Some books you hear about over and over again in a year. Everyone proclaims this is THE BOOK of the year as it makes all the “Best of” book lists. That book this year was The Underground Railroad. It actually had its publishing date pushed up a month as Oprah selected it for her Book Club – and when Oprah says jump… (At least, I remember hearing that fact once and just assume it to be true. No research here!).
And so, I diligently put it on my TBR list, and had a slightly comical affair this fall trying to read it (it came into my library pick-up pile twice and both times I had to return without reading it – the curse of a 7-day hold/no renewal possible book coming in the day before you’ll be out of town!). But third time’s a charm and I finally was able to read it.
WHAT I READ:
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.
My impression was a shaky 4-star book (more like 3.75 but I rounded up to 4). Perhaps I’m just a cold-hearted person, but in short I felt the plot and basic structure of the book to be VERY strong and the character development to be slightly less strong. For me to rank it as a 5-star read, I need it to have both.
This sweeping story starts with the main character’s grandmother getting kidnapped from Africa to be forced into the slave trade. We go through the first few decades of Cora’s life, including her mother, Mabel, escaping and leaving Cora on the plantation as a ten-year-old; Cora establishing herself as a potentially-crazy-but-not-to-be-messed-with-force to the other slaves; and the plantation thrown into confusion when their (relatively) kind owner dies and his much stricter brother is poised to take over. Just when things seem to be getting even worse, Caesar approaches her with a proposition: attempting to escape via the Underground Railroad.
And nwo, skipping the gifs in order to move on to my next “sorry everyone in the world that I didn’t like this one” book – The Mothers.
Immediately after finishing The Underground Railroad, I picked up The Mothers – another oft-praised book of 2016. And once again… I found it a little wanting. #sorrrrrry
WHAT I READ:
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett.
This one had the opposite problem from the above book – I found the characters to be really interesting, but the plot (while full of very serious and well-handled topics) to be not the MOST compelling to me. This one I gave 3 stars, but consider it more like a 3.5.
Nadia, a super-smart 17 year old destined for greater things than her small coastal Californian town, is grappling with the recent suicide of her mother and finds comfort in the arms (i.e., bed) of Luke, the local football star whose college career gets cut short when he suffers an injury. A few weeks before she is due to leave for college, she discovers she is pregnant, and makes a choice that will set into motion the remainder of her life, Luke’s life, and the lives of the mothers around her.
So, what did I learn from this experience? Even the books you’re meant to like just might not tickle every fancy needed. I REALLY enjoyed reading them and heartily recommend to others, but sometimes a book can fall just a little bit short. Even books aren’t perfect, my friends.