September 26, 2011

Our September Selection - The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Well, this is embarrassing! We read the Pulitzer Prize winner most years, but this year we decided to make a change. After Mari had read Jennifer Egan's A Visit To The Goon Squad and hated it, Ellen recommended we read Orange Prize winner The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht.

Two days before our meeting, it was discovered that only one person had actually even started the book. By the time of our meeting, two of us were about two-thirds of the way through the book, a couple of people had started it and a couple of others still had plans to read the book. The two of us that were well into the book did recommend that the others read it. Both of us were interested in the way Obreht had woven so many stories into one larger story and were particularly taken by the story of the deathless man.

Having since finished the book, I stick by my recommendation of a week ago. I do suggest that once started, readers make a point to finish the book relatively quickly as it's easy to be confused about where you are in time and place.

September 25, 2011

Our August Selection - O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

The Omaha Bookworms met in August to discuss Willa Cather's O Pioneers! and, let's be honest, talk about everything else going on in our lives. Since we're located in Nebraska, we've been talking for some time about reading a book by a Nebraska author. When it came time to choose our classic read for this year, we decided it was time to do just that.

"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years."
Cather's O Pioneers tells the story of Alexandra Bergson, whose family has immigrated to Nebraska from Sweden. After eleven years of hard work to reach the point where the family is debt free, John Bergson dies, leaving Alexandra in charge of the farm, her mother and her three younger brothers. John has chosen wisely; Alexandra has a keen mind when it comes to farming. By listening to others and being willing to go against the general consensus, Alexandra manages to tame the land and help the entire family to prosper.

As attuned as she is to the land, Alexandra is not nearly as attuned to her feelings or those around her. It will be years before she realizes that she is in love with long-time friend, Carl Linstrum and even longer before she becomes aware of the feelings her youngest brother, Emil, has developed for a married woman.
"Marie often wondered if there was anyone else who could look his thoughts to you as Emil could."
"It was like a sigh they had breathed together, almost sorrowful, as fi each were afraid of wakening something in the other."
The greatest love story of the book, however is Cather's love of and respect for the land.
"Winter has settled down over the Divide again, the season in which Nature recuperates, in which she sinks to sleep between the fruitfulness of autumn and the passion of spring."
O Pioneers! was a hit with the Bookworms. Cather's writing particularly impressed; all of those who had finished the book raved about Cather's use of language to describe the land and the people who settled it. For a book that we all agreed is an easy read, this book is full themes to discuss: alcoholism, religion, love, temptation, forgiveness and feminism.