Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Written as a fictional memoir of a famous author, the story is told in a series of flashbacks.  Lucy's childhood was one of extreme poverty, sadness,  and isolation.  The themes dealt with in this book are important incompletely we know one another, the nature of love and family,  the redemptive power of little things.  But the overriding feeling I took away from this book was loneliness and how it permeated everything in her life.  This quote pretty much sums it up:

"Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me."

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Mischling means mixed-blood in German.  It was a legal term used in Nazi Germany to denote persons deemed to have both Aryan and Jewish ancestry.

This holocaust story of 12 year old twin sisters who were selected by Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz physician who performed grotesque experiments on selected prisoners (especially twins), as a part of his "Zoo," is haunting and anguished.  The story is told in alternating chapters by Stasha and Pearl--the first half concentrating on their captivity, and the second half taking place after the advance of the Soviet army and the liberation of Auschwitz.

Some critics have criticized the book because of the beautiful language used by Konar in telling the tale, and the danger that is inherent in creating art out of such tortured history.  But in my opinion, rather than strip the tale of its horror, such language by contrast makes the evil all too real.  Nightmarish, dark, and painful as it was--it was still a story beautifully told.

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