Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Many years ago, my beloved grandmother gave me this book - Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson - and said, "this is the best book I've ever read."  Ever so special because it was the same copy she had read - she was giving me her copy!  The cover of my book is not the same pictured here.  I wanted to find that same image for this post, but I couldn't.  Makes this even more special to me now, as if I have a rare & fleeting thing.

It has just occurred to me that her hands were the last hands to touch those pages before mine, and this brings tears to my eyes.

My grandmother has been gone for 18 years now, and she gave the book to me a few years prior to her death - oh how I wish I could remember exactly when!  The book was originally published in 1980, but my copy is a Bantam trade edition first published in 1989.  Through those many years - over 20 - this book has steadfastly followed me thru three homes, and numerous shelves as I've decorated & redecorated, organized and reorganized my bookcases.  As those years have passed, I would come upon this copy as I perused my shelves in search of my next reading escape, yet I've passed it over time and time again.  After Nanny died, it was a sad reminder that this was something she shared with me but I didn't take the time to read it and share it back with her... and therefore, it took me this long to take that step.

I believe, and often find true, that when it's time, a story finds the reader and so I have decided this was just "our" time, Marilynne Robinson and me, and her Ruthie, Lucille, and Sylvie.

As a reader and would-be writer, I am always in search of the purpose of content and I struggled through this book because I couldn't seem to find it. Yet, I knew it was there and I knew it was important (because my grandmother had told me so!) - you don't win a PEN/Hemingway Award, and are not a Pulitzer Prize Finalist if you don't have something important to share.

And, so I continued on.

This story is one that I did not find the significance of until I finished it.  And then, I immediately reopened the front cover to start again.  I could appreciate it so much more now that I understood where we were going.  And in re-reading it, I recognized so much more that I had simply passed over the first time.

The title itself is an interesting choice:  Housekeeping.  This book is not about keeping house in the modern traditional sense.  It's not about cleaning, laundering, cooking (maybe that is why I took so long to pick it up - who wants to read about doing housework???).  Actually, it's far from it.  There is a period of time - the majority of the story - where Sylvie keeps no house at all: newspapers, cans, litters of cats, sogged furniture, unhinged doors, burnt curtains... these images plague you thru the story.  There is a general unkemptness throughout.  So, how does "housekeeping" fit in?

I believe it's in the word itself: house keeping.  Keeping a home.  A shelter.  A sanctuary.  The story is of 2 sisters who are abandoned time and again - sometimes intentionally, as with their father and mother, and other times unintentionally, as when their grandmother dies and leaves them in their great aunts' care.  Eventually, the great aunts abandon them, too, by calling for their mother's sister, Sylvie, a transient, to return to her homestead and take on the responsibility of raising the girls. Surprisingly, it is Sylvie, the wanderer, who does not abandon them at all.  Likewise, the house itself remains a strong, steady rock - a constant in Ruthie's and Lucille's lives that does not abandon them, even through the strife of harsh Idaho winters and a melting so abundant that the lower level was flooded for days, and yet, the home stood.  It did not fail them.  It protected and provided and kept them safe.

The house was established in the fictitious Fingerbone, Idaho by Edmund & Sylvia Foster, Ruthie and Lucille's grandparents.  It's where they raised their three daughters - Molly, Helen & Sylvie.  It's where the girl's mother - Helen - returned them when she decided to end her life.  It's where the girls lived with their grandmother, then their great aunts and finally, their aunt Sylvie.  It is the home they inherited from their grandmother - their safety, security, and shelter.  Their grandmother tells them, "Sell the orchards, but keep the house.  So long as you look after your health, and own the roof above your head, you're as safe as anyone can be."

The theme of abandonment runs strong through the story, but not in a pitiful or pathetic way.  It's subtle, this thread, because it's woven into the fabric of the character's lives, and therefore, rings true of all of us as well.  Eventually, everything we own, and those we love and the things we touch are abandoned.  They are left behind as we move on.  As the saying goes, "you can't take it with you."

For fear of giving too much away, I shall stop here, and this book shall remain on my shelf.  I will not abandon it, and I thank it for not abandoning me all these many years it patiently waited for me to discover it.  I hope whoever finds if after me appreciates it's message as much as I do.


Sunday, August 7, 2016


A lazy Friday night at home lead to me channel surfing in search of something mindless on the telly to slightly entertain myself while I unwind from a really hectic work week.  Instead I found Mud.

This movie absolutely fascinated me.  Like most movies that really intrigue me, I went in search of the "based on" information.  There is none.  Damn.  Lots of pondering, lingering thoughts stayed with me after the credits rolled.  This movie is so much deeper than what you see on screen.  What was the real relationship between Mud & Juniper?  Who hurt who?  Who left who?  If Mud was so bad, why'd he risk his life to save Ellis - I mean, did you see that man go???  And then he went to say good-bye.  How did the Carvers know to stake out Ellis' boathouse on that particular night?  Because they knew Mud wasn't an all-bad guy?  They really thought he'd go there before sneaking out of town again?  Why not wait until Mud left again before shooting up the house & risking everyone else's life?  If the bounty hunters were so smart, why didn't they follow Ellis & Neckbone from the start?  They would've found Mud long ago.  Thank goodness for Tom Blankenship, right?  So...  why not, if all the bounty hunters & Carver's son were dead and only King Carver was left, why not go get Juniper?  I guess because Tom didn't care fo her & saw her as Mud's weakness.  And what about Galen?  Why was he raising Neckbone? What happened to Neck's parents?  What did Galen make of all this?  There at the end, when Galen was oyster fishing, WHO was snoring in the boat?  I thought it was Mud, and even rewound to check again: yep, it looked like Mud, but that was weird.  Why have that shot right then, right there?  THEN present the question of whether Mud survived in the next scene with Ellis & Neck watching the workers destroy the houseboat?

I think this is an important movie, but I haven't quite been able to define why.  Certainly, the lessons of love are prevalent & important.  Ellis's love for his parents - and his ability, as a young teenager, to express it so easily to both of them.  His conviction that love is what mattered, and all that matter, and love should be a good enough reason to do things we shouldn't do, even when we know better.  Mud's love for Juniper, Tom, Ellis & Neck?  Galen's obvious love for Neck?  Galen was a young man, Neck was 14 or 15.  Neck said he never knew his parents, so Galen raised him for 15 years... by himself?  That's alot for anyone to take on, especially a young, good looking, single man who lives off the river to care for himself & his nephew.  Pretty impressive.

How about the love for the river itself.  The setting is the Arkansas River.  Ellis's dad makes his living off of it, the family lives on it in a houseboat that has been handed down at least one generation.  Galen also makes his living off of it.  Ellis & his dad don't want to leave it - because they love it or because it is all they know?  Mud comes back to it: why?  He's on the run.  Why go back there?  Juniper comes back, too.  Again, why?  Makes you ponder the old saying, "you can't go home again," but then, yes you can.

Like the river itself which has much going on beneath its surface, so does this story.  And since there isn't a book I can read that will help me answer these lingering questions, I guess I'll just continue to summarize with my own pondering thoughts.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I just got back from a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise with my family and 30 other friends.  Getting away was AMAZING and much needed.  Cruises can be wonderful.  They can also be confining and boring.  I wasn't looking forward to this trip.

I intended to only bring Irving, the Kindle Fire with me (did I tell you I lost Kindell, the Kindell?  He's been missing for years now!  I have no idea what the heck I did with him!).  But at the last minute, because I was straightening my books and cursing my impulse buying tendancies, I grabbed Gillian Flynn's "other 2 books" to take me with me (and Irving):  Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

We were probably 3 days in before I reached in the bag, out of sheer boredom, and grabbed a book.  I decided, whichever one I pulled out was the one I was going with.  "Sharp Objects" it was.

Gillian had me @ "Chapter One."

I cannot begin to describe how impressed I am with this book.  I read it in 2 days, most of the time sitting on my balcony while the ship rolled in or out of port.  Hours flew by!  I almost completely missed some bizarre rock sticking out of the ocean because I was so absorbed in the story.  CalGone Girl took me away!  (haha, get it?  see what I did there?  play on words with "Calgone" and "Gone Girl." pretty clever, yes?) (ok, ok, I know: if you have to explain it, it didn't work.)

Unlike my reaction to Gillian's amazingly successful "Gone Girl," I have no issue - not one issue - with "Sharp Objects."  Damn, she's good.  I was shocked to find out it was her FIRST novel!  I'm excited to learn there is series starring Amy Adams floating out in cable-land that I will eventually get around to watching somehow someway (just picked up by HBO, which I don't subscribe to, but that is what Netflix is for, right?).

Heading over to Goodreads to give Sharp Objects a glowing review!  I've since picked up Dark Places to read, but it isn't holding my intrigue as much, but I'm still early in so we'll see how this goes.  Sharp Objects will be hard to beat.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gone Girl, the movie

I saw it!  Of course I did.  Opening weekend.  And, lucky me, my hubby & son came with me.

I couldn't wait!  Everyone was raving about it - it's suspenseful, intense, riveting!  And funnier than you think...


It wasn't.

My fault cuz I knew the story.  The movie closely (not exactly) follows the book.  Those elements of surprise that make the story soooo good were not surprising to me.  Cuz I knew they were coming.  But I was curious if someone who didn't know the story - like my husband & son - would find it Suspenseful!  Intense!  Riveting!

Um, no.  My husband was bored & my kid frustrated.  The movie was long and we finished our popcorn & sodas before it was over (that never happens).  The theater wasn't packed but I did have to sit next to someone I didn't know, which forced me to lean over on my husband, and get a cramp in my side, and become listless from sitting all weird for so long.  Trying to stretch my legs & change positions, I kicked the seat in front of me & you would have thought I hit her on the head with my purse.  I said "sorry" and the guy next to me said, "that's ok" (I wasn't talking to him).  OMGosh.  Back to leaning over on my husband.

Throughout the movie, especially at the good surprising parts, I kept looking around to see how everyone was reacting and NO ONE was reacting!  At the end of the movie, there was dead silence.  No chatter.  Lights came on & everyone just got up & walked out.


I wanted everyone, especially my family, to LOVE it!  I wanted to talk about it on the way home.  I wanted to speculate - and bring up the fact that the police didn't check the woodshed contents for fingerprints! - but no one wanted to talk about it.  My husband said "that was long" (huh, that's all you've got?) and my son wanted to know if he could drive.  Really?  Bummed me out.

I did like it, tho.  Not enough to get the girlfriends together & spend another $20 bucks (ticket & popcorn!) to watch it again, but enough to encourage other people to go see it.  It is a good movie & it is a good story & it is something to talk about.  And Gillian Flynn did a good job with the screenplay (and she answered some of those unanswered questions, but not all).  I thought Ben Affleck nailed Nick (I wasn't expecting that - Nick in the book is really Matt Damon, is he not?), Rosamund Pike was the perfect Amy, Carrie Coon really COULD be Ben Affleck's twin, and Kim Dickens pulled off Rhonda Boney exactly-right (I think she was my favorite of all).

OK, ok, I know it wasn't "The Sixth Sense" element of suspenseful aha!, but it probably would have been if I hadn't (and everyone else hadn't, either) read the book.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I can sum this book up in one word:  AMAZING.

If you've read it, then you get it.  It's an inside joke.

If you haven't read it, then you think I'm just a huge fan (which I am) and that I was highly impressed (which I was) and you might even be thinking, "is that all you've got?"

This is my first Gillian Flynn book, by the way, so I have nothing to compare her to, but I will say this:  I like her style.

Yeah, I'm behind the 8-ball with this one, as is always the case with me, lately (although I did see "Jersey Boys" on it's actual theater release date just a few weeks ago).  With so many books to read waiting on my shelves & in the Kindle, I resist the urge to buy something new (well, I resist the urge to buy something newly released - I am forever buying new books to read because I have absolutely no self control.  None.).

So, back on track here:  Gone Girl is an international sensation!, according to the book jacket. Released originally in 2012.  Here I am, finally, 2 years later, picking up a copy in Kroger, of all places.  See...  I had just finished "Inside" by Charles L. Ross and I was looking for something next.  I didn't feel like playing the Project 161 game (because it's more like Project 261 now) so I was lolling.  Yeah, lolling along waiting for inspiration.  Waiting for something to reach out and grab me.  It finally hit a few weeks ago at the movie theater.  Yep, you guessed it, I'm sure:  I saw the trailer for Gone Girl: the movie.  It was at the most, 2 days later, I had my very own copy of Gone Girl: the novel in my hands, thanks to a quick jaunt thru the local Kroger in search of Gatorade before driving an hour and a half away to watch my son (not) play baseball.

There's a bit of a backstory here:  Thanks to Drew Peterson (remember him?), I've had this story idea running rampant through my head for quite some time: what if Peterson didn't kill his wife?  What if she set him up & just left?  And then:  What would someone have to do to just disappear and why would they?  What must be going on in their life to fake their own murder and frame someone else for it, specifically a spouse, someone you're supposed to love, honor, cherish all the rest of the days of your life?  What kind of person would the spouse have to be?  What kind of person would the fake victim have to be?  How would they pull that off?  Could they do it by themselves or would they have to enlist help?  Questions, ponderences, theories, debates...  churning this idea around in my head (apparently since 2007 because that's when Stacy Peterson disappeared), contemplating the scenario, mapping it out (my story involves a corrupt cop or district attorney, can't decide which, and the mob).  And just as I was starting to really get my mojo going about it, when I'm mentally drafting an outline (could this idea really work?), I'm sitting in a darkened movie theater, waiting to watch something else - something my teenage son had decided was worth my hard-earned money and 2 hours of my time - when the trailer for Gone Girl: the movie comes on & I don't know why exactly, but something in those few moments of handsome Ben Affleck continually denying he killed his wife makes me think:  Gillian Flynn beat me to it.


And that's how I decided my next book would be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.


If you haven't read it, and want to, stop here.  Because I'm going to spoil the mystery for you with this:  Gillian Flynn DID beat me to it!


Her story is so twisted, so convoluted, so mind boggling, so intriguing, so unexpected (even tho I was expecting that!  What does that tell you???), that I could NOT wait to get on here and blog about it.  I couldn't wait to get these jumbled thoughts down.  By the way, I'm back to the drawing board with my corrupt cop/DA and mob idea cuz I'm realizing it is very, very small potatoes, very infantile, very juvenile.  It's not connected, it's got too many holes I can't fill.  I don't know enough about the intricacies of the legal system, mobsters, creating a new identity, challenges with escaping, being in hiding, fear of discovery, etc, etc, etc.

So, damn.

I'm intentionally NOT reading any other reviews right now.  And, I'm ignoring the Reader's Group Guide in the back of my paperback copy (picked up in a Kroger - have I mentioned that enough???) because don't want to be influenced by anything else.  I want to relish these moments of being gobsmacked by such a story, by such an interesting and brilliant writer's mind.  I must know more about this Gillian Flynn, what else she writes, what makes her tick...  Because she floored me.  Yes, I am floored.

What Gillian Flynn has done is map out a perfect crime, where, egads!, the villan gets away with murder.

Oh, my!

But, aha!, Ms. Flynn, before you wallow too loftily in my adulation and admiration, I do have a few questions for you...  Just some loose ends that I'd like to clear up, make sure I'm getting the full understanding.  See the story is as much about Amy's calculating, devious mind and Nick's spineless backbone as it is about the investigation, about the bumbling fools of the local police force (and the FBI, apparently!) who can't successfully navigate a suspicious disappearance, probable kidnapping, potential death of a classic, textbook missing person (if there is such a thing as a classic, textbook missing person).

Because I'm sympathizing with the bumbling fools of cops, I'm gonna put on my Rhonda Boney Maroonie hat, if you don't mind, cuz Amy Elliott Dunne got away with murder, and defamation of character, and identity fraud, and malicious harassment, and false testimony, and..., well, all kinds of stuff!  And I, as Rhonda Boney Maroonie, have too many unanswered questions that are gnawing at my usually-on-game-detective-brain.

So, Ms. Flynn, Amy's story, upon her return, is that she was kidnapped by Desi after he surprised her by dropping by the morning of her & Nick's 5th anniversary, correct?  Around 10a, she said.  He was driving the Jaguar, we know, because Amy said so and her hair - the long blonde ones - were found in the trunk.  I'm wondering about where he parked while he was approaching Amy's house.  On the street?  In the driveway?  Yes, yes, Amy did say he pulled into the garage and closed the door so he could load her into the trunk unseen (how very Drew Peterson of him!), but wasn't that after the struggle?  Because he would have needed to get IN to the house to open the garage, so it's not as if he pulled up to her house & went straight into the garage, then lowered the door, then walked to the front door & knocked to be let in.  No, if he had access to the garage before coming into the house, he would have probably come into the house thru the garage.  Maybe in Missouri they have detached garages?  Oh wait, but then he could have been seen leaving the house with a hog-tied Amy to get to the garage.  No, the garage must be attached to the house with access from the house into the garage.  So, back to my original question:  where did Desi Collings park his car when he first approached the house to see Amy?  In plain sight is my guess: the driveway, the street curb?  Where his car, that Jaguar, would have, could have been seen.  Especially by those nosy neighbors in the development - what were those names?  Let me check my notes:  oh, yeah, I have it right here:  Noelle Hawthorne, Amy's very best friend in Carthage, and that guy, the drunk, that goes to The Bar alot, but calls when he can't - Carl.  Carl Pelley.  The one who saw the front door wide open and the cat - Bleeker! Oh, I love Bleeker! - outside.  Strange, they, or any other neighbor, didn't notice a Jaguar in their 'hood.  You know, with the economy and all.  Seems like that would have stood out, been noticed.

Desi was busy in that house and it seems like a lot happened so this wasn't an in & out job.  Oh, no.  They struggled, remember?  A struggle in the living room had to be staged (half true and half false, right?), the blood on the kitchen floor had to be mopped up, those pesky ornaments that topple over at the slightest vibration had to be set back up, AND, the Jaguar had to be moved into the garage...  AND, Amy had to be hog-tied while she was unconscious.  She was clubbed and stabbed in the kitchen, but she came to, hog-tied, in the living room...  but... there was no blood in the living room.  He must have dressed her wound, which is very noble of him, but then he did adore her, didn't he?  Ah, let me get this straight:  Amy claims, without rousing too much of the cops or the FBI's suspicion, that Desi surprised her, attacked her, stabbed her, dressed her wound well enough there was no blood in the living room or the trunk of his car, staged the struggle to look like more than it was, cleaned the blood off the kitchen floor, moved his car into the garage so he could load her into the trunk sight unseen, then flung open the front door and took off out of there!  Oh, and he must have stopped, got out, lowered the garage door (but yet chose to fling the front door wide open... hmmm, why not just leave the garage door open?) behind him because no one mentioned the garage door being open.  Desi did all that.  In a rush.  In a Jaguar.  Unseen.  Wow.  He has perfect timing or incredibly good luck.

Of course, the police dusted for finger prints at the crime scene.  Yes, they did whether you write so or not because that is standard police procedure, and even though Amy has painted the local police as bumbling fools, we do know and engage in standard police procedure.  Textbook, right?  So, here's the thing:  Desi's prints weren't uncovered.  Did Amy mention he wore gloves?  I don't recall that.  Wow, he was prepared, wasn't he?  He must have walked in wearing them because we didn't find his prints on the door, which we know he handled if we believe her story:  he forced his way in AND he flung it wide open before leaving.  He touched the ornaments, he toppled the ottomon, he clubbed her with the puppet handle - which was found with Nick's prints, is that right?  Nick's prints, but not Desi's because he wore gloves.  Or, I do suppose he could have wiped down everything he touched, but in a struggle that is alot of stuff to account for, and it would mean wiping off all the prints.  As in Nick's and Amy's. However, I suppose it could be done.  There was alot of wiping down prints throughout Amy's side of the story.  

Another thing that's troubling me, just a wee bit:  Amy said Desi stabbed her with a pocketknife he was carrying.  A pocketknife?  Has Amy ever seen a pocketknife?  The blades are folded into the handle and you have to pry them open.  It's not exactly smooth & easy.  You've got to get your nails in these little grooves and pull the blade out - and be careful not to stab yourself, or scrap yourself with the very sharp tip.  But let's get back to Desi attacking Amy - clubbing her with the wooden handle of the Judy puppet - and then swiftly, because it does seem Amy's telling a story of things happening very violently and very fast, Desi is suddenly yielding a pocketknife, and he stabs her arm!  I'm thinking:  was it really a pocketknife?  Maybe it was a switchblade!  Those you just flick open, or you push a lever and the blade springs out - fast and smooth.  No, she did say "pocketknife" so a pocketknife it must have been.  You know, since she said she was dizzy, maybe he had a few moments there to pull out the blade of the pocketknife and then stab her.  That must be what happened.  By any chance, did someone check the scar from the knife to see if it was consistent with a pocketknife blade?  No?  What about a switchblade?  No, not that, either?  Well, what kind of blade does it seem it was?  Oh, you don't know cuz none of the bumbling fool cops looked into that.  Huh.

Jacqueline, Desi's mom - they are so close! - can she account for Desi's whereabouts on that infamous July morning, where at 10a Desi barged into Amy's house and attacked her?  Well, not just that morning, but for those several days following when he had her blindfolded, drugged and gagged?  Don't Desi & Jacqueline have lunch together every day?  Wouldn't dear, doting, involved mother demand he account for his whereabouts those specific days, if he was unaccounted for?  Those specific days when Amy was splashed relentlessly across the news - Mommy Dearest would have sought him out to discuss this, wouldn't she not?  Jacqueline is so adamant that Amy murdered Desi, but she can't prove it.  Why not?  Why can't she dispel Amy's account of that morning?  Has anyone checked to see where he was, what he was doing the day Amy disappeared (and don't forget the several days following)?  He had no appointments, no meals with Mom - some decadent restaurant as they frequently dined! - he saw no one and no one saw him those several days that could trip up Amy's story?  Oh, and WAIT!  There are witnesses, there is an account of his whereabouts, at least one of those days:  he showed up at the volunteer search center!  So now Amy would have us believe he drove Amy somewhere, stashed her, left her in a motel, a cabin, or maybe an apartment, blindfolded-drugged-gagged, and came back to put on a farce about helping search for her?  Probably to establish an alibi.  Yes, that must be it.  To establish an alibi for being in Carthage during the aftermath and not somewhere holed up with his kidnap victim.  

Now, I've got to ask about the contents of the woodshed that Amy would have the police, and the world, believe was Nick's.  All Nick's.  That he bought it and he hid it from her there.  So, my question is:  Where'd all that stuff come from?  Online shopping, right?  Because if any of it was bought in a retail store then someone might remember a girl using a credit card in the name of Lance Nicholas Dunne.  A very pretty girl.  Actually, a beautiful girl.  A memorable girl.  So, it must have been online, which means...  it was shipped, delivered, via US Mail, UPS or maybe FedEx.  So.  Delivered where?  Their house?  Nick, the fool, would have had that stuff, which he promptly hid from Amy to keep his secret life from her, to their house.  Where Nick, with 2 jobs between the school and The Bar, rarely is and where Amy, the stay-at-home, non-working wife, would be the most likely person to receive it.  Kinda blows that whole theory, doesn't it?  Oh.  He had it delivered to Go's?  Or The Bar?  Or the school?  Or Andie's?  Well, wherever it was delivered need not be a theory because that is verifiable.  Cops have the credit card statements - the purchases on the statements match the contents of the shed.  This, to me, is no-brainer, even for bumbling fool cops in po-dunk Carthage, Missouri.

Speaking of bumbling fool cops:  did they seriously, really & truly, NOT have Nick tailed, constantly, immediately from the start?  Really?  REALLY?     

And... there's the $12k car she bought off Craig's List...  the one she moved regularly from different long term parking lots in St. Louis.  Amy did think of everything, except...  how'd she get to St. Louis "the day of" to get said car without being seen?  She was still Amy Elliott Dunne then - her hair long & blonde.  And she was beautiful, remember?  Memorable.  Surely someone noticed the beautiful woman traveling somehow - train, cab, bus, hitchhiking - to St. Louis.  Within hours her  face was plastered all over the news.  No one came forward, tho.  That's odd.

The Jeff & Greta twist...  that's a good one!  But, knowing Amy - now that we know the real Amy, the one who frames her husband for her own murder & destroys his credibility & shackles him to her for the rest of his life, who sets up her friend (her name is Hilary Handy, seriously?  Like Amazing Amy and Sidekick Suzy and Able Andy... why not Handy Hilary?  I actually thought, at first, that her name was a joke) to be a psycho Amy wannabe, and successfully creates a scene of date rape after being wronged by a beau, and who tracked down a trucker - literally tracked him down by his route and called repeatedly to lie about his driving so he'd be fired because he flipped her off once - that Amy - how is it we're to believe she would walk away from those two f-ing a-holes???  They robbed her, left her nothing - nothing!  They foiled her plans!  She could have still been on the run.  She wouldn't have had to call Desi.  Their greed ruined everything!  Everything!  She spent so much time putting that plan together, that perfect, perfect plan, and taking every little thing into consideration.  She had to have been enraged, enraged!, and we know Amy cannot resist  that rage.  She has to act on it, she has to plot revenge - something so horrific that they will never, ever, get over, will never, ever forget, will never, ever allow them to not fear her for the rest of their lives!  They will revere Amazing Amy.  She has to win.  She has to have the last word.  Right?  Isn't that who you gave us?  So, (I "so" alot, I know), so, Gillian Flynn, how is it that Amy, the one we know - the true bitter & vengeful Amy, tucked her tail between her legs and simply, dolefully, just drove away?  How, seriously how?, is that possible???

Thinking of those two...  are we to believe that they would not come back into the picture, once the story broke - they wouldn't have thought they hit the motherlode?  How much they could gain by threatening to expose her secret?  Yeah, she accounts for that, somewhat, but the truth is, they could, and would, put a huge gaping hole in Amy's story - she was here!  She was in this cabin!  She played mini golf with us right there!  We ate at this place!  She touched this, and that, and that - and she was seen!  Seen by us, seen by others.  Seen with dark chopped hair & fake, clear lens glasses.  And she watched Ellen Abbott relentlessly.  She was obsessed with it - and she was alone.  No man was with her.  No, she wasn't tied up...  yes, they could really, really hurt Amy's credibility.  It could - it would - cast doubts.  It would force the police to investigate, even if they did it without interest or enthusiasm.  To pacify the two buffoons, they might have a sketch artist do a "take Amy's face and add some weight to it, cut her hair and make it brown, put glasses on her... is this who you saw, sir?  Ma'am?  Yes, that's her?  Well, well, well..."  Wouldn't that be a interesting turn of the screw?  Yes, Amy, brilliant Amazing Amy, should be nervous about those two.  She shouldn't expect them to just go away.  She should be worried they'd show up at the worse possible moments - standing in line during her book tour.  Outside the TV station waving thru the window during her on-air interview.  They would need to be dealt with, eliminated, because those 2 - those 2 wouldn't stop at $8k when they knew they could get more.  Much much more.  They'd haunt her until they couldn't haunt her.  So she'd have no choice.  Not only had they wronged her but they could ruin everything AGAIN.  

I suppose the thing, tho, I ponder the most (I'm still in Detective Rhonda Boney Maroonie mode) is the pregnancy.  The real one.  From the fertility center.  Um, how'd she do that?  I mean, I get that she did have the Center keep their specimen on hand - instead of having it disposed of (so dismissive!) she contacted them to keep it.  BUT, then, at some point, she retrieved it.  When?  Within twenty weeks after her return, after her highly publicized and sensationalized return, she goes to the clinic to get inseminated?  She waltzes in, by herself, to the clinic, to where the specimen is in her name and Nick's name, two recently notorious people, and says "hit me up!"  Or should we think she got it somehow, way back when, and kept it somewhere?  Like, in the freezer?  Where do you keep things like that, I ask...  And how do you fertilize yourself?  No, I can't buy that one.  I've got to go with her going to the clinic, announcing who she is, having herself inseminated without her husband by her side.  There has got to be a record of that.  Surely there is.

Ah... but what about this:  could the baby be Desi's???  They had sex that very day before she returned.  That very day!  Before she drugged him and cut his throat.  She had his semen inside her when she came back.  Yes, so why couldn't the baby be Desi's?  Oh, I know, that's not what Amy wanted - I'm thinking of Nick.  Nick wanted out.  He wanted a divorce.  So why not accuse Amy of having an affair with Desi, of the 2 of them staging her disappearance & together framing Nick?  Of planning it so carefully - from the artfully plotted fake journal to the stocked woodshed full of man-cave gear (which, of course, the police could check for FINGERPRINTS) to the "authentically staged" living room struggle scene - and then running away together, of hiding Amy at the lake house, where she was isolated, soon lonely, watching her story unfold, seeing Nick suffer, hearing his messages, understanding those inside jokes - and realizing she made a terrible, terrible mistake!  But Desi wouldn't let her leave, he imprisoned her!  She could prove his obsession - the tulips!  The dusty rose paint!  She had no choice but to drug him & kill him!  Boney & Nick, together, could prove this scenario because they could have tracked the deliveries of the woodshed contents & proved it wasn't Nick, right?  Just enough to cast suspicion, to put Amy in a bad light, to make that hole a little bit bigger.  And Nick, dear sweet Nick, he wouldn't have the heart to desert Desi & Amy's baby - no, he wouldn't.  He'd take that baby, while Amy rots in jail or in the nuthouse, and he'd raise it as his own.

Safe.  Both of them safe.  From Amazing Amy.

OK, Boney Maroonie hat off.  I've got questions, yes, I do.  It's these questions and many like it that put a halt to my own elaborate missing-wife-frame up outline.  I know that Gillian Flynn's story is a good one, despite my picking at the holes and making them bigger.  She's a talented writer, she has me intrigued, despite my vow (vow!) to quit buying more books until I've read some of the ones I've already got - that vow - I will be stopping by the bookstore today and picking up 2 more:  Dark Places and Sharp Objects.

And I cannot wait to read them!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

INSIDE by Charles L. Ross

This book had everything I want in a novel:  interior design, designers, publishing, publishers, murder, mystery and mayhem.  I had hit the mother lode!!!

Or so I thought...

It starts out intriguing enough:  the mysterious death of the Editor-in-Chief of a high-end interior design magazine.  Perfect! And the story is described as a "biography of a magazine," which was the real reason I bought it.  I am so enthralled with publishing I would have read it whether there was a murder or not.

But, the structure of the story is confusing.  We start with the death, which is quickly deemed a murder, then we jump back in time 5 years to the narrator's first day of work at the magazine.  Then we ride this slow moving train (very slow moving train) through 5 years of back story before we get back to the editor's death, 5 years later...


As I read along, I kept asking myself, "what does this have to do with the murder?"  It just didn't make sense because SO MUCH of the (back) story had NOTHING to do with the editor or the magazine.  I mean, why include that unless there is a purpose?  I just couldn't find it, and here I am, weeks later to give me time to ponder, I still can't find it.  Now, to be fair, the back story was interesting and in the end, it was the murder mystery I was disappointed in.  I think Ross did a great job of taking us thru the development of a magazine (altho it did seem to be a bit simplified), and the interactions, and relationships, between the key players were quite fascinating, but I feel like the magazine story with a murder thrown in to pique your interest, were really just a vehicle for Ross to write about what he really wanted to write about: the steamy and seamy world of homosexual life in the late '70s.

The gay lifestyle with graphic detail of sexual encounters the narrator had, pre-AIDS it appears, was borderline offensive.  Not because I'm homophobic or anti-gay, but because I'm a reader!  It dominated so much of the story and story was supposed to be about a magazine!  And the death of the editor-in-chief!  If you want to write gay porn, write gay porn, but tell us you're writing gay porn!  Don't disguise it as a murder inside the world of publishing mystery.  I mean, really, what is the point of that???

As I mentioned earlier, the murder ends up being the biggest disappointment.  Again, because I feel like the premise of the story was a disguise for what the author really wanted to write, there didn't seem to be much thought into how that was developed.  It was a joke, really, and a waste of time to include it.  Ross would have been better off leaving that out completely and just writing about the magazine publishing world from the perspective of its gay art director as he navigates the homosexual underworld of Los Angeles in the late '70s.

I would have still read it.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Rest of Us by Jessica Lott

I'm not sure how I stumbled on this novel.  I think I was in the bookstore and I just happened past it.  I actually picked it up, I started to buy it, but I talked myself out of it (as I have forced myself to do many times since getting Kindell, the Kindle and his brother, Irving, the Kindle Fire).  I put it down, walked away, returned, pondered it again, dismissed the idea, left.

Promptly went home and pulled it up on Irving.

Pondered, again.  It wasn't free.  It wasn't discounted (much).  I could wait, right?  Besides, I'm already reading something.  It's not as if I needed anything else on my to-do-list.  Besides, don't I have enough to read already (when I have time to read, that is)?  I mean, seriously.

But I succumbed to the allure and seduction of the title and the promising story within the pages of a long lost love affair  rekindled...

Such a sucker, am I not?

So, I bought it via Irving, thank you, my favorite website ever since discovering you years & years ago.  Move over, Disney - is my happiest place on earth.

Ah, but I digress.  We're here to talk about "The Rest of Us" by Jessica Lott.

This is one of those intellectual reads, where the characters are far too refined for me to relate to - altho, at first I felt I was relating quite well to Terry, aka Tatie, as her beloved Rhinehart calls her, with her unexceptional existence, an empty life of unlived dreams, wheels spinning in place on an endless NY street...

She is very static.  She's existing, not living.  She moves slowly through her days, maybe pushes, although without vigor, through her days is a better description, thru a suffocating force that seems to be holding her, stifling her, in place.  Her life languishes, as if she's waiting for something to happen to her instead of her stepping up, or would that be stepping out?, to make it happen for herself.

And so we enter into this thick fog of a story meeting the aimless Terry, just as she's read the shock of Rhinehart's untimely death.  Just a quickly, she runs into him, Christmas shopping, and learns it was a terrible, terrible mistake.  Did she miss the retraction?  Apparently, so...  What comes next is a story of second chances - Rhinehart's second chance at life (even though he was never at risk of losing it to begin with) and Terry's second chance at having a relationship with him - this time, platonic, because, her Rhinehart has married.

We learn Rhinehart is a bit aimless, as well, having once been a keen and celebrated poet, he has fallen into the ordinary life of aging scholar and henpecked husband.  They are each holding on to their past - Terry by staying in place, as if changing anything might mean Rhinehart couldn't find her should he seek her out, and Rhinehart by keeping a photograph Terry took in his study where he can see it daily, altho it seems to have stifled his words instead of inspiring them to come forth.  And so, the reunion rebirths them both - Rhinehart from the dead and Terry through a renewed interest in her art.

Their relationship begins slowly - oh, so slowly - through a carefully stepped friendship after Rhinehart and his wife separate.  I find Terry quite frustrating, and boring - so brooding and such a pushover to both Rhinehart and her best friend, Hallie, that my eyes would have glossed over had I not been rolling them every few sentences into the back of my head!  What is the point of this story, I wondered?  Where is the promise of romance, when will I be captivated by the forbidden affair (after all, he is now separated from his wife, so there is no rush of excitement, no thrill of secrecy to keep me at bated breath!), what did I spend my money on, after all???

But then, out of nowhere (according to dear Irving, 40% into the book), the ordinary Terry blossoms into the tantilizing Tatie, and suddenly I am transfixed by the promise of her replenished creativity, her renewed interest in her chosen career, the allure of New York's art world, her interesting and engaging banter with Rhinehart, and now I am swept away into their life, their struggles to reconnect and rekindle their relationship.  Their need to not repeat the same mistakes they made before...  As Tatie's confidence grows, her opportunities flourish!  She plays a dangerous game of friendship with Rhinehart's soon-to-be ex-wife.  Rhinehart, an immigrant from the Ukraine who came to America with his mother as a very young child, begins an emotional affair with his Ukrainian family history, a pursuit that takes him out of the country indefinitely, leaving Tatie behind to try to piece the puzzle of their relationship into a picture she can see, hold, understand and hang on the wall.

Over the course of many months, but less than a year, Tatie & Rhinehart come together, drift apart, pick one another up and fall together again.  Tatie, the weak & stale Terry I first met - the girl who couldn't say no and was bullied and prodded into doing as others wanted instead of what she wanted - turns out to be one of the strongest and most amazing of characters I think I've ever read.  I think she will stay with me for a very long time, which is why I felt so compelled to write about this story as soon as I read the last line.  I don't want to forget her - I want to know her, I want to hug her, I want to tell her she's going to be just fine.

But, you know, I'm not worried about Tatie.  I know she's strong, she's stable, she's in New York, and she's living her dreams.