Paperback, 288 pages.
Read from November 26 to December 07, 2014.
This book was given to me as a gift and it is a book that I wouldn’t have normally picked up as I don’t have any learning disorders (that I’m aware of). However, this book is inspirational for anyone that underestimates the power of their own brains and is proof that we are more capable of rewiring our brains to change our thoughts and even behaviors.
Barbara struggled immensely for most of her life due to severe learning disabilities. She could not understand complicated conversations as she couldn’t make basic associations as well as not being able to understand basic math or reading. Additionally she is severely uncoordinated and accident prone which also relates to her learning disabilities. However, she is blessed with a remarkable memory and can retain vast amounts of information which is what helps get her through many years of school.
After 26 years of struggles Barbara comes across some work done on a brain damaged solider who has managed to partially recover from his injuries, as well as some additional information on how a brain can be changed. Through her research and schooling Barbara began to create exercises for herself in order to get the parts of her brain functioning properly. After an extensive amount of training Barbara started to notice improvements in things that use to be a massive challenge for her. Her own improvements lead her to start a school to help other learning disabled people. The book goes into detail about Barbara’s personal story and improvements as well many of her student’s personal success stories. She also goes into details with how specific learning disabilities effect people and what is going on in their brains. Unfortunately, she doesn’t go into too many specifics about the exercises that bring about these remarkable changes but I suppose she can’t reveal her program in a book or her school wouldn’t be successful. With that being said, her work is so immensely important that it really should be revealed so that more people can start applying her tactics.
Barbara shows that learning disabilities are so common and that they can cause life long devastation’s. So many of those affected think that they’re stupid but really it’s that their brains are missing specific connections and, like any muscle, just needs to be worked on.
I was so remarkably impressed with the success stories in this book. It makes me believe that I am capable of accomplishing anything in terms of changing my behaviors. As someone who has had mental health issues, I know that the symptoms are sometimes very difficult to deal, I can however choose I am going to deal with them and I can work towards rewiring some of my current behaviors. I think there is so much we don’t know about the capabilities of our own brains and this book gives me hope that we can make massive improvements in terms of mental health and learning disabilities.
Paperback, 326 pages.
Read from October 12 to November 23, 2014
This book is like a sharp slap to the face; it startles and shocks you into coming to terms with whatever problem you’re currently dealing with as I cannot imagine a more horrifying scenario for the human race and condition than the one described in this book.
An epidemic of “white blindness” hits a city. For no reason at all, people become blind and all they can see is a gleaming whiteness. The first to go blind is a man in his car, and then the man who helps him home right after stealing his car. After the first man goes blind he goes to see an optometrist and from there, shortly after his arrival everyone in the reception area along with the doctor also go blind. It is the doctor who notifies authorities of the epidemic but his decision to do so will mean suffering for himself and those who follow him into quarantine. The only person who does not go blind, is the doctor’s wife. She pretends to be blind so that she can accompany her husband and help him while he is quarantined.
The horrors of this rushed quarantined life for all these unnamed characters is challenging to read. The military refuses to get near the area and assist with anything for fear of catching the blindness and their fear quickly leads to death when the amount of food is not enough for the people quarantined. The blind have to find a way to bury their own dead with limited resources to prevent stench and disease. They are given no medical supplies and so some characters succumb to completely curable conditions. The lack of empathy and fear from the military is so hard to fathom. I kept waiting for one of the men to step up and do the right thing for these suffering people in so many scenarios but it never happened. Soon these blind people, who are barely able to make it to the bathroom because they are unable to find it, quickly mess up the bathroom with their bodily functions and when the bathrooms are unbearable they go wherever they can. The smell and filth of quarantined area emanated from the pages of the book. It read so real and their discomfort was unbearable at times. After a fire breaks out in quarantine, the blind group of people realize that the military men are all gone and that their quarantine was for nothing as the blindness has grasped the city. While the main group of blind people work together the selfishness and down right cruelty of people are also shown in this book with some disgusting acts of sexual assault and starvation. These nasty scenes are often balanced with those of human compassion and resilience thankfully and I can say the book ends happily.
While the blind can smell and feel their filth and suffering, none bear it more than the only remaining character with sight, the doctor’s wife. She bears witness to these adults and children who have lost all dignity while they struggle to survive in and out of quarantine. The doctor’s wife becomes the group’s unofficial leader and for the majority of the book the only person that knows she isn’t blind is her husband. There is never an explanation as to why the epidemic occurs or as to why the doctor’s wife was spared when none one else was.
The writing itself is literally like nothing else I’ve ever read before. Saramago does not ever use quotations marks or new paragraphs when a character or a new character starts speaking. Additionally, there isn’t one character that is given a name. This style, was surprisingly not difficult to follow and I was almost always able to tell which character was speaking. I believe the reasoning behind this style is to show a sense of unity in that everyone is suffering the same and going through the same thing and that in a world of blindness names seem useless anyway.
This book isn’t easy to stomach so it may not for everyone, especially if you’d prefer to escape reality with reading rather than come to its harsh realities. I just think it’s important to read books like this once and a while to shock and shake you up in order to serve as a reminder that we are often stronger than we know and that we should be grateful for the many things we take for granted.
Hardcover, 416 pages.
Read from October 17 to November 05, 2014.
After falling in love with A Thousand Acres, I was looking forward to reading this new novel. Some Luck is the first book in trilogy that follows the life and times of an Iowa based family. The story starts in 1920 with each chapter being the beginning of a new year. This book ends in the year 1953 but the trilogy is supposed to follow to family for 100 years.
The story opens with how Rosanna and Walter Langdon came to be married in the early 1920’s and Walter’s stubborn endeavors to be a farmer. The two of them are well suited for each other and soon start to build their family. The narration switches between Rosanna and Walter, that is until the birth of the their first child, Frank. Smiley ingeniously narrates some chapters from Frank’s perspective as a baby and as a young child. Additionally, the narration continues with each child that the couple delivers and the plot eventually changes from Iowa as well. Frank is apart of a World War and is a gifted college student, while Joe, the Langdon’s second son, is sensitive young man and chooses to stay and farm. Claire, their eldest daughter, ends up eloping with a stranger to another city. Henry and Claire are the Langdon’s youngest children and will likely have more attention given to them in the next book. I particularly enjoy Rosanna’s narration and how she handled the birth and growth of each of her children. Her experiences with each child were so individual and unique from one another and I imagine that after having that many children, her feelings are fairly accurate for that day and age.
I’d go further into the story line but there really isn’t that much more to say. The story is about the trials and tribulations of this family and as the story follows every single person in the family there isn’t one particular protagonist so there isn’t one particular antagonist. However, Smiley still knows how to tell a story even if there isn’t much going on!
Her writing is solid and her characters are extremely well developed and you get to watch so many of them grow so you do end up wanting to know how each character is going to change, evolve and deal with the challenges that life is going to throw at them. It’s just that there isn’t one major conflict or antagonist that carries the plot. The story line is literally about life, so challenges happen often and the characters move on from each of them, just like real life.
Why read a book about real life? Well that’s a good question, this is why the book has mixed reviews. The book is well written and a good read but depending on the reader it may or may not appeal. I enjoyed reading about a time frame that I was not born into as Smiley’s portrayal was very intriguing. I also loved and hated a few characters so I wanted to know what their adult life would be like but if you’re the type of reader that requires a story that’s a bit more objective this book may not be for you.
Overall the book doesn’t compare to her previous work but it’s still very well executed.