Interested in reading reviews/comments about the books chosen for the Tournament of Books? Our Adult Services Librarians (Tournament Judges) will blog about their choice here on the Buzz Blog. In Round 1, Part 3, Darlene F. and Cyndi R. comment on their picks below.
Judge: Darlene F.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseini
Benediction by Kent Haruf
Benediction by Kent Karuf tells the story of Dad Lewis in his final weeks of life. He reflects on his relationships with his wife Mary and their children Lorraine and Frank as he goes through the final stages of cancer.
Dad Lewis was a hardworking man who owned a hardware store in the small town of Holt, Colorado. Although he was a simple man, he has regrets, including the fate of an employee caught stealing from the hardware store and his relationship with his estranged gay son, Frank.
I think Haruf missed the mark in creating a believable small town feel to this book. All of the people in the book were one-dimensional characters. I grew up in a small town and not everyone talks in monosyllabic words and short halted sentences. None of these characters had any personality of their own. I also found the lack of quotation marks was distracting and made the plain clunky way all of the characters spoke seem even more alike as if they were all interchangeable.
The last few chapters of the book were the strongest. Anyone who has ever gone through a loved one’s decline and death will find Dad Lewis’ passing familiar and Haruf showed the rituals surrounding death in a way that we can all relate to. I just wish the rest of the book had been as believable.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is a book of interweaving stories that intersect through generations and spans a number of countries. The story begins in Afghanistan and centers around brother and sister Abdullah and Pari who are separated when children. Abdullah was old enough to remember his sister, but Pari was so young that she does not remember Abdullah, yet has a feeling that something is missing in her life. She is adopted by a wealthy couple and doesn’t know the truth until much later.
The writing is strong and the characters are so well written that even though some of the stories have little connection to the larger narrative, it was enjoyable to read. There were large gaps in time where Abdullah and Pari were concerned. I think it could have made a stronger novel if the author had put more focus on these character and their stories, but that is a minor complaint.
Ruling: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is chosen for the strong characterization, compelling stories, and beautiful writing made this book a much more enjoyable read than Benediction by Kent Haruf.
Judge: Cyndi R.
The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Don’t be misled by the title piece of this collection of stories, it is the only one with a vampire. Delightfully quirky, each story in this First Round book by Karen Russell has a thought-provoking twist and haunting finish. Common things -a meeting in the grove, a skein of silk, a colony of sea gulls- have unpredictable effects on the lives of the characters involved.
The Obituary Writer is a wonderfully woven story of two women, one named Vivian, alive and well in San Francisco in 1919, and Claire, a suburban housewife in the 1960s. After surviving life’s unanticipated, random events they are changed as are the men they love and the men they lost. How do they continue to find the strength to go on?
Ruling: The well written, engaging, book of lives in different times coming together, The Obituary Writer, is advancing to the next round.
Our final two judges from Round One chose And the Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseini and The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood to move forward to Round Two. This leave Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell and Benediction by Kent Haruf as the last two entries in the zombie pool from Round One. Voting for Round Two ends Sunday, March 17.