The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

cover“For you a million times over…”

A peek into Afghanistan before the war; before the pain and before the wreckage. The beautiful, raw landscape harboring towns filled with bustling streets, marketplaces and joyous children. A walk into the mysterious and magical life of kite running, frosted winter days, and steaming feasts. This story hurdles you into the excitement and anticipation of a kite run on a crisp spring day, the rush of adrenaline and the guiding wind; a perfect storm to have the winning kite.

This story is not shy of pain either; so you are become familiar with the young boy’s bloody hands from a long day of kiting, the disappointment of a disillusioned father, and the vomit inducing anxiety of the bare thought of that disappointment.

The Kite Runner tells a heart wrenching story of brotherhood and betrayal. The perfect companion, teased and taken for granted as a result of utter envy and paternal jealousy. A seemingly simple and rather idealistic tale of childhood friendship is quickly transformed in a life changing, rather gutless moment.

What remains now is a broken but ever forgiving and loyal servant and the guilt-drenched, nightmare ridden boy whom he once served. Their separation causes a cascade of events neither one could ever predict, leaving them tangled in a mess of loss and lies on opposite sides of the globe.

This story follows life after the end of their friendship, and the manner in which that one moment changed each of their lives forever.

Heart breaking and beautiful; it provides a unique and authentic perspective that can not be otherwise obtained through any other experience.

Reviewed by Trinity A ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

Advertisements

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

coverAs frustrating as this book was to read, with the coupling of a dizzying layout of the story and an endless character list, never before have I been so satisfied to complete a novel. The complexity of the plot lends itself perfectly to the story that it is relaying. In Wuthering Heights, Brontë masterfully entices her reader to persevere through thick language by carefully crafting a novel that captures every element of the imagination.

While this is no Nicholas Sparks novel, it does have all the makings of such a love story; a brooding lead character and a doomed romance. The story begins with a Mr. Lockwood renting Thrushcross Grange from Heathcliff, who lives in a home called Wuthering Heights (hence the title). None of the people living in this house are very welcoming, neither Heathcliff nor his daughter-in-law nor the strange boy that does not say much are kind or well mannered. As he stays the night at Wuthering Heights, he “dreams” that a ghost, who identifies herself as Catherine Linton, is trying to gain entrance to his room through a window. Upon his return to his own home after that strange night, Lockwood is told the story of Heathcliff and the Earnshaws from his housekeeper (who narrates most of the story), Ellen, who also worked at Wuthering Heights. So begins the tale of Heathcliff and Cathy’s complicated friendship-turned-love story.

Wuthering Heights chronicles a love so strong that not being able to be with her lover caused Catherine descend so far into despair that she cannot go on with her life, which is explained through her haunting of Heathcliff; as “the murdered do haunt their murderers.” Through Brontë’s beautiful metaphor and evocative language the reader gains insight into the true meaning of love to the two main characters and what happens when true love is forbidden. Comparing her current husband to the ever changing foliage of a forest, Catherine compares Heathcliff to the steadfast rock beneath, “a source of little visible delight… He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being” The narrative allows the reader access to an insider view to this romance, as both Heathcliff and Catherine seek out comfort and advice from Ellen, who narrates the tale. The remainder of the novel is full of ghosts, revenge and impossible love, most of this occurs through Heathcliff’s wish to get revenge on Hindley Linton and to reunite with Catherine Linton, the girl who “burned too bright for this world.”

Rarely does a book’s roundabout chronology and seemingly never ending expanse of characters entice one to read just one more page (which in the case of reading this novel often turning into just one more chapter.) More often than not when faced with such a challenge, one tends to coast throughout the remainder of the book hoping to eventually make sense of the story. Never before have I willingly created a timeline of events and a family tree connecting the characters simply because I wanted to understand the story and avoid missing a single detail. With each turn of a page a new twist or turn in the plot was unearthed, creating an engaging tale of love and revenge, that I never wanted to end, though I was happy when things seemed to be (relatively) resolved.

 

Reviewed by Meg B ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

betweenshadesIt grabbed my attention from the very first words, “They took me in my nightgown.” I remember wanting to choose a historical fiction book to read. However, I did not want just another book that ‘recalled the horrific tragedies that occurred during an important period in history.’ I wanted something more, something that gave color to a situation that seemed to appear in only black and white. Between Shades of Gray did that for me, it gave me endless hope when there seemed to be none.

Ruta Sepetys used her family’s history to bring light to experiences that were untold and hidden from the public sphere. Lina Vilkas is a fifteen-year-old, Lithuanian girl whose life drastically changes in 1941. She loves to write, paint and draw. Late one night, Soviet Officers approached their door with “an urgent booming.” In twenty minutes, they packed everything they possibly could and left all the comfortable, stress-free things about their lives behind. Separated from their father, and piled on cattle trains, Lina, her younger brother Jonas and her mother began the fight of their lives.

Lina, Jonas and her mother did not have time to process what had happened to them in 20 minutes. They were thrown into a mysterious, unknown world and forced to fight. After being thrown on a cattle train, they met phenomenal characters that will over time become like family. From the old grumpy Mr. Stalas who jumped from the train on the first day he was captured, to Andrius Arvydas, a handsome 17-year-old boy who epitomizes friendship and possibly even romance. On these cattle trains, they were mistreated. Food was scarce, illnesses lingered and the smells were sickening, but the occasional gasp of fresh air and sunshine was always something to look forward to.

“My feet were numb from the vibration of the floorboards. My head was curdled from the stench, and I itched terribly.” Lina was experiencing things in her life that were unheard of in mine. How can a 15-year-old girl be so resilient and strong? This was something I consistently asked myself and I think that’s what makes this book so captivating and encouraging for readers like myself. Her strength is contagious and everlasting.

Apart from the gripping story line that grabbed my attention from the very first line, Ruta Sepetys added light to a very dark situation using Lina’s past stories. As I read the book, Lina’s horrific encounters on her journey from Lithuania to Siberia was matched with similar but positive stories from her past. She was very determined to communicate with her father again and let him know that they were alive. Lina spoke of her untamed hair, uncleansed body and therefore her inability to avoid lice. I loved when Lina spoke about her itchy hair, and then how she described that when she was trying to paint her father’s “bright, blue eyes,” he couldn’t keep still because of an itch he had. I enjoyed this special moment and many other moments like this in the book because they showed me how Lina survived during these exasperating times in her life. I was able to see what Lina was thinking and how she used her past to get her through her struggles.

Lina used her handkerchief to communicate with her father. Each time there was light, she would add more detail and clues so that her father could recognize that it was her. She was hoping to pass the handkerchief along to her father. The handkerchief was Lina’s beautiful reminder that there was hope, and like the handkerchief, this book gave me hope. Although it did make me sad and most of the times it was emotionally difficult to read, this book was worth every smile, every awe and every tear. It not only taught me about the tragedies of World War II, but also I felt like I could experience that heart-rending and important period in history. For 336 pages, I was a part of something bigger than myself. I was a part of Lina’s life journey.

Reviewed by Lauren G. ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

coverAs a 21st century, romanticist, I’ve only every read Young Adult romance novels released in the 21st century. So, picking up Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, a mythological novel written in 1956, was something I felt that I wouldn’t have enjoyed.  After reading the first few chapters, I was hooked.

Till We Have Faces is a remake of Cupid and Psyche’s story, told through the perspective of Psyche’s half-sister, Orual. It tells the story of Orual and her beloved half-sister, Psyche. Psyche meant everything to Orual. They both shared a deep, unconditional love for each other that they lacked with other members of their family, and their kingdom. So, when Psyche was ordered to sacrifice herself to appease the Gods, there was no hesitation in trying to save her. But after finding out her sister hadn’t died, but is instead living happily with an unknown man and refuses to come home, Orual is shocked. C.S. Lewis’s take on writing the book through the sister’s perspective is very interesting. He makes the character’s choices and actions very realistic; there was no shame nor regret in the way he had written Orual’s perspective. Through Orual’s character, he was able to show readers the entire spectrum of the dark side of human nature: jealousy, ignorance, anger, and selfishness etc. One part in particular that I felt was human, was when Orual described her feelings for Bardia, her love interest, “My love for Bardia (not Bardia himself) had become to me a sickening thing. I had been dragged up and out onto such heights and precipices of truth, that I came into an air where it could not live.” I really liked how C.S. Lewis’s expresses her one-sided love with Bardia. It captures the unhealthy part of love, rather than an idealistic love that many authors tend to describe.

I think that everybody should read this book because it explores the type of love one can have and how there is a fine line between a healthy love and an unhealthy love. Overall, it’s just a great read that captures you once you begin. With many of C.S. Lewis’s books, he tries to incorporate themes that relate to Christianity, but this one doesn’t reflect it at all. So, if you’re not into the religious scene, and like themes such as sacrifice and love, then this book could be the one for you.

Reviewed by Iliyeen Z. ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

 

A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks

coverA Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks is an unexpectedly mysterious love story that left me feeling various emotions with every page I turned. Contrary to the normal story he writes, this one did not have a typical climax point or ending. The main character, Miles, is a mysterious man who has a young son, Jonah. Their lives are changed forever when Miles’ wife Missy was struck by a car while running on a bend in the road. But who committed the crime? Missy was left dead without any witnesses or any knowledge of who killed her, a hit and run. This event not only affects Miles’ past and present, but it severely affects his future in a very unexpected way. The tone of this story has an underlying sense of doubt and struggle throughout, even during the seemingly happy parts. This consistently left me on my toes as I was questioning whether or not the story was going to unfold as expected because of the obvious foreshadowing of tragedy that was entangled throughout the story, “Maybe he suspected something, maybe he’d simply been around long enough to know that fairy tales seldom came true”

This story is a mystery and a romantic novel combined into one, which creates a captivating way for the story to unfold. In the beginning of the book, Miles falls in love with his son Jonah’s second grade teacher, Sarah. Sarah and Miles have a connected past that they could never have foreseen nor avoided, and neither of them know it. As Miles continues to investigate the crime that unfolded in the bend in the road it reveals more and more information than Miles may even want to know and all of it may not be true. The intertwined themes of mystery and romance make the book a more interesting and deep romance novel that goes further than the surface of a love story. Miles is a single father raising a young child who is struggling in school and needs maternal love. He works a job that has demanding hours and causes him to be up all nights depriving Jonah of a normal childhood. The added stress and distraction of not having the closure of who killed his wife haunts him and effects his life in every way. “There is something terrible in the moments after waking up, when the subconscious knows that something terrible has happened but before all the memories flash back in their entirety.” The love Miles finds with Sarah seems to take some of the pain away until an uncovered secret changes the relationship for both of them.

The term “ a bend in the road” comes up often in the book. This seems to be a metaphor symbolizing either an unfortunate event, a tough conversation, or a general twist of events. It symbolizes how things can go wrong and not always as planned but it is not the end, it is just a twist in life. This metaphor adds depth to the story as it hides underlying meaning to the seemingly simple sentences.

This would be an exceptional novel for anyone who is skeptical about romance novels because it is much more than a modern romance, but a story about love mixed with the struggle between personal conflict and doing what is right for other people around you.

Reviewed by Olivia C ’17 for Literature of the Millennium