I have read books by these authors previously. These are my thoughts on some of their other works.
A Book Based on a Vacation or a Road Trip: At the Water’s Edge
by Sara Gruen
Maddie, her husband Ellis, and his best friend Hank head to Scotland in the midst of World War II to attempt to find the famous monster of Loch Ness. Many years before, Ellis’s father had faked pictures of the beast and therefore had been disgraced and Ellis planned to redeem his family’s name (although selfishly to get back into his father’s good graces/money/inheritance). However, Maddie discovers more about her husband than about the mythical monster while in Scotland.
Several years ago, I read Water for Elephants, which I really enjoyed, but I had to get rid of because of the pervasive sexual content. (I thought about blacking out or tearing out pages, but there was too much!) This novel did not have quite as much racy material, but some still appeared. And evidently, Sara Gruen has a thing for extramarital affairs in her novels! Even though Maddie can be “justified,” it’s still painful to read about an unhappy marriage. The novel, although set during World War II, does not focus on the war at all, and honestly when Gruen interjects facts about concentration camps, or the advancement of the Russian army, it seems a little forced. The focus of the story isn’t on the war, or even the famous monster, but on the much more human monster that Maddie struggles against.
Is this a good story? Sure. Is it literary writing? Not really. Would I recommend? Meh.
A Book Based on a Historical Event: Year of Wonders
by Geraldine Brooks
When the plague invades her town (via the tailor living in her house), Anna loses her boarder and both of her young sons just months after her husband died in a mining accident. The young parish rector encourages the village to close its borders and quarantine themselves to prevent further spreading of the disease, and the town’s people band together to survive through its rampage.
A book about the plague sounds reeeeeally depressing, and it pretty much is. However, the main focus of the novel isn’t how many people have died and who might be next, but on the relationships between the townspeople and how disaster brings out the best (and sometimes the worst) in them. My main critique of this one is that the ending is just plain weird. I’ll leave it at that as not to spoil anything!
Brooks has a knack for choosing interesting historical events and creating an entire world around pieced together facts (other books of Brooks’ I have read: March, Caleb’s Crossing, and People of the Book). While this isn’t my favorite of Brooks’ works, it does have an interesting, personal perspective.
A Book from the Library: Left Neglected
by Lisa Genova
Sarah is VP of a major consulting firm, has a great husband, 3 kids, a nice house, and a vacation home in the mountains. Everything comes crashing down when she rolls her SUV while trying to make phone calls on the way to work one morning. Sarah wakes up several days later in the hospital, having absolutely no awareness of the left side of her body or the left side of anything else; “Left Neglect,” the neurologists call it. Once she comes to grips with her new situation, Sarah has to decide what’s really important in her life.
While this novel did not hit me as hard as Still Alice (probably because I don’t have a personal connection to Left Neglect like I do Alzheimer’s), Genova again displays a remarkable insight into the life and brain of a person who suffers from neurological issues. The characters are well-drawn and multi-faceted–Genova did a better job with Sarah’s husband Bob than she did with Alice’s husband. I love the parallels between Sarah’s “new” brain and her son’s ADHD one. The redemptive story between mother and daughter is lovely as well.
This one will go on my “recommend to anyone” list. It brings a little-known medical condition to light and also makes the reader think and step into Sarah’s shoes.
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