Review: Orhan’s Inheritance

Orhan's InheritanceOrhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Highly readable, fictionalized story of the effects of the Armenian genocide on two families during and after World War I. It starts off pretty slow, but once we flash back to the lives of the characters in WW1, things got interesting.

I don’t think the book was all that effective at explaining why any of this happened, which was a disappointment. Anytime historical detail was covered, it was in some kind of information dump in the narrative or awkward, overly-expository dialogue between characters. I did not find this book to be especially well-written. However, it did shed a bit of light on a topic that doesn’t receive much attention in popular fiction and is still considered controversial by many around the world, so I did ultimately feel it was a worthwhile read.

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Review: Cat’s Cradle

Cat's CradleCat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of the first books I read that I felt spoke to me so directly and profoundly. I must have been sixteen at the time. I spent years afterwards referring to this as my favorite book, and I feel like I even mentioned it in my job interview nine years ago for the company where I still work. When my book club picked this for our March discussion, I realized I’d only read it the one time and I looked forward to rereading an old favorite, while also feeling a little worried that it wouldn’t hold up.

Like many Vonnegut classics, this is a book loaded with dark satire and witty one-liners about the futility of thing like religion, government, war, and–oh yeah–life. It was only upon rereading this book at thirty-three that I realized how BLEAK it is. I had recalled sixteen-year-old me fist-pumping the air at the book’s conclusion, and rereading it now, I got nothing but hopelessness and despair. Fun exercise in realizing how much a person can change over time and how that affects the reading experience!

While I definitely don’t think I’d call this my favorite book now, I still enjoyed it a great deal and would recommend it to anyone on earth with a sense of humor about life and religion. Just know that although you’ll probably laugh throughout the story, it might leave you feeling more than a bit unsettled about humanity.

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Review: The Vegetarian

The VegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like weird books, but I’m not sure I really got this one. The Vegetarian is a story in three parts about a young Korean woman living in Seoul. Upon having a gruesome and disturbing dream, she decides to become a vegetarian. Things basically go downhill from there.

In the first part, we see things play out from her husband’s perspective; later, we get her brother-in-law’s POV, and finally her sister’s perspective in part three. I guess you could say this is a book that attempts to show the ripple effects that one mentally ill person can have on their loved ones, but I’m not sure it really did that. We never get Yeong-hye’s take on what’s going on, nor do we get any indication that she’s been suffering or struggling with mental illness up to this point in her life. She’s portrayed as being a completely normal person who has a horrific dream and then pretty rapidly loses touch with reality over a period of years, culminating in a very sad and muddled ending.

There are some excellent descriptions and scenes in this book, but overall I’m not sure it did what it intended, and I had a hard time connecting with anyone in the story because the POV made everyone seem very distant and cold.

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