Friday, November 16, 2012

Punishment Post - The White Tiger and Where We Belong

As you all have probably noticed, Hel and I have FAILED in our one-book-a-month goal. While we couldn’t finish up on October, we will still try and stick to the plan for the rest of the year – but maybe with fewer posts (Deja Dead’s posts took a lot out of us).

Also, to make up for the fact we’ve failed, we’ve decided to review a book we’ve previously read (and that wasn’t on our lists). These punishment-posts will prove we’re serious about book-talk and such…

Now – over a week into November – I’ve finally chosen the book I want to review to make up for October.

I’ll try and do my best at remembering all of this book – but I read it about six months ago. However, I don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to recall everything – and no, I’m not being lazy. I just want to prove how important this book was to me through a raw account. What sticks to memory is usually the important stuff anyway… The rest you can just look up on Wikipedia (that’s what it’s for!).  


In light of the Life of Pi film adaptation coming out, I wanted to highlight a book that talks about Indian religion, culture, etc. as well. Also, it involves a tiger too.

In fact it’s called The White Tiger. It’s by Aravind Adiga. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. And, more importantly, it’s good.

However! Even though I paralleled it to Life of Pi, don’t go into expecting something ‘fresh-faced’ and ‘enlightening.’ This isn’t fluff. It paints a very dark picture of India. It’s kinda like the Pulp Fiction of Indian literature (but don’t worry, it’s written in English…Did you know most Indian novels are? True story).

Also, where books like Life of Pi and Eat, Pray, Love tend to romanticize the Indian ‘way,’ this book doesn’t. It’s also tackling India from an Indian perspective, which gives it an added level of legitimacy (compared to the other titles mentioned). The book deals with Indian religion, politics, and culture in ways that keep you turning pages. It’s a very quick read. (So even though I say it paints a dark picture of India, don’t think it’s like a Bible-sized Rushdie novel or something).

The main character, Balram (or the White Tiger, whatever), is born into poverty. He attempts to become financially independent (which is nigh impossible for him) and in the process, helps his bosses cover up crimes, neglects his destitute family, and realizes he must kill in order to escape “the Darkness” that has him – and all of India – caged.

If you read this book you won’t get that tra-la-la all-religions-are-one bull crap that Life of Pi (god bless it) ultimately gives you. You will leave this book disliking the main character, yet completely sympathizing with him (this, in turn, will make you dislike yourself because you’re really no better than him). And lastly, you will see just how much influence the West has had on India and get a taste for how that actually can affect your life/beliefs.

Why should you read this work? Because it will teach you about India – the real India – in a way that is entertaining and meaningful.

Why might you dislike this work? Well, you might have a hard time digesting the gritty plot and the fact that a guy gets his throat cut in the very beginning (which I thought was AWESOME…I love excellent deaths).

Why do I like this work? [Answer will only make sense once you’ve read the book] Because I know what it’s like to touch people’s feet (and the fact I get so angry about it and actually haven’t experienced anything like Balram experienced makes me feel worse – I have no right to complain) [I don’t have a problem with feet, really].

Since Panda kindly left out any blame, I will admit to the fact that it was my fault we are behind. My excuse? My son got sick, I got sick, my husband is never home, his car broke down so he took mine, and I couldn't get to the book store to read, and I started a small at-home business. Good enough excuses for ye?

I had to admit to myself that I couldn't keep up with everything and, in the great scheme of things, this blog is the least important thing in my life right now, so I couldn't let it stress me out as much as it did.

But because I still want to read and all that, the blog goes on; as Amanda said, we will simply be making fewer posts.

Moving on.

Amanda's review makes The White Tiger sound amazing. An excellent review, darling,  and one that makes me ashamed of the book I am about to review. Keep in mind that I had just had a baby, was suffering from post partum depression, was extremely tired, and just wanted an easy read that would make me feel good inside.

So I read Where We Belong, the newest book by Emily Giffin - the author of Something Borrowed, which was made into a cute film a few years ago.

Let me just say, I am a fan of chick lit. Though it is often awful, it makes me feel happy, and that's what it's supposed to do. Which is why I continue to re-read Twilight every year. I have read all of Emily Giffin's books, and liked them well enough. This one, not so much. Her novels are generally centered by a love story, with other smaller stories surrounding it - friendship, family, mid life crises, yadda yadda.

Where We Belong was different because the central story was of an adopted daughter setting out to find her birth mother and connecting with her "real" family. In the process, the author also develops romantic interests for the daughter, Kirby, and the mother, Marian; we see the female leads interact with their friends - for Kirby, this means petty high schoolers; for Marian, petty up scale New Yorkers; and their respective relationships with their parents: Kirby feels like she doesn't belong with her family, and Marian has kept here pregnancy and the adoption of her daughter a secret from her father for the past 17 years.

Another difference was the fact that the perspective switched back and forth between the daughter and the mother, and I never felt like I really got a sense of who either of them are. Also, Emily's attempt to inhabit the mind of a 17 year old social outcast really fell short. Kirby was annoying. Emily tried to make her seem like a musical genius, and through in drum and classical rock references whenever she could, in very contrived ways. Marian was more interesting, perhaps so by default because she is a TV producer living in New York.

I was also left wanting when the two meet for the first time: Kirby shows up on her mothers doorstep after getting access to Marian's name and address for the first time on her 18th birthday. The scene is mostly written from Kirby's perspective, and though we do have access to some of Marian's thoughts and thus know that her emotions are out of control, her actions are far too nonchalant for the situation. Marian invites Kirby in, they go clothing shopping together, eat breakfast, and ignore all deeper issues for the most part.

One thing I liked about the book, and do about all of Giffins novels, is the fact that there are recurring characters. Some of Marian's friends were the central characters in other novels. Other than that, I can't really recommend the book.

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