Archive for April, 2018

American Street

by Ibi Zoboi

What an absolutely beautiful book. The way Zoboi uses words is breath-taking.

The story will have you laughing and crying as you follow new Haitian immigrant Fabiola Toussaint in Detroit as she settles into life with her aunt and loud, crazy cousins.

Her mother is detained on entry, and you can see the mistakes she is making because she doesn’t know how things work in Detroit, and all she wants is her mother with her.

The story in and of itself is gripping and emotional and very real. But for me what elevates this books from a 4 star to a 5 star bestbook is the way the story is told. Seldom have I experienced such beautiful use of language.

I had to go over some sections more than once because I was so mesmerised by the language i forgot to focus on the narrative.
This is one of the few books i will buy a paperback copy of after having experienced it. I want to own this book, dip into it, write lines down and frame them.

beautiful beautiful book!

This could be another book for Book 14. A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you but everyone should read it simple because it exists.


by Peter Wohlleben

This is my book for Book 48 – A Microhistory

What a wonderfully interesting book this is. I experienced it as an audiobook and loved the narrator as much as I loved what he was narrating. It felt like I was being told secrets.

And in effect that is exactly what this book does. It tells you secrets. Amazing secrets about trees; about how they communicate and support each other, about how they care about each other, and how we create awful circumstances for them to live in.

I have always loved the idea of the slowness of trees and in this book a lot is explained about how and why trees live in the slow lane, and how that affects how they experience and react to life around them.

They are amazing life forms sorely misunderstood by humans because we do not slow down enough to see the effects of what we do, or how trees deal with situations. We do what we do and move on, assuming effects not immediately observed do not exist. Wait 4 decades and the trees will show you.

Also, the fact that they support each other by literally sending sick trees food makes me extraordinarily happy.

This book is packed with facts and new information that will make you gape in amazement and want to share it with everyone.

Throughout I kept thinking that finally the philosophical question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” has been answered. A tree cannot fall and not be heard – the other trees hear.

An interesting, educational and delightful food well worth reading.

by Sue Klebold
This book is my book for Book 10: A Book about death or grief
This is a most moving and life changing book written by the mother of one of the perpetrators of the Columbine Tragedy.
Dylan Klebold’s mother, Sue, narrated the version I experienced as an audiobook, and the pain is evident in her words and her voice.
In this book Sue Klebold tries to do many things – most of them successfully. I think she humanises the families of people who do awful things, she contextualises her son, she looks at how blaming the parents removes the opportunity to learn and possibly prevent future tragedies of this nature, and she exposes the complicated emotional and cognitive state of suicidal teenagers.
My hear broke, and continues to ache, for the Klebolds, and other families of people who do terrible things. I cannot imagine the agony of losing a child, and then to have that compounded by the fact that the world hates that child and blames you for creating the child. This was what Sue Klebold and her family were facing when Dylan and Eric did what they did. And as if that were not enough, she was unable to attend a single support group meeting or even talk opening about what she was going through to anyone, in case what she said was used in court!
That truly is cruel and unusual punishment.
Through out the book it is clearly important to Sue Klebold that a fuller picture of her son emerges. I did feel that occasionally the word ‘but’ could have been replaced with ‘and’ to avoid it sounding every now and then as though maybe she was trying to excuse or minimise what he did. I doubt this as her intention but occasionally I got a little uncomfortable with the lengths to which she went to tell us how wonderful he was immediately after saying what he did.
‘He killed these people but he also made origami animals’ has a subtle difference in meaning from ‘He killed these people and he also made origami animals’.
I feel the latter a better option. But I am not the mother of a dead child and this is not a major enough thing to damage my opinion of the book as whole.
I think one of the greatest values of this book, and sadly probably why not the right people will read it, is that is exposes the potential danger of simply blaming the family. We all sleep better in our beds if we believe the parents did something, or neglected to do something, that turned a child into a mass killer. If we believe that then we know it will never happen in our lives, because we are simply and obviously better people.
If we listen to and believe the Klebolds then the next mass killer could be any single child you know.
The Kelbolds ate dinner together most evening, the boys were hugged and touched affectionately, their parents did things with them, Dylan’s father and brother spend hours all together rebuilding cars, they visiting college options together and mapped out which room would suit the young man better. They talked and listened and disciplined without violence. They went to sporting events and did not abuse drugs and alcohol. If anything, I think Sue Klebod’s insistence on asking her son where he had been and what he had done when he came home after a night out had probably annoyed him the way it does teenagers. Teenagers seldom want that kind of deep engagement about their private lives.
They were loving, caring, present parents – and still this happened.
If we demonise them, then the children we raise in the same way are safe. If we acknowledge that they parented as we do, we have to face the fear that maybe any one of us could be unknowingly raising a child with the same potential.
And that is scary
And finally, Sue Klebold spends a lot of time talking about the fact that Dylan was suicidal and that she didn’t know. This for me is the most heart breaking because here she does blame herself to some degree. She asks frequently how did she not know.
But when she talks of the signs of depression in teenagers it sounds like regular teenage behaviour really. It is only after a suicide, as she believes Dylan’s whole intention that day was (albeit it an awfully gruesome one) that one can look back and say the moodiness, disengagement from parents, irritability, desire to sleep and even the use of drugs and alcohol were all signs of depression. I was a teenager who did all of that and was not even remotely depressed. I was just a teenager pushing boundaries and growing up.
If brain health issues were a more accepted thing, if we didn’t judge people who were struggling, then the Dylan Klebolds of the world would be able to ask for and get the help they need, preventing so many other deaths and so much pain.
But we don’t. We judge and marginalise and disenfranchise – and then would why events like this tragedy and the hundreds since keep happening.
If we as a society do not change how we view brain health then we are doomed to continue surviving this kind of event
and surely that in untenable.
An amazing five-start book that left me reeling and inspired

The End of Everything

by Megan Abbott
I read this book for Book 28. A book with song lyrics in the title. The song is Jill Andrews – The end of Everything
And, as an aside, the song is weirdly relevant after you have read the book

But back to the book – I really did like this book. I don’t think I have read Abbott before but I am going straight back to the library to find another.

In this book Lizzie and Evie are 13 year old neighbours and best friends. They share everything, playing and giggling together, and have done so for years.
The book is shot through with wisps of sexual tension, much like the lives of 13-year olds.

And then Evie disappears, apparently stolen.

The rest of the book is told from Lizzie’s point of view. Abbott perfectly catches the murky area 13-year olds live in, between childhood and adulthood. They have scabby knees and periods – childhood and adulthood bumping up against each other, sometimes deliciously and sometimes confusedly.

The dark twists of this fabulous story slowly unfurl, showing the reader all sorts of depths of family and friendship. Abbott manages to write such a wonderfully disturbing story with such a lightness of phrase it becomes doubly twisted. The narrative seems to leap out from between the sunshine like a monster from a field of flowers.

This is a most accomplished book and Abbott is a wonderful new find for me.