Another Brooklyn

Jacqueline Woodson’s adult novel, Another Brooklyn, follows the childhood of August in 1970s Brooklyn. This is a deep and moving story about four teenage girls who saw the world in each other, but couldn’t protect each other from the reality of it.

This book left me feeling melancholy. I was deeply saddened by the events of the novel and how realistic they were. The friendship between August and her three best friends is movie and one of the most realistic ones I’ve read in ages. Also, I love the early relationship between August and her brother.

The lyrical prose of this novel was almost overwhelming at times. I would stop to reread sentences over and over again. I had to take a break several times even though the novel was extremely short. The reality of the story and the prose was heart-wrenching, in the best way possible.

Overall, I loved the perspective of what it would have been like to be a brown girl growing up in 1970s Brooklyn. August deals with loss, abuse, and trauma. But she copes the best way she knows how and the overall tone is one of hope more than anything else. Hope for the brown girls of both the past and the future.

4/5

For the Roses

I read this book after one of my coworkers recommended it to me. Julie Garwood was my introduction to romance literature. I grew up with her Highland paperbacks scattered around the house, cracked and dog-eared. It’s been years since I’ve read her books, but the recommendation of my mother and coworker were enough for me to try this one.

For the Roses is the story of Mary Rose, a baby thrown into an alley in Late Reconstruction New York City. She is adopted by a rag-tag gage of four orphans: Travis, Douglas, Cole, and Adam. All of the boys have their skills and fulfill certain stereotypes. In the novel, the boys move West with her and they form a family. To me, Adam, the runaway slave who committed murder to escape and is the intelligent and soft-spoken patriarch of the family, was the most fascinating.

For a novel published in 1996, Mary Rose is less of a caricature than I expected. She’s story, willful, and stubborn. She is treated more like a child than an adult, even ignored by the men surrounding her. But, all of her decisions are her own. There are a few ‘rapey’ scenes, but it’s a bodice-ripper romance.

This novel feels like four stories in one. There is the story of Mary Rose’s childhood, her romance with Harrison, her reunion with her father, and Adam’s trial. While all of the stories find their own resolution, they do it independently. Garwood could have had at least two of the stories converge, tying the ends together instead of moving from one thread to the next.

Personally, I though Adam’s trial was the most engaging section. I would have cut Mary Rose’s reunion with her family in favor of more pages spent on the trial and its implications. But, this is a romance novel with some history thrown in, not the other way around. Overall, I found the novel to be mostly readable, with very few cringe-worthy moments.

3/5

Pillars of the Earth

I’ve recently discovered that I love listening to audio books. In the past year, I’ve put in more driving hours than I ever cared to drive. Listening to audio books helped more than I thought they would and I decided to take on a monster, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

I had high hopes for this novel. I didn’t expect it to be a great work of literature, but it was an Oprah book. I’d heard great things from customers and I like epic stories with a huge scope and a full cast of characters. I dedicated 15 hours of my life listening to the novel and there were still 25 hours to go. After an EXTREMELY GRAPHIC rape scene from the point of view of the rapist, I decided that this novel wasn’t for me.

I was going to power through the rest of the novel, but then I found out that there are more rape scene and they are all just as graphic. Now, I think that we shouldn’t shy away from difficult topics just because they make us uncomfortable. They can be used to great effect. But this scene felt more like some sort of porn for entitled men (not to say that women aren’t rapists) instead of a scene about a sensitive issue that should be treated appropriately.

As I didn’t finish the novel, I can’t speak to it’s literary merits and disappointments. All I can say is that it wasn’t the one for me, or for anyone who is sensitive to rape scenes, especially ones that glorify the rapist.

2/5 for what I read