Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Devil in Silver

For my second read in December I read, The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle.  The book tells the story of Pepper, a man living in New York City who is mistakenly committed to a mental institution.  While there he meets quite the cast of characters, including one they call "the devil".  Much of Pepper's efforts while in the hospital are spent on escape attempts and figuring out if the devil really exists.

I don't remember how I stumbled across this book.  Likely I was reading a best of 2012 list and got linked to it somehow.  Anyway, I'm glad I did since it was quite an enjoyable read.

At 400+ pages, it has some moments where it gets a little wordy and has some portions I didn't think were super important to the story but I'm letting that slide in this review since I really enjoyed LaValle's writing style.  He is telling you the story at hand, but also talks directly to the reader sometimes (in quotes) and incorporates elements I wasn't expecting.  Like he bring Van Gogh into things.  I'll let you read how, but I was impressed how LaValle pulled things together.  His characters are also very well written.  Complex surely, but relatable despite the fact that they are institutionalized.

Blurbs on the back book jacket talk about how this "literary horror" is "profoundly terrifying" and that LaValle "wants to scare the living &#^$% out of the reader".  I'd like to clarify that by this (I think) they mean with his portrayal of the truly awful conditions of the mental hospital in the book.  Despite the word "devil" in the title, it's the poor conditions of mental heath care system that scared me.  Not only because they are described in a way which is frightening but because I'm afraid that a lot of what happens in the book happens in the REAL mental health care system here in the U.S.. 

Overall, I would recommend reading this book.  I'm also proud to say that I achieved my goal of reading 24 books this year (26 actually!) and I'm very thankful to those who have been reading our blog.  Here's to reading a lot of books next year as well!  I hope you'll keep coming back to read some reviews, find out which books are worth checking out and share your reading adventures/recommendations with us too.  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness

For my first read in December I read, Why Have Kids?:  A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti.  It is a non-fiction book that asks the question "Why have kids?" and gives us some insight to how looking at the truths about parenting could make one happier than going into it ill prepared and being disappointed.

I don't have any kids.  I would like some one day but currently I don't have any.  I have always wondered why people have kids though.  To make their family "complete"?  To bring joy to their lives?  To have more hands to help out around the house?  The media and people we interact with often talk about the happiness only parenting can bring but I don't have any illusions about the fact that being a parent will be hard.

Many people however, don't want to tell you this.  They say that being a parent will make you happy or that your family isn't complete without children.  What I enjoyed about this book is that Valenti addresses this issue (along with many others) and drops a truth bomb on you, parenting does not automatically equal happiness.  For some, parenting might be the the thing that makes them feel complete and purposeful, but that's not how it is for everyone and that is OK.

I recommend reading this book whether you are a parent or not, it's just an interesting read.  It covers all the "mommy war" topics (breastfeeding, stay-at-home vs working moms, maternal instinct, etc) and gives you a real look at what to expect from parenting.  Parenting is unpredictable and different for everyone, but it seems if you go into it knowing that it will be challenging and won't automatically make you feel whole, you'll be able to find a lot more happiness in your new role.