"She read's books as one would breathe air,
to fill up and live"
- Annie Dillard
Well the month of February is officially over so its time for us to review our February books. The book's this month where Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
*Spoiler Alert, I tried not to reveal anything that will spoil the book but just in case only read on after you have finished you wont want to ruin the surprise*
I read this book in under a weekend, I couldn't put it down. I loved that way that it was written in different characters perspectives and leading up to the murder leaving breadcrumb clues as it went onward. I love reading books that aren't just a straightforward narrative as I find it far more exciting jumping back and forward.
Big Little Lies is the story of 3 women Madeline, Celeste and Jane each with very different backgrounds and social standings thrust together as friends when their children begin kindergarten together at Pirawee Public School in a fictional Australia beach side area. The opening sets the scene of the morning after a murder at the public schools trivia night, it then jumps back 6 months prior and slowly tell's the story of the 3 women, the lies that they live and leaves you guessing who died and who was the murderer throughout the book.
Madeline is funny, smart, sophisticated and stylish so I felt I related well with her. She has 3 children, a boy and 2 girls, 1 of the girls Abigail is 14 years old and from her first marriage to ex Nathan. We don't hear too much about her son but her youngest daughter is starting kindergarten. Madeline and her current husband Ed have been through the whole kindergarten thing before so are a fixture in the school community and are already good friends with Celeste and her husband.
Celeste is a naturally beautiful woman who married Perry, he is handsome and a very successful businessman which provides a lavish life for them and means that Celeste could quit her job and become a stay at home mother to her twin boys that are also starting kindergarten. Celeste and Perry have the perfect life on the outside however this is all a lie as Perry is abusive.
Jane is the youngest of the 3 women at only 23 years old. She is a single mother to 4 year old Ziggy and has recently moved to the beach side area to give Ziggy a new start at a new home and kindergarten. At first Jane seems to be quite mysterious and the other kindergarten parents think she is promiscuous as they find out Ziggy was a one night stand and doesn't know his father. Much of the commotion that leads to the murder starts on the orientation day when it is believed that Ziggy physically bullied one of the other little girls.
There are multiple sub characters including Madeline's ex husband Nathan who moves back to the area with his new much younger wife Bonnie a yoga loving hippy and their beautiful blonde little girl who is set to start kindergarten with Madeline's youngest. Tom the young, handsome and possibly gay barista that owns the coffee shop down near the beach that all the mothers frequent. Renata the uppity business woman and the mother of the little girl that is believed to have been bullied by Ziggy. Saxon Banks the man that Jane believes to have fathered Ziggy.
As I said above the book starts at the day after the murder when the parents are being interviewed by the police and then jumps back to 6 months prior so you actually have no idea who was murdered that night or who was the murderer. Each of the 3 woman that the story follows not only delve deeply into what lead them to be at the scene of the murder but also tell a beautiful tale of lies, deceit, living life as a single mother versus staying in a perfect yet tortuous relationship because its better than nothing mentality.
This book certainly has a mixed range of themes that I think really I could really relate with on a personal level which made me feel personally invested in the characters stories.
Family - The book lists several different family structures from a happy blended family trying to map out the arrangement of joint custody to the shame and struggle of a abusive relationship and the toll it takes on the children to finally living as a single parent and struggling with not being able to provide what is considered normal family traditions.
Abuse - Clearly one of the big ticket topics in this book is the emotional toll domestic violence takes in a family and the associated feelings of guilty, failure and anguish that comes with it. It also outlines the struggle it takes to break away from abuse and fear of the future.
Bullying - The book discusses bullying in a way that makes you think, if one parent is inherently evil does that mean the child will be a bully by nature, do children become bullies when the see their parents domestic violence or can a child just be a bully. What is the nature of a bully, are the always rude or can a quiet, shy and kind child be the one harassing all the children.
Strength of Character - The 3 women that the book centralized around are 3 extremely different personalities which mean they have verifying strengths of character yet at the same time all seem to certain characteristics, does this mean that no matter how different we are as women, we are at the same time similar purely because the fact that we are women. There are several moments in the book where each woman needs to stand up and take charge of the situation at hand which is enjoyable and empowering to read.
As the book leads up to the murder the settings change and you learn new secrets and lies about the characters which changes the views on who the murder and the victim are. The book has been written so carefully that there really is now way for you to truly understand who is murdered, who was the murderer and why was the reasoning behind it until you are reading that section. I felt like the last few days leading up to the murder I had worked out who it would be but I certainly didn't guess anywhere close to who killed them and the reasoning behind it. It really was a mystery and that was why I chewed through this book, I couldn't put it down because every time I was about too a new secret or lie was revealed and I had to keep reading.
Who did you suspect was the murder victim?
Did it change throughout the book?
How did you feel when you found out who it was?
Were you surprised when the culprit was revealed? Did he/she get a fair sentence, in your opinion?
What do you think about Nathan moving into Madeleine’s community, particularly since they have children the same age and in the same school?
Abigail becomes passionate about doing her part to end child marriage, do you think she would have gone through with her “special project?”
Did you ever suspect Saxon Banks was Perry? When did you begin to suspect?
Do you think Perry was indeed genuinely sorry for his abuse of Celeste after the fact? Did he truly believe he’d never do it again?
Would you see the signs of a friends abuse? If not, would you be upset with yourself for not noticing, as Madeleine was?
Did you think Ziggy was the bully? Did you think he was being bullied? Did you suspect it was really Max?
Did you suspect Tom was not, in fact, gay? Were you glad for Jane?
Was it fair of Madeleine to ask Ed to lie about what he saw (or didn’t see) that night on the balcony? What would you have done in his position?
I apologize for waffling on with this book review but I really did love the book!
Onto book number 2 for February, I knew that Wild was coming out in the cinema's soon and I really wanted to see the movie but I am an avid read the book first kind of girl so I selected it for February's second book. I am also turning 26 in March and love empowering books so thought that this would be a perfect read for me.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed a memoir of herself, a women that at 26 years old recently divorced from her husband, struggling to over come her mothers sudden death to cancer 4 years earlier and dabbling with a heroin addiction. After a chance encounter with a hiking book Cheryl sets her sights on traversing the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) with out any form of training and alone in hopes of emerging the other side of the trail a new woman, the woman her mother knew she could be.
The book is told in Cheryl's point of view, she is a strong willed yet broken woman who has decided the best course of action to get her life back on track is to hike a trail she barely knows by pushing herself to both physical and mental limits. I feel like Cheryl aptly describes what it's like to be a self loathing woman and it sadly was easy for me to relate to her in certain situations which surprised me.
Cheryl's pack Monster whilst not an actual character in the book is described in great detail and discussed throughout the book. Cheryl over packs her backpack making it large, heavy and hard to maneuver by herself and aptly names it monster, throughout the book as Cheryl struggles with the trail and her own emotions her attitude to monster changes, from something that is holding her back and causing her to struggle to then a empowering statement that she is stronger than she believes both physically and mentally.
There are smaller sub characters that Cheryl meets on the trail and whom help her to lighten her pack, motivate her to keep going and advise her own tracking through the snow however we don't actually find out too much about these trekkers as their stories do not have any real impact on Cheryl's journey.
I feel that the underlying theme of this book is that you are only as great as you believe you are, we are all limited by limitations and labels we put on ourselves.
Self Worth - Cheryl spends most of the book struggling with self worth and her thoughts on her own future. As she sets out on the trail she is struggling with minimal self worth and using this tough journey to help build her self worth back up. Cheryl has such awful self worth that when she changes her name after her divorce she aptly chooses the last name Strayed as she doesn't believe there are any other names worth for her. Towards the end of the trek she has managed to shift how she see's herself and leaves a resounding idea that if you put your mind to something and believe in yourself you can do anything.
Death - Death is a pretty strong theme in this book and really the driving factor that sets Cheryl off on a journey of self loathing, fear, adultery, drug use and eventually walking the PCT. Cancer is a shocking illness and a horrible way to die, the way that Cheryl describes the death of her mother is terrifying and real. I know that I called my mother and spoke to her after reading the part where her mother died, she describes it in a very real and understandable way.
Family - Cheryl's idea of family seems to be slightly skewed caused by growing up with a abusive father, leaving with her mother, brother and sister then living with a single parent until her mother remarried and her own self worth that caused her to run off and yet married young. I believe that death of her mother and the implode of her family was so troubling because she had such a fairy tale idea of what her family should entail, thus driving her to cheat on her husband and the implode of her own marriage.
Adultery & Drug Use - Adultery and drug use tied together and are a smaller theme throughout the book but it is caused mostly by Cheryl's self loathing and she uses sex and heroin to help numb the pain she feels from the death of her mother. This raises the question can you be forgiven for seeking out sex and or drugs to numb the pain of a tragedy, are you really at fault or would she have sought out adultery and drug use even if her mother didn't die.
Well that is enough from this book review.
THE PCT:The PCT is described in beautiful detail through out the book, Cheryl has a way with words that makes you feel empowered and really describes the physical and mental aspects of hiking. I had never heard of the PCT before I read this book nor had I ever thought of spending my time trekking through the wilderness. After reading this book I was hooked, I am so interested by the thought of packing your whole life up into a backpack and walking around for 3 months that I would like to one day look at following a similar plan.
What did you think of Cheryl's reaction to her mothers death?Do you think that you would be as effected as she was?Do you think that her families imposion was to blame for her drug use and adultery?Did you relate to any of Cheryl's self loathing issues?Where you worried about Cheryl heading off by herself?What where your thoughts on Cheryl's one night stand? Should she have gone off with this unknown man in the middle of the night?If you had lost your boot in the middle of the hike what would you do?What was your favourite moment on her hike?Have you ever taken time away to help heal yourself?Would you ever pack up and go on a trek?Has this book inspired you to do something new?
Did you read these books?
Did you feel motivated by them?
Do you have any book suggestions?
Labels: 2015 Monthly Book Club, Big Little Lies, Book Club, Book Review, Books, Wild