I’ll be the first to admit, I had immediate hesitations about picking this book up from the library. A supposedly new series, but written by the author of one of my guilty pleasures. Unfortunately, I still had a bitter taste in my mouth from the second book in the Songs of the Seraphim series Of Love and Evil, which was weighing my reservations.
However, I was weary of my current reading selection, so I took a chance, and I realized my hesitations were short-lived. Rice is well-known in the world of what some may call fantasy fiction interwoven into the contemporary world on age-old themes. The Wolf Gift is no exception. It follows the lead character, Reuben Golding, as he explores the extravagant home of Felix Nideck, the jewel of Nideck Point in Northern California. Reuban, a reporter from the San Francisco Observer, is writing an article regarding the home and its history in the hope of snaring an interested buyer. However, as the beautiful and graceful, Marchent, niece of Felix Nideck, leads the tour of the property, Reuben soon learns that he must have the home. He begins to explore conversations he would have with his immediate family members and his girlfriend, most of whom he knows would try to talk him out of his new found dream. The character of Reuben at the beginning of the book is sniveling and self-conscious, entirely pitiable, but unlikable as he is willingly overshadowed by the powerful female figures in his life – a stark contrast to the persona he assumes after spending a fateful, violent night at the Nideck property. During the night, Reuben’s life is turned upside down in a tragic, violent occurrence that uproots his entire life. Sensitive to early spoilers, I will just say that Reuben receives a “gift” of life, but not a life he ever knew existed.
The novel follows Reuben, a transformed man, on his journey to understand this gift he was given and his love-hate relationship (love more than hate) with those like him, who have seemingly left him to ascertain the ropes on his own. This book touches on many important, constant themes of fiction – the morality of choices, the distinction of good and evil, and the complexity of science in the great cosmos of the everlatings good versus evil debate. This book is far reaching in its thematic assertions, but easy to grasp through the likable nature of Reuben, in his later state.
Of note throughout the novel, is the movement of the plot. As the page turns, it becomes entirely evident that all of Reuben’s and the reader’s questions will not be answered in this one novel, leaving ample room for a new series crafted to hook the reader for the duration of the tale as only Rice is able to do.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
An interesting concept, but a flailing reach for an ambiguous ending. Margaret Atwood creates a world like our own that is taken over by fanatics that institute a complete patriarchal society. The only men that matter are the Commanders, but it is unclear what they command. There are illusions to an ongoing war, but these Commanders are old, thus, unable to continue the human race through monthly relations with their Handmaids.
Then there are several classes of women. The lowest of the low are the Marthas, who work in the Commanders’ homes as cooks and housekeepers. Then there are the Econowives, who married lesser men than the Commanders, perhaps, for love. It is unclear. What is clear is their hatred of the Handmaids and what they represent. Lasciviousness in a red dress with nun-like wings. Each commander has a Handmaid, who is a woman of childbearing age, who he procreates with once a month. But there are rules. No kissing. No excessive touching. Oh yeah, and his Wife is present the entire time holding the Handmaid down. Wives are the highest class of woman, but are too old to bear any more children. So they must live in silence, continue these monthly rituals, look the other way as their husbands procreate (because making “love” is off limits), and run their households hoping the Handmaids will spawn a child they can call their own.
Strange world. It seems impossible until Atwood weaves in the backstory of Offred (or Of Fred, the Commander), who does not know where her daughter or her husband are. Each day she lives in silence. A silence driven by patriarchy as women are not allowed to read and write anymore. The government attempts to wipe their minds clean. In this portrayal, I sensed a heavy, haunting influence of George Orwell’s 1984. But I advise not to read it for enjoyment on its face. I enjoy Margaret Atwood, but I wouldn’t be any worse for the wear if I had skipped this novel. Instead, read it for its strange plot. She is a mastermind of the speculative fiction. Welcome to the genre.
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I had high hopes for a novel by Sharon Solwitz because she has this vibrancy in her prose. Her voice is clear, sharp, biting at the consonants, and has character in the words she chooses to craft into succinct sentences.
The novel began with a brilliant formation of ordinary people living typical lives in a not-so-typical story. Told from the perspectives of the mother, Claire, and the youngest daughter, Hadley, the narrative sweeps back and forth. There is tension on page on as Claire is pulling up the carpet on the stairs, but Hadley’s scenes lack momentum. Or rather, inspiration toward momentum. She takes pain killers without explanation. She runs off with slight motivation. This rotation between perspectives tells the story from different angles, but it stalls from digging further into the source of character motivation.
I have read Solwitz’s short stories, and I was in love. Perhaps, I am more biased toward Blood and Milk, her book of short stories, because I feel like I get more of a sense of her in each of the characters. I can pick out pieces of Solwitz’s life in the lives of her characters, and it makes it more enjoyable.
day 25 – a song that makes you laugh
(per 30 day song challenge)
Snuggled up on the warped and worn couch in the basement of my high school, we sang along to the CDs burned especially for us in mind. We, the group of students who laughed at tidbits of peculiar randomness. Which is why we grew so accustomed to “I Like Birds” by Eels. Boasting such memorable lines as:
Look at all the people like cows in a herd,
But I like….. Birds.
If you’re small and on a search,
I’ve got a feeder for you to perch on.
And you cannot forget:
Well it’s all right if you act like a turd,
Cuz I like….. Birds.
Cruising through a nearby town with my Blazer packed full of my friends, we popped in one such CD and blared this song through the downtown, which was surprisingly crowded for being so close to curfew. When we rounded the circle, we screamed such memorable lines as those quoted above to innocent passersby.
To be young again…
day 24 – a song that you want to play at your funeral
(per 30 day song challenge)
This is seriously morbid. Nonetheless, I have the perfect song. It isn’t like any other song. It does not lull you into complacency. It does not stagger the energy in the room to levels that wouldn’t even shake a worm. No. It does none of those things.
It is upbeat. It is snappy. I will pop out of my coffin and start dancing. Or through beyond-the-grave telepathy encourage others to dance.
But what, you ask, would be the only song (nay, the best song!) to dance to at a funeral? What song would bring a smile to your tear-stained face (because you miss me sooo much)? And what song would get your toes itching through the starched, vomit-colored carpet?
“Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band.
Best idea ever, right? You’re welcome.
day 23 – a song that you want to play at your wedding
(per 30 Day Song Challenge)
I loved the movie Reality Bites when I was a teenager. Perhaps, it was the offbeat humor. Or he snippy lines. Or the ultimate slacker Ethan Hawke that made it so delectable. Then add in a young, dorky-looking Ben Stiller and you have a success!
Toward the end of the movie (of which I will try not to spoil) there is a scene where Winona Ryder takes a drag of her cigarette laying on her bed, thinking (because characters in movies have so much time ponder), and Ethan Hawke picks up where she left off as he puffs his in the HALL OF A HOSPITAL. Which would have been completely realistic in the 90s, right?
“Not if you have Daddy’s little gas card.”
Each character stares off into space until they finally realize – through a nicotine haze – that they are all the other wants. Hence, the song “All I Want is You” by U2.
Which U2 did not perform last weekend! If they would have, it would have made it even more of a perfect concert.
I picked the song to represent the wedding song (besides “Boogie Fever’) because I want to have that pensive moment – not smoking a cigarette – but, perhaps, sitting in my computer chair just tap-tap-tapping away. And I’ll realize through the staccato of my keyboard that the person I am thinking about or writing about is the only one I want. That my wants are complete where this person is concerned. As long as they exist. And as long as I find the courage/dedication to want.
In other words, Ethan Hawk, Reality Bites era.
In continuation of where I left off since the end of June halted as I obtained employment. Which means much more limited blogging for this working stiff. Or at least until I find a place to live close to my work, so I can avoid the hour-long commute there and back.
But, I digress.
day 22 – a song that you listen to when you’re sad
(per 30 day song challenge)
This choice took extra thought. Perhaps, I am not sad enough to have a song immediately pop into my head when prompted. Which, in all extensive purposes, is a good thing.
I could go the easy route and say “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M., but where is the fun in that?
No. Usually if I’m sad, I call Jason. And I’ve had many sappy discussions with him, so the best song to represent this occurrence however frequent or infrequent it is, is a matter for Creedence Clearwater Revival. I remember one time being up at school, and Jason played “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” on his acoustic over the phone to cheer me up. And to help me fall asleep.