2017 Reading Challenge, Part 3
I am still keeping my promise to read at least 4 books a month… I’m just a month behind in posting them. So, without further ado, here are the books I read in March.
My Sister’s Keeper– Jodi Picoult
Since Picoult’s novel Great Small Things was my favorite book of 2016, I decided to delve into the author’s vault and check out one of her earlier works. This 2004 novel revolves around Anna, a 13-year-old girl who was conceived for the sole purpose of keeping her sister Kate alive. Kate has leukemia, and Anna is a perfect match for a blood and marrow donor. Nevertheless, Kate keeps relapsing. When Anna is told that she must donate a kidney to save her sister’s life, she puts her foot down. In fact, she goes and gets herself a lawyer to prevent her parents from forcing her to donate her kidney. A very emotional and dramatic story, with a hugely unexpected ending.
Misbegotten Son: A Serial Killer and His Victims– Jack Olsen
I didn’t grow up in Watertown, NY, where I live now, so I’d never heard of Arthur Apparently, he was quite a well-known figure up here. Shawcross murdered two children in 1972. He was only convicted on one murder charge, due to a plea bargain. Sentenced to 25 years in prison, Shawcross was released after spending just 12 years behind bars. He then embarked on a prostitute killing spree in Rochester. He killed a dozen women before he was arrested, and spent the rest of his life in prison.
This book is particularly grisly, even for fans of the True Crime genre, due to its descriptions of what he did with the bodies of some of his victims, and also because of shocking claims Shawcross made about torturing and killing women while fighting in the Vietnam war. However, the book is also an interesting psychological study. Is a killer “made” or born? According to those who knew “Artie” when he was a kid, the boy was never quite right.
Lincoln in the Bardo– George Saunders
This historical fiction book recently (albeit briefly) made the New York Times Bestsellers list. It tells the sad story of the death of President Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, who passed away at age 11 from typhoid fever. The elder Lincoln is devastated, and makes nocturnal visits to the boy’s crypt to hold his son’s lifeless body. (I thought that Saunders made this up for the book, but it turns out that newspapers of the day  actually DID report that the president had been seen entering Willie’s crypt on several occasions!)
“Bardo” is a Tibetan term that can be loosely translated as a sort of Purgatory, where lost souls dwell between life and Heaven or rebirth. This is where poor Willie winds up, not realizing he is dead. He meets quite a scary cast of characters who are in similar predicaments, many of whom, in the author’s words, are “disfigured by desires they failed to act upon while alive.” Sounds depressing, but it’s more heart-wrenching and thought-provoking.
Dolores Claiborne– Stephen King
I read it a long, long time ago– probably shortly after it came out in 1992. And since I re-read Misery in February (Kathy Bates starred in the movie versions of both books), I decided to give this one another go as well.
This novel is written in a very unique style. The entire book is the testimony Dolores Claiborne gives to police when she is arrested in the suspicious death of the ultra-wealthy Vera Donovan. It basically reads as a monologue, in the sarcastic, blunt, Maine vernacular of Dolores. She insists that she didn’t kill Vera, for whom she was a housekeeper and caretaker for decades. However, there IS something she wants to get off her chest: 30 years ago, she killed her no-good husband. And with good reason.
This is not one of my favorite Stephen King books, as it’s not really a horror story. It’s more of a psychological roller coaster ride… one that sometimes gets stuck, mid-loop. Dolores’s sense of humor saves the book from being completely tedious.
Stay tuned to my blog for a link to some exclusive original content (very scary short stories) coming soon!