Book Talk


I look forward to our big getaway every year, because we go to a place in Mexico where there are no phones, no iPads, no WiFi. It’s almost like I now NEED this in order to be able to read a book. Which is both disturbing and bizarre.

Here are the two books which made the biggest impact on me.

The Girls From Ames, by Jeffrey Zaslow

A few people including Kathy have compared “Faces of ALI” to Jeffrey Zaslow’s narrative non-fiction approach, and now that I have read him, I am seriously humbled. If I could even approach the peerless way he tells stories that matter, that describe the human condition, I would be thrilled.

The Girls From Ames describes the lifelong friendships of 11 women from Ames, Iowa over 40 + years. The premise of the book is how important female friendships are to the health and emotional well-being of women, but the sprawling narrative covers so much more than just that. We meet these women as children and watch them and their friends grow up, experiencing dating, college, marriage, careers, loss, miscarriage, infertility, parenting, cancer, joy, celebrations and divorce. In essence, The Girls From Ames is a book about life as we both know it and don’t know it.

Unfortunately, Jeffrey Zaslow passed away in a car accident in 2012. I have a feeling he planned to revisit the “girls” regularly and update their stories, and unfortunately, we won’t read the continuation of their journeys.

Zaslow writes in the introduction: “…I know there’s great power in honest stories about real people.”

Wise words.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


Almost everyone I know (and many people on the plane and at the beach) is reading Gone Girl, a rare literary sensation in 2012 that was seriously considered for the big prizes but also had great popular appeal.

Gone Girl is many things: a biting indictment on everything from the death of print journalism, the economic decay of the US, the rise of avenging crime reporters like Nancy Grace to the “con” of marriage. It’s a thriller, a crime novel and a sick romantic comedy of sorts gone horribly, terribly wrong.

Set first in New York in the midst of the dying world of magazine writers, then the decaying town of Carthage, Missouri, the plot concerns the disappearance of a wife (the typical beautiful blond of the mystery stories that entrance Americans), who vanishes in the midst of the death throes of her marriage to a handsome bartender (and former journalist).

There is clever writing (the former journalist compares print journalism as an industry to “buggy whip manufacturing”), and I liked how the book talks about the pressure on women while dating to hide their true selves and instead pretend to be the “cool girl.” You know, the Cameron Diaz type: the one who’s fun and eats endless amounts of junk food while simultaneously remaining rail-thin and never brings a guy down with complaints and nagging. It’s been a while since I was single, but I remember those pressures pretty well, especially while dating my college ex. The plot is gripping and I didn’t really want to put it down.

BUT I HATED THE CHARACTERS!!!!! They were so unlikeable!!!!! Yes, I need to use that exact amount of exclamation points because they really were that disgusting.

I read the whole book in pretty much one day and I needed a palate cleanser afterward because I hated the end and hated the characters. Their oily, slimy tricks unfortunately gave me bad dreams.

So then I read a VI Warshawski novel (Body Work) and felt much better after tackling that straightforward tale of murder and mayhem.

Are you able to read books where the main characters are awful people? What did you think of Gone Girl if you read it?



Filed under writing

8 responses to “Book Talk

  1. I didn’t love the ending of Gone Girl, but I still really liked the book and felt the characters were compelling even if unlikeable. I’ve heard some of her other books are really good too, so I look forward to trying others. The Girls from Ames sounds intriguing – I’ll have to check it out.

  2. Ana

    I also felt dirty after reading gone girl. Like I had to clean my brain with something wholesome. but while reading it, I was riveted. Good writing, definitely surprised me. I have heard a lot about the Girls from Ames. Will have to check it out.

  3. I completely agree with you on Gone Girl, it was a fast paced read and I enjoyed the book, but the characters were pathetic and annoying. I couldn’t stand them as well and I was very disappointed with the ending. They just what?…..Stay together?!! I gave a girlfriend of mine The Girls from Ames as a birthday gift, I’ll have to get her review on it.

  4. I also didn’t like the ending of Gone Girl, but like the rest of the book. In my opinion her two other earlier books were better.

  5. I agree 100% about Gone Girl. I couldn’t put it down, but I hated the characters. I guess that means Flynn is a good writer to keep us interested in a story despite disliking the characters? I’d like to try a few of her earlier books, so I’m glad to see from other commenters that they are at least as good as GG if not better.

  6. SM

    I really hated the ending of Gone Girl. I’ve always despised open endings like that though. I loved the book but her earlier works are better. She has a way of sucking you into a story and keeping you there until long after the end has come.

  7. I read Gone Girl last year and really liked the book, even though it had a twisted storyline and characters. I guess that element was part of why it has become so popular, even if they are unlikable, they are interesting and different. Glad you had a relaxing break!

  8. Gone Girl is on my to-read list… I am waiting for the paperback. šŸ˜‰

    As you know, I adored “The Girls from Ames.” šŸ™‚ — I just went back to my blog & re-read my review, and you commented on it! šŸ˜‰ “The Magic Room” is still in the to-read pile. So sad that’s the last book we will have from him. šŸ˜¦

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