Author Archives: clarkjones1

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

In the first half of the novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer feeds the reader a wide variety of emotions as a child deals with internal grief and pain. The book centers on Oskar, a nine-year-old who fights to find closure after his dad was killed during 9/11

Using a mix of unique first-person perspectives, the author is able to convey the suffering of three different people. The main narrator as well as character, Oskar Schell, leads the novel with the innocence of a child dealing with grief. Oskar’s lack of understanding and naivety throws other characters for a loop as they are confronted with their pain and loss. Oskar scours San Francisco in search of a Mr./Mrs. Black who may inform him of the purpose of a secret key Oskar had found in his deceased father’s drawer. His upfront conversations with other characters reveal grief hidden in the past uprooted by his blatant inquires. Additionally, diaries and letters were written by Oskar’s two grandparents that demonstrate the challenge of moving on from loss and starting anew. Throughout the novel, dated memos and diary entries inform the reader of past loss as they immigrate to America after the bombing of Dresden, Germany in World War 2. Emotional logs tell the tale of orphans immigrating to New York as they remorse memories of their fallen family members. Their perspectives strengthen the atmosphere as they look back at their life choices and explain their regret to their grandchild. Along with Oskar’s innocence and search for closure, their testimonies contribute to the depressing mood of the novel.

 

However, while the viewpoints make for a grief-stricken attitude, Oskar’s imagination leaves the reader in awe. While they may have an underlying remorseful tone, Oskar’s made up inventions summarize his brilliance and creativity. Some of his productions have included musical teakettles that mimic a loved one’s voice, synchronized heartbeat bracelets that match with a soulmate, and a birdseed shirt that would allow people to float to the Earth via hungry birds. All of these inventions contribute to his overall identity as he relies on his imagination more. Overall, I look forward to reading the second half and continuing the narrative of the Schells.

 

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The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Doyle

I originally chose another novel for this semester’s independent reading. However, as the pages turned into chapters, I found that I was not very invested in the story. One day, I was reading the novel in my room when I glanced over at a stack of hand-me-down books from my sister. Laying on top of the stack was The Tortilla Curtain. Curious, I grabbed the book and began to read the first few pages. I continued reading until I realized that I had already read further in this new novel than the previous book that was scheduled for this blog. Quickly, I transferred my assignment and began focusing on The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle. The novel is set in modern-day Southern California. The story focuses on four main characters and tells the tale of immigration, racism, and the California wildlife.

Immediately, the reader is thrust into action as the novel begins with a car accident. The start of the novel entices the reader and lures them to read more. While many books slowly paint their beginnings with backstory and description, it was refreshing to see Boyle grabbing the reader and setting the mood for the book. The scene felt intense and the author quickly revealed an interesting conflict in the next few pages. However, after the first two chapters, the pace of the book declined as the backstory and description that Boyle initially evaded took over. While I was disappointed at the slower tempo, the placement of the action at the beginning had already hooked me and I continued to read; interested.

A recurring theme quickly emerged. The novel began to tackle the debate of immigration as the reader found themselves following two illegal immigrants, Cándido and Ámerica. The story follows the couple as they desperately cling to life; fighting their way towards the American Dream. The author evokes sympathy for the characters and expresses a seemly positive spin on illegal immigrants. However, Doyle also portrays many undocumented immigrants as thugs, rapists, and troublemakers. The author’s use of this contrast between the immigrants suggests that the situation around illegal immigration is not black and white, but rather many shades of gray.

In the first half of the novel, the author invests the reader in the characters, setting, and plot. T.C. Doyle has created a unique story that I enjoy and can not wait to finish.

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

1/2

The novel And Then There Were None has held many titles. Over the years, the names have changed to fit modern and more appropriate times. However, all of the name changes have not affected the intriguing plot of the novel. Agatha Christie, the “queen of mystery,” creates a suspenseful story that draws the reader in. The book centers around ten people trapped on an island slowly being hunted down to the lores of a nursery rhyme. They come to the realization that one of them is the murderer and they must find out who before it is too late.

While reading this novel, I’ve found that one of the unique characteristics that is a foundation to the book is the setting. While in the beginning the characters are in trains and automobiles, the plot largely takes place on Soldier island, an isolated “dream” island mansion off the Devon coast. This isolated setting proves further mysterious given the time the story takes place. The late thirties to early forties time period prevents the characters from contacting the mainland via modern communication. The confined location gives an eerie feeling filled with danger and suspense.

However, the ominous setting is only matched to the superb plot. Even though I am only halfway through the book, Agatha Christie has filled the first half to the brim with plot twists. Once the reader begins to believe one aspect of the book, the story swivels in a different direction. For example, after three characters, Blore, Lombard, and Armstrong, figure out there is a “homicidal lunatic” on the loose, they begin to search the island for an eleventh person. After searching the nooks and crannies of the mansion, they learn that another body has been found and that the murderer is one of them, creating conflict and aggression between characters. Every time that the reader feels one step closer to solving the mystery, another element appears and the reader is thrown off direction. Christie crafts the novel to be a thrilling and unpredictable plot.

Although the plot and settings may be impressive, I did find the begining to be slow and monotonous. The author began the book switching perspectives between all ten characters. I quickly forgot names and constantly had to reread parts of the chapter to find out who is who. While the author may have been trying to distinguish characters, I felt like the characters were melding together. Christie talks about the characters’ reasons to come to the island and gives a brief background about the characters’ pasts. This might be important to learn more about the characters, but their pasts are once again brought up later in a more interesting and intriguing plot twist.

In summary, the first half of And Then There Were None was astonishing. I was drawn in by the suspenseful story and setting. While the introduction was slow, I quickly moved past that trying to unravel the mystery of the queen of mystery. I look forward to finishing the book and figuring out the answer to one of the most unique mysteries of Agatha Christie.

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 9/10

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini centers around the life of the narrator, Amir.  The story begins with Amir’s recollection of his childhood, where he lived in Afghanistan with his father and their servants, Ali and his son Hassan. Although a servant, Hassan also doubled as one of Amir’s closest friends. At one point, Amir witnesses Hassan getting raped and runs away, immediately plaguing him with guilt. This guilt pushes Amir to isolate himself from Hassan and eventually sabotage his friend. Years later, Amir and his dad are forced to relocate to America due to the harsh rule of the Soviet occupation. The new country relieves Amir of his past guilt and he starts a new life in America. The flashback ends and Amir travels to Pakistan to visit his father’s old friend. Amir is told to revisit his childhood town and save Hassan’s son, Sohrab, from the Taliban. Amir must not only learn how to deal with the physical threat of the Taliban in order to save Sohrab, but also how to deal with his guilt and unforgivable past.

 

Setting the book in Afghanistan gives the novel a unique feel to it as it creates an interesting plotline. The historic events in Afghanistan allows the characters to be forced to adapt to their situation given the drastic changes in the late 20th century. Another interesting detail is the author use of using different characters to symbolize different meanings to Amir. In the book, Hassan represents innocence as he always obeys Amir no matter what he is told to do. After being raped, his representation transitions into a constant reminder of Amir’s guilt. On the other hand, Sohrab symbolizes the only way Amir can redeem himself from his past faults with Hassan.

 

I rated this book 9/10 due to the creative plot and character struggles. Amir is more relatable as a character as he is a flawed individual who faces challenges that aren’t always black and white. The only issue I had with the novel was the author’s use of over foreshadowing. During almost every major event in the book, I could tell what where the story was headed and how it was going to be resolved. Besides that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is able to handle some physically violent scenes. After picking the book up, I could hardly put it down and I believe whoever reads The Kite Runner will have a similar experience.

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