and Bible-related writings). Then, I went out and spent another $20 some bucks to purchase my sister a hard cover copy so she could read it. Phenomenal story!!!!

Title: The Time Traveler's Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Plot: A dashing, charming librarian named Henry DeTamble has an unfortunate genetic mutation that allows him to travel through time, albeit involuntarily. On one such adventure to the past, he meets a child named Claire that he eventually recognizes as his future wife. What arises from this meeting is a emotionally charged love story that will surely leave you in sniffles AND fits of laughter.

The book is written from a 1st person POV alternating between Henry and Claire. What really makes the book shine is the character of Henry and how he handles each misadventure. Some trips are exceedingly dangerous while others are merely sweet. And always, Claire waits for him. "It is hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one left behind." This book is more than a simple love story. It is a story of coming to terms with bone-deep longing, bitter disappointment, and unconditional love. This is the SECOND best book I have ever read. You would be a real fool not to pick this up.

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