Welcome to my monthly book report! Because I can’t just read a book like a normal person – I need space to process and discuss it – below are my informal reviews and random thoughts on the books I’ve read this month. I love being able to share and connect with others to discuss what books wowed us (and maybe which books didn’t). This month I’m also including books that I’ve listened to as an audiobook. As usual, I’m linking up with the community at the Modern Mrs. Darcy.
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
“It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them.”
—George Yeoman Pocock
Since I’ve been inspired by all things Olympics lately, I listened to this as an audiobook using my monthly Audible credit. Since I don’t know anything about rowing, I was a bit surprised by how engrossed I became with the story…and not just me but my family as well. It’s the story of the rise of the University of Washington’s rowing team and their journey to the Olympics, with the happenings of Nazi Germany as the backdrop. But the story really centers around one person, the loveable Joe Rantz. It’s his story and his fierce determination coupled with his sweet disposition that completely hooked me on the story. Who doesn’t like to cheer for the underdog? It’s an all-around inspiring story and an interesting peek into that time in history. I think fans of “Seabiscuit” and “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand will also enjoy reading this story. It’s truly one of those books that will make you laugh, cry and cheer out loud.
Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
“No indeed, the nuns were not remote goody-goodies. They were a bunch of feisty women who had seen it all, lived and loved and suffered throughout, and remained true to their vocation.”
“Shadows of the Workhouse” is the second book in the “Call the Midwife” series and it was just as fascinating and engaging as the first book. Set in London’s West End during the 1950s, this book tells the stories of the people of Poplar. People who lived through just about every unimaginable tragedy – poverty, war, disease, etc. – and had an iron will about them. As the name implies, many of the stories tell of the horrors that occurred in the workhouses in the late 1800s and what happened to those children when they grew up. They are heartbreakingly sad stories, but also filled with hope and perseverance. You’ll want to cry and cheer at the same time. Oh, the things they had to live with and overcome! It’s such a great reminder of how lucky we are to live with today’s conveniences.
As a side note, if this is any testimony to the power of these stories, this book brought me out of a terrible reading “drought.” (You know those times when nothing interests you and you have no desire to read.)
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
“What is the nature of life? Life is lines of dominoes falling. One thing leads to another, and then another, just like you’d planned. But suddenly a Domino gets skewed, events change direction, people dig in their heels, and you’re faced with a situation that you didn’t see coming, you who thought you were so clever.”
I felt like this book had a lot of potential to tell a very interesting story. It spans several generations and two continents. It’s the story of a grandmother, mother and daughter and the choices they make – both good and bad – that greatly impact their futures. The story highlights the complicated relationships that mothers tend to have with their daughters (and vice versa, of course). The writing was solid and I mostly liked the characters, but about half way through I started to wonder what the point of the story was, other than making me feel depressed. I don’t need a story to wrap up neatly but I want to feel as if there was some type of redemption or at least some point in telling the story. There seems to be a trend right now in current fiction, this book included, to create stories about a slew of characters bent on making bad choices and decisions. I’m not a fan of it. As a reader, it just makes me feel bad about life. I wouldn’t say avoid this story, but I would advise to approach with caution.
Your Turn: What have you been reading lately?