Book Review: The Forgotten, by David Baldacci

I will begin by saying Happy Mother’s Day to all the women out there working hard and raising their children. Or, I guess by this point it’s more appropriate to say I hope you’ve had a great Mother’s Day.
Read a piece I wrote a few years ago entitled Reflections on My Mother about the great work she did in bringing up and caring for her family. There were definitely a lot of us!
As he often does, David Baldacci explores the ties among family members and the lengths one will go in order to ensure those members are treated fairly. This novel continues to follow John Puller, an officer in the US military who likes to chase down leads and conduct somewhat off-the-books investigations in different parts of the country. While it is a sort of sequel to Zero Day, I would say that one need not have read the former to enjoy this book. It might make things clearer though, as Puller constantly mulls over “the events of West Virginia” the context of which you wouldn’t understand without having read that.
Having been given time to convalesce from those events, Puller suddenly receives a letter from his Aunt in Florida. He’d not connected with her in years, but saw her as a valuable part of his upbringing and one who gave sound advice and was always there to talk to.
She writes that certain happenings in the town of Paradise are concerning her, and wonders if perhaps he could look into things. By the time he arrives on the scene, she has apparently met her demise due to suspicious causes.
The story is told from a third-person perspective but mostly from Puller’s point of view. As in Zero Day, Puller interacts with his father John Puller SR., who is dealing with increasing Alzheimer’s disease that leads him to believe he is still conducting battles as a high-ranking army general. The relationship between father and son is moving, although I think too much mention is given to the fact that Puller the son is just going along with this painful game because he doesn’t know how to break the real news to Puller father. The reader pretty much gets the point after the first two references.
Also as in zero Day, a dynamic that seems to be leading toward romantic connection is developing between Puller and the main female cop in Paradise: Cheryl Landry. I am not entirely certain if that will happen though, due to the fact that I’m only a little less than halfway through the novel.
I feel safe in recommending this book, as long as you can deal with a fair amount of violence and loss of life. It’s a good, easy read that I’ve mixed in among the myriad other books I’m working my way through as well. If only I could read while on the job!
I think I may have read more Baldacci than I have almost everyone else. I like his ability to so widely vary his styles, though I imagine that makes him hard to categorize as family-friendly vs. more adult-oriented. I suppose this challenge can be mitigated by doing what one should anyway: vetting the book before allowing young ones to be exposed to it. In any event, I’ve not been let down by any of his works that I have chosen to check out.

Book Review: Run, by Ann Patchet

I read this one a little while ago, I think maybe at the end of February? I’d acquired it due to an iBooks sale, as it had been significantly marked down and was long. Suits me.
The other reason I thought it would be fun to check out this book is that it takes place mostly in my favorite city: Boston. I’ve visited no other major city as often, having gone five times. I neglected to document all of my journeys there, but you can check out the ones I did here in my old Live Journal.
One of the things about that city that I most enjoy is its character. Patchet does a great job really capturing that character throughout the story.
It starts with the death of the family matriarch, and the devastation her husband and kids feel as a result. However, we quickly realize that this “family” is not necessarily the most traditional of units. The husband, Doyle, is a former and much loved Boston mayor. He has an older white male child and two black adopted siblings.
Much of the novel centers on an 11-year-old girl who, as it turns out, is the sister of the two siblings. She and her mother thus take an extended interest in the mayor’s family, tracking them down as they meander about the city, onto the subway, while in parks, and most especially, as they attend political gatherings.
Doyle has as his main aim to get his kids to understand and become actively involved in politics, generally of the left-leaning variety. He takes them to speeches put on by Jesse Jackson and others, eventually causing all but one to lose interest in this pursuit entirely. He also frowns on one of the adopted siblings’ desire to become an ichthyologist, or studier of fish.
It is in departing one such political event in a fierce snow storm that the two family’s lives intersect when an accident occurs. We then learn that the 11-year-old is an avid runner, having practiced for many years and built her strength and speed up to near Olympic quality.
As I read, I found myself saying “Ah, I remember that place!”, or “I’ve eaten there”. There isn’t a whole lot of action therein per se, but somehow it was enough to grab me and keep my attention throughout.
Patchet seems to be exploring the role that politics, religion, and many of the other controversial subjects play in our lives. For example, we see an older individual who had been a reverend, believed to have healing powers that draw many sick and ailing people to his nursing home bedside.
I’ve also read State of Wonder by her, and always enjoy her vivid place descriptions. I believe I can recommend this book even over that one, as it has a little less of that distant, overly literature-ish feeling
I hope I can somehow go back and remember the other books I’ve read this year that got lost in the blog changeover. I suppose we shall see on that, though.

Book Review: The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Definitely still working out the kinks with this blog, and there are many! I feel like I have to know a lot more about how websites work to really take advantage of this thing, but I still hope to be fully operational soon. I just gave up and deleted all of my blogger entries, because the span really went haywire.

Anyway, what better way to open a in which I hope to focus on my travels than by reviewing a travel book of sorts. Well its more like historical fiction, but its based on one of the most prominent figures in aviation.

Actually as the title suggests, a lot of the story is told from his wife’s perspective. And that would be the wife of Charles Lindbergh, of course.

Benjamin makes clear from the beginning that the woman she creates to have married Mr. lindbergh is fictional. I suppose this is done to give her more liberty in dramatizing the narrative. The events that unfold however make it pretty clear that the story is very much reality based.

It opens with the eventual wife kind of playing second fiddle to her sister, with the family assuming that the sister would marry him because of her good looks and charm. This was in 1927, shortly after Lindbergh completed his Atlantic crossing to Paris.

For reasons only he really knows, Lindbergh asks Anne, the wife’s name in this novel, to fly up with him not once but twice. I enjoy the flight parts most, although I get a sense that the author chooses not to dive into a deep explanation of how planes work and what was being looked at when things had to be fixed. This is ok, but it makes those parts of the book fall a little flat in my opinion.

I haven’t finished it yet, but it seems to me that Benjamin wanted to demonstrate the perils us hero worship, and that at the end of the day we’re all still human. I really like this message.

The story is told entirely from Anne’s first person perspective, with strange flash forwards to 1974, when Lindbergh is apparently dying. The first time this happened, I’d thought I had accidentally skipped ahead a bunch of pages.

I’m not as into the romantic angle, but I can recommend this because it has plenty of suspense too. At the very least, it makes a fun way to start a workday.