Novel Reactions: kaddish.com

After the first few chapters of kaddish.com, I did not know how to feel. I’d expected the book to tell the story of Larry’s misadventures over the 11-month mourning period for his father. So after the first part ended, and Larry came home, and that was that, I’d felt short-changed. I couldn’t make sense of it. Suddenly, Larry was Reb Shuli, teaching at the school. How? His (re)conversion from atheism felt rushed. What? Like it’s hard to convert your heart?

Eh, anyway, I read on. I’ve always been a fan of Nathan Englander’s writing, and I began to think that perhaps it may have been too easy or predictable for the story to have only been set over that period of time. Of course. We needed to make it all the way to a midlife crisis and see that some actions do have lasting consequences. And we needed to make up for our mistakes. What lengths do we go to make amends, and when do we call it a day?

Only remember, … if you don’t find what you need over there, in this life it’s permissible to forgive oneself too.

Nathan Englander, kaddish.com

No need to answer. I’ll just leave that here. Also, I haven’t come across a quote I liked that much in a while. I needed that.

Although the synopsis on the book jacket was a little misleading (i.e. the story was not about the 11-month mourning period, but then again, who told me it would be anyway?), the rest of the story flowed well. I liked the story. It was also funny in a different way… in an ‘omg no, don’t do that!’ kind of way. Man, what a character.

Novel Reactions: Magpie Murders

It’s been more than a month since I last finished a book. I’ve been swamped with work and (re)socialization that I’d always been too tired to commit to a book. The past week, however, I’d been (sick and) stuck at home with nothing better to do but read (Netflix/the computer screen slowed down my recovery), so I dug up Magpie Murders from my box of unread books. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure if I would even be able to finish the book:

  1. I had never been interested in reading whodunnits (please don’t ask why I have the book); and
  2. The book was two inches thick, and I didn’t know if I could commit.

Surprisingly, I had made good progress after one day of reading. By the end of day two, I was a little more than halfway through Magpie Murders that I knew I could finish the book. I picked up the book again over the weekend and basically inhaled the second half of the book. I was pleasantly surprised at myself.

Then again, the pleasantries end there. It might be because I simply am still not interested in whodunnits, but I felt just okay with the book after I’d finished with it. Yes, I sped through it, but I didn’t fall in love with it. Thinking about it that way, I am a little disappointed because I have another murder mystery (The Word is Murder) in my tbr, and now I am somewhat less excited to read it. I have to say, though, Magpie Murders was easy to keep picking back up, unlike other books that my mood reader self has not had the energy to finish lately. It was a great book to read after my unintended hiatus, and I feel a little better knowing that Anthony Horowitz also wrote The Word is Murder; I’ll at least be able to finish that book, for sure.

Now I’m thinking that maybe I just need to give whodunnits another chance. Perhaps, but not so soon. I’ll pick up The Word is Murder in due time. For now, no real complaints; I’d just prefer to read something different afterwards is all.

Novel Reactions: The Saturday Night Ghost Club

I found The Saturday Night Ghost Club when I was browsing in bookstores in Toronto. At first, I was hesitant to buy this book. Ghost Club? No, thanks. I already know I don’t like horror, but I was intrigued: The Saturday Night Ghost Club was set in Niagara Falls—how quintessential Canada can you get? (See: A Taste of CanLit)

And what a great decision it was. This book was a short yet powerful read, and, frankly, I would have finished the book within a day if it were not for a cute dog trying to get my attention. (Yes, there are things other than mobile phones that distract your typical millennial population, too.)

Well, fine. I also voluntarily paused halfway through because I kept feeling like something really bad was going to happen, and I wanted to delay the impending doom as much as possible. Funnily enough, although I was suspicious that something was wrong, I didn’t get that something right! Nice try, brain; the story’s twists and turns weren’t that obvious.

I’d say Craig Davidson kept me on my toes for all ~250 pages of the book. He also managed to break my heart and then mend it in the same number of pages. What a ride.

Dinner at the Center of the Earth

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally decided to read this book. I have a bad habit of purchasing books despite the size of my to-be-read pile, which never seems to stop growing. It should be no surprise that I bought Dinner at the Center of the Earth way back in 2017 despite only reading it in 2019.

I first encountered Nathan Englander’s writing when I read The Twenty-Seventh Man back in college. I liked the short story so much that I bought For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. Since then, I never forgot the name. Come 2017, I found out that Green Apple Books on the Park was hosting a reading by Nathan Englander; I made it my mission to attend the event. After the reading, I shamelessly asked him to sign a book and to take a picture with me as I embarrassed myself with my fangirling. It was worth it.

Dinner at the Center of the Earth goes back and forth between 2002 and 2014, chronicling the experiences of several characters and how they were affected by the Gaza conflict. The book was more about personal experiences than the conflict itself, so it was quite easy to follow the story despite knowing very little of the conflict.

There are several characters involved, and throughout the story, all of their actions had been tied to the orders of the General (most clearly demonstrated by Prisoner Z’s imprisonment). It only took twelve years and some horrific events, but, by the end of the book, the characters have taken back control over their own lives. I felt a certain satisfaction that it ended in the characters’ own terms, even the General’s.

There’s a quite the history to go through before we even get to that point though. The chapters switch off across different characters at different moments in their lives, and at first, this comes off as choppy. The story gets a bit confusing to follow, mainly because the story lines and identities turn around pretty quickly, but don’t let that discourage you from reading on. Eventually, everything comes together as we learn more about the characters, and it’s all worth it.

I love a good book.

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

But I’m not, not really, and that’s fine, too.

Reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was a whirlwind of emotions. To tell the truth, I was ready to stop reading the book sometime in chapter four. I was getting tired of Eleanor’s attitude towards other people and things, and while there were some funny thoughts here and there, it was unsustainable. A whole book of that? No thanks. And then I find out there is more to her sterile personality, ahem, plot twist, and I was hooked. Good thing I decided to read one more chapter; otherwise, I would have missed out on possibly one of my favorite reads in a long time ever.

I loved getting to know Eleanor as she maneuvered through her newly found social life. Somehow I found myself relating to her a little, with her quirks and all. From why-can’t-people-write-properly to I-can’t-believe-I-blew-this-out-of-proportion, I could see a little of myself in her, and I think, you do you, Eleanor! You are so brave. You do not cower behind the fear of social stigma. How to be like you po? (Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is: you don’t want that for yourself. It’s just refreshing to see someone else be different.)

Be warned though: this book is not a light read. It’s a quick read, but it’s definitely not light. I consumed this book in two or three sittings, but I was on an emotional roller coaster in which I almost shed some tears. Gail Honeyman was not afraid to take her readers’ hearts and clench them so tightly that they might feel the pain of a lifelong loneliness and denial. No, Eleanor Oliphant is not fine, and it took her the better part of 30 years to realize this. It’s okay, Eleanor, let it all out.

As for me, well, I’m going to have myself a little cry, but don’t let that stop you from picking up the book.