The Age of Miracles

The Age of MiraclesThe Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book had a lot of hype, but I don’t think it lives up to the promise. I like the idea of “what if?” stories, and the premise of this one was thought provoking. It was a short, easy read and enjoyable as far as it went, but the problem in the end is that it never went anywhere. I don’t know why this is marketed as an adult book. The protagonist is 11 years old, but she comes across as more like 14 or 15. It’s a coming of age story that never wrestles with any adult concepts. I would categorize this as sci fi except that the science of what is causing the problem is never explored. Nor does anyone ever make any effort to try and find a solution. Everyone is just resigned to the changes and attempts to cope with them in their own way. I did enjoy the speculation of how the world might be affected by the slowing down, although one major omission – one I would have expected with an 11-12 year old girl narrator – what affect did it have on menstrual cycles?? One good thing I can say – I did feel as if I were “there” while reading it. I half expected to come out of the break room at work to find we were open in the middle of the night.

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ll give it three stars. It’s an interesting and entertaining story with quirky characters. But I have no particular interest in the south and its culture. I found the characters mostly just bizarre and I certainly didn’t care much what happened to any of them. I almost didn’t finish this book when my car CD player died halfway through listening. I decided it was a quirky and rambling portrait of Savannah and some of its denizens and I had heard enough to get a feel for the book. But after our book club meeting, and after I got a new audio receiver for my car, I decided to go ahead and finish listening. The second half was almost a different book, focusing on one man and the murder trial that dragged on for more than 8 years, and his involvement with Minerva, the voodoo priestess.

Having just read the book, I watched the movie last night. It didn’t get very good reviews. I thought it was all right. Not a great movie, but not a bad one either. I do think it might have been a bit confusing without having read the book. I especially liked seeing the actual locations – Savannah, the Bonneventure Cemetary, Mercer House, Sweet Georgia Brown’s, etc. And the Lady Chablis was played by herself in the movie. What a fascinating person. From the credits I learned that she wrote an autobiography, so that is going on my reading list!

Shots rang out in Savannah’s grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt’s sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman’s Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the “soul of pampered self-absorption”; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.

The Night Circus

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Impossible to characterize! Fantasy but not quite. Mystery/suspense but not quite. Romance but not quite. Allegory? Fairy tale? Steampunk? Metaphysical? All I know is that without much of a plot, and without much character development (which should be faults), and without even a real magical contest (if that isn’t a spoiler), the author has created a magical, riveting world that I won’t soon forget. It jumps around in time and place and from one character to another, which should be confusing, but isn’t. It just adds to the sense of an elaborate illusion, the peeling of an onion to get to the truth of why all of this has been set in motion. And whose story is it in the end? Reading this book is a bit like reading Tarot cards. What do they mean? How do they relate to each other? Is it about the past or the future? It is about symbolism, and archetypes, and how we might escape from the things that bind us. It asks us to ponder the nature of dualism, black and white, good and evil, power and weakness, truth and illusion, the nature of time and of being. Among the recognizable archetypes are the Hero’s Journey, the Wheel of Fortune, Merlin in the tree, Tristan and Isolde, and the Labyrinth. The prose creates vivid images, and I think this will make a splendid movie. My favorite scene: the boat made of books sailing on a sea of ink… I am still there, and I expect to look out the window and see the black and white tents far off in the cornfield.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.