- The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick
Having read a few of Quick's past works, I was excited by the opportunity to receive a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This is David Granger's story. It opens just after he has had brain surgery and he is forced, very much against his will, to spend time with his son Henry and his granddaughter Ella. He dotes on Ella but has long-clashed with his son. David is a Vietnam Vet who still battles his memories of the war and the "bad stuff" he did during his tour of duty. He is as politically incorrect as they come (and quite foul-mouthed....if profanity bothers you, steer clear), a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, and at a loss when it comes to how to interact with his liberal art-dealer son. But, underneath the gruff exterior is a big heart who cares deeply about a wide-range of people regardless of race, sexuality, or creed. David is also clearly still mourning the wife he lost years ago, a woman he loved deeply who suffered from intense mental illness.
I enjoyed this novel. It was a quick read and in some ways I want to call it an easy read, but the multitude of issues it raises are far from simple. Through David, Quick makes his reader confront their own assumptions and biases, pushing the reader to see the beauty and the good in a man whom many would immediately dismiss as a "right wing nut" (I suspect Quick's base is more than a little bit liberal-leaning and will identify more with David's son than with the protagonist). The style pushes the reader along at a fast pace, but the content lingers as he raises issues including the trauma of war and the complexity of loving someone consumed by mental demons.
A high 4 stars (of 5).
- Rebellion by Molly Patterson
Rebellion (provided to me by the publisher is exchange for an honest review) takes the reader into the daily lives of women facing different worlds but calling upon the same inner strength to do their very best. Each begins at a moment of change, but carries through into the daily business of life. Louisa's tale begins in the late nineteenth century as she leaves her family home to live a hard life as a farmer's wife in rural Illinois. Her sister, Addie has also left home behind but for the very different role as a missionary's wife in China, plunged into a culture she doesn't understand where even her closest counterparts seem like they come from an entirely different world. Then there's Hazel, Louisa's daughter, whom we meet in the 1950s as she faces the sudden the loss of her husband and learns to manage both her responsibilities and her heart. There's also a recent college grad moving back from the city to her family's hotel in rural China in something close to the present day (why, yes, she is the one who held the least interest for me...). Not to mention a briefer portrait of Hazel's daughter, trying to balance a busy life in Chicago with helping her aging mother.
I feel out of breath just typing that. Once I got beyond the first 50 or so pages, I was able to cleanly separate out the various women's tales, which is sometimes hard for me. The book is divided into sections with several chapters on one woman before moving to another...each woman is heard from multiple times with each story stopping and starting to accommodate another. I grew to anticipate "hearing from" some of the women while feeling somewhat disappointed when others took their turn as protagonist. There are some big events that occur, but much of this novel is simply about what it takes to survive and thrive in daily life. Aside from the tie to the Boxer Rebellion, the rebellions of this novel are of the sort that let each woman assert herself and become herself in her world.
Patterson does a lovely job showing the reader two places at different time periods and the way her different protagonists navigate their worlds. She has definite talent. But there was just too much thrown together. I think this would have been much more successful as two interconnected novels that allowed the reader to immerse herself more completely in the different settings and truly appreciate each,
Three stars. There's beauty in here, but there's too much crammed in to allow the reader to truly appreciate it...