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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel
Rachel Joyce
Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans' Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter
Ellen J. Prager
The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling Maybe it has to do with growing up on JK Rowling books, but I thought this book was fantastic and genuine. It's a masterpiece.

I started reading this book aloud to my boyfriend a couple days after it was released, and we've just finished it almost 4 weeks later. I think this is the type of book that's better that way: I usually complete books in a matter of days, but I think I might have appreciated some aspects less if I'd done that. I liked it slowly released--gives it time to marinate. We both loved it, although I think Peter was won over to it earlier. When we were about halfway done, Peter was saying that he still couldn't figure out what it was "about," but that he was sad we were halfway done--"I can feel the end-of-book depression coming on already," he said as we drove through downtown.

So here is a great novel about the human condition. Like real life, it can be pretty uncomfortable at times; it's full of the tragedy of daily life, it can be hard to see the point, but there is also a lot of humor and hope. Some people have criticized it for its plot, and I agree--if you only like fast-paced, plot-driven novels, it's probably not for you; if your purpose in reading is to escape from life and take a vacation (which is, at times, my goal when I pick up a book), again you will probably not find it enjoyable. But if you find human beings endlessly fascinating and are interested in life, and want to read a beautiful book where the characters are the story, you will probably find this book highly satisfying. I would call the genre "realistic fiction"--or even "nonfiction fiction," since I found this book to be very honest, objective, and true. Peter had an insightful comment about the title--he said that he thought it referred to the people's personalities: everyone has some hole, something broken or ugly inside them; nobody's perfect. (When he said "nobody's perfect," I cleared my throat and raised my eyebrows, and he added, "in the book" ;D)

Like many reviewers have said, it does start slow. It didn't captivate either me or Peter at first. I had a bit of a sinking feeling after reading the first 40 pages or so, because after being so excited to read this book, I was worried that it was a let down. How glad I am that I continued to read it! One great thing about reading it aloud to Peter was that there was so much to talk about. I'd pause in reading it to make some offhand comment, and we'd get sidetracked into an hour-long discussion about parenting or privilege or rape or personality disorders. Any book that gives you that much to talk about and think about is well worth the effort you put in.

As for her writing style--no, she doesn't use flashy phrases that make your jaw drop, but I actually prefer her route. She is very descriptive--I could see everything so very clearly in my mind's eye--and the story and emotions and humanity just sneak up on you while you're not expecting it. Her style is my favorite. She is awesome.

There's so much to say about this book; I suppose I have a lot of strong opinions about it. But I'll leave it there for now :)