Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two Books

I put in a request, on facebook, for a book suggestion. I trust Jim's opinion so I chose his book, East of Eden (also, because he actually GAVE me a copy to read hahahaha!).

I PURPOSELY didn't read any other reviews before or since reading these books. I hardly ever do, because I find it colors my view of the book while I'm reading it, and that ruins it for me. I know a lot of people like to have a lot of people's opinions before they read a book, so here ya go! If you are NOT one of those people, do not continue to read!

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
I had to read The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men when I was in school. I really loved those books, so I was excited to read this book (even though I thought I had read it back when, it turns out that I'd only seen the movie a long time ago...didn't even remember what the movie was about). It started out with so much background and family details and history, it was a little hard to get into. I was also only a couple of weeks away from delivery and couldn't find a minute to read. I'd take the lazy way out and read a quick article online or check fb. I brought the book with me to the hospital, though. Because the kids were all sick at home, Butch stayed home with them and Trina stayed in the hospital with me so I got in some good hours of reading time!

There were SO many beautiful and good lines in this book! Despite graphic details about evil, whorehouses, beatings, abuse, and many references to the ugliness of life in the early part of the century, I can still call this great book!

It was mostly a fictionalized version of the details of life for the people who grew and lived in the late 18-early 1900s around the place where the author's family came from. It contained a lot of true parts of his own family tree but included a lot of conjecture based on family stories and rumors. It was kind of historical fiction meets family tree.

I sensed the author put a lot of his own attitudes and feelings into the many different strong characters in this book. One of the most important characters with the most impact on all the surrounding characters was the author's own grandfather. He describes him in such loving detail, almost to the point of repetition, that you can tell the author thought a lot of his grandfather and wished to honor his memory for all time and for the rest of his family's sake.

The only thing I find "wrong" with this novel, is that the author gets kind of unfocused on what he wants to mainly parlay with the story. Is it a family history? Is it a re-telling of the book of Genesis? Is it just a bunch of intertwined stories of people and their lives? I finished the last few chapters with a feeling of disappointment in where the story ended up. I guess, at that point, I was actually expecting a certain amount of drama that never really delivered. It's almost like the author sensed he was over dramatizing a true story and pulled back.

The book is VERY concentrated on the virtue and vice of each character. He seems to want us to truly understand that man has both good and evil inside him that that we have the CHOICE to act upon those characteristics. One or more of the characters seems to be born evil with no chance of redemption, so the theory that we have a choice doesn't follow there. The book is VERY heavy on multiple philosophies (as discussions by many of the characters) so you can tell the author is a deep and heavy thinker who enjoys getting others to think deeply as well (without over dramatizing). I love that kind of writing, so: GOOD JOB, JIM! You nailed it!

The Shack, by William Young
The book The Shack was recommended by a number of people but my neighbor just happened to be finishing it and handed it over just the other day. I finished it in one afternoon. I hadn't really heard anything about it, so I read an article about the author before I read it. It seems the author has MAJOR issues (was raised by missionary parents and was abused by tribespeople, had an affair after having 6 kids...yeah, issues). The book is all about a guy whose daughter is abducted and murdered by a psycho. He gets invited to the shack ( in which she was presumably killed) by God. God appears to him in a trinitarian form of characters. They are all non-white people. I had a lot of issues with this book.

First of all, a lot of the theology in the book is bogus. It's a very imaginative and private view of God, personified by the author. It seemed like his own way of working through the factors of forgiveness while indulging himself in countering years of religious abuse by his idiot parents, who ever thought it would be a good idea to raise a child in a third world country surrounded by heathens. Blech. I already had major issues with parents who choose this kind of life for their children, now I'm convinced it can't lead to any GOOD to bring your healthy child to a backward land to "preach the Word of God". If this author's mind and behaviors are any indication of what could happen to a perfectly innocent child in that circumstance, NO THANK YOU!

It was a quick read and a fair story line, but the author got WAY hung up on his own philosophies and his own brand of theology (all the while denigrating all of the thousands of years of theology of the Church...trapping the reader into thinking "gee, if I don't really believe this author, I must be one of those zombie church-goers and not a real Christian/believer"). If I were a parent who had a child brutalized in this or in a similar way, I'd be horrified and UNcomforted by this man's vision of "heaven" or eternity with God. I also found myself tuning out when he kept stressing that theory that dark is just the absence of light. I get it, already, it's just not TRUE that that's ALL it is. Evil is it's own entity. Evil does exist. The author contradicts himself with this theory by saying that God was with the girl during the evil act. The obvious problem there is that evil still WAS, even in the presence of God. The author had a lot of help writing this book, you can just tell. He's not a very good author and the story sags quite a bit in the middle and end.