Reading Sara Review: Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

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Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (June 7, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 9/10

Girl at War Rating

Reading Sara Review: Well, it might have happened. I might have read my favorite book so far this year! Homegoing is incredible not just because of the stories that it tells, but the unique way that it tells the stories. I simply did not want to stop reading.

Homegoing follows two sisters, separated in childhood by their mother who did not share with them the existence of the other. Each chapter follows one character whose lineage can be traced back to these sisters. Both daughters are born in Ghana to different tribes, and one daughter marries a British slaver, while the other is sold into slavery and sent to the United States. As you can imagine, the stories of their children vary drastically at first, but as time goes on, they all deal with struggles and unforgiving circumstances.

The remarkable research that this book must have taken to follow the several decades (I think it spans 250 years!) of these people’s lives astounds me. The threads that connect everyone are beautifully sewn. No one’s lineage is without terrible circumstances. But each choice that someone makes follows them to the next generation, and then the next.

There were times I wished I could learn more about individuals, rather than just one chapter. As a reader, you are left wondering how some things ended up – only sometimes getting a real answer. The benefit of this is that as a reader, you never tire of a character. I would prefer to be left wondering than be bored. This book is short but powerful.

I cannot believe that this is her debut novel. I am confident that Yaa Gyasi will continue to amaze readers for decades to come. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. Even though it is fiction, it is rooted in our histories and is the type of book we should all be reading and learning about our negative history here in the United States.

A few memorable quotes:

“Forgiveness was an act done after the fact, a piece of the bad deed’s future. And if you point the people’s eye to the future, they might not see what is being done to hurt them in the present.”

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?, Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others. Those who were there in the olden days, they told stories to the children so that the children would know, so that the children could tell stories to their children. And so on, and so on.”

 

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Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer

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The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer

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Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books; 1 edition (August 16, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10

Rating for Secret Wisdom

Reading Sara Review: Amy Schumer’s book was the perfect transition from summer into fall. She is hilariously self-deprecating in a non-depressing way but also tackles more serious topics such as gun control and rape. Every time that I read a book that makes me laugh out loud I am reminded how important it is to laugh – laugh at books, laugh with friends and laugh at ourselves. I feel like I say that after every funny book that I review. Perhaps it is just a good reminder that I need to read more funny books!

My favorite parts of the book by far were the excerpts from her teenage journals, which she added her current-day commentary. I love that she exposes herself in this way and is not afraid of where she began. I am horrified by my teenage journals, but it is a good reminder that we all had to start somewhere! And perhaps even if my journals are filled with junk and boy-craziness, it formed my love of writing, which is far more long term than anything I wrote.

What I took away from the book was the Amy Schumer works hard. She did not get to this fame without some falls, and she receives her fair share of criticism. I am sure that as readers we should take what famous people say in their books lightly (because it isn’t like we know them personally), but I thought her section about becoming famous and the money that came with that was fascinating. She sounds generous, appreciative of what she has received and continues to be silly. I love that.

Schumer’s book is not for the faint of heart. Some parts are graphic, and she is not afraid of her sexuality. I probably would not have recommended this book to my grandmother, but if you have seen Schumer’s comedy, you should know what to expect from this book. And I think you’ll love it if you usually laugh at her show.

Wine Recommendation: In Amy’s book, she outlines plans for her funeral (honestly, it sounds like a good party). She makes it quite clear what wine should be served. So when you pick up this book, I recommend picking up a bottle of one of Amy’s favorites!

White Option: Rombauer Chardonnay, which you can purchase for about $36 a bottle, and she describes as “oaky as shit!” So, if you like your Chardonnays to taste like your popcorn, you’ll love this one.You can take a look at the wine here.

Red Option: Opus One Cabernet, which comes with a hefty price tag. So you may want to plan a nice dinner around this bottle and not just sip it while reading. You can view purchasing options here.

 

Reading Sara Review: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

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Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Doubleday; 1St Edition edition (August 2, 2016)

Reading Sara Rating: 7/20

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: I hope that I would have heard of this book without Oprah picking it as her Book Club choice, but it is hard to know. I won’t dwell on it too much – because I am just glad that I had a chance to read this book.

The Underground Railroad follows Cora, a slave working in a cotton field in Georgia. From the beginning of the novel, Whitehead paints a poignant picture of Cora’s life for the reader. Cora became an outcast when her mother ran away and left her behind. Her most prized possession is a tiny plot of land where she grows her vegetables, and she guards it fiercely.

As predicted by the title, a few things come to pass that lead Cora to decide to flee her life on the plantation and run away with Caesar, a new arrival. Whitehead creates a literal underground railroad in explicit detail – one can imagine the smell, the sights, and the sounds. What follows is an unexpected turn of events for Cora and Caesar as they find kindness from strangers while being chased by a man called Ridgeway, the notorious slave catcher.

This was the first book by Whitehead that I have read, but I would not hesitate to pick up others. I appreciated the style – beautiful sentences, but without any flowery details. It is still a difficult book to read. Cora’s struggle is utterly brutal. Even when people show her some kindness, it usually was with restrictions for fear of their own safety. This book is even more important because of its difficulty.

It’s not a light summery read, but it is perfect to dive into as fall approaches, and I am in the mood for more serious books. Whitehead creates an emotional instability that is rarely seen in books, but often in movies. There were so many times that I thought Cora was in the clear – only for something shocking to occur.There are surprises, both good and terrible, but again, this is an important book (not just because Oprah recommends it). Give it a try.

 

Reading Sara Review: Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel

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Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Del Rey; Stated first edition. edition (April 26, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 6/10 (this is not a bad number – this was a good book!)

my name is lucy barton rating

Reading Sara Review: Sometimes I am in the mood for a fun sci-fi book, and this one certainly hit the mark. It was a part of my Book of the Month Club subscription (more on that in another post), so is something that I likely would not have picked up otherwise.

Describing this book is difficult because it is part mystery, part sci-fi, part thriller – but above all, just interesting. The entire book is written in an interview format, with an unknown interviewer making recordings of his conversations with people involved in finding mysterious artifacts around the world.

It all begins with Rose, who falls into a deep hole while riding her bike. When she is pulled out, it is revealed that she was sitting on a giant metal hand with intricate carvings that glow. Many years later, Rose is a physicist who leads a secret team charged with discovering what the hand means and if there are others like it.

This is an easy book to get sucked into. Because of the interview format, the chapters fly by. Some of the drama is taken away from the reader because you are reading things after they occur as people re-tell them during the interview. That did not change the intrigue for me. I still found myself eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next.

For those who are not completely on board with science fiction reading, this is a good place to start. It isn’t about the alien-robot, it is really about the people and the choices that everyone makes. The sci-fi portion felt a little more teaser-esque to me – because there is a great mystery that surrounds the entire book. What are these body parts and what will they do? Who put them there? Who has a right to them? And furthermore, who is this interviewer and why is he so invested in the outcome?

Waking Gods is the second book, which will come out in April of 2017, and I’ll add it to my list to dive deeper into this unknown world, where hopefully we will start getting some answers!