Wednesday, April 01, 2015

So I go back and forth forever, all my thoughts they come in pairs.

I recently finished two very different books. They were each a little tough to read, though for rather different reasons.

All My Puny SorrowsAll My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a tough novel to read. Which isn't to say it's bad. It's not. At all. In fact, it's lovely and lyrical and beautiful. It's just tough. It chronicles the tale of two sisters, Yolandia (Yoli) and her older sister, Elfrieda (Elf). Yoli grows up in the shadow of the talented Elf, who is a famous pianist and an amazing free spirit. Yoli adores her from a young age, as Elf is the only one she knows who has the will and strength to fight against their religious Mennonite upbringing.

As adults, it seems like Elf has it all together - a loving partner, a successful career as a famous pianist, while Yoli is struggling - she's divorced (she's working on number two) and working to stay afloat as an author and raise her two kids.

However, underneath, we learn Elf has a great sadness, as the book covers her suicide attempts, including one as she is about to embark on a concert tour. Yoli rushes to her sister's side, but struggles to help her.

Overall, as I stated, the book is lovely, despite its sad subject matter (my heart hurts that apparently much of this is autobiographical for Toews). Having lost a loved one to suicide, reading a lot of this was very hard, indeed. I was very drawn to Yoli - she is a well-written character and you find yourself rooting for her, as she deals with her sister, her mother, and her crazy life. Even fragile Elf is beautiful. The girls' mother is quite a character; I loved her deeply. She was a trip.

I had to power through this one - sometimes all the bad things happening were overwhelming. The strength of character pulled me through it. I found myself a little frustrated at times ("why am I reading this?!"), but it truly is lovely, and if you've dealt with mental illness in any way (either yourself or with someone you love), while it will hurt, it's also a worthwhile read.

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 Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" by Lena Dunham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Full disclosure about my review of this book: I have always just liked Lena Dunham and harbored secret fantasies of us becoming friends. I'm sure this influenced my review somewhat. I'll admit that I would have liked to have read a bit more about how she got into the business, versus just random thoughts, but I also recognize that wasn't really the purpose of this particular book.

I also had to remind myself that Lena comes from the oversharing generation. There is a lot in this book that could potentially make you cringe, but if you know her work on Girls or anything else, it won't really come as a surprise. Overall, I found her writing style easy to read, and interesting, if not particularly amazing. I also enjoyed the chance to see any parallels between her life and Girls.

If this hadn't been an ebook I borrowed from the library, I definitely would have dog-eared some of the pages where she talks about how a woman deserves to be treated. There's certainly a lot to be learned from many of her pages, and I found a lot of what she said to be fascinating, if not disturbing, at times.

It was an easy, quick read and gave me some good insight into her life. (And I still want to be friends with her. And Lamby.)

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