- What: The Wife
- Who: Meg Wolitzer
- Pages: 219, soft cover
- Genre: Contemporary fiction
- Published: 2003
- The lit: of 5 flames
You’d think it would be hard to find humor in a 50-year relationship coming to a close. Meg Wolitzer makes it look easy though. As someone who is known for having little emotion, I fully appreciate that skill and enjoy seeing it at work. The ability to laugh at a divorce and the messed-up flaws of a relationship that’s become way too comfortable is not only refreshing, but it’s a necessary change in literature. That’s why you need to read The Wife.
Giggles aside, Wolitzer’s 2003 novel further demonstrates an interesting conundrum and one that so many couples are familiar with: Leaving is never easy when being together is all you’ve ever known. She flawlessly presents this internal struggle in a witty drama, which details the unpleasant feelings that can develop after being with someone for half of a century. It’s the perfect combination of humor and reality, and literature could certainly use more of it.
*PSA: No disrespect to Glenn Close because I have not seen the 2017 movie adaptation of The Wife, but do not skip the book for the movie. Writing like this needs to be experienced on its own, away from the dramatics and artistry of the silver screen.*
- What: Fahrenheit 451
- Who: Ray Bradbury
- Pages: 158, soft cover
- Genres: Classic literature and science fiction
- Published: 1953
- The lit: of 5 flames
You know that feeling when one of your favorite singers comes out with an album that you so desperately want to love, but you’re just like … no … ? You keep listening in the hope that it’ll spark some kind of desire, make the head bop just a smidgen to the left, but after five tries, still … no … ? That’s how I felt about Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods (I fought with myself over it!), and that same feeling emerged with Fahrenheit 451.
I’ve been immensely disappointed in myself for never reading it in my 26 years. It’s not just a classic, but it says so much about literature and society. I had convinced myself (and the world had convinced me) that I would fall in love with this remarkable book when I finally got around to it.
Until I didn’t fall in love. I fooled myself into thinking my enjoyment would commence once I started understanding it a bit more. The truth is it took far too long to really be “in the know,” and even after that happened, I realized this book did very little for me. Bradbury’s classic sci-fi novel earned an extra flame for its message, but ooh ooh I was not on fire with this one.
- What: My Dear Hamilton
- Who: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
- Pages: 621, soft cover (637 if you count the must-read “Note from the Authors” section)
- Genre: Historical fiction
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flames
Remember my post about July 4th reads? It’s time to add one more.
What can I say about this book besides it was a roller coaster of emotions? Oy vey. I actually think my body and mind morphed into Eliza Hamilton’s. At one moment, I was praising Alexander Hamilton as the greatest American who ever lived — oh how we should bow down.
The next, he was the scum of the earth.
Then, he was OK. A typical man. Nobody’s perfect after all.
Then came the existential depression.
And just as Monroe was ushering in the Era of Good Feelings to our country, I was starting to balance out again too.
The capricious emotions this book evoked are nothing new; in fact, they symbolize America’s complicated relationship with Hamilton. We want to love him, but his many faults don’t always make it easy. I’m sure the Mrs. would testify to that.
- What: The Forever War
- Who: Joe Haldeman
- Pages: 365, soft cover
- Genres: Science fiction; classic literature
- Published: 1974
- The lit: of 5 flames
I’ve always said sci-fi wasn’t really my “thing.” I don’t gravitate toward it at the library. I don’t look for the best sci-fi lists. I just click with other genres better. Enter the picture: Kyle, my partner of three years (whaaat?) and a huge sci-fi nerd. When we started dating, he was reading a gargantuan from Stephen King about a virus that wipes out the world.
Yeah. Not quite my thing.
But it is Kyle’s. Apocalyptic warfare? Intense technological enhancements? Human-erasing bugs? That’s him. I’ve read exactly one sci-fi novel in our time together (Station Eleven, ). So it was only natural that when I closed the cover on Eleanor Oliphant a few weeks ago while sitting next to BF that he suggested I read one of his favorite sci-fi novels: The Forever War. I relented, but he reminded me how I always say I’m going to read one of his books and don’t (truth) and convinced me that the story’s undertones of the Vietnam War, in which the author served, would captivate me.
Ugh he knows me so well.
Fine. For BF, I will read sci-fi. The things you do for love.
Amid Kyle’s massive sci-fi collection.
Loneliness comes in many forms. It can be bestowed upon us by our peers, it can be a solace we seek, and it can also be all we’ve ever known. I’m a 26-year-old woman with a solid group of friends across the country, who’s in a happy three-year relationship, and who considers her family dear confidantes. Do I ever get lonely? Of course I do.
Nobody can evade loneliness, but author Gail Honeyman wrote to its all-consuming effects in her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. She told British bookstore Foyles that the idea for her debut novel came to her after reading an article about loneliness.
“When I thought more about it, I realised that there were plenty of potential routes to a young person finding themselves in those circumstances, through no fault of their own, and how hard it can be, at any age, to forge meaningful connections.”
Honeyman’s approach isn’t all somber and sympathy though. Just as the title suggests, the main character is just fine; it’s not her that is different. It’s everyone else and the social norms that confine them that are mind-boggling. (Read Eleanor’s opinion of wedding registries, and you won’t disagree.) What Honeyman gives us is a beautiful novel that’s equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, something that evokes laughter while you simultaneously reach for a box of tissues.
Thanks for the inspo, Idea Coffee NYC.
A friend of a friend (this is already so on par with the subject) told me that if you hadn’t read Crazy Rich Asians, don’t wait to do so before seeing the movie. The whole “it’s not like the book thing!” will sway your opinion of the movie. Well, I have one thing to say about that.
If you haven’t read my review of Kevin Kwan’s bestseller, 1.) what are you waiting for? and 2.) you should know I love this book. It was easily five flames. Naturally, that gave me mixed feelings about seeing the movie. Books are always better than the movies they inspire (The Notebook being the only exception); even though I know this, I never want to leave a theater being let down.
Lucky for me, Crazy Rich Asians met my expectations on the silver screen; so much so that I would also say the movie is completely lit. But was it better than the book? Let’s find out as I take CRA toe to toe: book versus movie.
Reading about a life you don’t lead can be pure pleasure. That’s the main reason Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series is so intoxicating. When you don’t own a private jet with a movie theater, botanical garden, koi pond, and a karaoke lounge, you get a certain thrill pretending you could do so in another life. When you live in a 400-sq.-ft. apartment without dozens of reflecting pools, you’d gladly be swept away to where and how the other half (OK maybe the 0.5%) lives.
This escape and the hilarity that accompanies it are why we fell for the the first in this trilogy. The sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, amps up the drama to match the extravagance of the characters’ lives, yet the spectacle is a bit far-fetched. Is it possible for so many ridiculous moments to occur in lives that are almost unbelievably luxurious? To be fair, I mostly enjoyed Kwan’s second novel, but I’m choosing to be a tough critic here, and in comparison to Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend felt too unrealistic to really light me up.