Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Becky's Pick: Final Round of the Dubuque Tournament of Books

It's the final round of the 2014 Dubuque Tournament of Books, and the judges are weighing in on the final match-up. Will it be And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini or Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell?

Judge: Becky
University of Dubuque 

I really wanted to like And The Mountains Echoed. I loved each little vignette of the story, but I struggled with the execution of how the book was constructed. I spent too much time each section trying to figure out how it fit with the previous stories. All the while I kept telling myself that I would figure it out eventually, but I just couldn’t stop picking it apart for details. By the time I reached the end I was emotionally drained both by the stories and the reading experience. I think this book suffered a bit of the too many; too much disorder. Too many characters, too many  vignettes, too many minor connections, too much time and space between opening and resolution, too much going on. I sobbed through A Thousand Splendid Suns but I just didn’t feel the same way about this book. I think emotionally I was spread too thin by the many plots lines early on, that by the end I couldn’t muster the right amount of depth for it to resonate.

Eleanor & Park hit more of those points and angles and emotions for me. The conversations and dialogues carry this book. The emotion in how they speak to each other (and what they don’t or can’t say) gives me depth to the story I don’t expect to get. I also like how Rainbow focuses on those little moments in a relationship. It’s not always the epic or grand gestures that are important. Sometimes it can just be holding hands, or letting someone in to your little world, or giving you batteries for a Walkman. Those are the points in time we remember. And Rainbow captures that and makes us nostalgic for those little moments even if (and especially when) the only seem to occur in a large context of hate, abuse, and sadness.

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