Reader’s Lounge: Reading That Gets to the Heart of the Matter

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, my young daughter, Pam Chamberlain, and my barley double-digits daughter, Kristen Carter and I each picked out a book that highlights love for people near our ages. We hope you enjoy reading the following as much as we did. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand By Helen Simonson Random House Reader’s Circle, 2010, $15 This story takes place in an English country village where people are expected to follow scripts based on their heritage and class. Major Pettigrew is retired and was born in India to British parents. He is a widower who feels a strong sense of place in society due to his rank and his family’s tradition of military service. Mrs. Ali is the widowed owner of the local convenience store. Born in England of parents who have Pakistani heritage, she is welleducated and enjoys reading. As the story opens, Major Pettigrew is told of the death of his younger brother. He is saddened at the loss and hurt that he wasn’t given the opportunity to say goodbye. His sorrow, however, is tempered by the expectation that he will receive a gun that was in his brother’s possession. The gun was one of a matching pair that his grandfather was given by the Maharini. The pair was to be reunited upon the death of one brother. His brother, however, didn’t honor that wish in his will. The Major and Mrs. Ali start their relationship when she appears at his door to collect newspaper money from the Major. He has just found out about his brother’s death and is distraught. She offers tea and comfort. They discover that they have much in common. Unfortunately in a small village where they are considered to be of separate class and race, their relationship is not received well. I found that this story started out slowly, and I worried that this book would be just another romance with two-dimensional characters. My patience paid off, though. There were a multitude of well-drawn characters and none were stereotypical representations. Even more rarely found, the love story was fairly unique in that love blossomed from common interests and personality traits instead of from mere physical attraction. The main love interests were brought together by the common emotion of sorrow, but they stayed together because of mutual respect of each other’s beliefs and actions. I enjoyed this book immensely. It appealed to the side of me that wants a book discussing social issues and another side of me that likes to read a book without violence. The story is quaint and gentle, yet it has great depth. Ms. Simonson addresses the issue of prejudice. She doesn’t stop there, though; she highlights the struggles with defining the meaning of honor, not only through the relationship of a middle-aged couple, but via various other relationships that develop in the story. Each person in her or his way is looking for an understanding of how to live a life with honor of oneself and one’s ideals. I will definitely question honor’s meaning as pondered in this book for a long time, and I think you may, too. Feed By M. T. Anderson Candlewick, 2004, $7.99 Review by Pamela Chamberlain Wouldn’t you love to spend Spring Break on the Moon? That’s what Titus and his friends were looking forward to in Feed. Immediately Titus finds his eyes drawn towards a girl. She is slightly different from his friends, but, nonetheless, Violet is all he can think about. Though his biggest concerns start out being those of a typical teenager, after discovering love, Titus discovers a few less-than friendly truths about the world he’s been living in. The setting of the story is in the future of America. The minds of the population are being strongly influenced by the Feed, a computer placed in the brain. Over time the Feed takes over the neural workings in the brain and the human body becomes dependent on it. The majority of the population has had the Feed installed as children and are completely dependent on it for everything from school to shopping, entertainment and socialization. Feed is a wonderfully written book geared towards teens, although all ages could gain something from it. The central story is that of a teenage boy first discovering love.This thought-provoking book seeks to point out some of the possible negatives to having a consumer/company-driven society. Titus faces not only problems that we ourselves are faced with everyday, but others that will give you a new perspective on our society and the social trends we follow. Raising You Alone By Warren Hanson Tristan Publishing, 2005, $15.95 Review by Kristen Carter, 10 This book is about two rabbits, one being the mother of the other. In it, a single mother is raising a child and loves her child, through thick and thin. The pictures are wonderful and charming, and the story itself is heart-warming. The overall message melts the hardest of hearts. This is a book for readers five to 105 years old. I really recommend it if you are a single parent or a child of a single parent.

Tags: Feed, Helen Simonson, M.T. Anderson, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Raising You Alone, Reader's Lounge, Warren Hanson

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