Two of the books I've read this month are definitely blog-worthy, because of their original storylines and beautiful writing. Surprisingly (to me at least), they are also bestsellers. Call me a lit snob (I'll gladly own up to it), but most bestsellers aren't that great. The craft of writing is often neglected for the plot (prime example: The Da Vinci Code): it's a constant battle between form and content, with content often winning the war. I love a good story as much as the next person, but when the writing sucks, that's a definite dealbreaker for me.
Anyway, I'm getting off my literary soapbox now and am moving on to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. This book begins with the murder of young Susie Salmon at the hands of her highly disturbed neighbor, George Harvey. Sebold manages to pull off this grisly event with graceful prose, and the rest of the story unfolds just as beautifully. Susie remains the narrator, watching over her family, her friends, her town (and yes, even her murderer) from her heaven. (I love how Sebold gives Susie her own heaven instead of imposing the "normal" Christian ideal upon the story.) The story spans many years, and the audience sees Susie's siblings grow up, the eventual death of George Harvey, and the impact Susie's murder has on her town.
So, it was a great story, and the writing wasn't too shabby either. All in all, I really enjoyed the book. But sadly, it really fell apart in the end. I think it could've ended much sooner. And Sebold had Susie do something (that I won't spoil for you) that just didn't make any damn sense. I was disappointed at how it all kind of unravelled and trailed off into this nonsensical interlude. However, I would still recommend this book - with the warning that the ending leaves much to be desired. It's a great meditation on love, time, family, and death.
Right after finishing The Lovely Bones, I started reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This book is enormously popular, and I was so glad to see that it actually lived up to the hype. In short, this is an amazing book. I can't think of a thing that I would change about it (and coming from me, that means a lot). The writing is just gorgeous, so incredibly poignant. The story is bittersweet, heartbreaking, and refreshingly unique.
But let me back up. The Time Traveler's Wife is a story about Henry, a man who travels through time, and his wife, Clare. The story jumps back and forth in time and through the eyes of both Henry and Clare. I almost immediately began to believe in the love that existed between Henry and Clare from the start of the book - it was just that real to me. It really delivered the message that love is timeless, that it can exist and remain strong even past death. By the end, I was a sobbing mess, but I was so touched by the story of Henry and Clare. You must read it. You won't be sorry.
And now I'm revisiting an old favorite: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb. I first read this book when I was 21 and depressed. I could relate to it so much that it was more than just a little heartbreaking - the story pretty much devastated me (in a good way). I'm not sure what to expect now that I'm rereading it as a much more emotionally stable person, but hopefully it will still hold up as a great read.