Recently on the s[r] goodreads page, some of our staff shared their insightful reviews of the books they’ve been reading this semester. Enjoy!
Alix Ohlin understands human emotions, even those of young men, war veterans, miserable middle-aged married women, and stepmothers trying to belong. But Ohlin proves through her piercingly honest writing that she knows the same emotions are present within all of us. She shines a spotlight on the vulnerability and fragility, the resilience and hope beneath our outer shells.
Ohlin connects these people so different from each other by the most crushing emotion – loss. And yet, there is always an element of hope in her stories: hope for the unknown, the unlikely, or the uncertain, and also the new connections that loss will create. “There was the death of hope and then the beginning of it, and sometimes in her memory she could no longer separate the two.”
Through the story of a married couple whose connection is threatened, Ohlin concludes, “They hadn’t said: I will ask you for things no person should ask. Or: I will hurt you so much it will suck you dry. What they’d said was: I will love you forever. And every word of it was true.”
In Ohlin’s title story, a woman who discovers she is miserable is tested when her soon to be ex-husband lies trapped in a coma. Ohlin uses images of birds to highlight both the caging of a soul and the freedom it longs to have. Her characters are delicate and fierce like birds, and they question their fragile existence: “she could feel them all around her, the questions of her life, at times beating like wings, at times soaring cleanly through the air, and she could only wonder how it was that she had never felt them before.”
Reviewed by Rikki Lux, from Advertising.
“The more frightening the future is, the more complicated it seems to be, the more we steady ourselves with the past.”
Lauren Groff’s The Monsters of Templeton is a story that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, inviting the reader on a journey to explore a world that is both recognizable and completely new at the same time. From the very first page, Groff weaves a fantastical mystery centered around a town bursting at the seams with secrets.
Wilhelmina Upton and her search for her father could, if told in the wrong way, become a tedious and uninteresting tale. However, Groff mastered the art of keeping her readers engrossed in the story, by including peeks into the past, either through diary entries, or flashbacks, every few chapters. This allows the story to be told from multiple points of view, from people living centuries apart yet sharing in the mystery that is Templeton, and ensuring the reader has the full story.
The Monsters of Templeton is a story about discovery, and the overwhelming desire in everyone, to know where they came from and who they are. For this reason Willie and her adventures have the ability to resonate with the reader on a personal level. Reminding each person of their own ongoing search to figure out their place in the world, and who they will one day become.
Groff’s writing makes a person want to stay up until two in the morning, furiously turning pages, dying to know what will happen next. Until the truth about Willie is brought to light, until the monster’s origin is uncovered, until the very last page, Groff has a way of keeping the reader interested and completely invested in the story unraveling around them.
Reviewed by our Goodreads staff member, Lindsey Bosak
Willful Creatures is a thought-provoking collection of stories that demands an all new level of open-mindedness from its readers. Bender introduces a group of unique characters who exhibit their own brand of willfulness as they tackle issues of acceptance, love, intimacy, death, rebirth, commitment, and self-worth. The choice to leave all of her main characters nameless is an interesting one. Also interesting is Bender’s use of a plural first person narrator in Debbieland. I think she pulls it off very well.
Bender’s talent for taking ordinary inanimate objects and bringing them to life with her unique sense of irony and symbolism is applied throughout Willful Creatures. A child with an iron for a head born into a family of pumpkinheads (Ironhead), a boy with keys for fingers (The Leading Man), and an entire town of people evolving into objects and born with innate talents to bond their community (Hymn), are just a few examples of the way Bender applies her genius.
Reviewed by Blogger, Elizabeth Sheets