Unbroken: Laura Hillenbrand

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Once in a long long time comes an amazing story, an amazing life that practically writes itself. Louise Zamperrini’s is an extra-ordinary life. From a wild childhood to an Olympic runner to a man marooned at sea for the longest time ever to a POW in Japan subjected to unbearable cruelty to post-war ruin to a final resurgence – it is an exceptional life indeed. Like six lives lived in one. And Laura Hillenbrand does it full justice. One can only imagine the effort that must have gone into resurrecting that life on paper. The long section on Louis’ life as a POW makes for exceptionally fine reading and you wonder at the infinite capacity of human beings for cruelty. Hillenbrand combines sensitive narration and hard statistics beautifully to render a picture that is neither too clammy with sentiment nor dry facts. Alongside some of the all-time greats whose scenes have been burned in my memory (Midnight’s children, one hundred years of solitude, Roots), some of the POW scenes will stay. Clearly, one of the most engrossing non-fiction book in many years.

Recommendation: Must Read.

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Everything I Never Told You: Celeste Ng

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A beautiful immigrant story. Everything I Never Told You is the family story of James, who is of Chinese descent, and Marylyn, a blue-eyed American, living a quiet life in a University town in Ohio. Lydia, their much-loved daughter drowns in a lake and thus begins an analysis of what went wrong. Ng does a great job in getting into the minds of the two parents. James, who has always been ‘different’ and wants his daughter to blend in and be popular. Marylyn, who had to give up a career to bring up her kids, wants her to excel in academics. Lydia tries hard to please both but can’t eventually cope up. Ng also does a great job of building relationship between the siblings – Lydia and Nath. There are a couple of twists that are hard to believe. Marylyn’s going away from family without telling anyone to pursue college (why couldn’t she talk it over with her family?) and Jack’s turning out to be gay. The last quarter is a bit of a letdown. Despite the flaws, fast-paced and very readable. Ng’s understanding of the psyche of the key characters viz. James, Marylyn, Lydia, Nath and Hannah is superb and takes the book to another level altogether.

Recommendation: Must Read.

Dad is Fat: Jim Gaffigan

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Standup comic Jim Gaffigan’s account on bringing up five children in a tiny New York apartment. It is an endearing and relatable subject for all of us who have or are raising kids. The chaos at home, the suffering that any travel becomes, the playground friendships, the school moms’ politics – we’ve all been there. Subject-wise he couldn’t have chosen better. And he does the topic full justice. Written with ‘clean’ humor, the book is a lovely journey in the joys and tribulations of parenthood. His love for his family gives the book a warm, fuzzy feel that works. Laugh-out loud chuckles are not that many but a constant smile on the face and a warmth in the heart is not a bad bargain.

Recommendation: Read