Book Review: State of Wonder & Carry the One

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jan feb books 300x233 Book Review: State of Wonder & Carry the OneThe poignant beauty of tragedy

I thought I would start our new year’s book review out with some interesting fiction, and I simply couldn’t decide which of these books I should review first.  Then, I realized, they actually go together in my mind!  Both are novels written in exquisite prose, using tricks of language that make your mind spin and dance as you read.  I am typically a bit of a rushing type of reader….so eager to get to the end that I sometimes push through the book, rather than savoring the story as it unfolds.  Both State of Wonder and Carry the One were written so incredibly I found myself pausing, hanging on sentences and marveling at the sheer wonder of stories and the power of imagination.  Both books do justice to the craft of fiction, and both stories pull at the heartstrings.

The first, State of Wonder, by the incomparable Ann Patchett, weaves a complex tale of deceit and intrigue set in the Amazon.  Ms. Patchett’s ability to describe the perils of the rainforest is remarkable, and the story is a gripping and cautionary tale.  There is just the right amount of character development, twists in the plot and tough choices to be made to make the book irresitable.  Interestingly, it wasn’t necessarily the story I loved, but the writing was pure magic.  Literally, I would read a few pages and find myself unable to go on, because I had to go back and re-read the last three pages, to revisit their perfection, marveling at the author’s abilities.

Carry the One, on the other hand, had a story and characters that gripped me from the very beginning.  While the tragedy in Ms. Patchett’s book develops over time, Ms. Anshaw starts her book with the tragedy right up front; devastation by page 11.  From there, the book winds through the character’s lives as they move on from the terrible, with some characters creating more and more tragedy for themselves, and others figuring their way through life with more success.  Again the idea of choice resonated with me in this read, observing the variety of choices that can be made in response to life’s difficulties seemed an essential theme through the book.

Both books left me struck by the pain and beauty of tragedy, also its inevitable touch in all of our lives.  None of us will be immune to difficulty (those who know me well know my saying, “everybody’s got something”), and most of us will experience multiple tragic experiences in our lives.  Our choices following difficulties seems the key to making tragedy a lesson instead of a life-stopper.

Please let me know if you read these books, and your thoughts on how the various characters make choices that bring them either closer to or farther from the tension of tragedy, I’d love to hear you thoughts!

Thanks for reading ~ Dr. Carrie

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