Sunday, June 26, 2016

We're All In This Together

I got a copy of Amy Jones' We're All In This Together from the library recently.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it right now, so I was thinking of sending it back.  But the library has chosen it to be their first One Book: One Community book.  Which means the hold list for the title has been getting bigger by the day.  So in the end I decided to keep it and read it, with the expectation that I may have to pay a bit of late fees because it was bigger than I thought it was and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to finish it before it was due.  But it looks like I will not be paying any late fees because I actually just finished it!  (Apparently I had more reading time than I thought I would).

We're All In This Together is about the Parker family, who are all brought back together when Kate, the matriarch of the family, makes the news by going over Kakabeka Falls in a barrel and surviving somehow but falling into a coma.  Her plunge down the falls was filmed and goes viral online.  Her daughter Finn finds out from the news and comes back to town.  Finn's twin sister, Nicki, doesn't want her back since Finn left and pretty much cut contact with everyone.  Finn and Nicki's adopted brother Shawn is trying to hold the family together while everyone is fighting.  His wife, Katriina, has been slowly falling apart and no one has noticed.  Their dad, Walter, is constantly out on the lake, refusing to deal with things.  And Nicki's eldest daughter, London, is crushing on a marine biologist who has dedicated his life to save sharks; he happens to be in Duluth right now, if someone would just drive London there to meet him?

We're All In This Together is written in multiple viewpoints, which was interesting.  You'd get to see the same thing through different perspectives, showing how people can think drastically different things about the same events.  This was most evident between twin sisters Finn and Nicki, who were identical in looks but totally different people inside.  I tended to really like the chapters written from Shawn, Katriina, and Walter's perspectives, although Kate's chapters were really interesting too thanks to her filling in the blanks to her past that Walter did not know.  There were some weird chapters though that were from secondary characters (Tanya, the girlfriend of Finn's ex-boyfriend Dallas, who happened to father one of Nicki's children; and Anastasia, a mean girl from London's school) who you would never see again.  These chapters filled in a couple of the blanks in the story but in a rather unnecessary way; I felt like the book would have been stronger without them.

I also had some setting issues that reminded me of reading Anna Dressed in Blood, though not as drastically.  Just stupid things (like people driving across town constantly, which most people who live in Thunder Bay DO NOT DO.  Or things like Zellers wasn't always Zellers, it was K-Mart for years before.  Thunder Bay Mall doesn't really have a food court, and it definitely does NOT have a Tim Hortons!)  For some reason, this sort of thing can really knock me out of a story (when the story is set somewhere that I know well and they get the details wrong).  It wasn't too bad (Jones does live here, whereas Kendare Blake does not), but it did make me cringe a few times.

Oh, and I have to mention the movie thing.  Every couple of chapters, the viewpoint character would think "If this were a movie...then this would happen.  But it's not, so it didn't."  I thought it was really weird the first time.  But by about the third time, it was annoying and made me want to skip over it.  If it had been a character quirk it would have been fine.  But almost every character in the book had a "If this were a movie" moment, which made it seem stupid.

Other than those gripes, I was really into the story.  The book is a whopping 417 pages (when I first got it I was dismayed at its size, which is one of the reasons I almost sent it back; I am quite capable of reading such a thing, but I didn't think I would have the time this week); I finished it in two nights.  I loved how the Parker family was a very real sort of family.  Sure they were dysfunctional in their way.  But what family isn't?  I loved most of the characters (I will admit I didn't really like Finn and Nicki, but I'm pretty sure Nicki is meant to be mostly unlikable until the end.  Finn just seemed annoying through most of the book).  And the story, while a bit crazy at times (particularly the end of it), will keep you reading.  I loved the juxtaposition of history in Kate's chapters, how she was able to remember her past so vividly (and share her amazing love story with Lydia with us) before she forgot it in the end.  We're All In This Together's soul is both the triumph of the family and the triumph of the human heart even when memory fades.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

And Then There Were None

My mom discovered Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None on the Wikipedia List of Best Selling Books some time ago.  The book has an estimated $100 million in sales since it was published in 1939.  She found it at a local used book store (the 50th printing), read it, and loved it.  So then she passed the book on to me.  Lately I've been reading magazines and failing to finish some nonfiction; I was in need of a good story.  She assured me it was a good story, so I started it a few days ago.  And wow, she was right!

And Then There Were None tells the story of ten strangers who are invited to an island under rather mysterious circumstances.  There's Mr. Justice Wargrave, the judge who thinks he's visiting an old friend; Vera Claythorne, an ex-governess who believes she's been hired as a secretary for the summer; Captain Philip Lombard, who was hired to help a wealthy client get out of a sticky situation; Emily Brent, who was invited for a vacation; General Macarthur, who believed he was visiting some old friends; Dr. Armstrong, who believed he was coming to see to the wealthy wife's health; Anthony Marston, who thought he was coming to a party; Mr. Blore, a private investigator who believes he is here as security; and Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, the hired help.  After everyone arrives on the island, they are informed that their host and hostess are delayed; that's when everyone discovers things are a bit off (some people were invited by someone under the name of Owens, but others were not; are they in the right place then?)  And then they start dying.  The first death can be mistaken for a suicide.  By the third one, this is no longer a plausible explanation.  After a thorough search of the island, the guests come to realize two things: there is no one else on the island with them, which means that one of them is the murderer!  And the murderer is killing everyone according to the "Ten Little Indians" poem which is framed in each of their rooms.  No one can trust anyone else.  How will the innocent guests figure out who the culprit is before they're all gone?

This masterfully put-together story is actually the first book of Christie's that I've ever read.  I can easily see why this book is the world's best selling mystery novel.  And if her other mysteries are of a similar caliber, it's no wonder her work is still beloved today.  I highly recommend And Then There Were None; while a little bit dated, it will keep you guessing right to the end as to how the whole plot was pulled off!