What I’ve Read This Summer

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones:

To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this book–which isn’t to say it’s a bad or unimportant book, I simply didn’t enjoy reading it. It’s hard to enjoy the main characters; everyone speaks in beautifully crafted, poetic sentences that veer dangerously close to purple prose. While engagement with the topics of racism, the flaws in American justice system and the prison-industrial complex is handled wonderfully, and the complexities of the relationship between Roy, Celestial and Andre is explored with a care that leaves the reader unable to side with any one of them, I was left disappointed by the actual story itself in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel:

I appreciated this novel’s Star Trek references… but again, I expected much more out of the novel than it was willing to give me, even though I enjoyed reading it. The story felt disjointed, and most–but not all–of the threads coming together at the very end felt deeply unsatisfactory. The experience of reading Station Eleven is existential; the story isn’t the point of the book. It’s a peculiar sort of book, filled with coincidences and small scenes. It’s a smart book, and intelligently written–perhaps my discomfort with it has to do with reading a novel in which 90% of humanity has been wiped out by a viral plague at the height of the panic over COVID-19?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng:

I made sure to read this before watching the miniseries on Hulu, and I’m glad I did. Ng explores themes of motherhood, racism, and suburban life against the backdrop of Shaker Heights, Ohio (30 minutes from my house!) in the late 1990s. It’s a book about the psychological damage that can be done with the best of intentions, for the most part carefully handed–except that some of Ng’s character’s decisions seem off-the-wall or unlikely, which spoils the plot a bit. I did not enjoy the Hulu series after finishing the novel; there were too many changes from the book. The Hulu series very desperately wants to make sure to know that Elena Richardson is the villain; which the book may suggest this, it’s far more subtle. Same for several other details and plot points, the heavy-handed treatment ruined the miniseries for me entirely. YMMV.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon:

I read this because my mother loves Outlander (the TV series), so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Now, my mom and I have shared historical romance novels for years… but I was not expecting this. I was not expecting so much rape. I certainly wasn’t expecting the male-on-male rape when Gabaldon ran out of plot points into which she could shove male-on-female rape. Also, the book is very long; sometimes there are quite a few pages in between rapes. Regardless, it was entertaining enough that I finished the entire book within a few days (although, if you can’t just kind of skim over problematic rape-y bits, this is not the book for you). I will probably not be reading any more of them (it’s a series), and I made only it maybe 20 minutes into the Starz TV show before turning it off.