Take Me With You By Catherine Ryan Hyde: My Review Plus Answers To Book Club Discussion Questions

This is my review and thoughts on Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Rating system:

God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3

Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5

Take Me With You = 0.5

Here are my answers to book club questions (questions provided by the publisher).

1. A journey in literature is a classic metaphor for an inward journey (think The Odyssey). In what way is August’s trip in Take Me With You an emotional or psychological one? Describe August Schroeder’s state of mind at the beginning of the novel and how he changes by the end of the trip.

August actually got super annoying by the end of the book and I did not enjoy his character. I get that the author was trying to show that it was because August cared about Seth that he was so stressed about the climbing. I get that Seth may not have appreciated that, or been used to it, because his own father was not supposedly as good as August. I did not like the route that the book took. So I did not enjoy the journey that August took.

2. What kind of father is Wes and what is his relationship with his sons?

Apparently, not that hands-on. He cares, but has his issues with alcohol. Apparently, as was beaten over our head, he was jealous of August. Other than those few tidbits, we know nothing of Wes.

3. Why does August initially decline to take Seth and Henry with him to Yellowstone? What causes him to change his mind? Is it simply a matter of money?

Um, duh. He declines to take the boys because it is so completely unrealistic to take two boys on vacation with you when you just met them. What causes him to change his mind are the boys and their earnest hopes to go with him.

No, it’s not money.

4. How would you describe the two boys, Seth and Henry, and their relationship as brothers. Why doesn’t Henry talk?

They are close. They love each other. Henry doesn’t talk because it is the way he deals with the world.

The book failed in flushing out these characters. There wasn’t much there past the surface of these characters. We didn’t get to see any real relationship between the boys. We were told, not shown. A lot of times, they didn’t even really inhabit the same scene. When Seth was in the meetings with August, Henry was in the RV (plus, who leaves a kid in the R.V. by themselves. For all the judgements that August was this fantastic father figure, he just left this nonspeaking kid in the car.) Later in the book, Seth is climbing and Henry is with August. The rest of the time, Seth and Henry are in the same scene, but they are just interacting with August, not really with each other. 

Ultimately, they talk about each other to August, but truly, they don’t have all that many interactions with each other. 

A gripe I have was August’s affinity for Seth. August gravitated toward Seth the entire book. Sure, August invites Henry to come stay with him so he can go to school, but his primary focus was on Seth. It really irritated me. 

5. How does the trip eight years later repeat similar themes of the first trip? What has changed—or who has changed—and in what ways?

The author was after the concept that it was now the boys who were taking care of August. While I appreciated the sentiment, I didn’t feel that it carried the latter half of the book. The concept that August was fearful for Seth’s safety did not come across as caring, but that August was a doddering old fool — which was a big change considering it was only 8 years later. Yes, he had Distal Muscular Dystrophy, but that doesn’t turn someone into bumbling.

6. The book asks an important question about what constitutes family. Is family what you are born into, or can you create your own? 

Family is whatever you make it. Family does not have to be born into. This was the basic premise of the book. The concept was a good one, but I felt the book did not accomplish any nuance with it. 

7. Were you satisfied with the novel’s conclusion?

No. I thought the book lost its way at the end. The main character August became a caricature of himself. He didn’t seem to act in any reasonable manner — hyperventilating over seeing Seth’s helmet camera, being oblivious to what mist was, as well as not realizing that the boys were going to take him every summer. The last point was the worst. You can not explain away his idiocracy just by saying “it goes without saying”.

Also, who doesn’t call Wes? That was completely unreasonable. Henry is his son. He has every right to know where he is and who he is with. You don’t get to make that judgement call. This is not to condone Wes’ behavior — but two wrongs do not make a right.

Unreal.

Production of the audiobook:

Sound — it was good.

Narration — I do wonder if perhaps the narrator added to my dislike of August. I can’t help but think maybe my eye-rolling would have been decreased if the character hadn’t been portrayed as so doe-eyed in the later stages of the book.

Until next time.

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook at madelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

 

The Things They Carried By Tim O’Brien: My Review Plus Answers To Bookclub Discussion Questions

The Things They CarriedThis is my review and thoughts on The Things They Carried By Tim O’Brien.

Rating system:
God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3

Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5

The Things They Carried = 2.5

Here are my answers to book club questions provided by Lit Lovers who, in turn, state they got the questions from the publisher. Thanks guys for facilitating a closer look at the book!

1. Why is the first story, “The Things They Carried, ” written in third person? How does this serve to introduce the rest of the novel? What effect did it have on your experience of the novel when O’Brien switched to first person, and you realized the narrator was one of the soldiers?

I think switching it personalized the stories for me. Authors have a tendency to embellish for effect. However, Mr. O’Brien raises the question that most people who tell any kind of story embellish. It just depends on what the goal is for the author — what emotion does the narrator want to evoke.

2. In the list of all the things the soldiers carried, what item was most surprising? Which item did you find most evocative of the war? Which items stay with you?

Most surprising: The stockings.

Most evocative: Pictures of soldier’s sweethearts.

Stayed with me: Despite not being religious, the bible. It was a gift from his father, a connection to his family, to his religion, to his previous self.

3. In “On The Rainy River, ” we learn the 21-year-old O’Brien’s theory of courage: “Courage, I seemed to think, comes to us in finite quantities, like an inheritance, and by being frugal and stashing it away and letting it earn interest, we steadily increase our moral capital in preparation for that day when the account must be drawn down. It was a comforting theory.” What might the 43-year-old O’Brien’s theory of courage be? Were you surprised when he described his entry into the Vietnam War as an act of cowardice? Do you agree that a person could enter a war as an act of cowardice?

Courage relates to fear. Fear can be overcome through experience. This is shown in the example of the field medic. He seemed like a coward, but he was afraid because he didn’t have experience. The more experience he garnered, the more courageous he seemed because he was no longer afraid. This is the same whether or not there is a war.

So, no. I don’t think you can save up your courage. You never know what circumstances you might find yourself in. You can prepare, and that will help, but life is full of surprises.

I think people can do a lot of things because they are afraid.

4. What is the role of shame in the lives of these soldiers? Does it drive them to acts of heroism, or stupidity? Or both? What is the relationship between shame and courage, according to O’Brien?

He states that shame is what keeps the men in line and what brought him into the war. The men that went to Vietnam were so young. It makes me think that an older Tim O’Brien might not be so easily convinced to go to war out of shame. As we get older, we realize that what other people think of us is irrelevant. I would like to know what an older O”Brien would have done on that lake between the United States and Canada.

5. In “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, ” what transforms Mary Anne into a predatory killer? Does it matter that Mary Anne is a woman? How so? What does the story tell us about the nature of the Vietnam War?

This was one of his complex stories that was an example of “a real war story”.

The story speaks to men, women, and their roles before and after the war. When these men went to war, they clung to their ideals of what a woman was — sweet, innocent, agreeable, a housewife is what they held onto. That is what they wanted to come home to. They didn’t want things to change. They wanted things to stay the same as before the war.

Women, on the other hand, were in fact changing. In the 60’s and 70’s, women wanted a stronger voice. The war, equal rights, workplace opportunities — these things were important to the women of that time. They didn’t want to be only a housewife anymore. So everything changed after the war, men, women, and expectations. Things just weren’t the same.

This is what Mary Anne represents. She doesn’t want to be just a stereotypical girl anymore. She wants to be in the thick of it, in the action, to be a part of the story, and not just as a soldier’s woman. Mary Anne in the story says as much. She said she’s never felt so alive. She participates with the soldiers, not just watching them. Like in civilian life, she didn’t want to be on the sidelines anymore.

Her boyfriend couldn’t handle it. He was happy when she played the role of beautiful, supportive girlfriend. He became displeased when she exited that limited view of a woman.

They try to make it work, but something is lost. He’s lost his ideal girl and his anchor to a life before the war. She tries to be the dutiful girlfriend, but she has tasted freedom from archaic expectations and she simply can’t go back.

To reiterate, they also didn’t want their women to change so that things could remain “the same”. The men knew they were changed from the war and they wanted something to stay the same.

6. The story Rat tells in “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” is highly fantastical. Does its lack of believability make it any less compelling? Do you believe it? Does it fit O’Brien’s criteria for a true war story?

The fact that it seems highly unbelievable does make it less compelling. For me, I feel like there are enough real life events in war to discuss without fantasy. In and of itself, yes, the story is compelling — filled with great metaphor and present day application. It can certainly be argued that by enhancing the story it gives traction to what the men were thinking and feeling with an outward display of those emotions. However, for me, I don’t need the added enhancement.

Yes, it fits O’Brien’s criteria for a true war story. It applies itself to what was going on with the soldiers and what the war did to and for men and women’s expectations.

7. In “Good Form” O’Brien casts doubt on the veracity of the entire novel. Why does he do so? Does it increase or decrease your understanding? What is the difference between “happening-truth” and “story-truth?”

He casts doubt on the whole novel to let you know that no real life story is always all true. We rewrite our own stories and experiences in many small ways. It depends on how we feel about an incident, perhaps how we came across, how we want to come across, and what we felt at the root of the experience. Therefore, that is the difference between story truth and happening truth.

Overall, I thought the book was thought provoking and a story that needed to be told. I thought his emphasis on what is a real war story was a unique take on the entire war experience, and for that matter, events that unfold in civilian life as well. Overall though, I felt like that point was driven home too much at the expense of the larger narrative. Metaphors can be used and story-truth can be used but the constant hitting over the head of the fact he was doing it became tiresome. I felt like the book was a bit disjointed as well. Despite my low rating, I would still definitely recommend it for a book club as I think it makes for a good discussion. I’m glad I read it, but ultimately it was not a favorite book of mine.

Since it was an audiobook, I must comment on the production quality and state it was top notch. The narration by the always impressive Bryan Cranston did not disappoint here. He was superb and a joy to listen to. This was an audiobook that was extremely well done on all accounts.

Until next time.

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

The Kitchen House: My Review Plus Answers To Book Club Discussion Questions

the kitchen house

This is my review and thoughts on The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.

Rating system:

God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3

Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5

The Kitchen House = 3.5

Here are my answers to book club questions provided by Simon and Schuster. Thanks guys for facilitating a closer look at the book!

1. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story through two narrators? How are Lavinia’s observations and judgments different from Belle’s? Does this story belong to one more than the other? If you could choose another character to narrate the novel, who would it be?

I think that two narrators was a great choice. The difference between Belle and Lavinia’s experiences are quite different. It gave the reader a chance to see the world between the two races and between different ages. Lavinia is a child when she is brought into the situation, that shapes the way she sees things. She doesn’t have as many life experiences to go by. She does not fully comprehend the situation of her adoptive family until pretty far into her being the Lady of the plantation. Even when she lived with Miss Martha’s sister, Lavinia still remains largely oblivious to the plight of slaves. Her adoptive family with Belle and Mama Mae shelter her from the worst of it. Miss Martha’s sister shelters her as well. However, I can not help but question whether some of it was a conscious oversight by Lavinia. How can she not understand the dire circumstances of her adoptive family? Especially when she leaves the reach of Mama Mae?

In some regards though, Belle is also delusional about her situation – her judgements are similar to Lavinia’s. The fact that she would rather stay with her family at Tall Oaks than get her freedom papers directly addresses that. Mama Mae shelters her from a lot of it, by keeping her in the kitchen house, so Belle does not fully understand that her situation at Tall Oaks could suddenly change at the drop of hat, which we see later on in the novel. This thread reappears with the younger children in the family, most notably, Sookie.

Both Lavinia and Belle make poor choices in regards to how they go about remaining/returning to Tall Oaks.

I don’t think Lavinia really understood the situation until Mama Mae hung, maybe not even Belle. Their eyes really didn’t start to open until Lavinia was hiding in the loft and Belle when her son was taken from her. I do think it still took Mama Mae’s hanging for either girl to fully comprehend. This is represented in the scenes when Belle marches over and demands to buy Jaime. Yes, driven by understandable emotion, but not taking in the true nature of the situation.

If I could pick a third narrator, it would be Mama Mae. It would have been interesting to hear her thoughts in regards to the balance between keeping her children safe and opening their eyes to the real world. It would have been thought provoking to listen to her take in Lavinia, a white child, in the midst of a plantation. To hear her response to Master Marshall. To hear her thoughts during the sacrifice of her life for Belle’s.

2. “Mae knows that her eldest daughter consorts with my husband. . . Almost from the beginning, I suspected their secrets” (page 107). Why does the captain keep Belle’s true identity a secret from his wife and children? Do you think the truth would have been a relief to his family or torn them further apart? At what point does keeping this secret turn tragic?

I think the captain keeps the secret because it is one thing to have sex with a slave, there is still plausible deniability, but to father a child is quite another situation entirely. I think it also speaks to the reprehensible nature of racism and its contradictions. A mixed race baby is a conundrum for racists. It raises a lot of questions about what is at the fundamental root of racism and slavery. How does one condemn their child that is part white to a life of slavery? Does having any part of another skin color in your baby damn them? How much is enough to condemn the child? It’s too much rational thinking for racist people to confront themselves with. 

3. Marshall is a complicated character. At times, he is kind and protective; other times, he is a violent monster. Is he to blame for what happened to Sally? Why do you think Marshall was loyal to Rankin, who was a conspirator with Mr. Waters?

No, he is not to blame. Did he let his anger get the best of him and did he make a very poor, lethal decision? Yes. Did he mean to kill his sister? Of course not. 

I have no idea why Marshall was loyal to Rankin. Maybe someone can explain it to me. Maybe Marshall isn’t even sure why he is so loyal to Rankin. 

4. Describe the relationship between Ben’s wife, Lucy, and Belle. How does it evolve throughout the novel? Is it difficult for you to understand their friendship? Why or why not?

Yes, I had a hard time with their friendship. However, I’m not in their situation. I think in life, we make the best we can of the situation we find ourselves in. The book references this statement in regards to Belle. Belle states she would never fall to the comfort of drops, as Lavinia does, because you have to fight, hold your head up high. Belle and Lucy are slaves. They are subjected to a very cruel life. They each find comfort in the same man. They cling to the fact that they have this one small comfort. Do they really want to focus on the negative? It should be noted that black women in the book have the worst of it. Not only are they slaves, but the men cheat on them. Just as in real life women of color have it the worst.

5. “I was as enslaved as all the others” (page 300). Do you think this statement by Lavinia is fair? Is her position equivalent to those of the slaves? What freedom does she have that the slaves do not? What burdens does her race put upon her?

She is absolutely not as enslaved as all others. She is not the equivalent of the slaves. She has a million more freedoms than her family. One only has to think of if she picked Will, she would have not only been free, but wealthy, and extremely loved. In fact, she had it better off than most women of her race – she was presented in a wealthy circle. What Lavinia did, was pick the wrong man. This does not discount the fact that women had limited choices, but Lavinia had more choices and opportunities than most. 

Her race is not a burden, her sex is.

Even when she gets the courage to remove herself from the situation with Marshall, she can’t, because she is a woman. Being female removes a lot of her choices – as in who she could date, how she would support herself. Her sex also makes her subservient to her husband. 

Still, with all that being said, this is a dumb question. Being a slave is the worst. 

Until next time.

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

The Girl on the Train: My Review and Answers to Book Club Discussion Questions

the girl on the train book coverThis is my review and thoughts of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

First and foremost, I would like to say that I enjoyed this book. It was an easy listen, had fantastic narration, the story moved along well, and was a fun listen.

This book balances itself between largely being entertaining coupled with a slight concept to ponder. Mainly, it is a who-done-it with a flirtation about perspectives & assumptions.

For what it is, it was good.

Rating system:

God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3
Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5

The Girl on the Train 3.5

1. We all do it — actively watch life around us. In this way, with her own voyeuristic curiosity, Rachel Watson is not so unusual. What do you think accounts for this nosey, all-too-human impulse?

We absolutely all do this, it’s called Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We all want a peek into how other people live their lives. It can be for a myriad of reasons. For some, it is to compare … are we better than them? Are we keeping up with the status quo? When we put ourselves out there to be viewed it is due to our sense of ego. 

The difference is, for Rachel, she is so lonely, so hateful of herself, that she crosses the line from being a voyeur, to making up stories, to inserting herself in the lives of others. Rachel romanticizes Megan and Scott’s relationship, much like she romanticizes her own relationship with Tom. On Facebook, we put our best face forward, but that is not necessarily what goes on behind closed doors. Tom, in every way, brutally represents this. He puts his best face forward, when on the inside, and behind closed doors, he is the ugliest of them all. 

2. The novel delivers a stark portrayal of someone suffering from a drink problem – Rachel’s battle is present throughout the novel. How does it affect all the people around her?

Rachel’s alcoholism is a main symbol of assumptions. Every character in the book has assumptions made about them that are not necessarily true. Rachel is untrustworthy because of her alcoholism. However, in her case, she proves to be untrustworthy most of the time, so it’s hard to believe her. Yet, in the final instance of this book, she is correct. Tom uses her alcoholism to his advantage and cruel delight by toying with her memory and self-respect. She assumes the worst of herself as well. Anna is assumed to be a wonderful person because she is a mother and loves her child, but that does not make her a saint on all accounts. She comes exceedingly close to letting Tom kill Rachel at the end as to not destroy her idealized life. Anna, more so than anything, does not was her image ruined by Rachel’s discovery. Also, Rachel considers herself bad because she can not have children. Anna is good because she can. Megan is bad because her child died. Megan is not bad because of this, it was a tragic, tragic mistake. Megan punishes herself eternally because of it. 

3. In both Rachel Watson’s and Megan Hipwell’s marriages, deep secrets are kept from the husbands. Are these marriages unusual or even extreme in this way? Consider how many relationships rely on half-truths? Is it ever necessary or justifiable to lie to someone you love?

I’m not sure how Rachael kept secrets from Tom. Megan kept secrets because she loved Scott and did not want him to know what kind of person she was, or thought she was. I think the real shame with Megan was that the lie did not so much ruin her marriage, but her self-inflicted punishment did. 

4. What about the lies the characters tell to themselves? In what ways is Rachel lying to herself?

Rachael lies to herself that sorry is enough. She lies to herself that it is okay, the things that she does. She thinks going to the psychiatrist is okay, inserting herself into Scott’s life is okay, lying to the police is okay. None of it is okay. Regardless of people not trusting her, the way she goes about finding the truth is abhorrent. 

Anna lies to herself that she is enough to keep Tom happy. 

Megan lies to herself that she can keep her secret and that it won’t truly effect those around her. She thinks if she cheats to fill the hole in her heart that it will be enough. 

Scott thinks he alone can be enough to save Megan. 

Tom is just a liar. He lies to himself that killing Megan was the only natural outcome. 

5. A crucial question in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is how much Rachel Watson can trust her own memory. How reliable are her observations? Yet since the relationship between truth and memory is often a slippery one, how objective or “true” can a memory, by definition, really be? Can memory lie?

I’ll answer this question a bit differently. I think all of our memories are skewed. We all see things through our own lenses, our own experiences. One person’s take on a situation can be completely different than another.

This often happens in marriages. A husband remembers sex once a month, a wife more than that. What is the truth? A wife thinks she comes home from work loving and excited to see her husband. The husband remembers the wife coming home and complaining.

Why one person at work can remember a situation completely different than a coworker. One coworker remembers the boss being warranted for yelling at someone for being late, another remembers it as the boss coming down hard on them for being young. 

Rachel is impacted by this normal tendency of human nature, but hers is much, much worse due to the alcoholism. She also suffers from an unhealthy perspective. These two things combined, her perspective and blackout memory, create a lot of the turmoil. 

6. One of Rachel’s deepest disappointments, it turns out, is that she can’t have children. Her ex-husband Tom’s second wife Anna is the mother to a young child, Evie. How does Rachel’s inability to conceive precipitate her breakdown? How does the topic of motherhood drive the plot of the story? What do you think Paula Hawkins was trying to say about the ways motherhood can define women’s lives or what we expect from women’s domestic lives, whether as wives, mothers, or unmarried women in general?

It is clear in the book that the lack of a child drives Rachel’s demise into alcoholism. Of course, we learn later, it was egged on by Tom – a cruel amusement by him. Anna, on the other hand, feels motherhood somehow absolves her of wrongdoing. She is a mother, so naturally, she is above others. She is divine. She is saintly. Whatever must be done to protect her family is acceptable … except, it isn’t. It doesn’t give her the right to entertain that if Rachel dies, regardless of Tom being a monster and Rachel exposing him, Anna’s “perfect” family will remain intact – intentionally ignoring that Tom is a monster.

As for Megan, her story is tragic. She was young and feel asleep. It was most definitely not intentional, she inadvertently caused the death of her child. She feels no one would be able to forgive her and she can’t forgive herself. Society makes her feel that if she loved her child, she would not have let that happen. However, that’s clearly not true. 

It is interesting that Paula Hawkins describes the women’s goodness and honesty in direct relation to motherhood. Rachel is a failure. Megan is cruel and uncaring. Anna is protective. 

7. Think about trust in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Who trusts whom? Who is deserving of trust? Is Rachel Watson a very trustworthy person? Why or why not? Who appears trustworthy and is actually not? What are the skills we use to make the decision about whether to trust someone we don’t know well?

We all make assumptions about people. It’s part of our evolution. Paula Hawkins even comments on it in the book. Ted Bundy was a handsome man – no way he could be a killer, but he was. Rachel assumes Megan and Scott are happy because they are beautiful and during brief glances from the train they are. However, no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. Everyone assumes Scott killed Megan because he is the husband. Everyone assumes Rachael is lying this time because she is a drunk and does lie a lot. 

8. Megan’s disappearance is a mystery for most of the novel. As the book progresses how do your thoughts change on the reason or person behind Megan going missing? How did you feel when you found out the truth?

I felt bad for Megan. So many bad choices and so much self-punishment. 

9. Megan has a lot of secrets in her past, which have continued to haunt her. How do you think her past has affected her? What do you think about the way she has dealt with it?

Her past absolutely affected her future. She could not forgive herself. She could not move on. She wasn’t happy and she didn’t believe she should allow herself to be happy. Megan tries to fill the void with the men that she has affairs with. With each one, she always at some point wants to run away with them. What she really wants to run away from is herself.

10. Who is the worst out of Rachel, Anna, and Megan?

To me, Anna is the worst female character. She believes she is above it all because she is a mother. Anna thinks she is better than other women because she was able to steal someone’s husband. She is very nearly able to let Rachel die by Tom to retain her “perfect” family. Anna seriously contemplates this because she doesn’t want the perception of her to change. She actually thinks at one point that she can’t imagine people comparing her to Rachel, to be in the same category of Rachel. Anna is self-centered, egotistical, and a horrible person. 

Overall, I would recommend this book. Let me know what you think!

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

My Review of All The Light We Cannot See part 1

all the light we cannot seeI just finished All The Light We Cannot See.

I give it 5/5 stars. It is the best book I have read in a really, really long time.

Not only was it a great story, but it really makes you think.

These are my thoughts on the book. If you have not read the book, do not read.

I’m going to answer some book questions that have been posted on the internet. Here goes.

(This is part 1. It ended up being longer than I thought, so next week I will post part 2.)

1. First of all, did you like the book overall? Why or why not? Along with that, did you like Doerr’s style of writing?

I loved this book. It has to be one of the best books that I have read in a long, long time. Not only was the story great, but the writing was elegant, intricate, and splendid. The story made me think. It made me want to simultaneously hurry through it to find out what was going to happen, but also to linger on the beauty of each sentence. Some times superfluous writing can be superbly annoying. That was not the case here. 

2. Along with style, how did you feel about the time going back and forth between future and present?

I often find it irritating, here, I found it really moved the story along and gave the reader a chance to absorb everything that was going on, especially in the grander scheme of things. 

3. Favorite character?

That’s a tough call. I’m sure this is cheating … I start to say both Werner and Marie-Laure, but truly, Marie-Laure drives the story. It’s Werner that is most complicated and through so many different characters do we get to observe and relish through his eyes. Werner is my favorite. He is all the light that will never be, the light that could have been, the light that had such a chance to make an impact in the world — extinguished too soon. 

4. What do you think? Do you agree with Madame? Is doing nothing a kind of troublemaking…as good as collaborating?

This has long been debated about WWII. Were those who stood by, and let Naziism take over, were they just as bad? Were they culpable? There are, of course, varying degrees, but yes, almost as bad. I do believe it snowballed to the point in Germany where it was next to impossible to speak out. Those who did were murdered. Yet, in the beginning, oh how things could have been different. 

5. What did you think of the main character being blind? How did this change the story for you?

It makes the reader immediately feel for her. Her light, was of the physical nature. She literally could not see. It’s an important theme of the book. 

6. Is it easy or difficult for you to believe in curses and things of that nature? The supernatural, if you will? More specifically, did you believe that if Werner had had the stone at the end, he might’ve been saved?

I did not believe he would be saved. To me, the diamond represented the theme of things we can not see. We don’t know how or why things are connected. We then try to explain things — through myth. 

7. Was anyone else annoyed by the conversations that happened at the end of the story???

Yes, I wanted more. With all of the extensive writing and prolonged storytelling, it was unsatisfying to not hear the characters explain more. However, I think, perhaps, it was just a writing technique — to make the reader feel unsatisfied like all the lives were in WWII. 

8. What did the title mean to you?

What the title means to me, is everything. 

First, it eludes to the fact that there are so many things out there that we cannot see. The story focuses on the radio. We cannot see radiowaves, we cannot see microwaves. There are whole spectrums of light that we cannot see. We can’t see the internet. In some ways, it is magical (like the diamond). 

So, yes, at the end of the story, when the author states that perhaps, there are souls moving through the world, can we really say for sure that souls are not? In 1945, could one really imagine the internet? Just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean that it’s not real.

There are so many things we do not know — so many ways the world is connected …

 … like our characters. The world is connected in ways that we cannot understand. Things happen, time moves forward, one thing effects another — we might not be able to see the reason, if there is any, but yet it occurs, regardless of our understanding of it. 

So why not a God? Why not our loved ones with us, always? 

Maurie-Laure is another example of all the things we cannot see. It’s a theme, like the radiowaves. She is blind — she can’t see anything. The author even states that closing your eyes is still not the same thing as being blind — there is still light to be seen. Werner sees some stuff, in regards to how life is lived, but it is Jutta, and Fredde that really see the way the world works. If there were more of them, people who really saw … perhaps WWII never would have happened. 

How we think that we HAVE to do something. We erroneously see/believe that it is necessary. Like WWII. Germany felt they had to do all of those heinous things. They didn’t. Now, hindsight shows just how blindingly wrong they were.

The book is riddled with examples of doing the wrong thing not seeing that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

Werner throughout his schooling alongside Fredde, is an example of this. 

I also loved the correlation with the physical nature of the concept. Society thought that we could “see” so much with the radio, but there was so much more we could see. First television, then the internet. So much more than just a radio. 

Which coincides with how things become obsolete — like the radio. 

The radio was everything in WWII. FDR fireside chats next to the radio, information being dispersed by people like real-life Etienne’s. People on the front lines communicating via radio positions, asking for ground support … now? Obsolete. 

All that fighting over WWII, for what? Germany is not supreme ruler of the world. However, now it has taken a place next to the US, England, France, and China. All those lives lost. All of it obsolete, unnecessary, and a waste. 

Another theme is the metaphysical nature of all the light we cannot see. Light is a flame. To put the flame out is to extinguish it. To make dark. A life is like light, and so many lives were extinguished. The line in regards to Werner … what he could have been. All that light, all those lives, that we will never see. We will never see the light they could have shined on other humans beings through their love, their kindness, their connections. All the light those individuals could have shined on science, on technology, on literature. All gone. All extinguished because a failed society didn’t see what they were doing was wrong.

Until next week! I’ll be back for part 2!

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Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com