Book Reviews on the Heavy Side

Last time, I talked about the lighter reads in my recent repertoire. I stick those in between some more serious or long reads to keep me going. These books have high critical acclaim and had been on my to-read list for quite some time.

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The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Chava and Ahmad are a little more than they seem when they both find themselves in New York at the turn of the century. Chava arrived by ship to Ellis Island, and Ahmad made his way over in a copper flask. That sounds strange because it is. Ahmad is a jinn and Chava is a golem. Their powers are extraordinary, but they are not in any place to share their gifts with this limited world. A golem is a creature of Jewish mysticism and jinni are creatures from Syrian lore. This story intersects the two and shows a coming-together of many worlds, from the Bedouin deserts to pre-pogrom Russia to the Big Apple. With an eccentric cast of characters, this story comes to life and sweeps the reader away. 4/5

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Vietnam War will always hold a particular place in our history and in our pop culture. Tim O’Brien’s collection of vignettes gives a human face to the struggle of being in a war. Some days, all a soldier can think about is what he physically carrying, what he is mentally carrying, getting from A to B. Other days, a routine patrol becomes the death of his bunkmate. And afterwards, what becomes of him? How does he live with himself and with those around him who have moved on in those years you were gone? O’Brien  just gives a humanity to the war in a simple way. And it’s definitely worth reading. 4/5

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

On every “Best of 2013” list and now winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this tome follows the life of Theodore Decker beginning the day of the tragic event that took his mother. We delve into a world of alcohol, drugs, and art dealing as Theo matures and meets a few friends along the way. The Barbers are the family that took him in in the immediate aftermath as he hung close to his childhood friend, Andy. Boris becomes Theo’s only friend and confidante in the suburbs of Vegas when Theo lives with his dad. And Hobie is the man that gives Theo a profession and treats him as an adult in a world Theo has only just figured out how to cope with. While I did get a little bogged down by the details, this story is pretty fantastic, and told in our vernacular with a sophisticated edge. I took this one slowly in audiobook form and I would recommend it that way, as David Pittu, the narrator, was excellent and gave a lot more to the storytelling than I would have picked up in reading it. 4/5

What are you picking up to treat your more serious side?


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