Reviews in Brief

I actually started Deliver Us From Evil: The True Story of Mexico’s Most Famous Kidnapping intending to dislike the author. I have a really hard time reading about the lives of the glamourous without wanting to punch them in the face. I figured it be like Paris’ Confessions of an Heiress, except with, you know, kidnapping. I was extremely, extremely wrong. First, you gotta know I don’t normally like books with heavy themes dealing with spirituality. But seriously? Ernestina’s quiet courage, her DEEP love for her sister, and her understanding that spiritual growth was her key to survival really struck a chord with me. Plus, she works to situate kidnapping in Mexico in a social and hsitorical context that acknowledges why the haves have what they do, and why the have-nots are so, so angry. This is a lovely, lovely book about a terrifying experience. To be as beautiful a person as she is, Ernestina must have the kind of courage that would put many soldiers to shame. I can’t get over that when the kidnappers were trying to make her and her sister fight for who would be released first, Ernestina volunteered to stay, so that at least her sister would get away. Wow, wow, wow. You can read an interview with the author here.

After that, I picked up Michael Crichton’s Sphere. It wasn’t especially memorable — to be honest, the only reason I remember I read it is because the book has been sitting on my desk for ages. Issues featured in text include… random descriptions of Asian female characters as inscrutable, and a hint at the end that the one feminist character is a crazy witch who’s in league with the alien technology. Even its anti-feminist vitriol was just dull. I followed that up with Eaters of the Dead, the book 13th Warrior is based off of, and that was much more fun. Nice pretend ethnography that does some interesting stuff with poking fun at masculinity.

The BIG win of the last few weeks of reading was The Seamstress, the story of two Brazilian sisters who make very different life decisions. Emilia marries into old money, and leaves their back-country home to make a life for herself in Recife. However, even though she’s realized one of her life dreams, she’s still battling issues of class (she’ll never be accepted as a society lady because of her family history) and gender (she becomes an active suffragette, but after her husband’s death is dependent on his family for material well-being). Luzia, whose crippled arm has ostenisibly condemned her to a life of spinsterhood, becames a cangaceira, a female Robin Hood living in Brazil’s scrubland. They are each other’s own worst secret — so, when Emilia comes across some important information Luzia needs to know, she risks all to warn her sister. This thoroughly researched historical novel chronicles Brazil’s droughts, the rising global tensions due to Nazism, and the global impact of the Great Depression. Most importantly, it illustrates the huge, huge impact gender had on women’s lives in Brazil during the 1920s and 1930s. A woman’s honor is not the same as a man’s — it means more to risk losing it. Luzia and Emilia battle both themselves and society in order to retain a sense of honor, and to protect their family secrets. Plus, I liked that Emilia was consciously childfree.

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