Tuesday, May 22, 2012


by Liz Moore
2012 W.W. Norton
Rating: 4/5
Received an E-galley from the publisher.

"Heft" is a moving, well written story of two people - a morbidly obese man who has not left his home in 10 years and a teenage boy dealing with an alcoholic mother. The two are not aware of each other's existence, but are connected by a mutual person in their lives. Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds never leaves his home. A former student gets in touch with him and he starts making changes in his life, hiring a maid to help him get his home ready for a possible visitor. Unexpectedly, this contact with this teenager who comes to clean comes to mean more to him then he expected.
     In another part of New York, Kel Keller is the poor kid in a rich school with a promising baseball career. The biggest stumbling block in his life is his alcoholic mother whom he has to care for. As she gets worse, his personal & athletic lives deteriorate.
     The two characters are sympathetic, but not entirely likable. But as the book goes on, you grow to love and root for them both. Their story shows that there are different definitions for "family". As I hit the last fourth of the book, I could not put it down. Highly recommended. I just wish the book had been about 5 pages longer, it ends somewhat abruptly. The San Francisco Chronicle said: “Few novelists of recent memory have put our bleak isolation into words as clearly as Liz Moore does in her new novel.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
By Katherine Boo
2012 Random House
Rating: 5/5

     This true story of life in a slum in Mumbai, India is one of the most beautifully written and devastating non-fiction books I have ever read. It follows several families that live in a slum in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement close to luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. The main person that we follow is Abdul, an enterprising Muslim teen who works everyday gathering the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. As the book progresses, he is accused of a horrible crime and we see the effects on his family as well as others in the settlement.
     The author is married to an Indian native and lives both there and in the United States. She spent 3 years researching this book, gathering documents and interviewing the people over and over again. Her writing is wonderful, I was hanging on every word. The book showed that razor thin edge between hope and disaster. The outlook on life that some of these people have in spite of their conditions are breathtaking. It is a book that is both inspirational and disturbing at once. The amount of corruption in local and national government in India is hard to take.
     One of the reviews called it Dickensian, which did not occur to me as I was reading it, but is very apt  The Washington Post review said: "It is astonishing on several levels: as a worm’s-eye view of the “undercity” of one of the world’s largest metropolises; as an intensely reported, deeply felt account of the lives, hopes and fears of people traditionally excluded from literate narratives; as a story that truly hasn’t been told before, at least not about India and not by a foreigner. But most of all, it is astonishing that it exists at all…. a searing account, in effective and racy prose, that reads like a thrilling novel but packs a punch Sinclair Lewis might have envied.” I highly recommend this book for a look into a culture we know all too little about.