Book #12 — Voodoo Histories:The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, by David Aaronovitch — An interesting book with a bit of a British slant since the author is British. I enjoyed the chapter about the deaths of famous people and the theories people apply to those deaths, especially since it included Princess Diana (an object of fascination for me back in the day).
Book #13 — The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan — This is the first in the Percy Jackson series. It was great light reading for me in a busy season. We saw the movie first when we went to the theatre on a rainy afternoon and couldn't get into the IMAX to see Alice in Wonderland. I liked it and enjoyed the book, too. It was very inexpensive to buy for my Kindle, the price of a trade paperback. I expect I will read more of them!
Book #14 — Sugar, by Bernice L. McFadden — After I reviewed "The Help," I got a very nice email from the author of Sugar, asking if I would accept a copy of the book and share my thoughts about it with my blog friends. I agreed, so this is a review of a book given to me by the author. (I also bought it on my Kindle, because authors should sell books!) Ms. McFadden hopes to put before a wider audience an alternative view of African-American life in the pre-Civil Rights Era South, a view formed by an African-American person.
I think I mentioned when I wrote about "The Help" that although I grew up in a home where my primary weekday caregiver was an African-American woman beloved by me and, I think, the rest of my family, I would never think that I could tell her story for her. My parents may have been nicer or more just than other possible employers, but the world was still screwed up and my hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia, existed under social rules not unlike those in Apartheid.
"Sugar" explores the lives of two women in Bigelow, Arkansas, Pearl, who has lived a conventional life marked by the tragic loss of her daughter, and Sugar, who was dropped off by her mother as an infant to be raised by three sisters who run a brothel. When Sugar moves in next door to Pearl and her husband, and the whole town is talking about "who is this slutty woman," Pearl finds her captivating and reaches out to her, tentatively.
I don't want to tell you more of the plot, except to say it's engaging and sad and even funny at times. McFadden explores themes such as abandonment and love and abuse and sexuality and faith and redemption. But she does more than that. She gives the 21st century reader (in my case a white, middle-aged, formerly Southern, educated woman) an eye into the lives of African-American people in the mid-20th century. The characters are fully realized and I venture to say authentic, though I make that judgment as a reader and as a writer myself, not as a witness.
Now, let me tell you how much the book gripped me. I have a Rule of Three, and I apply it to movies and cable TV shows and books, too. The Three are Sex, Violence and Language, and the Rule is I can handle two but not three at the same time. I choose my entertainment based on avoiding the Three at once. Oh, sure, occasionally I go to a movie that is more violent than I expected, but I look away!!! You can't look away from a book, so I simply don't read violent books. "Sugar" contains all three of the Three, right from the beginning, but the writing held me. I wanted to keep going (although I'll admit to putting it down and coming back a few days later), and by the second half of the book, I couldn't put it down. I cared enough about Pearl and Sugar that I wanted to go with them to the end of the story.
I highly recommend "Sugar."