Review: The Dreamers

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Review for "The Dreamers" by Karen Thompson Walker (2019)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In the small fictional college town of Santa Lora, California, a virus spreads among the students on campus. The victims fall into a deep, coma-like sleep from which it appears that they will never wake. They are alive, but dreaming.

“The Dreamers” is told through an omniscient narrator and follows several people throughout the town, each grappling with the epidemic. There is Mei and Matthew, two quarantined freshman who breach the barrier and fall for one another, Anna and Ben, a married couple with a new baby, and Libby and Sara, two young sisters coping with life after their doomsday prepper dad falls ill. As with any medical based mystery, as the virus spreads, fear among the residents increases and the town becomes more and more isolated by quarantine as more people fall asleep. What is it? What is going on?

An interesting thing about this novel is that there is no background info given on the source of the virus or how it is spread; you as a reader are just as clueless about what’s going on as the town’s residents. I didn’t necessarily mind the lack of a solid back story here, though I admit that this was the only thing that kept me reading. Other than this, I wanted more from this book. Characters are too brief, events are fleeting, emotions aren’t explored as deeply as they could have been. There’s echoes of Jose Saramago’s “Blindness” here, but this doesn’t come close.

I liked reading this and I definitely like Karen Thompson Walker, but her first novel, “Age of Miracles” much much better.

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Review: The Love Prison Made and Unmade

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Review for "The Love Prison Made and Unmade" by Ebony Roberts (2019)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Curiosity drove me to this book, particularly after reading the author’s former partner, Shaka Senghor’s book “Writing My Wrongs.” From Senghor, we learn the story of a troubled young Black man growing up in inner city Detroit in the 1980’s, eventually becoming a drug dealer to earn a living. At barely 19 years old, he turns to violence and ends up on the criminal end of a murder case. For his crime, Senghor earns himself a lengthy prison sentence. While on the inside, he begins to correspond with a brilliant young scholar by the name of Ebony. They fall in love through letters and visits, and continue their relationship for several years after Senghor is released.

“The Love that Prison Made” is Ebony’s side of the story, beginning from her childhood. After witnessing domestic abuse in her childhood, she tells her narrative of meeting Senghor behind bars and falling in love with him. The narrative continues after he is released, when all doesn’t go as planned and the couple is confronted with cold realities and real problems.

I really liked this. There is a lot of focus on the couple’s courtship through letters, which makes up most of this book. Although Senghor is not released until about 75% in, you immediately know early on that this pair is not going to make it. Although she is careful not to generalize about the fate of all prison relationships, I appreciate Ms. Roberts’ choice to be transparent about why her prison romance failed. All too often we hear about the ‘happily ever after’ and the happy couple life of inmates and persons on the outside. What about the people who do the same and it doesn’t work out perfectly? Hmm.

This story is also important from a social justice perspective. Due to the mass incarceration rates of Black people, the question becomes one of how to interact with these men and women. Large numbers of the prison population will eventually get out one day, and not only will they need employment and support, they will seek emotional attachments as well. What is to be expected? What is inevitable? These are questions to consider.

Four solid stars.

Review: The Apology

Hey lovelies! Happy Labor Day! Pardon my latest absence, I’ve been busy with a few things: preparing my dissertation defense (later this month!), my own classes for the semester, the two classes I’m teaching. I’ve still been reading feverishly, however, so I’ve got a bunch of reviews lined up for the next couple weeks.

Anywho, on to the review…

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Review for "The Apology" by Eve Ensler (2019)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In this book, Eve Ensler, author of the famous “The Vagina Monologues” writes the apology from her abusive father that she imagines she would have received, had he been alive to do so. Sexually abused beginning from age 5, Eve’s dad also physically abused her. Though she finally escapes him as a young woman, his influence continues throughout her life through bad choices and her pick of abusive partners.

This is not an easy book to read. There are very detailed accounts of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Though it falls at under less than 120 pages, it took me days to get through it. I had to stop at times to catch my breath and far more than once I had to just walk away and scrub my brain of what I had read. Though I’m glad I read this, I would not read this again. No way.

On a final note, I have to say that I disagree with the premise of this book. Writing an entire treatise to an abuser as disgusting as Ensler’s father does little to disempower him and more to magnify his actions. However, if Ensler found healing from this act, I can’t let my disagreement cloud my review of this book, so I didn’t.

Four stars. Trigger warnings abound, so take caution.