- member since March 23, 2013
“This is the first book I’ve read by Kristin Hannah, and I had a major problem with the marriage of the main character (Black Hawk helicopter pilot) Jolene, and her husband, (Criminal defense attorney) Michael. Jolene’s inept alcoholic parents died in a drunken car crash, and Michael was the...”
“ This is the first book I’ve read by Kristin Hannah, and I had a major problem with the marriage of the main character (Black Hawk helicopter pilot) Jolene, and her husband, (Criminal defense attorney) Michael. Jolene’s inept alcoholic parents died in a drunken car crash, and Michael was the social worker who processed her papers to get her into foster care. He told her to return to him in six years, and she did. By then, she was a helicopter pilot in the army, and he was a lawyer. They had nothing in common, but they ended up married even though Michael hates the military. Needless to say, he still doesn’t support Jolene in this endeavor. As the story opens, he skips her 41st birthday by staying at work. A short time later, he tells her that he doesn’t love her anymore.
I did not find this to be very plausible. To make matters worse, they have a twelve year old daughter, Betsy, who screams, whines, talks back, and throws tantrums throughout the entire novel … this is exacerbated by interjections from her four-year-old sister, Lulu … only a little less annoying. Meanwhile, Jolene keeps doting on them, never getting angry, never raising her voice.
Eventually, Jolene gets called to Iraq and leaves her family for what she claims is her higher calling … another thing I found unbelievable. Jolene claims her family means everything to her, especially since she came from such a dysfunctional background with parents who were never there for her. Yet, she has no problem leaving. It felt martyr-like to me.
No surprise that Jolene is completely messed up in Iraq and when she returns, by some miracle, her husband realizes how much he has missed her. He decides he loves her again. The last part of the story really dragged for me as Jolene is recuperating and (unlike her normal, strong as an ox demeanor) pops pills and drinks until she finally has an epiphany and becomes the perfect mother all over again. It was interesting learning about PTSD … but by this time I didn’t have much sympathy for any of them.
I was disappointed in this story, though I will try another of Hannah’s books. She has written many, and they seem to be very popular. Perhaps it was just this one story.
“Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Novalee Nation and her baby Americus, Willy Jack Pickens, Moses and Certain Whitecotton, Benny Goodluck, Sister Husband, Snooks Lancaster, Buster Harding, Martha Watchtaker, Forney Hull, … I could go on with a few more names of the characters...”
“Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Novalee Nation and her baby Americus, Willy Jack Pickens, Moses and Certain Whitecotton, Benny Goodluck, Sister Husband, Snooks Lancaster, Buster Harding, Martha Watchtaker, Forney Hull, … I could go on with a few more names of the characters in this book which gives you an idea of what to expect. Over-the-top! I haven’t had much luck with Obrah’s Book Club picks lately and I’m adding this one to the list. I felt the writing was fine - nothing wrong there, but where it lost me was in the characters and the story itself. After a certain point, I found a lot of things hard to fathom.
There’s a lot of Walmart in this book! The main character, Novalee Nation, is seventeen and seven months pregnant when her hick boyfriend dumps her at the front door of a Walmart in a small Oklahoma town. He disappears but shows up later. Novalee lives inside the Walmart until she gives birth, also inside the Walmart, after wandering down the underwear aisle where she considers names for her baby: “Coleman, Prescott, Dixie, Hanes.” She passes out near the front of the story and when she comes to, Forney, whom she befriended at the library, has broken the front window with a pipe. He delivers the baby and Novalee names her, Americus. All of this was a little too much for me.
After the baby is born, Novalee is given a job at Walmart and she’s now on the path of working herself into the good life - or at least a more normal one. Sister Husband takes her in and loves her like a daughter. Mr. Whitecotton teacher her how to become a photographer thus launching another career. Forney is always nearby to help as are the other characters. The ex-boyfriend, Willy Jack is in and out of jail, but becomes a national hit singer with a song entitled “Where the Heart Is” - based on the one moment Novalee got him to listen to the baby’s heart before he abandoned her. He screws it up in the end though, and goes back to his loser status. At one point Americaus is kidnapped which felt random and out of place. Novalee’s friend, Lexi who has several kids by different husbands takes up with a real loser who rapes on of her kids … it goes on and on, etc. Through all of this Novalee becomes well-read and educated by Forney, who really comes from a well-educated family in Maine. I found all of this to be nothing short of a miracle. Forney ends up loving her and you can probably figure out what happens after that.
I know that small towns are full of quirky characters, and that is part of the charm. It just felt like all of the characters were a little crazy … and if you like that sort of thing - you might enjoy this book because a lot of people did. One thing for sure - this is a journey! Just not a very believable one. ”
Kenra Daniels added a book.
Rules of Civility by Armor Towles ***
This book came to me with such a glowing recommendation that I could hardly wait to get started reading. My high expectations were not quite met, however. The writing itself was fine - this is a first time novel, and I liked...”
Rules of Civility by Armor Towles ***
This book came to me with such a glowing recommendation that I could hardly wait to get started reading. My high expectations were not quite met, however. The writing itself was fine - this is a first time novel, and I liked his style, though he did a few too many hyphenated phrases like: “I feel a miss-my-stop-on-the-train sort of compulsion …” This bugged me after the first two or three.
The 1930’s setting among the glamour set in New York City was fantastic and I loved everything about all of that - reminded me a lot of Gatsby, though the characters in Gatsby were much more interesting. The main problem I had with the story is that I didn’t totally buy the premise. One of the main characters, Tinker Grey, a rich appearing socialite picks up two girls (Eve Ross and Katey Kontent) at a jazz bar in Greenwich Village on New Years Eve, 1937. Eve is a Midwestern kid on her own in New York who refuses her father’s money, while Katey is from a blue collar family in Brooklyn. The girls flirt shamelessly with Tinker, who befriends them and brings them into his circle of friends. When a terrible accident occurs, he takes Eve under his wing and moves her into his luxurious apartment.
The problems began for me in the first scene. I never understood why Tinker was alone in that bar on New Years Eve - I thought he would never do that, but would rather be with his upper class friends. Why he picks these two girls isn’t all that clear either and then it makes no sense why he takes Eve into live with him - why he feels so responsible. The Tinker character is a little flat - yes, he’s enigmatic, but it’s clear that getting into the right social circles is what he’s all about. The Eve is not very likable, she’s a free spirit that doesn’t seem to have much depth. Katey (Kontent - really?) is the sensible working girl, maybe a little too good.
When the truth about Tinker is revealed in the end, I found it anticlimactic, and it made me like him even less. The person who gave me this book thought it would make a great movie, but I don’t see it. To me, it’s strength is in the setting and the era, and while that alone could be a huge draw, the characters themselves were not. ”
“There is only one thing to say about this book. If you are a fan of John Cheever and love his work - you will love this! It is one of the most comprehensive biography's I've ever read and I loved it. It covers it all - the good the bad, the ugly with honesty and depth. I feel I really...”
“There is only one thing to say about this book. If you are a fan of John Cheever and love his work - you will love this! It is one of the most comprehensive biography's I've ever read and I loved it. It covers it all - the good the bad, the ugly with honesty and depth. I feel I really understand Cheever after reading this and can forgive him his sins. Also, it makes his incredible body of work much richer just by the fact that I now know what the man was living when he wrote his stories ... just an enriching book that will add another layer to understanding John Cheever's stories. I highly recommend!”(read full review)
“Book Review ****
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
I’m giving this book four stars only because of the subject matter, which I suppose I should have gleaned from the title, but ignored because it was one of Oprah’s Book Club picks and I’ve always wanted to read a book by Chris...”
“Book Review ****
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
I’m giving this book four stars only because of the subject matter, which I suppose I should have gleaned from the title, but ignored because it was one of Oprah’s Book Club picks and I’ve always wanted to read a book by Chris Bohjalian. The story packed a few too many visceral “giving birth” details for my taste, but I suppose one never knows when information like this might come in handy!
I also found the story a little depressing. It’s told through the eyes of a fourteen year old girl named Connie whose ex-hippie, earthy-crunchy mother, Sybil, is a midwife in a small rural Vermont community. On a cold, stormy winter night, cut off from all help, Connie’s mother decides to perform a cesarean section on a woman in her care, she believe has died. Sybil wants to save the baby so she orders the woman’s husband to run down stairs and bring up a kitchen knife by which she slices up the grizzly deed. A healthy baby boy is pulled into the world, but whether or not the mother was truly dead at the time of the operation is in question. The midwife’s twenty-one year old assistant saw spurting blood at the moment of the incision and believes the mother was still alive. This question is never answered, and even Sybil herself has doubts.
The family hires a pithy, but excellent defense attorney and much of the story revolves around the pre-trial lead-up … and then the trial. Sybil is supported by her husband, Rand (Connie’s father) who is also an ex-hippie, and they hang together through all of the pressure. (Sybil could go to prison if convicted) Here’s where the problem came for me: the Sybil character is so self-centered that I could not feel any sympathy for her. She believes being a “midwife” is a calling, not a job and her calling comes before anyone and everything, even her own family. Her husband had to pretty much raise Connie because his wife was gone for hours and days at odd times, hardly ever home, disappearing whenever one of her patients would go into labor etc. Because I didn’t like the midwife, I didn’t really care what happened to her. I was almost hoping she’d do a little time for being so selfish with her own child and husband.
The book brings up the old question of home birth vs. hospital birth and those two schools of thought. This question exists today … the fact that Sybil was such a zealot about her belief that women should be able to have babies at home no matter what just fuels the controversy and reveals her tunnel vision about how she views life. There was also a flirtation between Sybil and the lawyer which I didn’t find believable at all.
All of this being said - the book is so well written that I would have to recommend it. Also, it is well researched which made many aspects of the story feel very authentic. I will definitely be reading more of Chris Bohjalian’s books, hopefully one or two involve subjects a little more uplifting.