#901 The Perilous Road by William O. Steele

The Perilous Road by William O. SteeleThe Perilous Road by William O. Steele

Chris is living with his family in the Eastern Tennessee mountains during The Civil War. Chris says he hates the union soldiers. He hates that they come and take what they want from farms. He hates this his neighbors didn’t do anything about it when the soldiers came and took their food. They say the soldiers were just hungry. Chris doesn’t think the Union soldiers need his sympathy, or anybody’s sympathy for that matter.

His brother joins the military to be a wagon driver. Chris finds out that a wagon train is coming through so he wants to warn the other side so there will be an encounter, so he tells a neighbor who says he is a spy. When Chris finds out there is an actual battle going on in the area, he takes off trying to find his brother, not thinking that his brother would still be in training.

When he gets to the battle, he  encounters soldiers from the north, who treat him well and are suffering from the war just the same as anybody else and Chris feels he needs to rethink his position on the other side.

What I liked

I’m not a typical war person, but I’ve read a few novels set during The Civil War. This one wasn’t bad. Chris is being hard-hearted, just as many people tend to be when they think they’re on the right side of something. He finds out that things aren’t so black and white. Just because someone is fighting on the other side, doesn’t mean that they’re not human. They need the same things all humans need. They have the same feelings all humans have. People dying because of a war are people dying because of a war, it doesn’t matter what side they’re on.

I really liked that Chris’ eyes were opened. Just because someone is your enemy politically, doesn’t mean that they’re your personal enemy.

What I didn’t like

Chris’ attitude is all to common. Sometimes we tend to think that our opinion is the correct one and whoever thinks differently is our enemy, and therefore, evil. We don’t stop to consider that maybe both sides are correct in one way or the other, or, that our side is actually the evil side. If we believe something very intolerant and expound upon that belief as the correct one and consider anyone who is more tolerant to be evil, isn’t the more intolerant view the more evil view?

Chris was young and sometimes as younger people we tend to hold onto our “beliefs” as we consider them as if they’re immutable, when, in fact, our beliefs change and grow as we gain experiences in life. Chris did just that in this book.

Overall

It doesn’t matter what side you’re on; we’re all people.

Weigh In

Did you find that your younger self was too idealistic and strict in your views?

Is everybody the enemy on the other side?

#896 I, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia Coleman

I, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia ColemanI, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia Coleman

Pearl was supposed to go back to her fancy boarding school, but she met Frank first. He promised her dancing. Her mother didn’t like Frank, probably because of his reputation as a gambler. This did not deter Pearl though. She ran off and eloped with Frank, going to New Orleans, where she quickly found out that Frank was an abusive jerk. He found any excuse to hit Pearl.

Pearl had enough after one particularly rough beating and left. She hopped on a train with a hobo and lit out for other parts. She got a job singing, but that bastard Frank showed up again. For a while, she and he tried to make their marriage work. They ended up with two kids. When she parted ways with Frank, again, the kids went to her mother’s, who was thoroughly disgraced by Pearl’s life. Pearl went off and did other things.

She got jobs and then she robbed a stage-coach and got arrested. Having a woman robber was quite the sensation and Pearl got a lot of attention, but life was not easy in prison. She was alone much of the time, until a couple of other women prisoners showed up, having committed their own terrible deeds. Prison wasn’t easy, but Pearl found a way to make terrible things be to her advantage.

What I liked

While this book may be fiction, Pearl was real. Look her up on Wikipedia. She was a real, stage-coach robbing, gun-toting, hard woman. While it’s not exactly the ideal of what a woman should be, it’s pretty neat. She had the guts to dress up like a man, when that was highly frowned upon and then go rob somebody, which isn’t very nice.

The fictionalized story is fun. Pearl is what you would call a “spitfire.” She’s not going to let anybody get her down, although it may seem like life really sucks sometimes.

Despite the fact that she’s not role model material, I do find her admirable. She did things women didn’t do during the time period and made them work.

What I didn’t like

Pearl’s first husband sounded awful. In the book Pearl cites being Catholic for her reason not to divorce her abusive, scumbag husband. Look, I don’t care if you’re Catholic, a gypsy, Mormon, FLDS, a Baptist, or a Pastafarian–if your husband, or wife, is physically abusive, you divorce their butt as fast as you can. If they’re mentally abusive and refuse to see their abuse, you divorce their butt as fast as you can. Abusers tend to stay abusers. There’s no point in prolonging your suffering, and your children’s suffering, if there are any, because of a religious ideology. Sure, yes, marriage can be sacred, but that depends upon each party involved keeping their side of the deal, which happens to include not being abusive to your spouse and/or children.

In real life, Pearl seemed to go back to her husband multiple times, which is sad. He was a loser and here she was this tough woman who assuredly didn’t really need a man, especially an abusive one.

Overall

I admire Pearl’s escapades, but feel bad about her being married to a jerk.

Weigh In

Are female outlaws of the old west fascinating or deplorable?

Do you think Pearl lived her life of crime because of her abuse?

#887 Fox 8 by George Saunders

Fox 8 by George SaundersFox 8 by George Saunders

Fox8 lives with the other foxes, but he’s different from the rest. He’s learned Human. He’s watched humans through their window and learned their words, both in speech and reading. He can’t read everything, but he knows enough to impress the other foxes.

He reads about something called Fox Commons and decides to go and see what it is. There he learns from a dog left in a car that this is Parking. The thing over there, is a shopping mall. Fox8 has grand plans of going inside and speaking to the humans in their own human speech about the mall. As a result of the shopping center, there is a less food and less water for the foxes to eat and drink.

Confusion soon ensues. Some cruel humans hurt another fox and Fox8 gets separated from them all. He wanders for days when he finally finds more foxes, who name themselves differently. They find it hard to believe about learning Human and visiting the mall. Fox8 is able to make himself a place with a new group of foxes, but he remembers his experiences with the other foxes.

What I liked

This story was so interesting. I know I probably shouldn’t say “interesting” so much. I’ve recently started to watch Captain Fantastic, a Viggo Mortensen movie where he raises six kids out in the woods, and in the movie “interesting” is a non-word because it simply doesn’t say enough about the thing you’re talking about. I should probably take that sentiment to heart.

I enjoyed this book because it was from a point of view we don’t usually get. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book from a fox’s point of view, except maybe some small children’s book back when I was a child. It’s an ultimate experiment of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, or paws. How does humanity affect wild life? What does wildlife think about human things? Of course we can never know for sure until someone finally invents thought translators for animals, which someone should really get busy on, but I’m afraid if it ever does come about, we’re going to feel really awful about what the animals have to say.

Fox8 manages to get on some level with the humans and he thinks that can bridge a gap between the two species, but it can’t, because humanity has both its good side and  its bad side.

What I didn’t like

There is a scene in this story where humans attack a fox. That’s cruel. Cruelty to animals is uncalled for. Yes, you can eat animals. You raise them, you kill them in a manner that doesn’t result in a lot of suffering, and then you eat them. What you do not do is torture animals you have no intention of eating. In fact, you don’t torture animals at all. Cruelty to animals is such a sad thing. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. What’s that saying–something like, “You can tell if a person is a good person by how he treats those below him, not above him”? It’s something like that. In our natural order of things, humans are above animals, that’s why we get to call ourselves anything different from animals; this does not mean that we get to treat animals as if they have no feelings or their lives don’t matter. I would never say a dog’s life is worth a human’s life, but you certainly shouldn’t treat a dog badly simply because you’re also not a dog.

Overall

This makes you think about how animals might feel about us.

Weigh In

Do you ever try to put yourself in an animal’s place?

How much thought do you think we should give to encroaching into the wild?

#878 The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney

Amira lives with her family in Darfur. She has two parents and a younger sister. There is also the family sheep, named by the little sister at birth with her cries. Amira enjoys her life. She plays with her sister and the animals; she dislikes the chores she got when she got older.

One day, something awful happens. There seems to be fire all around. The sheep is gone; her father is gone. Everyone must leave. They take only what they can carry on their backs. They walk and walk. They get somewhere. Their house is made of rice bags. Amira’s family changes. She sees a child bride. A white lady gives her a red. Pencil.

Amira learns to draw. Someone secretly teaches her to write. Her mother is not happy about it, but Amira has many dreams, among those dreams is going to school and learning.

What I liked

The prose of this book was wonderful. It moves along and flowed. It made sense and kept a musical tone to the whole story.

Amira is very likable. She is determined to be something more and to learn.

I liked learning a bit more about what happened in Darfur back in 2003. I had heard the term on the news, but didn’t know what it meant. It’s a sad thing, but I’m better enriched as a person because I know more about it.

The author was inspired to write this book because of the events in Darfur. She spent a lot of time researching and doing interviews. I think it’s pretty great to come up with such a beautiful story while dealing with so many terrible things.

What I didn’t like

These events are so sad. I feel bad for Amira. She lost her animals. She lost her home. She lost her father. It was awful. She experiences PTSD, when she’s way too young to experience such a terrible thing, not that anyone is ever at an age to experience such terrible things.

Amira isn’t real, so I’m a little relieved, but there are plenty of real girls who did go through things like this. I feel bad for them. It’s terrible that anybody thinks they have the right to do something like this.

Overall

Beautiful story about awful things.

Weigh in

Do you think you could have made it through what Amira made it through?

Do you feel that you didn’t give education an important in your life when you were young?

#874 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Get ready for a tale of gaslighting, alcoholism and murder. Rachel is an alcoholic and she knows it. She rides the train everyday because she lost her job and she’s afraid to tell anyone. Her ex-husband left her for the woman he cheated on her with. They have a baby and live in Rachel’s dream house. Meanwhile, a local woman goes missing. Her name is Megan. She was going to therapy, but dark things in her past always haunted her. Rachel saw Megan one day or was it Anna, her ex-husband’s wife. Are things really the way she remembers them?

Rachel gets drawn into the police investigation. She saw Megan with another man who was not her husband, but who was it? Did Rachel herself hurt Megan? She can’t remember what happened that night. Too much alcohol, as usual. As the story progresses, more clues are revealed. Almost everyone involved has something bad going on and a reason to be upset with Megan, but who actually made Megan disappear?

What I liked

I didn’t figure this book out until a far way into it, which means that Paula did a pretty good job of writing the mystery. I did expect something like the mystery though. It reminded me a lot of the Broadchurch television series.

Nobody in this book was good, in fact, none of the primary characters are what you might call “good people.” There are mental abusers running around. There’s a therapist who isn’t good with boundaries. There’s an alcoholic. There is a murderer. There is a husband stealer. None of these things are qualities that you would like in a person, not even qualifying them for friend status; these are just qualities we don’t want to see in people, period. This aspect of this story lends itself to creating multiple possible suspects with various motives. Not a single one of them really has a good alibi either.

Although it’s a terrible topic, I do like that mental abuse and gaslighting were prominent pieces of this story. It happens a lot and the more we talk about it and recognize it, even in popular novels, the more we can prevent it and recognize it in our own lives or the lives of those we love. I’ve been gaslighted. I’ve been mentally abused and when it happens, you truly see the world through eyes that aren’t your own. It’s difficult to process your personal experiences. It’s powerful stuff. For at least two characters in a book to have reasonable doubt about their personal experience because they’re being mentally abused, adds a whole other dimension of whodunit.

What I didn’t like

Mental abuse and gaslighting are abominations. I cringed when reading about the mental abuse going on in this book. It certainly serves to move the story along and add more dimension to it, but it’s just awful to read.

There were times in the book when I wanted to grab Megan by the shoulders and shake her when she was in therapy. Woman, you are being mentally abused. This isn’t just how your husband is.

Overall

It’s hard to be a reliable witness when you can’t see the world properly.

Weigh In

If you have been gaslighted, was there a point when you believed you had done something awful because the gaslighter spun the situation in your head like that?

Is the fact that nobody in this book is a good person something to be praised, or is it an example of how depraved humanity can be?