Book Ennui

I’ve said it before: I read a lot.

I always like to have a new book on deck, which is one reason we visit our local library so often. But the last couple of books I have read have left me rather flat.

First up was Jodie Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. I’ve read Picoult before, and while I’m not crazy about her narrative trick of writing each chapter from a different character’s point of view, it doesn’t bother me enough to give up on her. I actually picked up this novel because it was on my library’s “banned books” shelf for Banned Books Weeks.

I’m not 100 percent sure WHY My Sister’s Keeper was a challenged book. I’m still trying to track that down. (Anyone?) It deals with a family with three children, one of whom is very ill and one of whom who was deliberately conceived to help her sister with her illness. It was supposed to be a one-time thing — the second daughter was to provide umbilical cord blood to her older sister to put the latter into remission from her cancer. The book takes place with the younger daughter, now 13 years old, going to a lawyer to get medically emancipated from her parents so that she doesn’t have to donate a kidney to her sister.

It is a well-written book, and the language perfectly captures the agony of a parent (or parents) with a sick child. All the characters are compelling and fully realized, with complex reasons for doing what they are doing. I would recommend it.

BUT: If the book is hyped as having a “shocking twist of an ending” (or whatever the wording was), I have news for Ms. Picoult and her publishers: a savvy reader is going to figure it out. I saw a couple of “twists” coming MILES (chapters, I suppose) away from their actual revelation.

Has anyone else read this book? Did you have a similar reaction, or were you surprised?

The other book that pretty much left me feeling “meh” was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (*SPOILER ALERT*!) I had heard so many amazing critiques about this book, about how moving and affective it was, how the ending was so devastating. As I was reading, I kept trying to guess what would happen, what would be revealed. Turns out: Nothing. There’s no big twist at the end; there’s no sudden change in course for any of the characters. I suspect this novel was supposed to outrage the reader because of what the central characters are (which I won’t give away here, but it’s no mystery in the book; they talk about their role in society quite openly).

Never Let Me Go is beautifully written. That’s the highest praise I have for it. None of the characters is particularly compelling, although the relationship between the three central characters is interesting. And as to their purpose and their narrative… I guess there’s not much of an arc, and the language, while well-crafted, is never exciting or passionate. The whole story is related rather matter-of-factly, and there are no glimpses behind the curtain into the larger issues (medical ethics, for example). It is all very blah, frankly.

I was utterly unmoved and quite disappointed when I finished the book.

The other book I read recently was Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, which I liked just fine, but I then again, I like his writing style and characters. High Fidelity is probably still my favorite by him, although I really enjoyed About a Boy, too. I just like reading his novels. They certainly aren’t life changing.


So, got anything really juicy for me? I am thinking about doing food books for November, the same way I did scary stories last October. (No more Michael Pollan, though, please.) Leave your suggestions in the comments! I’ve resorted to re-reading Sookie Stackhouse novels for the time being. And I’m thinking of re-reading The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I thought was excellent.