Booker Prize

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
Author: 
Atwood, Margaret
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This novel followes the life of "Offred" who is part of the first wave of women during the Gilead regime. "Offred", whose real name is never revealed in the book, is a Handmaid whose sole responsiblity is to have children to sustain the rapidly declining Caucasion population. She tries to accept her life as a Handmaid, but is haunted by memories of the time before Gilead when she had a family and was free from the oppressive society she currently lives in.

I really liked how Atwood discloses minimal details about "Offred" which makes it clear that what is happening to her can happen to any woman. The novel is set in a utopian society, and it's very interesting to read the rationale behind the establishment of the Gilead regime and how sexism and anti-feminist retoric is a constantly looming problem in society. The novel is told through "Offred's" perspective, and personally, I felt she was a bland character, but her story itself was interesting. The book hangs off on a cliffhanger, and I'm definitely going to read the sequel and watch the Hulu adaption after!

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake Book Cover
Author: 
Atwood, Margaret
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"Oryx and Crake" follows the character Snowman who is seemingly the last surviving human on Earth as he recounts the events that led up to his dystopian present. In this speculative fiction novel, animals are genetically modified to harvest organs for human transplant and spliced together to create fantastical hybrids like “rakunks” that are part racoon and part skunk. In addition, a new human breed is created to be physically flawless and void of normal human characteristics like envy or jealousy. This incredibly thought-provoking book challenges the reader to think about our present, and the choices we make that may lead us down a similar apocalyptic path. For example, it forces us to question how far are we willing to go with genetic modification. Although Atwood deals with serious topics in this book, she addresses them with such humor and over-the-top situations that the book is remarkably enjoyable. Furthermore, the characters of Oryx and Crake are some of my favorite literary characters.

Reviewer's Name: 
Caitlyn Z.

Book Review: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
Author: 
Lewycka, Marina
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

A short history of tractors in Ukrainian is a very entertaining tale of the vastly different experiences and perspectives of Ukrainian immigrants post-WWII to post-Cold War in Great Britain. It's a story that also explores the challenges of caring for aging family members. Well worth the read - it'll completely broaden your horizons. Also, it's very funny.

Reviewer's Name: 
Krista

Book Reviews: The Handmaid's Tale

Book Reviews: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: 
Atwood, Margaret
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book is old school dystopian literature. Atwood nails it. It's likely the best dystopian novel I have ever read.

Offred is a handmaid, a woman set aside for breeding purposes. Her only desire is to survive, but her memories push their way up into her mind. She had a husband and a child and they are gone. What broke my heart were the memories of her beloved child. It's so softly touched upon that it shows itself as a raw wound that she can barely handle.

Well told and powerful, I give this book 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: Lila

Lila
Author: 
Robinson, Marilynne
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer." Ruth 3:9

What happens when an old man, broken from years of suffering, looks into the face of a feral woman who has wandered into his church for shelter? In this moving story, he sees humanity in her face. He sees her loneliness and her sin-ravaged state, but he can see beyond that to a human being, near ruined, yet not beyond the hope of a redeemer. She is a person in need of compassion and comfort. He offers her a home for her world-weary frame. He marries her.

The story of Lila finds its poetic power in Robinson's unmatched ability to empathize with the human condition. Each page of this story is dripping with compassion and sympathy. The genius lies in how the very fabric of the story weaves a picture of the deepest desires of every human heart.

Lila, at her core, is a person in desperate need of protection and affection.
Here Robinson proves herself to be a master of symbolism. When a shawl was spread over the sickly, neglected, and dying toddler Lila, by a wretched woman overcome by compassion for an unloved child, this shawl and this memory become the defining features of Lila's life. And later, as a forsaken, hopeless, and forlorn grown woman, who has now lost the one person in the world who ever cared for her, Lila finds again someone spreading his dark suit jacket, the one he preaches in, over her freezing shoulders as they walk along the road. Lila says, looking back on that moment: "She thought it was nothing she had known to hope for and something she had wanted too much all the same." A covering, a home, protection. And again: "But if she had prayed in all the years of her old life, it might have been for just that, that gentleness. And if she prayed now, it was really remembering the comfort he put around her, the warmth of his body still in that coat. It was a shock to her, a need she only discovered when it was satisfied, for those few minutes." This story brings to life the theme that we often don't even know what to pray for and that mercy is so much bigger than our imagination.

Robinson is an author who truly understands how to express suffering, estrangement, loneliness, and courage in a breath-taking and lovely story of grace and redemption. She has a deep perceptiveness in the way she portrays the various motives that control the human heart and she writes with forthrightness and blazing accuracy. Read an be changed.

Reviewer's Name: 
Leslie Taylor

Book Review: The Underground Railroad

Book Review: The Underground Railroad
Author: 
Whitehead, Colson
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I listened to this book on audio, so I'm sure I missed bits and pieces. Cora's life as a slave in Georgia and through her journey on the underground railroad was fascinating. The depiction of the underground railroad as actually being an underground railroad was odd to me, but I'm sure there's some symbolism or other literary device that escapes me. Probably the most interesting part of this book was the section that took place in North Carolina. It was so indicative of the Third Reich that it was chilling. I found the ending to be abrupt, but still overall an interesting read.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: Room

Room
Author: 
Donoghue, Emma
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Room is from the point of view of a five year old boy named Jack whose mother was kidnapped seven years ago by a man he only knows only as "Old Nick". They've been imprisoned in a shed in his backyard ever since. To spare Jack from the horror of the situation, his mother doesn't tell him Old Nick is actually his father and that some things he sees on the TV, his only link to the outside world, are real. As a result, Jack believes that the only true reality is Room. Their tried-and-true daily routine starts to change as Jack becomes more curious about the outside world and his mother starts to hope again. This book is an incredible and moving read that will make you rethink parenting and your perspective on the world and I would highly recommend.

Reviewer's Name: 
Mckenna R.

Book Review: The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day
Author: 
Ishiguro, Kazuo
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

Alright, this book was even worse than Kazuo Ishiguro’s other book(Never Let Me Go). I didn’t know that that was possible, but it is. In this book, an old, traditional English butler takes a road trip along the English countryside. That is it. Oh, I forgot one thing: he does remember some of his dreadfully dull and pointless memories about his career. The main character (the butler) Mr. Stevens doesn’t even show character development by the end of the book. There is one thing that I liked about this book: that it finally got round to finishing.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
Author: 
Ishiguro, Kazuo
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Kathy isn’t a normal kid, and neither are any of her friends. They were all cloned, and someday, their vital organs will be harvested until they die. But for now, they will grow up in a secluded boarding school nestled in a corner of England, called Hailshem. Hailshem is idyllic: creativity is nurtured, friends are everywhere, and there are supported teachers. Kathy retells her experiences as she looks back on her life in preparation for her organ donations. And…. that’s basically it. It sounds like a really interesting concept for a book, but the author completely butchered it! His writing drags on and on, and completely bored me to death. If he had written it better, or if someone rewrites it, the book would be fascinating. But the writing style is so dreadfully dull. I warn you-- do not read this book! You will seriously regret it if you do!
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: A Horse Walks into a Bar: A Novel

A Horse Walks into a Bar: A Novel
Author: 
Grossman, David
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Somewhere along the line, I saw that this book won the Man Booker International Prize this year and put it on my “to read” list on Overdrive. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than perhaps a little bit of comedy, considering the title is a basic setup for a joke’s punchline. In that sense, the book delivered on that premise by being about a stand-up comedian in a nightclub giving his routine to the audience. I did not expect, however, the deeper subtext about the character and his relation to the narrator. It’s in this subtext where we find the meat of this story.

It has often been said that “Sometimes all you can do is laugh to keep yourself from crying.” A Horse Walks into a Bar epitomizes this statement by blending serious subjects like cancer, death, and the Holocaust with a smattering of jokes, physical comedy, and anecdotal monologues. It’s in this contrast where we find how uncomfortable society is when dealing with the difficult subjects of life. I know I usually use comedy to cope with challenging situations, often in an inappropriate accommodation to the dour mood. In the end, we’d rather not address these facts of life because they don’t bring any joy into the world.

Partly due to a lack of explanation, as well as a somewhat jolting and meandering storytelling method, the plot of this book felt a little light, if not downright confusing. I’m sure if I had paid more attention to the words spoken by the ill comedian (who himself was kind of weird) I would have pulled more out of it and understood it better. Unfortunately, my mind always clings to the jokes, of which there a few good ones, and tends to ignore anything else that might be significant.

A bit uncomfortable, but poignant nonetheless, I give A Horse Walks into a Bar 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

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