Monday, November 30, 2009

Replacement Child by Judy Mandel - 256 pgs

Book CoverJudy Mandel is a replacement child: a child born to take both the emotional and physical place of her sister Donna, who was killed in a freak plane accident when she was just seven years old. Judy's older sister Linda was also seriously injured in the accident and spends her life bouncing from one reconstructive surgery to the next. Although Judy longs to be loved and accepted by her parents, it seems as though she lives as a shadow beside the memory of Donna and the perpetual care that is the hallmark of Linda's life. Though the plane accident that robbed the family of so much is broadly hinted at, it is not until Judy begins to research her own memoir that she discovers the horrible secrets about the day that changed her family's lives. As Judy tells the story of her life, she intersperses chapters from the past and chapters that relate the minute by minute countdown to the moment when the fateful accident occurred. Judy paints individual portraits of each of her family, from her stern and distant father to her overwhelmed mother and brave sister; each member touched differently by their torturous trial. Her journey centers around trying to understand her role and place among those marked by tragedy and trying to find her own small voice above the din. Both disturbing and sensitive, Replacement Child exists as part tell all family chronicle, part examination of the the attempts to reconstruct a family out of the ashes.

I was really moved by this story and thought that it was written very respectfully and with great conscience. It was not until the later sections of the book that Judy discovers that the term for people like her is "replacement child" but it was easy to see that once she found the definition, her story seemed to fit perfectly within the boundaries of the definition. It wasn't that her parents were cold or calculating people who disrespected Judy's individuality or singularity; instead it seemed that they were just unconsciously trying to fill a hole that existed within their family.

I found it very sad that Judy's father decided to never call attention to his daughter's beauty because it might diminish something in his other surviving child who had been so disfigured by the accident, or that he never really showed any outward affection toward her either. I also found it very sad that the family never seemed to notice Judy or the trials that she experienced in her life, instead focusing so much energy on Linda and the memory of Donna.

For the most part, I would have to say that Judy was extremely well-adjusted and, remarkably, not bitter about the experiences of her life. Instead of becoming isolated and angry, she seemed to realize what her role in the family was and responded by becoming more loving to her sister and more understanding to her parents. I can imagine that it probably hurt her very deeply to be thought of as second best, a replacement or substitution for the sister that she never knew. In reading the book, it seems clear that her situation mostly manifested itself in some very severe self-image and self-esteem problems, problems that her parents never addressed or spoke to her about.

I also got a very clear picture of what a family living through constant grief must go through in their day to day life. It seemed as though the girls' parents spent a lot of time rehashing the accident while still trying to keep the actual facts of that dreadful day under wraps. As Judy examines the family both through the past and the present, she comes to some startling realizations about her family's financial situation, her parent's marriage and the realities of Linda's future that shape the way that she deals with them and reinforces some of the ideas that she has held for years.

There were bits in this story that were humorous and comic, but overall the book cast a somber and reflective tone throughout Judy's analysis of her family's particular dysfunction. The book also examines the many unsuccessful relationships that Judy found herself in after moving from her parents' home. As she explains her reasoning behind her choices in mates, it was vary easy for me to see the influences in her past that had led her to make the types of decisions that she did, and I was genuinely happy for her when she broke out of the pattern of choosing distant and emotionally cold men.

I thought this was a very powerful memoir and very different from any that I have read before. The book was very balanced and didn't attempt to portray either camp in a damaging or negative light; instead the author chose to spotlight the situation and respondents in a clear and unambiguous way that gave me a great deal of respect for her. If you are a reader of memoirs, I would definitely recommend picking this one up. It is the unusual story of a life of compromise, told with affection, grace, and respect. A very moving and incredibly solid read.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Elynia by David Michael Belczyk - 173 pages

Written as a mix of prose and vignette, Elynia takes the reader on a journey through the lives of four generations of people who are struggling with various heartbreaks, disappointments and struggles. The characters are examined both in the way they react to their situations and in the way they connect to each other, crossing social, economic and familial divides in a heady mixture of poetry and narrative. Each character except Elynia (who is only referred to in the second person) remains unnamed and, by extension, somewhat anonymous; but all embody the diverse aspects of need, desire and fulfillment that are common to us all. Both unconventional and evocative, Elynia seeks to elucidate the struggles for identity and clarity that face each of us during the various stages of our lives.

I'll admit that I was at first baffled by this book. I hadn't an idea about the way in which to read it, and the first couple of sections really threw me. I wasn't sure if it was the book for me, and I wasn't sure how I was going to review it. But as I gradually waded into the story, I began to read it with a much more open mind, and stopped trying to impose my expectations of the story upon what I was reading. As I got further and further into the book, I was able to better appreciate and understand what the author was trying to do with the book, and my comfort level with it increased.

The thrust of this book is told as a set of loosely intertwined character studies, bridged together by snatches of poetry. Now, I am not really one to have had a lot of luck or experience with poetry and have shied away from reading it for quite sometime. I think this is because I tend to have a hard time visualizing and interpreting what poetry is trying to tell me. Knowing that in advance, I think I was mostly worried about being able to really grasp the poetry sections of the book, and felt that at least during the beginning sections, the vignettes reached me more straightforwardly. But curiously, when I began to really get into the story, I began to anticipate the poetry and search it out on the page. Here's what I discovered: Belcyck has a real gift for making his readers feel strong emotion through the use of his verse. There were several sections where I stopped and read a section two, maybe even three times and got an intense understanding of the emotions and situations he was attempting to portray, and his use of emotion laden and heartfelt descriptors was something that I truly came to relish.

Another thing I discovered was that the story in this book, and especially the poetry, had more to do with loss and dreams that had dissolved into bitterness than it had to do with any other emotion. I think that was also a bit of a surprise to me because while on the one hand the story had the flavor of hope, in reality, it dealt more strongly with the opposite. I did find that some of the ideas that were put forth were a bit advanced, and I have to say that this is the first book that had me reaching for a dictionary so consistently. As I delved deeper into the book and gradually came to understand more and more, it became more obvious to me that what Belczyk was doing in this book was not only unconventional, it was also rhythmically adept. I feel that the book worked on multiple levels, but that reading it with an open mind is critical to the understanding and enjoyment of what the book has to offer. In fact, after closing the book and thinking over the story I had just read, I felt that the lyricism of the poetry sections were the parts of the book that I remember most vividly and clearly. Rarely have I had the experience of reading a book that defies expectations in mid-read, and rarely have I ever truly experienced poetry in such an innovative way. Reading through this book supplied my mind with a lot of fodder about what really constitutes a work of fiction and enlarged the repertoire of writing styles that I am familiar and comfortable with.

While I know that this book won't work for everyone, I think that it would be a very enjoyable excursion for those who are new to, or already enjoy the pleasures of exploratory and unconventional fiction. I think it very clearly and adroitly manages to capture the emotions and longing of it's characters in way that is fundamentally different than most fiction or poetry treatments of the same themes and I am really pleased that it enabled me to break some of my preconceived notions about the structure and relevancy of poetry and lyricism. A very interesting and different reading experience.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Candleman, Book One: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin - 320 pgs

Book CoverTheo Saint lives a very uncomfortable life. Locked away from society and put through painful daily medical treatments, Theo has been told that he has an illness that makes it much too dangerous for him to go out into the world. Along with being physically sheltered, his guardian, Mr. Saint, also makes sure that Theo is not unduly stimulated mentally by the things around him, much to Theo's chagrin. But everything begins to change when one night, a duo of bumbling thieves break into the mansion that Theo calls home. As the thieves grab Theo and force him to show them where to find the loot, Theo comes upon a secret room strewn with pictures of a mysterious figure named Lord Wickland. Theo's discovery of Lord Wickland is just the beginning though, because, to Theo's surprise, the illness that he has so long feared may not really be an illness at all. Soon other new faces creep into Theo's life and miraculously unfold a new destiny for him. But it's not all good news for Theo, because he also begins to discover some surprising facts about those who he once trusted so blindly, and it will be up to Theo to right the many wrongs that have been committed in the name of goodness and order. Fast paced and inventive, Candleman is wickedly fun romp for readers of all ages.

I haven't read many books that are targeted to the 9 to 12 year old age bracket but I thought that this was a very satisfying read overall. I really liked that the characters were quirky, yet not too quirky to be believable, and I thought Theo was a protagonist that kids would really be able to relate to and find compassion for. The story itself moved along briskly, which I appreciated, and it was a spectacularly unusual tale and one which I think many will enjoy.

As Theo began to discover more and more about the people who were raising him and what and who he actually was, I found that he began to grow into a sympathetic character and begin to embody many of the characteristics of a real hero. I also appreciated the unusual ironies in the story and felt that at times it had similar hallmarks to, and reminded me of a cross between, The Phantom Tollbooth and A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

There were a handful of unique characters in the book, one of which I enjoyed most was The Dodo, a terribly disfigured and haunting criminal who finds himself in a very interesting conundrum by the end of the story. I found him to be a character that was easy to relate to while still not losing any of the sinister aspects of his personality. I also think that Dr. Saint and his lackeys will appeal to readers, who won't be able to help themselves from getting caught up in their nefarious deeds.

I think one of the things about this book that will grip younger readers is the excellent tension of the storyline and the fast-paced style of the narrative. I believe readers of this book will not only be drawn in by Theo and his very strange circumstances but also by the unpredictability of the storyline and the writing style.

Another thing that I really liked about the book is the fact that it is not dumbed down for its target audience. There are a lot of complicated themes and ideas in the book as well as some really challenging vocabulary, which is one of the reasons that I think that this book will translate well for a more mature audience. This book is the first in a series, and although the story does come to completion by the last page, it does leave itself open for its forthcoming sequels.

This was a light and engaging read that I think many outside of its target audience will enjoy. It was very elegant in its imparting of messages and it was full of quick wit and whimsical situations. I am really looking forward to seeing where these books are headed and finding out just what Theo makes of his discoveries. I think this book would make a great gift for anyone who loves to get wrapped up in a greatly exciting story.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Alex & Me by Irene Pepperberg - 288 pgs

Book CoverIn this touching and eye-opening memoir, Irene Pepperberg reflects on the three decades she spent both teaching and bonding with the amazing African Grey Parrot, Alex. Pepperberg, a life-long bird lover, describes Alex's life in great detail, from the nervous first days of Alex's homecoming to the gradual instruction into the cognitive tasks that eventually become his hallmark. Alex is a bird like no other and shows that for a bird with a brain the size of a shelled walnut, being a bird brain is not such a bad thing. In his amazing ability to label objects, his ability to add and his stunning demonstration of expressing the concept of zero, he begins to show the world at large that he is indeed an exceptional animal. This in turn begins to change the way that scientists and the average population view the intelligence and capability of animals in general. Along the way, Alex becomes a cultural icon and a much loved celebrity. But Alex's story is not only filled with his remarkable accomplishments, it is also full of his particular brand of humor and the displays of independence that truly made Alex one of a kind. Both riotously funny and blindingly sad, Alex & Me takes a peek into the life of a truly exceptional bird and the woman who shared and celebrated his life.

I love animal books, so I was really delighted to get a chance to read Alex & Me. I had previously seen Alex and Irene on television and thought that he was a simply amazing bird. But until reading the book, I had no idea just how amazing he was. From the very beginning of the book, the stage was set for Alex to come along and wow me, which he did. But the parts of the book I really enjoyed the most were the parts where Alex shot from the hip and became a comic genius. Like the time he told a very upset Irene to "Calm down," or when, failing to receive a treat after competing a task successfully, he phonetically spells out the name of the treat that he wants. Or the times when he admonishes another bird in the lab to speak more clearly. There were lots of really great moments like that in the book, and as I read it became harder and harder for me to see Alex as just a trained animal and easier for me to see him as a very intelligent and sentient creature of nature.

A lot of the page space in this book was given to describing the experiments that Pepperburg was working on with Alex. I thought this was interesting because it really highlighted the methodology and inventiveness of what Alex was being taught and compared it to the tests that had previously been run by other animal behaviorists. I was also surprised to discover that Alex always surpassed what was expected of him and that he sometimes taught himself new concepts. Though Pepperberg worked with several other birds, and speaks about them in this book, it is clear that Alex was her greatest success and the star of the show.

The book also explores some of the problems that Pepperburg had securing funding and lab space for her work with Alex, and her frequent moves across country in her attempts to find the right place for the continuation of her work. I was particularly fond of her descriptions of her stint at The Lab at MIT, a sort of geeky technological warehouse that hosted a smorgasbord of studies and a host of inventive departments.

Though most of the book was very informative and funny, the first sections deal with Pepperburg's tremendous grief at Alex's unexpected death, which occurred on September 6, 2007, and the huge public outpouring that the announcement of Alex's passing received. I think that it was very clever to start the book off this way, because it immediately drew me into Alex's story and really humanized him for me. It was also astonishing to see how much support flooded in for Pepperberg. Some people even included testimonials about how seeing Alex perform his wonderful feats had changed their lives in some way.

One thing that was very interesting was the fact that early in the book, Pepperberg mentions how she had really wanted to attempt to limit the personal bonding that she and Alex shared. She had been afraid it would taint the work she was doing with him and their attachment to each other would not enable her to see him in an objective light. I find this kind of funny, because it is clear throughout the book that Alex is not just another project to Pepperberg, and that despite her attempts, she and Alex had formed a very unique and special relationship that went way beyond anything that I have ever known with even my most beloved pets.

I really enjoyed this book and think it's a must-read for people who love animal stories. I have to admit that I laughed out loud a lot while reading this book, both at Alex's cleverness and at his inventiveness. It makes me sad to realize he is gone and that Pepperberg lost such a close companion and friend. The matter-of-fact tone of the writing coupled with the extraordinary story it captured was really a winner for me, as I think it would be for may others. A greatly engaging read.

TLC Book ToursI read and reviewed this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these sites:

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Home by Marilynne Robinson - 336 pgs

Book CoverGlory Boughton has come home to Gilead to care for her dying father, the Reverend Robert Boughton. As Glory strives to fulfill her father's exacting demands, she laments the loss of her fiancé and former life, all the while regretting her move back to her stagnant hometown. One morning, the Reverend receives a letter from his wayward son Jack, telling his father that he will soon be returning home. The letter comes very much as a surprise and blessing for the Reverend, as Jack has been absent for 20 years and has had no communication with the family. Jack's history of rebelliousness is long and fraught with shame and pain among the family, and as Jack moves ever homeward, those he left behind struggle with the hope of reunion. As Glory and her father prepare for Jack's arrival, they both find themselves thinking of past hurts and are ever hopeful that Jack's homecoming will be a much needed balm to his father's suffering spirit. But Jack's homecoming is not easy, and it soon becomes apparent that although his father wishes for nothing more than to forgive his son, he cannot. Jack, a quiet and emotionally wounded man, brings with him secrets of his own, and as Glory begins to forge a tentative relationship with him, they both come to find that the peace and contentment they so long for in their family will come at a very dear price. In this poignant tale of the prodigal son, Robinson takes us into the hearts and minds of a family that is at fierce work to be whole, to a place where redemption and reparation are so desperately desired, but unable to come to fruition.

This was an absolutely beautiful book. There were several sections where I found myself so moved by the drama unfolding on the pages that I couldn't help but cry. Robinson writes with such grace and tact that it is impossible not to be moved by her characters' quiet proclamations and heartfelt utterances. Whether it is the sorrow of a life that has been forsaken or the terrible humbleness of Jack's return, the writing is replete with wellsprings of sentiment and passion. The words are quiet and serene, but just underneath the surface I was witnessing torrents of ragged emotion and years of suppressed pain.

The Reverend, ever hopeful and gentle with his children, cannot seem to ever be able to wrap his mind around what it is that his son needs. Although he longs to give his son the forgiveness that he has come home for, he is unable to let the transgressions of the past be unburdened from his heart and give his son peace. It is such a juxtaposition, to see the tenderness that he expresses toward Jack, all the while withholding the one thing that his son most desperately needs, the thing that is so hard for him to ask for. He is constantly at odds with himself, his heart longing to grant pardon and his head ever refusing. It broke my heart to watch these two men fumble so blindly with their intentions, to see them both in so much pain but be unable to express it or relieve it.

Jack, despite being the miscreant in this tale, was the one character whom I felt the most for. He was so spiritually depleted and it seemed as if all of his hope had been abandoned. He was quiet and gentle, yes, but also pitifully humbled and sorrowfully contrite. He seemed to worry himself to distraction, mostly about what others thought of him or what they would think. There was a quiet struggle taking place within: his need for acceptance and forgiveness pitted against his need for self-preservation and secrecy. He had a wry and very self-deprecating attitude in his interactions with Glory, a way of making both more and less of the situations that he found himself in. In his desire for his father's blessing he seemed to expect the wounds he would incur, believing in some way that he deserved them.

I also really liked how the view of Jack from Glory's eyes gave his character more depth. The relationship between the two was fraught with tension, but it was there that Jack seemed to open up. Though he would never really reveal all of his secrets, his attempts to reach out to Glory brought the gentleness and meekness of his character into full relief.

Though I found the last section of the book to be the most emotional section, there were several instances when an ordinary situation would provoke a response from one of the characters that was deeply affecting. Reading this book was much like walking in a minefield; I never knew when something was going to come out and grab me and shake me to the core. During one of the more touching arguments between father and son, the Reverend, full of sorrow, exclaims to his son, "If I'd had to die without seeing your face again, I'd have doubted the goodness of the Lord." The fact that this statement comes from a man of the cloth makes it all the more powerful and affecting. What the book really boils down to is the conundrum of a man of God refusing his most beloved child release, the child in turn unable to finally give his father the peace he so obviously needs. But it is within the framework of this story that Robinson drives her characters to strive and twist in their yearnings to exist as a family complete, a situation that sadly never comes to pass.

I really felt strongly for this book, and I think that anyone who enjoys literature steeped with emotion would enjoy it too. Robinson touches profoundly on the themes of forgiveness, absolution and regret with beautiful accuracy, making this a very quiet but stunning read. This book is a companion to Robinson's 2004 novel Gilead. Both books take place at the same time, so it's not necessary to read them in any particular order. Highly recommended.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Looking After Pigeon by Maud Carol Markson - 192 pgs

Book CoverLooking After Pigeon tells the tale of a woman named Pigeon, reminiscing about the summer when she was just five and her life was dramatically changed forever. Through the eyes of the young girl we witness the small idiosyncrasies of her family after her father mysteriously abandons them one spring morning. Amid the confusion of Pigeon and her siblings, her mother decides to move the family to the Jersey Shore to live with their uncle Edward. Although Uncle Edward is very affable with the children, he is frequently away from the house, as is their mother who has had to take a job to support them. Because of this the three children are mainly left to their own devices over the summer. Dove, the oldest, decides to take a job at the local diner and quickly gets enmeshed in relationships and flirtations with older men, while the middle child Robin makes the acquaintance of a fortune teller with whom he spends much of his time. This leaves Pigeon alone most of the time to fend for herself in the small beach-side house. As each family member struggles to come to terms with the circumstances of their new lives, they slowly drift further and further from each other and their old lives. A touching and revealing coming of age story, Looking After Pigeon captures the imagination and determination of a little girl to understand the adult world around her.

This book had a lot of different elements working in it, and I felt that some were more successful than others. One of the first things I noticed was that the writing was very fluid and lyrical and that the narrative seemed to flow very smoothly. The writing style felt perfect for the story, because the language was unhurried and polished in a way that seemed to reflect the circumstances. There were no jarring or startling aspects in the way the story was told; instead there was a beautiful feel of economy and deliberateness in the author's choice of word and style.

On the other hand, it did take a bit of effort to believe that the story was told from a five-year-old's point of view, because much of the introspection and dialogue given from that point of view seemed like it came from a much older mentality. In some ways this kept me from really being able to relate to the book because it took me out of the story and kept me wondering how a five-year-old would have been able to think in such a sophisticated manner. For example, during much of the story Pigeon is left alone to take care of herself. Now, I know quite a few five-year-olds and I can't imagine that even one of them would be capable of remaining home alone for even an hour, much less a whole summer. I also used my experience with this age group to try to figure out if Pigeon's thoughts and reactions were in line with other typical five-year-olds, and I have to say that they were not. Much of her reasoning and thought processes were that of a much older child, or even an adult. While the story was told as the recollections of an adult, I did not feel that those recollections could have been accurate because I felt that the actual immaturity and innocence of a five-year-old were not really accurately captured.

I also had some issues with the way that the family interacted. Their mother seemed very unmindful of her children and was somewhat cold towards them emotionally, while the children were extremely disrespectful and snide to her. Though this family was not very close or conscientious of each other, I felt that the way they acted towards one another was a great catalyst for the events that took place in the closing sections of the book. Though it did bother me somewhat, it really worked very well for the story. I also thought that Pigeon's longing and fretting about her father felt very authentic, and I imagine that any child dealing with abandonment by a parent would feel much the same as she did.

One of the things I found really interesting about this book was seeing how each child manifested the loss of their father in a different yet entirely convincing way. Their loss of an integral part of their family had varying consequences for all three of them, and I felt that each was acting out their unmet needs and desires in a way that highlighted character aspects of each of the children individually. Keeping this in mind, I began to see their struggles as a painful processes of grief and change that was shaping them into people that were hopelessley trying to gain a foothold in their lives. I found this aspect of the book to be particualrly moving and resonant for me, and I felt the author was really able to capture those feelings very well.

Though I had some issues with parts of this book, overall I felt that the structure of the story and the writing was done very well. I felt that the author was able to capture the prevailing moods of loss, longing and regret very powerfully in her narrative. I think that the overarching story was one that was very moving and emotional, and that if you are the type of reader who can overlook the minor quibbles of the narrative voice, you might really enjoy this book. It certainly gave me a lot to think about.

TLC Book ToursI read and reviewed this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these sites:

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - 304 pgs

Book CoverTucked away in the English countryside, the students of Halisham, a seemingly elite boarding school, live an almost idyllic life. As Kathy H. reminisces on the friendships and rivalries of her early life at Halisham, she also begins to touch on the strange and puzzling aspects of the school and her fellow students. For the students of Halisham are special in some undefined and unknowable way, and their futures are clouded and obscured from themselves and each other. Fed only the most basic information about their unusual lives and circumstances, they are reduced to living lives filled with rumor, conjecture and speculation amid the more typical everyday occurrences of childhood. As Kathy begins to unfold her curious tale that spans the unfathomable years of her adolescence, more and more curious facts about the children come to the surface, and eventually their bizarre fate is unmasked. Both lucid and frightening, Never Let Me Go takes its readers to the borders of an unimaginable world, where nothing is what it seems and peculiar things are hidden in plain view.

This is the kind of book that doesn't make its full impact until a few minutes after you have closed the cover. Written in lush but subdued prose, the narrative seems to unfold with a calmness and clarity that belies the book's true nature. From the outset, Ishiguro seems to be able to do something miraculous with this tale. He begins by describing some very commonplace events in the lives of a handful of students at Halisham, but peeking from beneath the more typical story he begins to interject random flashes of theme that seem almost disconnected and alien to the story itself. As more and more of the students' experiences are related it becomes clear that something "other" is going on, but with touches of brilliant technique, the readers of this story, like the characters themselves, are left on the precipice of understanding, splendidly misdirected into believing that things are just as they appear on the surface.

During the middle sections of the story, when both reader and character are just beginning to understand what is going on, a conversation occurs between the characters that documents just how much and in what ways the truths of their existence have been kept from them. In explaining it to each other, they come to conclude that they have been told, yet not told, about themselves, the facts being released to them at a time when it is almost impossible for them to understand them. Later, when these initial facts have set in, they become similar to ingrained truth and make the monstrous reality seem commonplace. It was at this point that I began to realize that this is exactly what was happening to the reader. It was the perfect specimen of art imitating life and it was one of the things that made the book so distinguished.

There were really two tales going on: the somewhat placid and serene tale of life as a Halisham student, full to the brim with the minutia of friendships, relationships and education, and the hidden and horrendous reality that was taking place underneath. Throughout the story it became clear by degrees what was really in store for these children, but I still found it both shocking and distressing when everything was finally brought to the surface in the last third of the book. Much of what was planned for them was spelled out in a direct way, but most of the horror of these discoveries was based on what was implied about what had been going on and its inevitable conclusion. The full story, once revealed, was extremely sad and I felt that Ishiguro was really able to capture the despondence and unfruitful hope that permeated these characters' lives. It was curious how detached they seemed to be, how resigned and accepting they were as they walked towards their destines. It was only later that I realized that they had no other basis for comparison and that the strange life they led was the only life they had ever known.

The characterization in this book was immaculate as well. Though the characters were meant to be somewhat indistinct, I found that they were all fully formed and that they were easy to identify with because they embodied the characteristics of people I have known throughout my life. That was one of the things that was so haunting about this book: I felt as though I knew these people in some way; one in particular reminded me of a friend I had long ago, so it was all the more disturbing to realize what was in store for them. To see their fate played out was frightening in a way that I tried not to examine too closely. I suppose the closeness I felt to the characters was in itself another of Ishiguro's deft manipulations, and that the book would have lost a lot of its impact if one were not so attuned to the characters' individuality and emotions.

I really loved this book for its intricacy and beautiful construction and think that its an excellent example of literary writing infused with just the right amount of psychological suspense. There is so much to explore within the constructs of this story, and in the end, the discussions that could be had about this book might be almost as complex as the book itself. I would definitely say that this is one of the better books I have read this year and that its subtlety and revelations were created with a master's touch. Reading this book was pleasurable, and in many ways, scary, but I am thankful that I have had the experience. A great read and highly recommended. I would love the chance to explore this book further and hear other's opinions, so if you have read it and would like to discuss it, please let me know!
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