Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Choices We Make


Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin


Take one impressionable, young, and ambitious woman interested in politics, and mix it with one much older, handsome and dynamic (but married) Congressman and you'll have a possibly explosive mixture. Unfortunately, when the blast comes, often the fallout hits the young woman (and her family) far harder than it does the public official. In Gabrielle Zevin's latest novel, she looks at the dilemmas and hurdles that being in the wake of such scandals pose from various different sides of the story, none of which includes the elected official himself. These include Rachel, the mother Aviva Grossman who had the affair with the Congressman; Jane Young the woman in Maine who may or may not have once been Aviva; Ruby, Jane's daughter, and; Embeth, the wife of the cheating Congressman.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Glitter and Tarnish

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie


To preface this review, I have to begin by somewhat taking umbrage with the following parts of the publisher's synopsis of this book (which appeared just like this in the "Read it Forward" newsletter):

"On the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, an enigmatic billionaire from foreign shores takes up residence in the architectural jewel of “the Gardens,” a cloistered community in New York’s Greenwich Village. The neighborhood is a bubble within a bubble, and the residents are immediately intrigued by the eccentric newcomer and his family. Along with his improbable name, untraceable accent, and unmistakable whiff of danger, Nero Golden has brought along his three adult sons: agoraphobic, alcoholic Petya, a brilliant recluse with a tortured mind; Apu, the flamboyant artist, sexually and spiritually omnivorous, famous on twenty blocks; and D, at twenty-two the baby of the family, harboring an explosive secret even from himself. There is no mother, no wife; at least not until Vasilisa, a sleek Russian expat, snags the septuagenarian Nero, becoming the queen to his king—a queen in want of an heir." … "Meanwhile, like a bad joke, a certain comic-book villain embarks upon a crass presidential run that turns New York upside-down."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Now You're an Immigrant!


Chutzpah & High Heels: The Search for Love and Identity in the Holy Land by Jessica Fishman

 
In this memoir, Jessica Fishman details the trials and tribulations of making what we call "Aliyah" - literally meaning to "go up" to Israel. This reminds me of an old, old joke, which goes something like this (which is my rough translation from the Hebrew):

One day an angel comes to visit an elderly Jew. The angel tells the man that because he led a life of purity and righteousness, God decided to reward him by showing him both Heaven and Hell while he was still alive. The angel takes the man down to Hell first. There he sees people wildly running about, naked, drinking, and having orgies. The man looks at this and says, "Yes, this is truly Hell." The angel then takes him to Heaven. There he sees vast rooms filled with rows upon rows of desks where hundreds of thousands of men are fervently praying and seriously studying Holy Scriptures. The man looks at this and says, "Yes, this is truly Heaven." After this, the angel puts the man back on earth and disappears. Several years later, the man dies and the first thing he sees is the angel that had visited him. The angel says, "rabbi, since you know what heaven and hell are like, you now have the privilege of choosing where you wish to spend eternity." The man thinks a bit and then tells the angel, "Well, to tell the truth, heaven looks just like my life on earth, so maybe I should go to hell." The angel immediately transports the man to a burning inferno of a place where people are suffering and screaming and in horrible pain. "Wait," says the man, "this isn't anything like what I saw the first time I was here." To this the angel replies, "Yes, of course. You were a tourist that time; now you're a new immigrant!"

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Finding Direction


Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler


At only the age of 61, Liam is suddenly unemployed, but that's not worrying him. He didn't really love the job, anyway. It was just something he fell into; there there aren't many positions for someone with a degree in philosophy. No, he won't miss teaching history to fifth graders, and retirement actually sounds appealing. Yes, he has to downsize and be more frugal to manage with his reduced income, but that's okay too. Unfortunately, on his first night in his new apartment, someone broke in and attacked him, and after he woke up from his concussion, he couldn't remember anything after falling asleep. To recover this small loss of memory, Liam ends up searching for more than a few hours of time, and in places he never thought he'd go.