Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Underwhelmed.
Overrated.
Fine.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did. It was fine. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I probably won’t remember it. I went into it blind. I didn’t read a synopsis. I wish it hadn’t been written like this.

After I received my Kindle last month I put several of the hot, new books onto my e-book holds list through my local library. When my turn with this book came up, I just opened it and started reading. I was not sure what I was in for in terms of writing or plot. The first thing that I noticed was how underdeveloped the writing was. I naturally assumed that this was a lucky debut novel. I had never heard of Blake Crouch before so I did a little Googling and was very surprised to see that Crouch actually had published several other books prior to Dark Matter, including a series and the novel that spawned the TNT show Good Behavior,starring Lady Mary Crawley! I also discovered that I have a fun fact in common with the author: he was born in Statesville, NC where I worked for five years before moving to Maryland!

Though they proved to be quite distracting, those broken sentences did serve to add a sense of urgency which fit the story very well. And while I appreciated that technique, it was way too overdone. This approach ended up being more of a distraction that took me out of the story.

The hook was great. I think if I had known what the story was about before I read it I would have been a lot more disappointed in it than I was. Having no idea what to expect, the bar wasn’t set too low or high. The literal self-vs-self theme was very well executed and really forces readers to self-reflect. It came at a good time in my life, so I appreciated it for that, on a personal level. I’m at a place right now where I often let myself get stuck in the “what if” thoughts and the regrets of past mistakes, but this book was a good little reminder for me to appreciate where I am and who I am and all of the people that I have in my life. I wouldn’t be this person living this life with those people if I had made different choices. I needed that reminder, so thanks, Blake Crouch, for that.

As is to be expected in a book with this scope, it was pretty predictable. I was able to guess all of the “twists” before they twisted. It was a pretty thrilling story that ran at a fast pace. As I read I  kept thinking it was prime to become a movie, and lo and behold it’s been optioned by Sony. Surprise, surprise. Eh, I’ll probably end up watching it.

The biggest negative for me would have to be the amount of confusion I had while reading. I’m not one to shy away from confusing science-y books. The Martian was one of my favorite books in 2014 and I was thoroughly confused about what Watney was actually doing for the majority of that book. The Martian was confusing yet still Road_to_the_multiverseenjoyable and even if I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I still could progress with the story. With Dark Matter, however, I was just super confused and didn’t follow parts of the story. OK, the multiverse, I’ve heard of it and I get its basic idea, but whaaaaat was going on with it in this book? Also, I couldn’t stop giggling because it made me think of Brian and Stewie traveling the multiverse in Family Guy. I had to ask my husband who, as an optical engineer, has a background in physics to please ELI5. He broke it down, but I was still really confused.

Overall this one is worth a few hours of your time as it really doesn’t take too long at all to read. I often forgot about it and forgot that I was in the middle of reading it, which is why it took me so long to finish it. I probably won’t remember anything about it in a few months.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Mothers
By Britt Bennett
Riverhead Books
278 pages

Nadia Turner is seventeen years old and six months out from the death of her mother to suicide. Struggling with all of the overwhelming emotions that come from a suicide of a family member, she is simultaneously grappling with her first love. Luke Sheppard is the son of the pastor of Upper Room, the Turner family church. When Nadia becomes pregnant with his child the summer before she leaves for college, she and Luke will both make choices that will haunt all of those close to them for the rest of their lives. As the title would suggest, Brit Bennett’s debut novel touches on all aspects of motherhood and the ability for individuals to assume a maternal role, however briefly. The novel explores the heartbreaking ways that the absence of a mother can affect characters and what it really means to be “unpregnant.”

Bennett writes beautiful prose. The pages are full of the quotable, stick-with-you, lyrical sentences that craft a memorable story. At the beginning of the novel, the Mothers, a Greek chorus of women from Upper Room, tell readers “all good secrets have a taste before you tell them.” Bennett allows her readers the chance to become both a mother and a Mother for the duration of the book as we watch Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey grow, develop, and navigate life, love, loss, and betrayal. The Mothers narrative ebbs and flows throughout the novel, coming back in just when the reader begins to get comfortable in the account of one of the three main characters, offering an outsider’s perspective to the inner turmoils. Having a collective voice guide the narration was a refreshing strategy. However, readers get a sometimes too heavy-handed lesson on the the power of petty gossip hiding behind good intentions. These chapters narrated by the Mothers became a bit redundant in their message. The way any true gossip makes its way around a small group, once you’ve heard something enough times, it becomes an annoyance and off-putting.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, devouring it in three sittings over two days. This was quite an impressive debut novel from such a young author and I truly admire her gift with words. The Mothers isn’t Bennett’s first piece of published writing. In 2014 she received a lot of attention, some good, some bad, for an article that she penned for Jezebel entitled “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People.” The article offers Bennett’s perspective on the current state of young Black men being killed while in police custody and how White America reacts to these ever-increasing headlines. Adding a personal layer to the article, Bennett writes on the time that her father was himself detained by police. I will also link you to a worthwhile New York Times article on Bennett and her years-long process of writing The Mothers. According to this NYT article from October 2016, fans of Bennett have something to look forward to as “Ms. Bennett is focused on her next novel, about two sisters in Louisiana who are separated.”