Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Audiobook Review: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Title:  We Are Not Ourselves

Author:  Matthew Thomas

Narrator:  Mare Winningham

Unabridged Length:  20 hrs, 51 mn

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.

Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.

My Review: 
Let me tell you that this sweeping novel narrated by Mare Winningham was an amazing listening experience.  We are able to follow all of young Eileen's hopes, dreams, fears, and losses throughout her life.  You can't help but want more for her as she struggles from day to day.  Nothing will stop Eileen from acquiring her American Dream.

As a young girl living in a small apartment in Queens with her immigrant family, she watches her parents struggle to get by.  As Eileen gets older she does everything she needs to find success.  Eileen finishes nursing school, but throughout her career eventually decides to pursue medical administration.

When Eileen marries Ed Leary, she hopes all her dreams will materialize quickly, but that does not come to pass.  They both have good jobs, but Ed is comfortable with his routine.  Renting an upstairs apartment is about all of the commitment that Ed is willing to invest in.  After many years Eileen is able to talk Ed into purchasing the building they live in, so they finally have something of their own.

It isn't until decades later that Eileen decides she wants more from this life once again.  Ed is nearing retirement and their son is in high school, getting ready for college soon.  Eileen does all she can to achieve her dreams, and even though she gets everything she wants, their lives start a downward spiral.  She realizes that everything that it has taken her whole life to achieve, she could lose in just a few months.  

Although this wasn't an action-packed novel, I found myself looking forward to listening to it.  With themes of family, love, illness, and immigrants, you may enjoy this book as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.

In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

My Review:
As soon as this book was published, my book club decided this would be added to our reading list.  So when we won a set of books this last year we figured it was meant to be.  Hosseini crafted a creative tale for us once again, this time spanning several generations and from various points throughout the world.

Each chapter of this novel is told from a different character of the book.  I must admit that it was quite confusing at times, because when starting a new chapter it would sometimes go on for many pages until you realize the common thread it has with the rest of the book.  Since we hear from so many different narrators, I don't even think I can give you a favorite character.

The story opens with a young family in Kabul and how they are torn apart, being sent in different directions.  For some children, they were so small that the rest of the family is so faint a memory they don't even know if it is true.  As they grow and become wiser as they have continued on with their lives in various global destinations, they can't help but feel an emptiness within their hearts.

As they struggle with the memories of their youth, they must admit their past in order to be a part of each other's futures.  Like I said earlier, each character in the book had some connection to these children.  Sometimes it may have been only a small connection, but still a very important one that was needed to help them find each other once again.

Considering how much I loved Hosseini's other books, I wanted to enjoy this book much more than I did.  I think because there were so many different narrators it did not allow me to get close to any individual character.  But with themes of family, love, forgiveness, and sacrifice, you may enjoy this book too.  It did make a great book club discussion and I recommend it for your reading group or for personal leisure.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  This book is from of my personal collection and I read it for personal leisure and as a book club selection.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Teaser Tuesday-May 5

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from A Daily Rhythm. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

This week my teaser is from Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen:
Rebecca is unable to tell the difference between the breathing of a man performing rhythmic exercise and one in the throes of coitus.  Which may be the clearest reflection of her sex life during her marriage.

pg. 110