Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Reviews: The Boiling Season (Hebert) & Boys Keep Being Born (Frank)

I confess...since we've seen that I do more than read, it is clearly time to return to books.
This is another book that was provided to me by the lovely folks at Harper.  They are an unemployed book lover's dream.

The Boiling Season is set in the Caribbean, on an unnamed island that bears much in common with Haiti.  The protagonist is determined from an early age to escape from the run-down slums of his childhood and his shop-keeper father.  He finds his way to a stint of employment with a Senator and then spends most of his life as a caretaker at a lush, secluded resort.  He is determined to ignore his roots and the growing political unrest in his country in favor of the lavish life at the resort and the magical oasis it provides.  His determination to ignore the realities of his land's politics continue even as the world eventually comes knocking at his door. 

I greatly enjoyed this book.  The narrator is well-drawn and beautifully flawed.  The reader is not allowed the solace of his blindness but continues to have some degree of sympathy with his desire to see only a paradise.  Hebert's characters are vivid and well-drawn, many of them more complex than secondary characters are usually permitted to be.  I do think that the novel could benefit from some editing, it did drag in points, but I'm still giving it four stars.  A good read for people who like a bit of political complexity lurking behind the curtains.
I picked up this collection, along with another book, after immensely enjoying Frank's Make It Stay.  This is a series of short-stories, most focusing on or involving middle-aged women contemplating the meaning and the content of their lives.  I don't tend to love short stories, but many of these pieces overcame my usual objections with beautifully crafted characters and emotional depth.  I particularly loved a piece where a woman is attending the ninth birthday of her long-term boyfriend's son.

In the end, I did struggle a bit and push to get through it because the format just isn't for me.  3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since I think my rating was tempered by an unfair bias.   

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