8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

by Mark Haddon

I happened to be finishing this one up when Meezly posted her quick review of it. I have to say, despite this being well written in a mechanical sense (easy, smooth flowing narrative... like talking) I have two major problems that force me to give it a cold review.

First, for some reason I never trusted that the author's representation of the mental processes of autistic people was accurate. Why wouldn't I? I don't know. I am usually willing to give any author the benefit of the doubt. But there is something about this one that had me skeptical all the way through. In fact, after a while I felt like the whole thing was bullshit. It's not fair, though, to call a book bullshit when I can't back it up with concrete examples of said bullshit. And yet I am compelled to do so. I can't pinpoint why.

The larger problem I had with the book has to do with character. I think this book is a good example of how unrewarding a book can be when the protagonist undergoes little or no growth over the course of time. This character doesn't change. That is until the seemingly forced sense of confidence in the very last lines:

And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington? and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.

Really? Sadly, after getting to know this fellow's limitations (just as we all have our limitations), the reader is left with the knowledge that he is very wrong about his ability to do anything.

Sorry, this novel has turned me off like few have of late.

7. Gathering Blue

by Lois Lowry

Lowry has created a strange but plausible future world (apparently she does something similar in The Giver). It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit, that shuns and discards the weak. Even the government is in on it. Left orphaned and physically disabled, Kira is made an exception, first because of a politically powerful grandfather and then by her talents as a weaver/artist. The great Council of Guardians saves her from being sent to "The Field" and gives her the task of finishing weaving an important communal robe by literally weaving in the story of the society's future (across the shoulders)...

You are welcomed to puke at any time.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

This was a richly rewarding ending to a fantastic seven book series. I loved the whole lot of them. I'll say nothing more.

5. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

by Ishmael Beah

I read this one in July and am still blow away by it. Whenever the book is referenced the lump grows in my throat and the eyes well up. I guess in some small, safe way, I have been traumatized by his expereince. I am at once outraged by humanity's capacity for atrocity and deeply moved by our unwavering belief in eachother. It's inexplicable. It's great.

It probably helped that Sandy and I met him last night at a Q&A following a viewing of the documentary Sierra Leone's Refugee Allstars. We also met this remarkably positive, hopeful band of musicians.

Beah was a child through Sierra Leone's civil war (mid-1990s to 2004ish) and ended up indoctrinated into the govenerment army when he was twelve. What this boy had gone through, what he was forced to do, is perhaps the greatest crime of humanity. And yet he survived and is hopeful and loving... and an outstanding writer.

It is a shocking and heart-wrenching personal account of a civil war that was fought by tens of thousands of children, on both sides. Many of these children are now in their twenties and early thirties and are suffering in profound ways... or have not survived.

Beah has posted the first chapter for us:

http://www.alongwaygone.com/media/ALongWayGone_Excerpt.pdf

When he first walked past Sandy and I in the small theater last night, my heart filled with feelings for him. Mosty I felt an inner celebration for his survival mixed with immense gratitude for his decision to share this experience with us. Sandy told him as much. Beautiful.

The Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars are great. This is a band that formed in the refugee camps in Guinea and grew during their decade in exhile. They joined the Q&A last night and performed some of their music for us. Here they are. Here's the documentary, which I highly recommend.

Anyway, Beah's book is awesome. I think you should read it now.