Lowell Reading Club: Family Sagas and Coming of Age Edition

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Some novels follow a defined plotline. There is a mystery to solve, an adventure to take or a love to find.

Others take a more meandering literary journey. They may trace the outline of a family as it grows, fractures and comes together, or perhaps they are all about the path a child takes to becoming an adult. They are about nothing and everything at the same time.

Not everyone loves family sagas or coming of age tales, but here are a few we’ve read recently.

Amanda’s Picks

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
4 out of 5

I really enjoyed Malibu Rising and have read other books by this author that I have liked. The Riva family draws you in. Four siblings have been through a lot in their lives. They’ve always been there for each other. They have a famous singer father and are all famous or up and coming famous in their own rite. Each year they have an end of the summer party. Lots of famous people come. It’s *the* party to be invited to.

This year’s party seems to be set to go off like other years. Famous people, drinking, making out, sex, and even drugs. But are some cracks forming in the relationship of the four siblings? The first portion of the book goes between things happening with the siblings and the life of their parents in the early years. From reading the cover of the book I didn’t anticipate this but I liked reading about Mick and June in their early years.

While the plot was spread out between Mick and June’s back story and the four siblings I still felt like I got to know each of the characters. I could tell what drew the family together as well as what pulled it apart. The second part of the book is about what happens during the party.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
3 out of 5

Jude and Noah are twins. The book switches from their points of view. Noah’s point of view is from when they are 13-14 while Jude’s point of view is from when they are 16. Throughout their life they’ve been close but when they are 16 they hardly speak to each other. They’ve both experienced things – some the same and some unique to their own character – and have drifted apart. As they try and navigate getting older, they discover with and without the other, it isn’t easy growing up.

I’ll Give You the Sun is a YA book so perhaps the perspective of those in the age group it’s intended for would have a different point of view. I didn’t think the book was horrible but it wasn’t anything spectacular to me either. I felt like there was some forced drama, emotions, and connecting everything together in the ending.


Maryalene’s Pick

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
5 out of 5 

I’ve decided that some of my favorite novels are those that tell the stories of ordinary people and families, following them as they grow and change. This book is exactly that.

We follow along as Mimi grows up, faces life’s challenges and makes a future for herself. I don’t agree with all Mimi’s choices, but that didn’t make me like her as a character any less.

The entire story is told against the backdrop of Mimi’s home, Miller’s Valley, being under the threat of being flooded to make a reservoir. However, that is really secondary to the interpersonal dramas that are played out on the pages.

Miller’s Valley gets five stars from me, but if you are sensitive to the topic of infant loss, this might be one to skip.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
4 out of 5 

I read this book with zero preconceived notions about it. I’d never heard of it or the author before and didn’t realize it was a classic. I picked it up because I found it on a recommended reading list, and I’ve never met a reading list I didn’t like.

Anyway, I found One Hundred Years of Solitude to be highly entertaining although based on other reviews, I think there may have been a deeper meaning that went right over my head. It reminded me a lot of the show Arrested Development (or at least how I remember Arrested Development — it’s been a while). On the face it, the plot is approached in such an exaggerated way that it simply can’t be taken seriously.

You have the family patriarch who is tied to an almond tree for years, the colonel whose aides draw a ten foot circle around him wherever he walks, the girl who brings home 72 friends with 72 chamber pots and on and on. It’s all so over the top.

Be aware though: this is not a light read you can easily pick up and flip through during a free moment. I’m not sure if it’s the translation or just the author’s style but be prepared for two page long paragraphs and a disjointed story line. You (or at least I) really need to focus to follow along. It doesn’t help that four generations of people share about 5 names between them.

A good read but not something to pack for the beach.

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