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.”
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
SPOILERS!!! SKIP IF YOU PLAN TO READ THIS BOOK!
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?