Tag Archives: grieving

All The Bright Places – not a mood-booster

23357458So I learned a life lesson from All The Bright Places the other day. When you are stressed out and miserable, and all you want to do is get home and curl up with a good book, it is not a good idea to read the end of this book on a crowded tube home, when you have no tissues. It is a sob-fest. No other explanation needed.

And in case you were wondering, no it didn’t make me feel better. It just made my nose run for the entire 60-minute commute. It turns out I had no tissues. I was not prepared for this book.

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The cover of the copy I have says that this is the next Fault in Our Stars. Now, I didn’t really love The Fault in Our Stars (although I did sob my eyes out at it), so I don’t think that would be the greatest accolade for me. But it did give me something of a heads up about what direction this book might take.

So this is a really lovely book, in general. It’s about Violet and Finch, both of whom are struggling when they meet on the ledge of the bell-tower at school. Why would a school have a bell-tower? I don’t know. It’s never really explained. Violet has recently lost her sister, and is struggling to cope. Finch can’t stop thinking of ways to die, and is struggling to cope. But between the two of them, and a shared Geography project, they start to go about finding a way to live, and a way to stay in the present.

This book is really quite beautiful. It’s about falling in love, about struggling as a teenager, about coping with loss, about finding someone you can be yourself with, and about accepting people the way they are. It’s about finding a way to move forward and a way to connect with people even in the face of how hard life can be. It’s full of beautiful imagery and two messed-up, sad, lonely people who find a way to make each others’ worlds a little bit brighter.

I really did enjoy this book. I don’t recommend reading it in public places, though. And I did have one major complaint. The last thirty or forty pages of the book were a sampler of Jennifer Niven’s next book – Holding up the Universe. I’ve actually already read that, so I was pretty disappointed, as I thought there was still a fair chunk of story left to go. I wish books which have sample chapters at the end would make that clear from the beginning, so that I wouldn’t be left wanting more, just from the thickness of the pages I have left.

Still though – a lovely book, with lots of really lovely moments in it about love, life, and struggling, and how to find one small good thing to keep going.

Four Stars
****

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Book #106 – Love Letters to the Dead

18140047I found a recommendation for this book on a blog, and it percolated in the back of my mind until I decided to act on it and actually read the book. Unfortunately, I cannot find the blog where I picked up the recommendation, which is disappointing, but alas! These things happen.

Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

I don’t know what it was about this book – at times it was beautiful, and heartbreaking, as you saw one young girl try to deal with something no child should ever have to endure – the death of her sister and the grieving which followed. It read, at times, like the best of Sarah Dessen’s novels, and for that, I would happily give it a good rating.
The issue with this book, however, was that it was utterly forgettable. A few months on, I’ve lost most of the major plot details and I don’t retain any of the feelings which the book evoked. Even the relationship between sisters, which for me is normally an instant thumbs up, was nothing to really write home about.
I thought this book had a lot of potential, and perhaps for someone who has gone through something similar to the narrator, it would resonate more, but for me this book was one of many gentle, friendly books this year, and doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself from the pack.
Nothing to complain about here, but nothing to rave about either.

Three Stars
***

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Book #140 – The Returned

17182421When I was in Bath with Alex, my boyfriend, a couple of weeks ago, he suggested that we watch this TV show called Resurrection, which is about, well, people coming back to life. We watched the entire first season in about a day and a half, and while googling to find out more about it, I realised that it was based on a book, which I promptly hunted down and read – more promptly than I’ve watched the second season of Resurrection, which I’m about a month behind on.

The Returned – Jason Mott

Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time … Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

I was biased about this book, because I came to it from the starter of the ABC television series – I was expecting something similar, quite high-drama, a lot of human intrigue and plotting, and really a dramatic kind of thing. That was pretty much as far from the tone of this book as I could’ve gotten – it’s a much gentler, more searching sort of book, far more introspective, and more about human relationships than the drama which the tv show thrives on.

I think if I’d come to this book on its own, and not had my opinion tainted by the drama of Resurrection, I would’ve had a far more open mind about it. As it was, I was expecting a climax, some drama, a lot more drama, to be quite honest, and I ended up disappointed.
That’s my own mistake, though.
The Returned is really a very nice book – its unusual plot device (non-brain-eating or generally ‘bad’ zombies!) allows the author to investigate questions of ageing, death, loss, religion, family relationships, tolerance, and societal attitudes to new and unusual things and he does all that in a really gorgeous kind of way. His prose isn’t given to flowery over-description, but gets across the essentials and the human feelings of his characters. The Returned is a quiet and interesting inspection of a lot of very human issues, and it’s a strong example of that.

Because I came at the book from the wrong angle, I think I enjoyed it much less than I would’ve had I been reading with a more open mind. For me, so, it was a lower rating than it probably deserved, objectively.

Three Stars
***

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