Current Books Reviewed by Valda Taurus
Evolution's Magnum Opus: Innocence on Trial
by Stephen Roth
To simply say that this story is very well-written wouldn't do it justice. Every line in the novel brings us the atmosphere and feelings that the author was inclined to share with us. There was nothing that I would consider as being overwritten. Every line was used with a purpose in mind. Stephen Roth virtuously described the emotions and inner thoughts of his characters.
When I read this book, I could sense every bit of what Tommy went through - his fear and his uneasiness when talking about the disgusting matter of undergoing sexual harassment at the hands of his teacher (Mr. Hiller) during their weekends out in his remote cabin. I experienced his mother's grief as well, even though some people would have probably been repelled by her drinking instead. Such little detail as her blowing a kiss to her ten-year-old son Tommy in the courtroom makes her likable since it represents her as a loving mother. The defense lawyer, Mr, Mobey, although I realize that he was just doing his job, caused me great disgust. He confused the poor child to the point that Tommy began to doubt himself - Maybe I really lied somewhere? In court, a place where you would believe any child should feel safe and secure, Tommy becomes a victim again. He experienced more trauma, but this time - from Mr. Mobey, who advocated for the pervert. It seems to me that in such cases, the interrogation should probably be conducted by a lawyer who is well educated in child psychology - it would be as reasonable as it would humane. I like the fact that Stephen Roth gets into the mind of both advocates during the hearing sessions and following the sessions as well, which is, in my opinion, even more important.
Not often do you see contemporary novels of such caliber, where all the characters are conveyed so vividly and naturally. It was obvious to me that the author's personal experience greatly influenced his writing, and I think that was a huge plus to his character's development and storyline in general.
Not every author could write on such a subject since there are some peculiarities here: you need to know how to describe certain things so that the reader does not vomit and, at the same time, you need to be familiar with court procedures. I can tell that this tale is the author's heart-sore. That's why it sounds so honest and, notwithstanding the topic which implies some specific information on child harassment, sophisticated.
Often, in contemporary novels, you bump into a lack of emotions - it seems to be written well, but you don't empathize with the characters. Mr. Roth managed to achieve this effect. So I didn’t regret reading this book a bit.
A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman touched my heart with the most realistic and live character despite his age. Northern grumpiness and preparedness for any occasion are close to my heart. I immediately recall my Finnish grandmother and her narrow circle of friends, in whose faces it was impossible to find a hint of a smile. However, those people could always be relied on, despite their gloomy appearance. Ove cannot come to terms with his wife's death - she was a ray of light in his dark world. For Ove, the world is nothing more than a big SCAM where everyone tries to profit at the expense of another. For goodness sake, he even has to buy two flowers instead of one in order to not lose his money. The fancy word of "marketing" presents for him nothing more than a lack of logic on one end and cheating customers on the other. When a refugee family settles in next to him, his quiet life, from which he decided to depart, changes. However, after a while, by helping this family, Ove finds his peace and a place among people. His neighbor's inaptitude repeatedly saves his life. They are not accustomed yet to the new - European living, and they need his help every day. Ove tries his new social role as a foster grandfather for his neighbor's refugee kids. If someone in this world still needs him, his life is not over yet. Ove's speech is replete with funny expressions, which make this book easy and entertaining to read. Five stars!
MARY: The Mary Tyler Moore Story
by Herbie J. Pilato
MARY: The Mary Tyler Moore Story is another impressive work by Herbie J Pilato. Paying respect to the iconic star, the author divides his book into eight acts, each of which he opens with a photo of Mary Moore. The biography is lively written and easy to read. While reading this book I experienced the feeling that for Herbie it was important to show Mary’s humanity more than her undeniable talent. Herbie brings to us numerous dialogues and opinions. Most people, whether those who worked with Mary daily or occasionally found common features in her personality – she was regarded as generous and lovable by all. Silverman’s words are convincing when we read in the book: “One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that this episode, along with many others, couldn’t have been done without Mary’s generosity. Very often a star – particularly a star whose name is the title of the show – will insist on having more lines of being more the center of attention. With Mary, it didn’t matter to her who got the spotlight that week. All she wanted was for each actor to shine, and for the show to be good.” We can find plenty of opinions in this book that outline Mary’s philanthropic nature.
“A delightful person and performer,” who was “sexy as hell, but…vulnerable…” when she fought with the heartache over the loss of her son. She was devastated that she couldn’t spend more time with him while he was alive, although she realized that her career came with a lack of free time – family time.
I liked the fact that this book is not just a biography. It is also an informative source of interesting views on TV production and consumers. A socio-psychological portrait of a TV consumer is given in the course of describing Mary’s career as it developed relying on people’s actual needs (as the Mary Richards character in The Mary Tyler Moore Show as she stood for women’s rights in terms of equal pay and career opportunities) and common preferences. The choice of programs and what the audience expects from them – as in the case of a film or a show – was an interesting piece for me. “The TV audience is different from the film audience. It won’t take a change in characters. In the film, people are expected to grow because of external pressures. But the TV audience wants to know what to expect, and when you try something different it upsets them.” Compelling, entertaining, and a touching read. I would encourage anyone interested in American culture to find a place for this book on their bookshelf.
Ask Him Why
by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Catherine Hyde has always been my hero among modern writers. The things she writes about never get old, and thereby there is no chance for you to get bored with her books. Another thing that absolutely thrills me is that Hyde never imposes her opinion on us. She is not trying to shape our minds. Instead, she is creating room for us to consider and perhaps, for some of us to reconsider certain things. All her stories have one common line – her books send us adrift to look closely at the things we are saying and doing. In every line written by Hyde I can feel that her heart is sore for her characters. It seems to me as if she understands every bit of her protagonist, and together with him suffers the alienation of his parents, the public shame and the struggle with his choice. Joseph went to war, and came back home shortly thereafter, but he did not come back as a hero. Thus, his parents treat him with contempt. They do not even want to hear his explanation. “I just keep wondering, Joseph, what were you thinking?” His dad said, and didn’t even wait for his answer, “I don’t want to hear a word from you!” He expressed his pure accusation. No sympathy, no concern about why his son refused to follow an order. Both parents hide their son in the basement where he makes his modest living. The parents guard the other siblings in the most awkward way – and watch that they do not communicate or support each other. Aubrey is terrified to visit Joseph in the basement. Janet and Brad (parents) have scared Aubrey into believing that his brother is a traitor. Their pride is hurt, and they feel ashamed of their son’s action or lack of action. Joseph faces military prison for refusing an order to go out at night and kill the enemies. He explained to his younger brother that he didn’t feel it right to do the such a thing since there were families with women, kids, and elderlies. “He has a wry way looking at the world,” Catherine Hyde let us know. I found the parents are alien to their own children no matter what their kids would choose to do. The fact that their children think of them as “Janet and Brad” rather than “mom and dad” brings up another subject to discuss “Were these parents made to be parents at all?” Of course, and as always, I highly recommend Catherine Hyde’s books with her touching message that appeals to our acceptance! It’s just impossible to regret reading them. Five stars forever!