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Perhaps it’s because this hit a more personal note than the previous companions/sequels, but I felt like this was an improvement over Gathering Blue and Messenger. I loved having a different view of the community that Jonas (and Claire) came from, especially all the little nods to things that major rereaders of The Giver would remember. When Claire felt apprehensive, I had an immediate flashback to the opening lines of The Giver, for example.
The structure is interesting – first we follow Claire as she becomes Gabe’s mother, then her life after she leaves the community, and then we switch to Gabe’s point of view as their stories come together. The three parts of the story feel distinct, and without having read the earlier companion books, the whole thing might feel disjointed and random. Actually, it does feel a little disjointed (especially the middle section, which I enjoyed anyway). I’m still not sure about the mechanics of the conclusion, although it did have a great emotional resonance. Overall, though, it was a satisfying conclusion that answered a lot of questions the earlier books left open. I’d definitely recommend it, especially to serious fans of The Giver and people who’ve read the companion books already (although you probably don’t need them fresh in your mind to enjoy this one).
Source: my public library
This may be my favorite Libba Bray book yet! I’ve had mixed reactions to her earlier titles. I enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty, but had some issues with the fantasy aspect of the story (and that continued through the rest of the series, culminating in my 1 star review of The Sweet Far Thing). Then I thought that Going Bovine had some great things going for it, but didn’t quite work. Same thing for Beauty Queens, which was hilarious and biting but otherwise flawed. Here we go, though – here’s a happy medium between her tendency to go over the top and throw it ALL in, and her fantastic sense of characters and dialogue and setting.
Okay, maybe she goes a little over the top – there are an awful lot of characters, and there’s an awful lot of setting things up for the rest of the series. The set up is all marvelous, but the loose ends may bug some readers more than others (I was particularly interested in what would become of Theta and Memphis, who factor into the resolution but don’t play as large a part as I expected based on all the set up). Bray also goes a little over the top with Evie’s slang, but the saving grace here is that she’s the only character who speaks in slang, and the story is spread out over so many characters.
The book has got humor, suspense, a fantastically realized setting, and a decent pace despite the length. There’s a little romance, a bit of action, some genuinely creepy scenes – basically a little bit of everything.
I was curious to see how creepy and suspenseful the story felt on audio – perhaps a bit less than it would have on the page, reading in a dim room at bedtime. The narration is well done – the women’s voices slightly better than the men’s, but it’s fun to hear all the slang and accents and so on. This is one I’ll easily recommend to high schoolers.
We are getting to crunch time. I woke up last night and couldn’t get back to sleep, thinking about all the things that need doing. And now instead of doing any of them (except laundry), I’m having a lazy Thursday morning (I work 12-9pm on Thursdays). This is quite possibly my last lazy Thursday morning EVER. For the next month or so, Thursday mornings will involve either a midwife appointment or a trip to pick up milk from the farm. At some point a baby will appear, and my Thursday mornings will still involve time spent in pajamas and puttering around the house, but I somehow doubt that the word “lazy” will apply to maternity leave.
This Thursday realization is as startling as that car seat sitting in the corner. Or the idea that my protruding midsection will lead to a real, live, human baby.
Speaking of real, live, human babies, I had my first weird pregnant encounter with a library patron yesterday. So far I’ve been impressed with how polite and kind people are – I get plenty of questions (when are you due, is it a boy or girl, what’s his name) but they’ve all felt well-intentioned. But yesterday, there was a woman browsing the kids’ DVDs who turned to me as I walked past and said something like “Is it a girl?” All I actually heard was “A girl?” Her attitude felt…weird…so all I said was, “no,” knowing what her next question would be. I REALLY wanted to say, “No, it’s an elephant.” Instead, I just said “yes” to “A boy?” and kept walking. After a minute, I wished I’d said, “What are you talking about? I’m not pregnant.” Even though I look like this now:
Oh well, maybe I’ll get another weird comment and be able to use that line (although it would have to be really weird/rude for me to actually have the nerve to say that).
In other news, Merry Christmas! I had a relaxing day, made a chocolate tart, ate well, and (along with the rest of my extended family) spent a lot of time thinking about next Christmas with a baby. The youngest person in my extended family (here on the west coast, at least) is eleven, so it’s about time we had a youngster for holidays again.
And now, before I get too lazy, I’ll dig up some book ramblings I’ve been meaning to post. I update Goodreads regularly, even when I’m quiet here. I don’t always write reviews these days, but I do keep track of what I’m reading.
We’re getting settled into our new place, and can I just say how good it is to live in a house again? It’s not just having more living space (although that is wonderful). It’s be able to be silly and loud and not have anyone overhear you. It’s having a little space around yourself – a view of sky and trees outside the windows instead of just the neighboring house and the complex’s parking lot. Our neighboring houses are both a little ways away, and are vacant at the moment. From our living room windows we can see the lit up Christmas tree in front of City Hall. Our old apartment had 4 windows. Our new kitchen has 3 windows all by itself, plus 8 more in the rest of the house. This feels like such a luxury!
One of these days we’ll get around to clearing out the last of the boxes and setting up things for the baby. Our need for dressers and bookshelves and whatnot feels never-ending. Have we really already been here a month? Will the baby really be here in two months (give or take a few weeks)?
In the meantime, there are piles (and piles) of Cybils nominees to read, and our household has developed an urgent need for chocolate chip cookies (I swear, my husband is experiencing more food cravings than I am). There are letters to write and chickens to roast and babies to fatten up (the other day I heard words I never expected to hear in my life – my midwife told me to eat more! I guess my instinct to add more butter to everything is on target).
Back with more bookish things soon, hopefully, maybe.