MMD Reading Challenge | A Book Set Somewhere You've Never Been But Would Like to Visit

Siracusa | Delia Ephron

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The book I chose for the MMD Reading Challenge category of a Book Set Somewhere You've Never Been but Would Like to Visit is Siracusa, by Delia Ephron. It's set in various cities in Italy, but as one of the narrator's point out, the city of Siracusa is where everything officially unravels.

I love the style in which this story is told- Rashomon Syle, where the same story is told from the viewpoint of several characters. In this case, the story is told by Lizzie, Michael, Finn, and Taylor. Lizzie and Finn dated when they were young. They run into each other several years later, are married to other people, but somehow decide it's a good idea for them and their spouses to become travel companions. Lizzie is a free spirit and decides on Siracusa as their travel destination because it's off the beaten path and likely to annoy Finn's spoiled wife, Taylor. What Lizzie doesn't know is that her husband, Michael, has a mistress and said mistress is going to find her way to Italy as well. 

I'll admit- not a one of these characters was very likable. Lizzie is a journalist who lives in the shadow of her one hit wonder writer husband. She thinks she's happy, but is essentially existing and allowing herself to believe that everything is great in her marriage. Finn is a restaurant owner who drinks too much and spends too much time at work to get away from his [weird] wife, Taylor, and their [weirder] daughter, Snow. The relationship between Taylor and Snow is codependent and unhealthy, but we find out that Snow might not be as naive and fragile as she seems. Taylor was comically delusional and I kept waiting for Snow to snap. All of the characters are amazing at lying to themselves, and it was strangely entertaining to watch things unravel.

Three pages in, you already feel like you know so much. I love how the narrators talk straight to the reader and allude to the impending doom right away. It made for a quick and compelling read. This book reminded me of The Nest in a lot of ways, so if you liked that book you would probably like this one. At just over 300 pages, it was a quick read. It's not a story that I'm likely to come back to, but I did enjoy the trip while I was there.

Rating- 4/5

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MMD Reading for Growth | A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award Winner

In 2017, I've really committed myself to reading more books with substance. I LOVE a breezy memoir or page turning thriller, but I find that I am able to devour these guilt free if I also find ways to work substantive novels into the mix. I thought a good way to do this was to try and complete the Modern Mrs. Darcy "Reading for Growth" list.

The book I chose to complete the "Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award Winner" category was The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. (It's also the group pick for the Goodreads Ultimate Popsugar Reading Challenge Group for February). Now, I KNOW you all don't need me to review this book, because it was everywhere in 2016. It was a #1 NY Times Bestseller, National Book Award Winner, and Ms. Winfrey herself selected it as a book for her book club. At any rate, I did still want to share my reactions.

Review.

I am absolutely a fan of this book, and I feel the praise was well deserved. I recommend that you not read the synopsis. (Actually, that's the way that I prefer to go into most novels- knowing that there are elements I'll like about it and not knowing much else). I read the synopsis on Amazon after I finished the book and was surprised at how much of the plot was given away. The basics: this book a fictional account of a slave named Cora and her attempt to escape from a plantation using the underground railroad. The twist is that this underground railroad is literally a railroad that, with the help of allies, transports anyone that is able to find the secret entrances to the next stop on the line. A fellow slave, Caesar, recruits Cora to escape with him because her mother had escaped years before and he believes her to be good luck. The story unfolds and we follow the two throughout their journey to South Carolina and beyond. 

I wouldn't call this a thriller, but I couldn't put it down. I thought this one would be one of those books that was important to read but very tough to get through, but I was so wrong. This book is fiction first, then history. Because of this, it's accessible to all readers.  I loved that Colson Whitehead told this story with respect and in a way that doesn't let us forget the horrors that occurred in the segregated South.  Whitehead infuses Cora into the worst of situations, all of which are a take on true events (think the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment). The story was almost Forrest Gump like in this way. Cora is a very well fleshed out character who, despite experiencing horrors that not many of us could imagine, retains a sense of humor and hope. She has become one of my favorite characters and her story will stick with me. The writing is subtle and I will come back to this and read it again. I would have liked to more know about some of the secondary characters. This book reminded me about things that were somehow glossed over in my U.S. History education, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, strong writing, and/or memorable female protagonists. 

Quotable.

There were so many powerful sentences in this book, but a couple stood out to me.

Plantation justice was mean and constant, but the world was indiscriminate.

Slavery is a sin when whites were put to the yoke, but not the African. All men are created equal, unless we decide you are not a man. 

Whether in the fields or underground or in an attic room, America remained her warden.

Rating.

5/5