Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Round-Up: Handle With Care, The Department of Lost and Found, American Wife

Quick book round-up since I've had my nose stuck in various books over the last several weeks....

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
So, I'm a huge Picoult fan as many of us are. I love so many of her books and I was truly excited to dive into this new one and get lost in Picoult's relevant and captivating storytelling - her books are more than stories, they are experiences which is what I love about them.

Handle With Care was like baking a rich cake full of texture and flavors - I felt like a real pastry chef. I could smell the desserts baking in the warm kitchen while the snow melted outside. I savored every word, every character and character flaw, I rolled her eloquent passages over my tongue like the best icing I'd ever tasted, sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter. The raw emotion and passion of her characters, and their likable and not so likable actions, are what make her a genius. But I have to say, this book experience for me was like baking that wonderful cake, anticipating it coming out perfect and opening the oven door to find the damn cake had folded into itself, crumbled under it's own weight. Perhaps the weight of my expectations?

And the thing is I didn't feel that way until the end. I was rolling along enjoying the story (even though at times it felt like My Sister's Keeper all over again)and loving the characters (especially Sean and Willow) and then just -bam! - it ended in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like Picoult was trying too hard to recapture that moment at the end of My Sister's Keeper where everyone was shocked to the core. I felt like for this story, how it ended, just wasn't necessary.... but maybe it was? I don't know... I'm still perplexed. But I'm still thinking about it and maybe that was her point? And the part that really got me ticked off was the money - so unrealistic and what a waste, think of all the other kids that could have helped. Makes me angry to think about it.

The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch
This was my first foray into the literary world of this writer - who came highly recommended to me by my friend and author Lisa Steinke. It's about a tough subject - a young woman who gets breast cancer - but it's handled with the right balance of seriousness and necessary humor. The result? Hope. Which I think we can all use right now.

The premise is this: 30-year-old Natalie finds out she has cancer the same day she is dumped by her boyfriend. She embarks on a journey of recovery through chemo and by digging into past relationships (five of them) to see what went wrong in each of them so she can learn from her mistakes. I loved the humor, the touching emotional moments throughout where the cancer becomes very real to her and breaks her facade of strength and the whole idea of learning from your mistakes. Not that I would go back to past boyfriends and ask them what went wrong (oh Hell no!) but it was fascinating reading about her journey. What I found in The Department of Lost and Found is another great writer to look forward to reading over the years.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
So I loved this book. I have to admit I enjoy fiction that is inspired by real people or real things - and this one is inspired by Laura Bush. I love how a writer can take a nugget of information, a small glimpse of someone and create an entire story of their life that is real and believable and so amazingly layered that I am wondering if it indeed is fiction or not. Sittenfeld is gifted, there's no other way to describe her writing.

But, no, this is not a book about Laura Bush, her childhood or her life with W. It's a story about a woman from the time she's a teenager (where she is responsible for a life-altering tragedy not unlike Laura Bush) through her choices (some a bit shocking) and into womanhood and adulthood where she ends up as the American president's wife. It was fascinating.

What am I diving into next? Well thanks to Mary, I'm excited to start Ahab's Wife and my mother in law just sent me a collection from my all-time favorite Joyce Carol Oates called Dear Husband.


  1. Thanks CLP! I am dying to read these now! xoxo

  2. I LOVED American Wife... Like you, I dig books that are based, even loosely, on someone's real life. And the fact that this novel was inspired by Laura Bush was very intriguing. A must read for sure! xoxo, Lisa