Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (1961)

Listened to this with a techie friend on a road trip. I read it a long time ago, but it seemed like it would be fun to reread it, since it gets listed in not only top science fiction book lists, but top book lists in general. I wonder when I read it, but I get a sense that Heinlein influenced some of my own attitudes about things. 

Valentine Michael Smith was raised by Martians and is brought to earth to be studied. Since he is unused to the earth's gravity, he is hospitalized, where nurse Gillian Boardman rescues him from basically imprisonment. He is a quick learner, but one of the hardest things for him to understand is the earth's religions. He has learned a lot of powerful mind and body skills from the Martian's which he starts teaching Gill and the group of friends that surround them. Jubal Hershaw has gathered beautiful and intelligent women around him, where they live in relative isolation, and Michael and Gill find a refuge. It is complicated, but I really enjoyed this story, that is still so relevant today, even if a few details are outdated. I could not get mad at Heinlein for having Jubal call the women his "girls", as that was the speech of the times and all his women are strong characters. I like the individualism and community, though no longer would want to live that closely with a group of people, as I once may have dreamed to do. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian (2014)

I think I picked up this book, because it said it was set partially in Burlington, VT, where I have good friends. I will have to ask them about some of the details here. I did look at a map of VT and found Lake Memphremagog on the border with Canada, and found that there is not a nuclear power plant there. The author is a journalist from Burlington who has over the years met a lot of "troubled teens" and finds that some manage to struggle through difficult circumstances, while others just get lost. The interview with him and his daughter, who narrates the book, helped put this work in perspective for me. He had turned to his daughter to get the slang right, and in turn she admired her dad for being able to get into the mind of a teen girl.

At one point Emily goes back to her highly contaminated home, she misses her dog, her family, her things. This reminded me of a novel I read by a Ukrainian-American about an elderly woman, who goes back to live out her life in Chernobyl - she did not care how sick she got, she wanted to spend the rest of it at home.

The title comes from the school shootings in CT, when the other children were told to close their eyes and hold hands, as they were led out of the school, so they would not see the bodies of their schoolmates. I am not quite sure how this applies to this book, except that the book gives you a very real sense of the homeless and runaway teen world and the author is leading you through this, though maybe not with totally closed eyes. You know this is a fictional story, but you know this is happening to thousands of people across the country.

Maybe I will have time to add more to this review, but it will have to do for now.