Review: The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

The People of ForeverThree girls, Yael, Avishag and Lea, who grow up together in the same village may have very different home lives and experiences but one experience they all have to share is required service in the Israeli army. In Shani Boianjiu’s debut novel The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, different chapters focus on a different girl, sometimes their lives in the village, in their time of serving and post service, are combined. At other times, we find each girl as she is on her own, trying to make her way through her service – sometimes through sex, sometimes American TV shows, sometimes destructive behavior. They each come out the other end not only a different woman, but truly altered.

I found Boianjiu’s writing raw and gripping. While reading on life experiences that were so foreign from my own I wasn’t always sure of what to make of what I was reading. Sometimes the story was so far-fetched and over the top I was a little put off, but I think that I was probably supposed to be. Boianjiu’s voice was beyond a voice I knew, but that’s the point of reading right, to go someplace different, and not always comfortable.

** I received this book for review from the publisher **

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Expanding Reading Horizons

A personal goal of mine for my 2014 reading is to expand my reading horizons. To that end I had thought about possibly even creating/hosting a challenge to read books with origins of a country aside from the United States. As I was thinking about this I saw an article on MediaBistro’s GalleyCat about journalist Ann Morgan who decided to read a book from every country. Here is Morgan’s blog about the challenge she set for herself. Since I am setting this challenge more for myself, I am not sure where my reading will take me, but I will certainly be turning to Morgan’s list for some guidance. As you know about me, I am not a speed reader, and with thesis work, work and running training, I won’t hit all the countries Morgan did this year (this will certainly be a challenge of mine for many years to come). But I will once a month do a post of what my book will be, and its country of origin – and at the end of the month I will do a review. If you want to join me, let me know and I will happily put something a little more formal together. Or if you just have some recommendations, please send them my way!

Another article on GalleyCat directed me to a reading challenge hosted by the blog Somerset Books “The 50 States Reading Challenge.” Another opportunity to challenge myself, and maybe find some new writers, styles and voices – I’m in! I’m setting a goal for myself of “Frequent Flier” (16-20 states visited), which will be around 2 books per month (giving me some wiggle room, too). I’ll be sure to post on what I will be reading and doing a review for those books as well.

It’s already the 12th, I’m a little behind (good thing I gave myself that wiggle room), but I am not one to worry about starting all resolutions immediately on Jan 1st. So I am now ready, let the challenges begin!

Who’s with me?

Review: The Book Thief

The Book ThiefI have started to write my opening sentence many times, but I keep deleting it. I am having a hard time distilling down a young adult novel about the holocaust, a young girl and her compulsion for words (once she finally learned them) and a rather unconventional narrator — and that’s what we have with Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

Liesel is a young German girl who lives a life of loss. She has no father, her brother dies on the train as her mother is taking both children to a foster family, and once she arrives at her new home, she never hears from her mother again. She has very little with her, and not much to connect her to her lost family, except a book she has taken from her brother’s grave site. Her first stolen book. But she slowly beings to make a family life for herself (as dysfunctional as it is with a loud and outwardly rude foster mother, and a foster father who while soothing her nightmares stays up reading with her all night). She also slowly builds a small “stolen” library.

Many people are part of building Liesel into who she is, she makes an impression on so many people that they all rally to protect her and educate her. Maybe none more so than Max, a German Jewish man who comes to hide in her foster family’s basement. It is through him that we see the story of the Jewish experience in Germany during Hilter’s reign, and of the holocaust.

There are so many stories and paths that interconnect back to Liesel in this book, so I will refrain from saying too much. Although one problem that I found with the book was a narrator who said too much before we come to that action in the story. We are told how to expect things to go before they get there – and we know some of who death will take before he takes them. I spend a lot of time when I’m reading trying to think ahead to how things will play out, this book sort of took some of that away from me (other times I found myself expecting things to happen at a certain point, and they didn’t). But overall I thought it was a good story, and I really enjoyed seeing Max’s work and drawings in the book. It certainly is much more than a young adult novel, it’s a story that can touch many various readers’ hearts.