Assorted Book Reviews

I am totally behind on my book reviews, so here are a whole bunch at once.

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan: A little like a lighter version of The Joy Luck Club, except with Indian women instead of Chinese, this is the story of three women who immigrated to America from India and their relationships with their American-born daughters. Nothing too heavy here, but I liked the characters, there was quite a bit of Indian history I’d never learned before, and the pace was nice and quick. At the end of each chapter there are recipes for Indian dishes, both traditional and Americanized. I did not prepare any of them, but it’s a clever way of drawing the reader further into the story. Good beach read.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (unabridged audiobook read by Firdous Bamji): Usually I can’t bring myself to be interested in others’ quests for enlightenment, but this is surprisingly good. The excellent reader is of course a big part of that, but the story itself left me with quite a bit of food for thought. While Siddhartha himself finds the Right Path eventually, the reader is left to find his own way. After all, without trying many paths in life, Siddhartha would not have reached his goal. I can imagine one getting different things out of this book depending on where in life they are. I may have to pick it up again in a decade or two.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (unabridged audiobook read by Flo Gibson): I had a lot of trouble with this one. The language was difficult, Gibson read way too quickly, and for most of it I had no idea what was going on. Perhaps if I’d read a paper copy I’d have enjoyed it more.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer: A beautifully tragic account of young Chris McCandless’s journey (and subsequent death) in the wilds of Alaska. Using diary entries, interviews with people who knew McCandless, and some similar historical endeavors, Krakauer attempts to uncover the motivations and thought processes behind the urge to experience nature in unbelievably dangerous situations. I have never had such an urge in my life, so the description of such an alien frame of mind enthralled me. I have mixed feelings about McCandless himself; I think he mistreated a lot of people who cared about him, but it sounded like he was on the brink of turning his life around there at the end. This story would not have worked as a novel – the premise is just too unbelievable and the timeline far too jumpy – but knowing it was true kept me turning pages until the very end. I agree with the review in the Washington Post, printed on the back cover: “Anyone who ever fancied wandering off to face nature on its own harsh terms should give a look.”

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner (unabridged audiobook read by Johanna Parker): Kate Klein is a bored housewife in a boring suburb full of SuperMommy neighbors who look down their noses at her. When the least despicable of them is murdered and the police have no suspects, Kate starts investigating on her own. However, this isn’t really a mystery novel. Like Weiner’s other novels, it’s more about relationships and motherhood – two subjects she tackles expertly and very humorously. The ending is surprisingly satisfying, though not especially tidy. Parker, who also read Little Earthquakes, was a great choice for this story as well. One of these days I’ll stop feeling embarrassed for liking Weiner novels. They really are very enjoyable.

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