It would appear that we are deep into the winter blues this week. Maybe the expected warmth coming our way this weekend will cheer us. If not, someone please send some mood elevators or perhaps one of those special sun lamps. This week we have a puppet master in plain sight, lots of sad, some more sad and tragic, and a rather tragic reading rut.
Amanda is reading For the Win by Cory Doctorow. “I am reading this because several of my techie coworkers have a love for all things written by Mr. Doctorow. The story is set across multiple characters living in various locations around the world. All of them are players of massive multiplay online games (MMOGs). Some of the players are playing for the fun of belonging and others because they need to make a living. For those forced to play, they endure rough conditions, beatings, and worse if they speak out about the way they are treated. However, an online revolution is coming as players began to form online unions to demand better conditions. Doctorow lacks the narrative spark that makes you emphasize with his characters, though you cringe away at the harshness of their lives in the slums. He's also a bit on the preach-y side as he suddenly stops the story to go on a tangent about how money is made in these games. My fault with the work is that I can see the puppet master. On the other hand, it's a fascinating look at the serious world of MMOGs. I am not a gamer, so I had very little background knowledge about the topic. “
I want it noted that Ann aka Little Miss Unicorns and Rainbows has used the word ‘sad’ three times in her offering this week. Let us discover what is bringing our girl down, shall we? “I have just finished The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. I would like to begin by saying I like sad books but this book although beautifully written was one of the saddest books I have ever read. The story follows Hattie who has come North to Philadelphia with her mother and sister during the migration of many Black people from the South. Hattie gets pregnant and marries August a young man she loves. Their life, although a struggle, seems happy until tragedy occurs when their twins die of pneumonia. Hattie becomes very disenchanted with her life. After the initial chapter of the death of the twin babies, the novel jumps in time to tell the story of some of Hattie's other children as adults. Their lives have been impacted greatly by poverty, prejudice, and their mother's bitterness. The writing is wonderful but this story is extremely sad.” Please. Won’t someone send some sunshine Ann’s way? I think she could use it.
Jeanne also weighs in. She is not much happier. “I read The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis because I wanted to learn what the title meant. I am still not sure about the title but I have some biblical ideas. For instance, the choice of the number twelve and the choice of Hattie's last name as Shepherd. Is it perhaps possible ultimate salvation? What I do know is that there are twelve children involved and what happens to them is mostly sad and often tragic. Hattie Shepherd, a teenage wife and mother, and her husband August have ten of these children; Hattie has one by another man and the last is a grandchild. They are a struggling black couple who have left the Jim Crow south of the 1920s to live in Philadelphia. After her adored first twins die in infancy of a disease that could have been prevented with pennies, Hattie and August have several more children that she "shepherds" fiercely through life with food and shelter and education, but not demonstrative love. As they grow, each of the children develops some debilitating issue, illness or obsession into adulthood. It is always sad and tragic to read a portrayal of people struggling against racial bias and this is dramatically apparent in this family's raw story of dysfunction. The book actually reads more like short stories than a novel as Mathis writes about Hattie and each child's struggles by chapter. Still, it is a mournfully beautiful first book and I would anticipate more by this author.” As I said, please someone send us some chocolate or something. We could use it.
I am in a totally tragic reading rut. I finished a few weeks ago something that I am sure is going to be a favorite for 2013. I have long been a fan of Kate Atkinson and her new offering Life After Life is going to be her masterpiece. The book begins with the main character Ursula in a café in Berlin in the mid 30’s. Who should walk in but her good friend Eva Braun and Eva’s beau Adolph Hitler. Urusla pulls out a pistol and kills him thus altering the future. The next chapter has Ursula being born in the English countryside. Sadly Baby Ursula dies. Chapter three has Ursula being born in the English countryside and she lives. You see, Ursula gets to have do overs. She can change small details and literally alter the course of her life. Atkinson’s writing is genius and you will totally fall for Ursula. Some of her fates are ugly and it kills you when you read them until you realize that this may not be her fate after all. This one comes out in April.