Review: “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold

Moving on from the well-known fact that the world has stepped into year 2013 (we all know one day old resolutions don’t make us better people) let’s not waste space and talk about a certain book I came upon via my sister. Published in 2002 it received great praise and acclaim from writers and magazines such as TIME. My own view follows after the synopsis presented from the book below:

THE LOVELY BONES

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer.

This is Susie Salmon, speaking to us from heaven. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. There are counsellors to help newcomers to adjust, and friends to room with. Everything she wants appears as soon as she thinks of it- except the thing she wants most: to be back with the people she loved on earth.

Book cover

My take:

Some stories start with death and some end with it. This story starts, ends, dwells, picks apart and ultimately tries to understand what death is and what goes on after a person dies. Not in the sense of what happens to the soul etc. But it defines death in terms of living people and what they go through to come to terms with it, if there is such a thing as coming to terms with death.

At the start, Susie is murdered very very brutally, so much so that the method would benefit a horror story more than a novel, but this proves to be the very showcase of the authors skill; for she speaks about the death and what went on before, during and after with a remarkably simplistic approach and dialogue.

The story deals with Susie watching the earth and all of her loved ones from high in heaven, while her family, friends and neighbours try to bring normalcy into their lives. She watches as people she had not held close during her life reel back in shock at her death and never truly recover from it. Her high school crush, the girl she once spoken to, her younger brother and sister, the grandmother she had never really liked or understood during her time on earth all are deeply affected by her death and they move on in their own ways.

Her siblings grow up, fall in love, do those things she had never had a chance to do in her life and she sorely wishes to be back on earth and experience those for herself. She knows has to move on and start living in heaven where she now belongs but all she can do is sit and watch earth, not unlike her father whose life is put on hold to search for justice for her daughter. She thinks of her childhood, all those small incidents she never took note of but how they were signs for what was happening to her family now.

Anyone who likes fiction, emotional thrillers (if that is even a genre) should give this a try.

People who tend to dislike books dealing with sexual assault, family ties, relationships and such should steer clear.

Except for a certain part where Susie enters the world again via a rather eccentric route (to say the least), I would say this book was a good read for me and that I enjoyed it. What I liked the most was the fact that the author lets the reader figure out the deeper details by themselves and I like not having everything underlined and overstated.

Happy reading!

Review: ‘Aleph’ by Paulo Coelho

“The Aleph was about two or three centimetres in diameter, but all of cosmic space was there, with no dimunition in size. Each thing was infinite, because I could clearly see it from every point on the universe.” – Jorge Luis Borges, “The Alpeh

Hello everyone,

Let’s start off this post by accepting the bare fact yet again, of just how lazy I am, just how faithful towards my procrastination standards and just how much I take my blog for granted. Having berated myself publicly, I would now like to redeem myself by telling my all-too-active conscious that most probably, I’m the only one following up on my blog and since there are as such no regular, religiously following readers to speak of, let’s save on the electronic space available (not that it needs any saving) and just get on with the review and assume no time has passed at all in the middle of my last post ages back and this one today.

Funny that we should come onto the topic of “time” and how I’m assuming here that “time has not passed”, this being one of the recurring themes of Paulo’s latest book ‘Aleph’. Let’s look at the synopsis:

“The Aleph is an encounter with our fears and our shortcomings – a search for love and forgiveness, and the courage to confront the inevitable challenges of life.

Each end gives us the opportunity for a rebirth.

Aleph marks a return to Paulo Coelho’s beginnings. Facing a grave crisis of faith, and seeking a path of spiritual renewal and growth, Paulo decides to start over: to travel, to experiment and to reconnect with people and the world. On his journey through Europe, Africa, and Asia, he will again meet Hilal – the woman he loved 500 years before – and this encounter will initiate a mystical voyage through time and space, through past and present, in search of an opportunity to rewrite his own destiny.

Page count: 300

My take: Ah. Now where does one begin to talk about such a book which expands across so many themes: reclaiming one’s lost kingdom, finding peace within oneself, past lives, reincarnations, forgiveness… I could go on for a couple of lines. Also, Paulo is someone MOST of readers have heard of, not to mention the millions of people following his advice and his paths to make their lives better.

As always, I’ll try to keep my views as respectful as I can and only talk honestly about how “I” find it.

I’ve read quite a few and loved some (The Alchemist, Brida, The Zahir) of Paulo’s work but this is certainly not one of them. Firstly, the book has TOO many themes I feel. The most dominant one is about Paulo’s past life and how he wronged some people in his previous incarnation and wants to set things right in this one, and live peacefully in all the other reincarnations he is going to have. Other themes somehow interfere with this central one and provide too many breaks from the main “river”-central theme, forming rivulets and you tend to find yourself wondering how we came to  be drifting in this direction when the book isn’t even about it.

The start of the book was quite promising and my favourite bit because it comes across as something everyone can easily relate to. You learn so many things in life, so many words of wisdom touch you, make you learn about life, love, suffering, redemption..but as life goes on we tend to forget those teachings, those words mean lesser and lesser to us and we find ourselves right at the start. Back to square one. Because all those things which gave us profound meanings now meaning next to nothing and our spiritual growth has stopped and we are stagnating. Paulo starts off with a feeling of irritation and frustration at his incapability to grow and he wants to set things in motion once more. His spiritual teacher guides him and thus begins his journey- literal and figurative.

Paulo himself may have reset his life, overcome his past and so on, but I don’t think the book has anything to give to the reader on a personal level. Even the inspiration usually found in Paulo’s work is missing from this one. It feels as if the entire story and journey is tailor-made for only him and we have nothing to gain from his experience.

I do not believe in reincarnations, past lives and the such and so the main theme lacks all attraction for me. If even a person were to believe in it, they wouldn’t really have any help in it from this book. He strictly advises against the use of  the practices he performs to get in touch with his past. The woman concerned in the plot, Hilal, comes across as a childish, arrogant woman refusing to deal with life just as everyone else is, the best way they can think of, and one does not relate to her neither feels any sympathy, just irritation at her attention-seeking antics.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed and found really nothing good in this one. Paulo himself comes across as someone getting all too irritated and lost over small things. It feels as if this book was published just so something or the other would come out of the long time he spent on the Trans-Siberian Railway, not as a work of true inspiration.

A last minute note. At one point, Paulo quotes 2 separate verses from the Holy Quran and he interprets these as indicators in Islam showing that reincarnations are true and that we live and die and live again and again. I would like to set this right and strictly condemn the translating of Quranic verses to mean anything we would like them to mean. As Muslims, we beleive there are meanings of the Quran we understand and many many many other meanings in the Quran which we cannot possibly comprehend and which are known only to Allah. Islam has told us quite clearly that this life on Earth is a one-time happening and after that we go to Allah, not back to this Earth. I hope Paulo Coelho won’t be interpreting Quran completely wrongly again in the future and he should rather stick to the correct interpretations he does when he uses the teachings of Islam themselves.

Hoping the next one would be good.

You may like it if:

  • You are an avid follower of PauloCoelho and usually love all his work.
  • You are a believer in his principles and faith and rituals

You many not like it if:

  • You do not believe in Paulo’s teachings.
  • You do not like books talking about spiritual paths.
  • You do not believe in reincarnations.

Have you read Aleph yet? What do you think?

Review: ‘A Bend in the Road’ by Nicholas Sparks

Hello there!

As much as it may surprise everyone, I haven’t read any Nicholas Sparks’ books before this one (eeek!) and so it was my first experience of his writing. I’m going to first mention what the back cover summarizes and then my take on this book. Hope you find it useful and enjoy! 🙂

The back cover:

Miles Ryan’s life seemed to end the day his wife was killed in a hit-and-run accident two years ago. As deputy sheriff of New Bern, North Carolina, he not only grieves for her and worries about their young son Jonah but longs to bring the unknown driver to justice. Then Miles meets Sarah Andrews, Jonah’s second-grade teacher. A young woman recovering from a difficult divorce, Sarah moved to New Bern hoping to start over. Tentatively , Miles and Sarah reach out to each other…soon they are falling in love. But what neither realizes is that they are also bound together by a shocking secret, one that will force them to reexamine everything they believe in – including their love.

My take: This book is 368 pages long and for the major part I was unmoved. Miles behaves exactly as you would expect him to in all his roles; as a father, a lover, a widower. His character is easy to relate to and to sympathize with and his recollections of Missy (his wife) do play on your heart strings. Jonah is the typical child, lost yet grounded and eager to live a happy life.

The climax, the secret is easy to guess in the first pages as all the characters are introduced and that leaves one to desire more complexity of plot. The accident involving Missy is well-orchestrated and fits neatly with the ending, which you already know of .

The love affair between Sarah and Miles follows all the others you may have read in any given novel and leaves much to be desired in terms of depth of relationships.

All in all, I found it unremarkable (I know, harsh) and very predictable, sometimes to the point of being one-dimensional. Nicholas’s narrative is interesting at best when written from Brian’s (another character) view but otherwise very plain and simple throughout the rest of the book.

You might like it:

  • If you are a Nicholas Sparks’s fan.
  • If you like light-reading.
  • If you like even-paced books to keep up with.
  • If you like family/romance novels.

You might not like it:

  • If you prefer fast-paced books.
  • If you like sub-plots and depth in your books.
  • If you do not like family/romance novels.

Hope this was useful. Take care of yourselves. 🙂

Nicholas and no Sparks?

Hey you.

I’m really kinda enjoying this blog now. Ever since I’ve let go of the self-made notion that this had to be a masterpiece of a blog, I find that I’m much more willing to just write and enjoy this space. 🙂

I suppose that can be held true for a lot of things in life. We can just try to do what we feel like doing without feeling all the pressures of trying to be perfect and being awesome at whatever we are doing.

Hmm…I just sounded smart there. :p

So I’m nearing the end of a Nicholas Sparks book (currently on page 278 of 368) and would be done by tonight or tomorrow and YES, I’m going to FINALLY review it here. Yay me! 😛

The title of this post is kind of a giveaway to the fact that the book has so far been highly predictable and…………………I’m not saying no more here. 😛

You can know all about it in the next post I publish which will have a full review of the book.

Take care of yourselves, see you later InshAllah 🙂