Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Books

It seems like so long since I read a book that I enjoyed, until I stumbled on Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

When I started this book, I couldn't tell in which time period it took place. An older man reminiscing about simpler times in England and the old Empire. He was born on the Indian subcontinent. It could have taken place in the late 1800s or the early 1900s between World Wars, but it is actually set in present day. The main character is devoted to tradition yet finds himself attracted to a Pakistani widow. In spite of his love of country and British customs, he moves forward ignoring the resistance from even those Brits younger than him, and the Pakistani family which oppose the relationship. The book is very sweet. It doesn't throw tradition to the wind but encourages people to look at customs and determine which are useful in today's world while weaving an intriguing story around likable characters. Earl wants to read it next.
The other book I stumbled on was Anna Quindlen's Every Last One. I filled my library bag with books on tape before my most recent trip to pick up Grace.
This was one of them. I knew nothing about the book. The blurb on the back was fairly innocuous. A woman, mother of three feels herself growing distant from her husband. Well, that sounded like life in suburbia. I'd read other books by Anna Quindlen and enjoyed them so I slid it into the bag.
When I began listening to it, I became enthralled with her characterizations. The daughter Ruby as a quirky senior in high school, the twin teenage boys. Of course, they reminded me of my own family. I told my friend Ruth that she should listen to the book because her family also has an oldest daughter, an independent thinker, with two younger sons. The book stretched from Ruby's prom junior year to New Years her senior year until (SPOILER ALERT), Ruby's ex-boyfriend kills her, her father, one of the twins and stabs the mother. That's right. Without any warning that this book included murder and mayhem, the entire family is killed except for the mother and one of the boys who is away on a ski trip.
The book included no indication that murder was on its way. I felt outraged that I had been lured into loving this family only to see them killed on New Year's Day. The title comes from a conversation the mother overheard as she drifted in and out of conciousness. The police officer who found them says, the whole family is dead: "Every last one."
I overcame my outrage at the surprise mass murder to listen to the remainder of the book because Quindlen is a good writer.
Would I have picked up this book if I knew about the murders? Probably not. I try to read books that don't make me feel too anxious. I use books for entertainment and escape.
Nevertheless, I'm glad I listened to this book because the characters snagged me. I guess if Quindlen were not such a good writer, I wouldn't have cared so much that they were strangled and stabbed on New Years Day.

1 comment:

Linda said...

I don't like books like that either. What a shock it must have been for you as you listened to the story. I'll see if I can get the other book on Kindle. It sounds like my sort of book.

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