Reviews of 1% of the books I read this year:
Apparently my kind of “chick lit” is just as dark and thriller-like as the stuff I usually read. And I admit to being suckered in by the comparison to Gone Girl on the front cover, a habit I need to break. Seriously, not every book with a disturbed female character is like Gone Girl! I liked this book okay, but Gillian Flynn should be offended within every inch of her life if critics think Ani FaNelli is anything like Amy Dunne.
I figured the “secret past” would be disturbing, but there’s still plenty of fluff to cushion it (was the author paid by the number of fashion brands she dropped in this book?). I never quite warmed up to TifAni FaNelli, even after her secret, traumatic past was exposed. Probably because her name is TifAni FaNelli – seeing that name on the page was like a dagger in my eye.
Did you know that the majority of violence committed by Christians throughout history was against other self-professed Christians? Neither did I until I read this book, though sadly I’m not surprised. One can only imagine the struggle of living in a time when the “true” doctrine depended on who was currently sitting on the throne. This book is dark but fascinating in a can’t-peel-my-eyes-away-from-this-train-wreck kind of way, though it gave me some perspective on the current culture wars in America. Everyone, it seems, it considered a heretic according to someone’s theology. The best you can do is learn as much as you can with as much of an open and humble heart as possible. Definitely made me grateful to live in a time when my right to freedom of religion is protected.
There’s been a trend of sad books this year, if you haven’t noticed: this is a memoir of a mother’s grief and struggle of faith after her twelve-year-old son died in a flood. I find solidarity in these kinds of books, especially when Donaldson recalled a conversation with a member of her church who encouraged her to “trust God’s plan” in the wake of Jack’s death. “Yeah? Well, what if I don’t like His plan?” is Anna’s deadpan response. And later she even says, “Fuck that plan.” Wow! You don’t see that kind of unbridled honesty in Christian books, and I loved it. Of course, that was the biggest complaint in most of the 1-star Amazon reviews, the author’s “unholy” language. Well, if your son was tragically killed, I think an f-bomb or two (or twenty) is perfectly acceptable. Anna’s struggle of faith in crisis is real, raw, and commendable.
Can’t say this book doesn’t have any unsavory material, either – the author is a descendant of Holocaust survivors, and plainly describes the horror many women endured in the camps, particularly by the “angel of death” Dr. Mengele. But those scenes are critical to the book because being a descendant of holocaust survivors has a huge impact on Alison’s Jewish identity. Yet she is not considered wholly Jewish in the eyes of the beit din because she is the product of an interfaith marriage. Our stories are different, but I could still identify with the struggle of wondering what it means to be “truly Jewish.” I found it ridiculous that Alison wanted to be a Jew so badly, but was continually denied by a technicality beyond her control. The most important thing I took away from this story is the reminder that while religious community is important, other people can’t define a spiritual identity for you. That is ultimately between you and God.
Other reviews of books read this year: