My husband and I just returned from a glorious week in Aruba and while I was there I had the chance to catch up to on some reading. I brought 4 books and ran out of material so in desperation I read a really good book about a girl that was raised with a chimp. My book club will get a real laugh about that but more on that later.
I started my trip with the book “Princess” by Jean Sasson which is the first book of a trilogy about a Saudi Princess named Sultana. (A pseudonym to protect her identity.) This is the true story of a princess that is hidden behind her black veil. She is a prisoner jailed by her father, husband and country.
This book was interesting and very easy to read. My favorite line from the book is as follows: “We women of Arabia could find happiness only if the man ruling us was considerate; otherwise sorrow would surround us no matter what we do. Our future is linked to the degree of kindness by the man who rules us.”
Interesting but sad. So I then turned to a witty book with a wry domestic tone to it, “This is where I leave you” by Jonathon Trooper.
The Foxman family is mourning the loss of their father and the family, although not very religious, is gathered for the week long Jewish ritual of sitting shiva. The narrator, Judd, is a faltering young man who has just found out his wife is cheating on him (with his boss) and he has a dysfunctional set of siblings. But it’s his mother who is laugh out loud funny (in the movie she is played by Jane Fonda) as an aggressively open minded mother who steals the show.
“Mom never had any use for discretion, never even had the sense to fake it. She habitually went through our drawers and coat pockets so we started composing entries just for her to find. …”Liz gave me these awesome pills that make you vomit after every meal, so I don’t have to use my finger anymore. Thin and manicured …win-win!”
The next book I read, “The Obituary Writer” by Ann Hood was completely different. This is a very grown up and polished novel that reads so smoothly you forget yourself in the story. The novel has two different narrators, Claire, an unhappy wife during the 1960’s who is obsessed with Jackie Kennedy and Vivien an unhappy woman who lost her lover in the earthquake of 1906.
The plot has no surprises and is very easy to follow, but as a reader, I didn’t care. I loved it. Vivien is the obituary writer who always begins by asking “Tell me about your loved one.”
I started to get twitchy because the 4th book I picked was not panning out so my very patient husband who “gets me” and my reading hobby agreed to venture into town to find a “real bookstore”. I found “Mr. Lynch’s Holiday” by Catherine O’Flynn.
What a gem of a book! This is about a father, Dermot who is a retired bus driver. After his wife dies he decides to go and visit his son, Eamonn who has moved to a remote but “up and coming town” in Spain. I really had no idea what to expect and the book store in Aruba didn’t have much of a selection beyond Danielle Steele and Clive Cussler so I just went with it and it kept me entertained.
Now I will end with that chimp. After I finished “Mr. Lynch” I was once again desperate but this time in the Aruba airport. I was also rushed so I quickly bought “We are all c0mpletely beside ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler. I thought it was a book about a family that lost a sister. Well, actually it is, however the sister is a CHIMP.
The narrator of the novel is Rosemary Cooke, the daughter of a psychology professor at Indiana University who grew up in a household experiment with her sister, Fern who is a chimp.
The “sisters” are separated at age 5 and the family is grief stricken. Each of them reacts to their grief in a different way. Rosemary eventually makes her way to college at the University of California Davis where she attempts to appear “normal.”
One night her friends are all lamenting how weird their parents are. Rosemary stays silent until someone eventually asks her if her parents are crazy too. She says to herself, yeah, my parents are “as ordinary a pair of people could be for people who’d tried to raise a chimp like a human child!”
All in all it was a great week with my husband and I had the chance to stretch my horizons with some new books! However, my new rule will be to be better prepared: 7 books for 7 days.