Monday, April 18, 2011

The Reading Rainbow

It dawns on me that this whole "Reckless Reading" blog hasn't been quite filled with the sort of reading you may have been expecting.  I attribute that largely to the lack of time I've spent reading for leisure lately.  The majority of what I have been reading these days has been for work.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining!  I've just been not very interested in talking about what I've read lately. Until now!

The Girls by Lori Lansens

I've had this on my bookshelf for what seems like decades.  I've picked it up numerous times and simply never gotten around to reading it.  I took it off the shelf a couple weeks ago and decided it was now or never.  I'm glad I did! 

Rose and Ruby Darlen are twin sisters conjoined at the head.  They are approaching their 29th birthday and will officially be the oldest living craniopagus twins.  Rose is the largest of the two and has carried Ruby on her hip for their entire life.  She has shared her mobility with Ruby so they manage to each have a somewhat independent life.  They both work part time jobs and enjoy different hobbies.  They have managed to live a conjoined life and respect each others individuality at the same time.

The story revolves around the fact that they have been informed that they could die at any time due to an aneurysm in Rose's brain.  This has compelled Rose to write the story of their life in the hopes that fragments of their history will come together and so that they may be remembered respectfully.  Ruby has joined in this writing but only in the most forced of ways and is writing only about their current existence.

The books is written with the chapters rotating between the sisters.  While this is often a confusing style of narration, it's quite easy to follow in The Girls.  Rose and Ruby have very clear voices and garner sympathy in different ways from the reader.  Lansens shows frustration and affection in realistic ways without being overly dramatic.  I really feel she does a wonderful job of giving each sister their own voice without making them unbelievable.  Lansens manages to show their unique intimacy without making the reader feel like they're art of a circus sideshow.  The book has a much more in depth story that I haven't even begun to explain but just trust me when I say it's engaging and intelligent.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

This book is my library book discussion book for this month.  I chose it a couple months ago and I have to lead a discussion on it on the 21st.  I've heard a lot of great things about it so I was looking forward to the adventure.

The story is about explorer Percy Fawcett and his determination to find an ancient Amazonian civilization he calls "Z".  His explorations begin at the beginning of the 1900's when the Amazon is largely unexplored and impassable.  No one has been able to make their way through the jungles without being overcome by sickness, insects, starvation, or violent tribes.  Fawcett, on the other hand, manages to make a number of attempts into the wilderness without falling sick and by making friends with natives.  His exploration style is described as unrelenting and obsessive but he is able to make progress in the Amazon that is unparalleled by his peers.

Over the course of the first 25 years of the 1900's, Fawcett struggles with financing both personal and professional.  He struggles to find people to back his explorations and his family lives on the edge of poverty.  When he is able to get enough funding to go back into the jungle, he is gone for years at a time and his wife is left to fend for herself and their children.  While one would expect her to be incredibly bitter and lonely, she is nothing short of her husband's biggest supporter.  She goes out of her way to spread the news of his triumphs and promote him as the world's best explorer.  Fawcett continues his explorations until 1925 when he, his son, Jack, and Jack's friend Raleigh, go into the Amazon and are never heard from again.  Many adventure seekers have attempted to find them since and none have been successful.  In fact, many have never returned.

I will admit, I found it difficult to immediately get into the story as there is a decent amount of bouncing around and side information.  However, once the story starts rolling, it's difficult to put down.  I found myself consistently comparing Percy Fawcett with Chris McCandless (the focus of the book Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer).  Both men walked into a wilderness that is notoriously dangerous and neither walked out.  Both had confidence that carried them through precarious situations and both may have perished due to that same confidence.  I've always had the belief that McCandless was never equipped to take on the natural challenges that he did.  That he perished because of his lack of knowledge.  I think the same argument can be made about Fawcett.  I'm not sure if I agree, but it's certainly possible.  I also wonder what makes Fawcett's wife, Nina, promote him like she does?  She was living in poverty, alone, for the majority of her adult life because he wanted adventure.  How do you continue that way? 

I don't know, my feelings are undetermined.  I'm certainly looking forward to the discussion on Thursday night. I also highly recommend The Lost City of Z.

So there's the breakdown of what I've read lately!  Pick them up! Let me know what you think!

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