The courage to let go (Book Review: JD Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye)

Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Genre: Literary Realism / Coming-of-age story

Just finished reading JD Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, and I am penning down the impressions of the book. It is not exactly a review.

The only thing I knew about The Catcher in the Rye was that it's a famous book, written by a reclusive author. Read an article in a newspaper about it. This book has been on my 'books to read' list for a very long time. It's even been on my bookshelf for a couple of years now.

I found it difficult to get started - the first few pages took quite a while. It may have had something to do with the small font of the edition I have. Of course, once the story took off, the font ceased to matter that much - although it does affect the speed of reading.

The Catcher in the Rye reads like a journal. It uses the informal, spoken language, instead of the 'right' correct one that would be expected. I guess it is part of the charm of the book.

This book was written years before my mother was born, in a country foreign to me. Many words didn't make sense - it was the context that explained them to me. But I think that has more to do with the time, than the place. But the thoughts and feelings seem to belong to this day.

I had a smile on my face at the very beginning, where the protagonist refused to write about his childhood, etc. But with 'innocent' words, here and there, conveyed quite a lot.

My son has recently joined a boarding school. I think this made me relate more to many things. Though I can't imagine a sixteen-year-old doing all that, without his parents' knowledge at all - am I living in the wrong century?

As the story proceeds, I want to see Holden doing well in his life - the very first page conveys, he probably has not. All his elders are telling him in different ways to do things 'right'. He is at crossroads through this book.

Is there a hidden meaning, when Holden keeps wondering and asking where the ducks of the central park go in the winters.

Who has not hated school? Is it practicality that keeps us going? Or are we just too scared to do something different? Through life, we keep trying to fit into the set molds. Holden doesn't.

Is it cynicism? Or is he actually smarter than the rest?

I see people around me making conversation, laughing as if having fun when in fact they couldn't care less. But that's how we live and interact and keep going.

Holden calls the 'phonies'. Still, he keeps feeling sorry or sad for stupid, 'phony' and even selfish people. He sees their shortcomings but doesn't hate them. Instead, he's always asking to himself, "I am a madman". Is he in an asylum or rehab of some sort now, when he writes this account?

Not just people, movies and books and plays are phonies too. I can just imagine Holden thinking every single movie I like is a phony.

Then there is Jane Gallagher. The one character in the book, who seems to matter the most to Holden, besides his siblings. And somehow he's never able to talk to her.

Through the book, I was continuously psycho-analyzing what makes Holden the way he is. The brother who's no more? Holden's siblings are obviously smart. And so is Holden. What is making him discontent, is something insides him. Did the death of a younger sibling do that to him?

But are the answers to complicated human nature ever so simple?

The Catcher in the Rye is a cult and I can understand why.
I didn't relate to it all that much but then given the subject I couldn't have.
There are many things I didn't understand.
Maybe one day I will read it again, and understand where the ducks of the central park go in the winters.

(This post was originally written in 2014)

The pain of not knowing (Book Review: Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You)

Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng

Everything I never told you begins with an incident that the worst nightmares of a parent are made of.
Lydia, daughter of James and Marilyn is missing.

'Lydia is dead. But they don't know it yet.'

The author has the reader experience the life of the characters through her words. The expressions, the metaphors, the little details...

There are many aspects of this book that linger on in my memory.

Lydia's death and the reason behind it, James' and Marilyn's past and marriage, the struggle of Chinese-Americans to fit in, Nath's and Hannah's (Lydia's siblings) emotions, and the many secrets.

The many secrets that we keep, especially from the ones we are very close to... some for our own benefit, but most to make sure we don't hurt those we care for.

Keeping these secrets is more often than not an unconscious, instinctive decision that we are ourselves unaware of. And this leads to a way of life.

Everything I never told you is the story of yet another dysfunctional family. And I say 'yet another' because I do wonder which family is not dysfunctional. 
Since I have become familiar with this term, I wonder if there is any family that this word does not apply to.
If a family is seemingly non-dysfunctional, it is because they are lucky that their dysfunctionality has not been blown out of proportion by circumstances.
Or they are lucky that they have been able to hide from the eyes of the world.

A story that goes back and forth, Everything I never told you gives the reader insights into the family, their struggles with each other and with self. It hurts. Whom do you blame? Everyone has their own baggage that they are struggling with.

There are so many mistakes, so much pain in this book and yet, the author has painted each of the characters in such a way that I can't find it within me to judge any of them.

Everything I never told you is a touching story with a lot of depth. Each of the characters stands out and leaves an impact.  For some more than others, yes, but as you get to know each of them better, you understand them. The end had me being sympathetic to every one of them.

The emotions of this book are subtle, high strung, and so very effective.

Everything I never told you made my eyes well up.
Reading it hurt. Well, considering its' subject it's meant to. 
At the same time, it was a pleasure to read too, thanks to the author's ability to depict each situation and emotion admirably. 

This is a story of emotions. Of feelings that lead to and follow a tragedy. And the author makes you feel the emotion of each of the characters. The feelings shine.

For me, the reason this book deserves five stars is the way it describes the loss of a loved one.
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Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. 

When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest in the family - Hannah - who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened. 

Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page-turner, about secrets, love, longing, lies and race.

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About the Author

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, will be published by Penguin Press in fall 2017.

Twitter: pronounced_ing

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MC Domovitch's Scar Tissue - Book Review

Title: Scar Tissue
Author: MC Domovitch
Publisher: Lansen Publishing
Pages: 396
Genre: Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Paranormal

MC Domovitch has you smiling at the beginning of Scar Tissue with the Author's Note -
"All the characters, events, incidents and places are purely the product of my imagination. This may make you wonder why I write so many murder mysteries. I like to say that it keeps my husband in line."

Smile and lighten up here, because once you enter the world of Scar Tissue, there's no smiling. It has you on the edge.

It starts with Ciara Kelly having escaped her captor, lost in the woods. And you can feel the fear through the words.

Move on to her in the hospital, where we realize that she doesn't remember anything of the experience of being abducted or anything after that.

There is a tiny bit of scar tissue in her brain. The doctors do not know how it can affect her.

As Ciara builds a life for herself, which is very different from the one she has known as a famous fashion model, there is positivity and hope, and there is an underlying dark vibe of something bad about to happen.

Then there are the ominous conversations between the kidnapper and the person who is the actual brain behind the crime.

The emotions in this book run high and keep you glued to the story throughout.

My threshold of enjoying or accepting Paranormal is rather low. The mystic in this book is just enough to be interesting and not scary.

Scar tissue is a book that holds your attention from the very beginning and has you interested till the end. A good read, especially for lovers of thrillers and light paranormal.

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When successful model Ciara Cain wakes up in hospital, remembering nothing of the weeks she has been missing, her only clues are the ugly words carved into her skin. According to the police she was a victim of the Cutter, a serial killer who has already murdered three women. For her protection the police and her doctors give a press conference, announcing that because her amnesia is organically caused, her memory loss is permanent. But, whether her memory returns or not is anybody’s guess.
Overnight, Ciara’s glamorous life is gone. Her scars have killed both her modelling career and her relationship with her rich boyfriend. With nothing to keep her in New York, she returns to her home town of Seattle, moves in with her sister and goes about building a new life. But when her sister lets it slip that Ciara’s memory is returning, the killer comes after her again. If Ciara is to stay alive, she must keep one step ahead of the Cutter.
About the Author

M C Domovitch is the author of nine novels, four of which were published under the name of Carol Ann Martin (by Penguin), another two under the name Monique Domovitch (by Carina Press) The other three are published as M C Domovitch, Scorpio Rising, The Sting of the Scorpio (Both now republished in one single tome) and Scar Tissue. The decision to use a different pen name was based on her departure from cozy mysteries and entering the Romance and Romantic Suspense genres.
Before becoming an author, Monique had multiple careers, beginning with modeling. She won a modeling contest in the 70s and became one of Canada's top models. After retiring from the fashion industry, she studied finance and joined an investment company. This led to a new career as host of her own television show about investing, with the television network, WTN. Following her retirement from finance, she decided to pursue her true passion, writing. At a writing workshop at San Diego's Writers' Conference, one of her unpublished books caught the eye of a publisher and of an agent. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Domovitch lives with her physician husband and their dogs. They divide their time between homes in Victoria and Toronto Canada and Key Largo Florida.

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