Today we are continuing our February Book Challenge Update with the final four books on my list. Be sure to check out yesterday’s post for the rest!
For those of you who missed my initial post on this topic, I have decided to embark on a most enjoyable challenge to read 52 books in 2013. I have chosen to participate in the Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge in which I select my own goal, and a book a week is what I came up with as truly doable this year. Each month I will give you an update on where I am in the challenge and what books I was lucky enough to indulge in. I’ll also include a link to Amazon.com for each book in case you would like to pick a read up for yourself.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs- Completed February 8th
This was another novel assigned for class that has me deeply affected. Harriet Jacobs has written a haunting, disturbing tale of her life as a slave in North Carolina. In it she writes of the unspeakable cruelty inflicted upon slaves in that time and of her seven years hiding in the tiniest of crawl spaces in her grandmother’s house. These horrors of slavery are almost unbearable for me to read and I spent quite a bit of the novel in tears. Along the way her life is injected with sincere kindness of strangers who believe in her chance at freedom and show her that compassion still exists in the world. The story comes full circle to describe her eventual escape and emancipation. Although difficult to read in terms of emotion, I enjoyed the book and think it is necessary reading.
The Surrounded by D’Arcy McNickle- Completed February 23rd
I read this book as a requirement for class this semester and have to admit that it was difficult to get into. Even after the story began to pick up midway through, I just couldn’t get past how utterly depressing the novel is. The Surrounded begins with Archilde Leon returning to his home reservation in Montana after being away in the city of Portland for some time. He returns to his family with a skewed outlook on his heritage and struggles to find meaning in the lives of his family. As he spends more time in his homeland, he becomes increasingly attached once again to old ways and finds himself entangled in the affairs of those he loves.
The novel is full of murder, fear, suspicion, and death. Without giving away the ending, I will say that the novel ends in the most hopeless and disheartening manner and has left me feeling listless and sad. Although I understand the historical and social significance, I wouldn’t recommend this book.
The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisernos- Completed February 26th
“She thinks stories are about beauty,” Cisernos writes of her author-self in the introduction to The House On Mango Street, and thus a book of beautiful stories begins. Set up as a series of vignettes about her life growing up living with her brothers and sisters on Mango Street, every story is an extended prose poem. The chapters are short, with each word carefully chosen to bring her world vividly to life. Not a single syllable is wasted. My favorite chapter is “A House Of My Own,” where two tiny paragraphs express a longing so deep it is consuming. I highly recommend taking your time in savoring every word in this little book of beauty.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck- Completed February 26th
The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most classic American novel ever written, yet this was my first reading. Steinbeck tells the story of ex-convict Tom Joad and his tight-knit family as they are displaced from their land in Oklahoma and forced to migrate west to California with thousands of other downtrodden Americans. Although life is incredibly hard, there is a sense of community among the migrants that shows great hope for a better tomorrow.
I found the novel very long-winded and often slow in pace. The depressing nature of the story made it difficult to read and I found my mind wandering. I wish I could say that I loved this piece of great American literature more. The last third of the novel does pick up pace and I was able to better connect with the characters as they faced their final dramas. Although it is an odd, maybe even perverse scene, the novel ends on a note of hope, showing the strength of the people. I think The Grapes of Wrath is necessary and insightful reading, but would not read it again.
As usual I welcome your book recommendations and look forward to sharing my March reads with you in the coming month!