Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I had been thinking about reading Gone Girl for some time and when my friend Lorraine two months ago recommended the book it was the push I needed.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was published in 2012 and has been a phenomenal hit with readers and critics alike.   I've heard Gone Girl described as a thriller, a crime novel, a profile of a marriage gone horribly wrong.   It is all these things including a psychological profile of two people that is really well done. It's a difficult novel to review though because I would have to give away a major plot twist that happens halfway through the book.

So here is what I can reveal.  Gone Girl is certainly a story about a marriage and when the novel begins it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary but when Nick comes home he finds Amy missing and the police discover Amy's blood at the scene and begin looking at Nick as the suspect.  The novel alternates chapter by chapter between Nick's present day reflections on their marriage and his fears about the investigation. The alternating chapters are from the diary Amy kept in which she also talks about their life together.

We learn through Nick and Amy's different narritives that their relationship after starting out so well was in trouble these past few years.  Nick blames Amy for their problems.  As he sees it she changed from the beautiful smart cool girl he married to a woman who was unhappy, and unsatisfied. Amy in her diary tells a different story. about being supportive of Nick and making sacrifices for him which he did not appreciate.  Amy also tells us in her diary that she is becoming afraid of Nick.

And that's all I can reveal without spoiling the experience for the reader because halfway through the novel you are hit for a loop.  Can I recommend Gone Girl?  Well on the plus side Gillian Flynn does a great job in creating two intriguing characters in Nick and Amy and this is particularly true with regard to Amy Dunne.  I've sometimes wondered where is the novel in which a female character truly breaks the mold.  Here she is to put it mildly.

But its also a very dark novel and I think that would be okay except for the ending.  I was hoping for a different outcome, an ending that would put things right and make up for some of the darkness.  But many readers felt the ending fit the story and with 43,000 reviews over at Amazon and most of them 4 and 5 stars that's something to consider as well.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

A few years ago I was watching an interview with an author by the name of Wes Moore.  He was an Army Combat Veteran who had served in Afghanistan,, a Rhodes Scholar, he had worked as an assistant to Condoleezza Rice.  He was a father and husband and he had written a memoir: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore.  I remember filing his book away in my mind and then a few months ago when the book appeared on Bookbub I said, now is my chance.

Wes was 32 when his book The Other Wes Moore was published in 2010 and while that's rather young to write a memoir Wes has an important story to tell.  His inspiration for writing the book came in 2000 when he was finishing his senior year at John's Hopkins University.  He became transfixed by a series of articles in the Baltimore Sun focusing on another young man also named Wes Moore who grew up in circumstances eerily similar to Wes.  Both Wes Moores were around the same age, both African American, both raised by single mothers.  Both grew up poor in nearby Baltimore neighborhoods where the school dropout rate was high and crime was rampant.  Yet here was Wes Moore in 2000 about to begin his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University reading about another young man with an identical name sentenced to life in prison for taking part in a robbery in which a police officer was killed. Wes was haunted by this story.  As he says in the book "The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine.  The tragedy is that my story could have been his".

Wes decided to visit the other Wes Moore in prison and the seeds of the book began to form in which Wes Moore tells both of their stories.  Each chapter focuses on pivital points in their childhood and teenage years when the two Wes Moores  were presented with choices and depending on which road they took (to stay in school, avoid gangs, avoid drugs, avoid fights) their options with regard to tbeir future began to either expand or contract.   But though there were similarities between both men, there were major differences too and it becomes clear as you read deeper into the book that the author had a much better support system in terms of family and mentors than did the Wes Moore who ended up in prison.

The author says he doesn't have a single answer as to what made the difference in both of their lives and taking personal responsibility plays a role as well. But the problem as the author points out is that young people are going to make mistakes and too often in neighborhoods where there is crme and drugs you are faced with adult decisions before you are ready.  Or as Wes who is in prison says to the author at one point "From everything you told me, both of us did some pretty wrong stuff when we were younger.  And both of us had second chances. But if the situation or the context where you make the decisions don't change, then second chances don't mean too much, huh?"

Currently the author Wes Moore runs a company called BridgeEdu.com which helps kids transition from their senior year at high school to freshman year of college so that students are motivated to complete college.  He's gone on to write other books and is involved in Veterans issues.  Wes Moore's book The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates ends with a list of resources in every state where kids and parents can go to get help.  The Other Wes Moore is an important book which is being assigned in schools so that teachers can discuss it with their students.  So a thumbs up from me.