One came home.

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Author: Amy Timberlake.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Narrative style: First person narrative by Georgie Burkhardt.

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake is primarily about two sisters. One(Agatha) gone missing only to be returned as a battered, crippled, lifeless body and the other(Georgie), the crusader, who refuses to accept the body as her sister’s and thus sets out on a quest to find and bring her back. The novel is set in 1871 in Wisconsin when the now extinct wild pigeons were in abundance. Why I suddenly talk of pigeons is because they are part of the story as much as the other characters. The novel opens with Agatha’s funeral and Georgie’s reflections and recollection of some of the times before Agatha ran off. We come across Agatha as  strong-willed, ambitious and intelligent and industrious.

“… It was no surprise that Agatha wanted to study the natural sciences, but I’d never thought that meant more than reading books and rambling through the  woods  to observe and sketch. I’d never considered that she’d want to learn from a teacher, or to formalize it with an official piece of paper. It was a lot of efforts and for what? I t would lead to work. Grandfather Bolte was right.

  That she has enough money to go to university for one year was another thing altogether. Agatha was good at making money. She gave tours to ladies wanting to explore the river and its caves, and she sold seed and seedling in our store.

 But as the novel progresses she becomes a mere antecedent for revelation of Georgie’s tamed strengths.

The cougar and I eyed one another for a long moment. I gave that animal my meanest stare.

And then – I swear-  that cat lay down. Right there in the middle of the road, it lay down like it may take a nap. Like a big old barn tomcat. A moment later it got up and walked off the road.

That made me mad. After all that – after it crouched down and made my heart rattle against the ribs-the cougar walks? I found a spoon and hurled it at that cat. I said things loudly that  I don’t care to repeat.

Mind you the above encounter is between a cougar and a 13-year-old.

Georgie takes off  on an adventurous trip to seek her sister equipped with a Mule Long ears, a book The prairie Traveler: Handbook for Overland Expedition, a springfield, and five Bechtler gold coins. The journey itself is quite a sight, sight because the author has made use of some magnificent imagery. Georgie’s  encounter with cougar and scenes with wild pigeons are a few of them. Mysteries unravel with her progressing journey. It doesn’t matter if the mystery isn’t stimulating enough, the writing style will surely keep you hooked.

Even though the novel belongs to Georgie, hands down, the other characters are strong enough so you don’t lose their presence. The authoritative Grandfather Bolte, a heavy-hearted mother, a peppery Billy McCabe, a mellow Mr Benjamin Olmstead, an iron-jawed Mrs Garrow and many such.

Writing any further might increase my chances of divulging too much information therefore I would just wind up the review with the obvious.

What turned me on: The novel’s successful weaving together  adventure and mystery without losing the basic plot.

What turned me off: Yes there were a few things that put me off, but they are insignificant and I can let them be.

VERDICT: If you want a Young Adult fiction with an unique set up and with strong  independent women characters then this is the book to read.

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The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand

I have killed myself thirty-nine times. Usually when I say this-and I rarely do-people misunderstand me. They think I mean that I have tried thirty-nine times, that I have tried and failed. Do not misunderstand me-I have succeeded thirty-nine times;it is not me who has failed. It is something else.

Adam is a bored to death(no puns intended) teenager who kills himself 39 times. Mostly by jumping off the bridge and then there are other means like  jumping off from other high places, drowning, asphyxiation, poison, hanging, fire, gun,chain saw and train. Every time He kills himself, he comes out of it unscathed. And then he tries again and again and then again.The novel is  a first person narrative as Adam takes us on a journey covering his oh so boring life and equally boring deaths. The dull summers, colorless Birthdays, the tiresome town, the unexceptional family, some handy but equally irksome  friends, a dead cow who takes her own time to erode, a love interest Jodi, an overly patient therapist( so patient that sometimes you wonder who is more dead,  Adam or the therapist?) . Throw in a couple of little less boring characters and what do we have here? A novel which gives you 39 deaths!

We( the novel and me) were having a good time until it turned into this completely self obsessed, repetitive, dull, no good, roomie. It isn’t a badly written novel in fact it is very well written and wisely put together one. I guess I had far too many expectations. When you pick up a novel with a title as mysterious as this one you naturally want it to revolve around the 39 deaths . The motives behind them, the enigma surrounding his death and eventually coming out alive, the  deeper meaning and the effects of it all on Adam. But the novel stays away from all the much-needed elaboration. As a matter of fact in Adam the Author conveniently creates an individual which could justify such obscurity.

The problem with Adam as a character is that he fails to win any sympathy. He has no motive for killing himself except for his very existence that wears him,  but then what else do you expect from somebody who spends his days drinking with friends? Friends he wouldn’t want to be stranded in a desert island with. Watching a cow decay and turn into a corpse is another crucial   ambition  of theirs. He even manages to jeopardize his potential love life by having sex with someviolentbody( why? why?). Not only his routine but even his theories and reasoning behind his act of committing suicide become repetitive and irritating after a point. I could have found a little solace had there been a reason given for his miraculous come back  or at least his experience during the time he is dead, but no that was not to be! Time and again he talks about how the best part of all this is the time before he comes back to life but make little efforts to describe that feeling.

His killing himself and coming out of it unscathed  too become boring and monotonous so much so that nobody cares.  Do you see an irony here? He kills himself to escape boredom and ends up boring people with his routine. That routine in itself becomes boring, monotonous, uninteresting and bothersome. Why doesn’t he find the process of killing himself boring just as he finds living uninteresting, is beyond my understanding.

The rest of the town grew tired of me a long time ago. they don’t even bother to take me to the hospital anymore. 

It’s a bother, i know; the whole town has the eye rolling exasperation, the- we’ve- seen- it -all- before resignation…

It left me waiting for the moment which would justify my decision to pick up this book but it never materialized  . Why does he kill himself 39 times?( I understand He is bored but I was rooting for a deeper meaning). How does he come out unscathed from it all? I was hoping for a reasonable  enlightenment or a higher understanding on the subject but it mostly fails in that area.We as readers stay where we were at the beginning of the novel . Yes Adam as a character does change but the change in itself is abrupt and indigestible.

what turned me on : The concept of the novel.

what put me off : The concept itself falls flat due to the absence of clarity.

verdict: Even though it didn’t come up to my expectation, I would still consider it a decent read.

The sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

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I REMEMBER, IN no particular order:
– a shiny inner wrist;

– steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;

– gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;

– a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torch beams;

– another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;

– bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.

This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.

 With these opening lines The sense of an ending by Julian Barnes  had got my interest right away. This novella starts with the narrator recounting some random memories of his life. The moment you start reading the novel you get a feeling that you cannot completely rely on the narrator’s memory.

I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty  If I cant be sure of the actual events any more, I can atleast be true to the the impressions those fact left. That’s the best I can manage.”

 You know by now what the narrator is putting forward is reminisces from his life, long passed. He travels back in time when he was in school and how they, a  group of close knit three friends embrace a fourth one thus introducing us to Adrian Finn. They were ‘book-hungry, sex hungry, meritocratic, anarchist’. It is during this time that one of there classmate commits suicide and Adrian proposes the theory of Eros and Thanatos as rumors had it that Robson hanged himself as he got his girlfriend pregnant. His suicide is criticized for being ‘unphilosphical, self indulgent and inartistic’.

Tony finds his girlfriend in a girl named Veronica, who he tries hard to impress by hiding his soundtracks that might be objectionable to her as he puts it “straining to describe a character I hope to grow into’, turning his watch so that the time is no longer on the inside thus foreboding  something of a ritual that the four friends followed.

It is during this period that Veronica takes him to meet her family, which apart from ‘the mother’ seemed to be critical of him or so the memory of narrator’s believe. He likes her mother though complimenting her for the delicious dinner  and wishing he’d talked to her more. Soon after he arranges his 3 friends Alex, Colin and Adrian to meet Veronica. After the meeting they break up and Veronica’s attempt to make up with sex doesn’t help either. Later we know that Adrian asks for tony’s permission in order to go out with Veronica. After an initial jolly its-fine-by-me postcard he writes them a elaborate letter which he conveniently summarizes in two sentences. The first chapter ends with Adrian’s suicide, Tony’s marriage to Margaret and later his divorce. By the ending of the first chapter Tony is retired and living a peaceful life something he claimed he always wanted.

A white envelope arrives in his  otherwise ordinary and peaceful life. A ‘legacy’ of 500 dollars from Veronica’s mother and Adrian’s diary. A diary still in possession of Veronica. From that moment on we see Tony questioning his own life, quizzing the authenticity of his own memories on which he had so confidently lived his life.

Tony as a character is an ordinary man who errs but what pisses me is his inability to present facts the way they are. He conveniently does away with memories which might show him in a poor light. He tends to do that in real life too not just in his brain. The fact that he hides from his wife that part about Veronica. Well he forgets the time when Veronica dances or any good time spent with Veronica.,  as if in the first chapter he is on to prove that his relationship with her wasn’t satisfactory. Even though he is the one who refuses to give Veronica any assurance about their future together and behaves like a jerk in the conversation that happened between them after the sex episode.

His confessions come effortlessly in the second chapter

 The odder part was that it was easy to give this version of my history because that what I’d been telling myself anyway. I viewed my time with veronica as a failure  her contempt, my humiliation-and expunged it from my record.

What he remembers though after all these years is Veronica asking her brother Jack,

‘’he will do, wont he?” and sulks over it all his life. What seemed like a sibling banter is taken for a judgment and solicitation by his egoist self. Well wasn’t he doing the same when his friend’s opinion of Veronica becomes imperative? It is only towards the end of the book he realizes that he had in fact been attracted to Veronica after being pestering the reader about how he was only attracted to Anne and Margeret. That must have been his Eureka moment. I can only Thank God for it.

Another flawed character Adrian, makes sure his suicide  is taken as an act of heroism as he writes down a letter with an attached QED explaining the philosophical reason behind his death. It’s however an attempt on his part to not let  his suicide too, like Robson’s, be taken as an ordinary case of Eros and Thanatos .  He chooses to glorify his own motive of suicide, but the truth still remains.  His suicide is ‘unphilosophical, self indulgent and inartistic’. Or as Alex puts “…a fucking terrible waste.”

 What turned me on:

The Narrative technique. Tony’s art of choosing and eliminating facts( it is after all a part of his moral fiber and crucial for the progress of the novel). Doing away with certain characters and incidences as they are “not part of the story”.

In the second chapter even after there are not many changes in the character of Tony the author successfully make-believe us  that he is old. Still  indecisive, insensitive, peaceable and judgmental  but old.

The mystery in the novel isn’t grand but the way the  novel puts it forward is commendable.

What put me off:

 “ You just don’t get it…You never did and you never will.”

Yes sweetie he never did and never will, so tell him already! Will you? And save us from his as- slow- as- a- dead- snail inquest.

 Verdict

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