Monday, February 4, 2013

Winter Book Reviews

(1) Wesley The Owl

Four stars for its readability and heart.  Did you know that a barn owl mates for life?  Did you know that the barn owl needs to eat a diet of mostly whole mice and that after its body digests the mouse its skeleton is coughed up in an 'owl pellet'?  Did you know that its ears are spaced asymmetrically on the side of its head and its face is shaped sort of like a bowl to reflect sound to the ears to make its echolocation so good it can hear a small animal's heartbeat under a few feet of snow?  These are just a few facts you will learn while reading this amazing story of a barn owl adopted by a researcher at Cal Tech.  This owl's life was saved by the author Stacey O'Brien and he became part of her family.  She learned things about owls no researcher had ever been able to observe in the wild.  This book will give you a whole new perspective on how humans and animals can relate to each other.  Loved it!

(2) Reservation Blues

Four stars for bringing a deeply human voice to the pain and endurance of life on an Indian Reservation. Knowing the history of the land we live on is crucial to living a whole and honest life.  And to see this history through the eyes of young people who still believe in the traditions of their ancestors, who can still hear the music of the trees around them is a miracle.  Sherman Alexie tells the story of a magic guitar brought to the Spokane Indian reservation by Robert Johnson himself.  This guitar unlocks many a deep dream and old hurt in a group of friends, including Thomas-Builds-the-Fire, who start a band and simultaneously try to escape and reclaim their past.  This beautiful story also serves as a social commentary on what contemporary life looks like for many of the Americans who were here first and what the white man did to them.  I ask myself 'can I accept my part in this?'

(3) The Poisonwood Bible

Five stars in my four-star rating system.  As my friend said 'it is the perfect political novel.'  Political fiction is one of my favorite genres (it makes history not boring for me to read).  The gist of the book is a Christian missionary family from Kentucky moves to a rural village in the Congo so the minister father can save everyone.  In this beautifully written book by Barbara Kingsolver you have a book that includes feminism (the minister has four daughters and his wife with him all of whom he oppresses with the lord Jesus Christ AND the story is told through the eyes of each woman and never from his point of view), colonial oppression and blood diamonds (the Congo being one of the richest countries in natural resources wanted by the white man), the American CIA getting involved in foreign politics that don't support their agenda, RACISM, the beauty of rural village culture and trying to preserve it, and so much more.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.

(4) The Bean Trees

Another Barbara Kingsolver book.  I really enjoyed it in its relative simplicity.  It was a quick read (I read it in less than a day, granted I stayed in bed for at least 5 hours doing so).  It is the story of a young woman, Taylor, who manages to escape her small town life and her little beat up VW bug and head west until she gets some place she wants to stay.  On the way a silent young native american child is left in her arms and she makes a choice to take her with.  She ends up in Arizona and starts her new life.  She crosses paths with people and in their crossing sees sides of herself she may never have otherwise.  Many social justice issues are explored and you end up wanting more.  But you get to think a little about the Native American experience of what is lovingly known as the United States now.  You get to meet illegal immigrants from Guatemala escaping political terror.  You meet single mothers, social workers, and doing what you have to do.  Doing what it is right.  The heroine of the story is someone you'd like to be friends with.

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