We are generally fascinated by out of ordinary characters who behave and speak differently than all of us and hence stand out. If you remembered a dozen of your favorite book characters, a number of them would fall in that category. Eleanor Oliphant is an attempt at such a character. I say an attempt because it doesn’t work for me for several reasons – the inconsistencies within the character and unbelievability. And liking Eleanor Oliphant has to be obviously central to liking the book. So, the bestseller and soon-to-be movie didn’t work for me. Sure, there is some humor in the writing and the pace is good, the overall writing is not great. The punch-in-the-gut ending was a bit predictable. A few recent mystery novels, ‘The Woman in the Window’ most notably have followed the same line of thought.
‘There There’ is a remarkable debut indeed. Tommy Orange picks the threads of stories of a number of native Indian characters who have chosen to live in Oakland and other urban areas, rather than reservations. The book traces their lives, knitting them all together towards the end. It is an insightful window into the challenges of a troubled community, haunted by its painful past, and confronted by an uncertain future. However, the book scores not only because of its unique cast of characters, but also strong writing. The only flaw – too many, just too many characters. Despite the author’s valiant efforts, it’s difficult for the readers to remember all the stories and back all the protagonists.
Sapiens is a highly engaging book about the history of homo-sapiens from the hunter-gatherer days to cognitive revolution to agricultural revolution to the industrial and scientific revolution to modern times. The book even offers a peek into what lies ahead for this variety of ape. The book challenges many myths (Agricultural revolution was an improvement over hunter-gatherer days, for instance), provides many interesting statistics (more people have died in road accidents than wars) and expound on some astounding theories (home sapiens may become a-mortal by 2050), and all of it is done in a compelling, engaging, thoughtful way that forces you to seriously consider the argument. It’s a bit slow in parts and does not follow a clear structure, but is a fantastic read nonetheless.