Mini-reviews: Remembering by Wendell Berry; Obedience by Will Lavender; and Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

rememberingTitle: Remembering
Author: Wendell Berry
Genre: Contemporary fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Counterpoint
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: It is dark.

Goodreads blurb: Andy Catlett, a farmer whose hand was lost in an accident only eight months prior, wanders the streets of San Francisco. As his perspective filters through his anger over his loss and the harsh city that surrounds him, Andy begins to remember: the people and places that wait 2,000 miles away in his Kentucky home, the comfort he knew as a farmer, and his symbiotic relationship to the soil. Andy laments the modern shift away from the love of the land, even as he begins to accept his own changed relationship to the world.

Okay, you all now how much I love Wendell Berry. While this wasn’t my absolute favorite of his works, a “not necessarily his best” book from Berry is miles above the best writing from many other authors. I loved reading of Andy’s emotional journey, how he came to accept the loss of his hand and how that changes his ability to farm, making him need more help from his community. This book also has a lot to say about the growth of big agri-business and the way it hurts family farms.

obedienceTitle: Obedience
Author: Will Lavender
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Run an internet search using the name Deanna Ward.

Goodreads blurb: When the students in Winchester University’s Logic and Reasoning 204 arrive for their first day of class, they are greeted not with a syllabus or texts, but with a startling assignment from Professor Williams: Find a hypothetical missing girl named Polly. If after being given a series of clues and details the class has not found her before the end of the term in six weeks, she will be murdered.

At first the students are as intrigued by the premise of their puzzle as they are wary of the strange and slightly creepy Professor Williams. But as they delve deeper into the mystery, they begin to wonder: Is the Polly story simply a logic exercise, designed to teach them rational thinking skills, or could it be something more sinister and dangerous?

The mystery soon takes over the lives of three students as they find disturbing connections between Polly and themselves. Characters that were supposedly fictitious begin to emerge in reality. Soon, the boundary between the classroom assignment and the real world becomes blurred—and the students wonder if it is their own lives they are being asked to save.

I absolutely loved the premise of this book and was excited to see how the puzzle would play out in the lives of Professor Williams’ students. Unfortunately, the plot begins to unravel about halfway through, becoming convoluted and difficult to follow. The twist at the end was a nice surprise, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the muddle that preceded it. I did like the idea and the writing, though, and would be willing to read another book by Lavender.

leftneglectedTitle: Left Neglected
Author: Lisa Genova
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: I think some small part of me knew I was living an unsustainable life.

Goodreads blurb: Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus. Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

I loved this book by Lisa Genova, and it made me want to read everything she’s written. I had never heard of Left Neglect before, and found the idea fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Of course, this book is about much more than Sarah’s injury, it is about how sometimes the worst thing that happens to us can also be a blessing. This is definitely a must-read, and I will be reading Still Alice very soon.

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8 Responses to Mini-reviews: Remembering by Wendell Berry; Obedience by Will Lavender; and Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I do know how much you love Berry so I was surprised to see you “only’ gave that book 4 stars.

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    We certainly have similar tastes in books. I love Wendell Berry’s work, but “Remembering” wasn’t my favorite, either.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Beth – I am running out of Port William books – what will I do when I’ve read them all? Read them again, of course, but there’s nothing like the first time.

  3. Patti Smith
    Twitter: PattiRSmith

    I must have Left Neglected right now! Sounds incredible!! 🙂

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