Fruit of the Drunken Tree: Ingrid Rojas Contreras, author; Marisol Ramirez, Almarie Guerra, narrators

drunken treeOne thought came to my mind when turning the last page. Could this really be based on a true story? There was so much evil between the pages of this heartbreaking novel.  It was like there was a disease that was caused by the poverty and deprivation of one class vying with another one that had material wealth and an ostentatious lifestyle. The symptoms were greed, envy, and the desire for power on equal scales, each of which were obvious catalysts inspiring both the guerrilla warfare of Pablo Escobar and his drug cartels and the government’s paramilitary forces that coexisted there, to cause the death and destruction, on a major scale, of innocent people and their property.
There were people who supported those in power and there were people who supported those who committed the acts of violence; they supported the kidnappings and torture and murder of those that disagreed with their beliefs and policies, and when death came to their neighbors, they turned their heads in disgust, depending on whose side they agreed with and whose they did not.
Was there ever a time that the madness could have been stopped? The rich did turn a blind eye to the plight of the very poor, offering them menial jobs, but no real road out of their circumstances. Yet, for evil to flourish, didn’t the people have to acquiesce to its power? Didn’t some of the guilt for their plight lie with the victims, as heinous an idea as that seems? Did they need stronger leaders?
Why did the mothers seem so demanding, even selfish, and always prone to anger and violent behavior toward their children? Why were the men either portrayed as victims who were meek, weak or thugs who took the easy way out or were divorced from the plight of those around them? These were the thoughts that came to me, and. I was sad, but also disappointed with the choices the people made. The educated and the uneducated, alike, made foolish decisions, selfish and heartless decisions. They were all influenced by superstition and the supernatural. The resentment of the poor against the rich misguided them and the blindness of the rich to the difficult lives of the poor demonized them further and was a catalyst to the atmosphere of terror. In this story, told in the voices of Chula Santiago and Petrona Sanchez, we learn about the horrors that the author faced in her own life, although the story, regarding these characters and their experiences is fiction.
The Santiagos, Alma and Antonio and their two children, Chula, 7, and Cassandra, 9, lived in a comfortable, gated community in a house with several bedrooms, bathrooms and many modern conveniences. Antonio Santiago worked for a Colombian oil company and then for an American oil company. He moved up in position and provided well for his family. Alma did not have to work and could employ household help. The Sanchez family lived in a tin hut with children sharing beds, not only bedrooms, and no one earned a decent living wage. There were many children. There were few job opportunities for them. Several of the children were attracted to drugs and guerrilla warfare. They were poor and poorly educated. The children who made it were able to move away, but they then turned their backs on their community and offered little assistance to their family. The girls took care of the chores, getting the water, laundering clothes, cooking and doing whatever cleaning could be done. It was the job of the eldest to protect and provide for those younger.
Petrona Sanchez, at age 13, was ordered by her mother to go out and work. She obtained a job as a maid for the Santiagos. She and the youngest child, seven year old Chula Santiago, developed a relationship. Chula believed it was her sole responsibility to protect Petrona from danger because no one else would. Therefore, when she learned of Petrona’s sometimes questionable behavior, she did not tell anyone and swore her allegiance and silence to her. Petrona secured Chula’s trust by making veiled threats against the family. She even implied that Alma’s life might be in danger if Chula exposed Petrona and her boyfriend’s actions. So Chula lied in order to keep Petrona’s underhanded behavior under wraps. Unfortunately, those lies became the catalysts that brought about very dangerous circumstances for all of the Santiagos. Chula was young and naïve, unable to fully understand that there might be unpleasant consequences as a result of her deceptions. The fighting and the terror all around her traumatized her and left their scars on her and everyone else involved.
Petrona’s boyfriend, Gorrion, convinced Petrona to allow him to kidnap the Santiago children for ransom. They were rich and could afford to pay it. What followed led to further brutality and fear for the family and Petrona. However, Alma and her girls, Chula and Cassandra, were able to obtain refugee status and were eventually granted asylum in America. Antonio had disappeared. They found out he had been kidnapped and his whereabouts were unknown. When Petrona changed her mind and intervened, aborting the attempt to kidnap Chula and Cassandra, she betrayed her boyfriend who captured her and had her drugged, beaten and raped, then left for dead. She had no one to help her, to grant her asylum, to find her a safe place to stay, but an old woman found her almost lifeless body and nursed her back to health. Still, her experiences had robbed her of her memory.
Gorrion found her and withheld his part in her injuries from her. He lied and told her they were married right before she disappeared. He told her that the child she carried was his. When her memory returned, she did not tell him that she knew the truth about what had happened to her. Many of the secrets kept created problems that might have been avoided, but instead, they exacerbated an already precarious situation. The scars of the revolutionary days of Pablo Escobar and the paramilitary were either visible or invisible on all involved, the rich and the poor. Still, I wondered, were they not all in some way complicit in the terror and the violence, the death and destruction, the hopelessness and despair, because of their own behavior, accepting the brutality so long as it wasn’t directed against them? However, reading this story will give the reader a clearer picture of the terror that the Columbians lived through and will help the reader understand the need that often arises for refugees to be granted asylum in America.
Was the reason for the planting of the poisonous Drunken Tree ultimately also the cause of many of the problems? Did it symbolize the class differences, the hate and the arrogance of a people, one pitted against the other, the haves and the have nots who were on trains that would never meet, the hopelessness that could never be lifted?
The atmosphere was also poisonous!

 

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A Place For Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza, author; Deepti Gupta, Sunil Malhotra, narrators.

placeThis is a very powerful book that examines family dynamics and relationships in a Muslim family whose origins began in India, but who now reside in America. They are, essentially, strangers in a strange land, and although the children were born in America, they remain strangers, as well, in many ways.

Rafiq, alone, had settled in America and made a good life for himself. He offered a marriage proposal to Layla’s parents, in India, and Layla accepted it. She was raised to be obedient. She understood that her life would be determined by her husband’s life. This was all that a Muslim woman in India could expect and hope for. She had no idea what would await her in America, and she only hoped that her husband would be kind and not quick to anger. She was raised to serve him and his family.

Time passed and as their family grew, two daughters, Hadia and Huda, and a son, Amar, filled out their home. Although the marriage had been arranged, the two grew to care for each other and were happy. They lived a quiet life surrounded by friends who were similar to them in their views and lifestyle. They followed their religion, praying, obeying its laws and keeping the culture for themselves and their children.

However, life in America was different. It was more open. In school, the children were exposed to a less religious, less observant life. They began to feel different, and they began to want what the other children had in clothes, entertainment and opportunity. They wanted to belong. In their lifestyle, females were second class, but now their daughters wanted to have the same opportunities as sons. As their values, their religion and their culture were put to the test, Layla and Rafiq struggled to understand the problems they faced. They had no idea how to solve them. Their experience afforded them no ideas. The temptations here didn’t exist in their former lives. They did not know how to help or guide their children away from the temptations that would hurt them. They did not even recognize what was happening to their son when he became addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Sibling rivalry, inexperience, misunderstandings and sadly, ignorance, combined to create conflicts that could have been avoided had they had a better understanding of what was happening. Rafiq and Layla were naïve because these problems they faced were new to them. They were not problems in their former lives. In America, the rules were not so hard and fast and there was opportunity for abuse. Weakness and insecurity in a child inspired the disobedience and the need to escape what hurt them, by any means available.

The author illustrated the difficulty of adjusting to a strange, new environment, exposing the pitfalls and the consequences of innocent ignorance. The problems faced when one was not accepted on the basis of merit, but rather was judged by appearance and background, are examined carefully by this author.  She illustrates the cultural divide and the bias that exists, even under the best of circumstances.

This Muslim family from India was upwardly mobile. They had identified with and accomplished the American dream without having to give up their culture, but the world, at large, and circumstances beyond their control, were interfering and complicating their simple way of life, making it harder for their children to accomplish the same dreams of their parents.

When the book begins, Rafiq and Layla are celebrating the marriage of their eldest daughter, Hadia, to a man she has chosen herself, defying tradition. She is hoping her estranged brother, Amar, will arrive. When the book ends, her brother Amar, is still estranged from the family. What happens in between, as the recollections and memories of each member of the family is revealed, shines a light on the immigrant experience in America, in a new way.

 

 

 

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Baby Teeth, Zoje Stage, author; Gabra Zackman, narrator

baby teethBaby Teeth, Zoje Stage, author; Gabra Zackman, narrator
This is an incredibly creative psychodrama interpreted and read well by the narrator who expresses the thoughts and ideas of Suzette and Hanna very authentically so that their true personalities come through.
Although it has been described in some quarters as a book about relationships between mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, and the competitive relationship of those parents with their children, and also about parenting skills, for me it was about the inability of our society to recognize mental illness and the possibility that it can reside in very young children. We want to think of our children as innocent canvases that we lay paint on in order to create either geniuses or monsters or something in between. Actually, the evil may not lie with the parents’ capabilities, but more likely within the DNA of the child who may be born with certain innate tendencies.
Although this book has sometimes been compared to a combination of books, like Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, and We Have to Talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, I am of a generation that remembers another book, as well. For me, it was more likely a twin to The Bad Seed, written by William March and published in 1982. Eventually, it became a movie, as well.
Suzette has Crohn’s disease. She has had a difficult childhood and a dysfunctional home life. When she meets and falls in love with Alex, it fulfills her wildest dreams of happiness, but then, they have a child.
Alex is a patient and loving parent. Although he is presented with many assessments concerning the aberrational behavior of his child, he ignores the signs of abnormality, even though his wife and school officials have witnessed them. He is determined to explain all of the behavioral issues away and ascribe them to the normal way exceptionally bright children mature. He believes Hanna will outgrow all of her inabilities to socialize properly and even learn to speak someday.
Hanna is on some dysfunctional spectrum, but it is difficult to determine which one. She is mute. She communicates with various behavior patterns like pointing or repetitively banging her hands or making guttural noises at high pitch when throwing a tantrum. She even barks like a dog, snarling and making grotesque faces when she wants to intentionally frighten someone. Her behavior is abnormal. This child, Hanna, would be a true trial for any parent, but for parents in denial because of their own emotional deficiencies, dealing with a dysfunctional child can become impossible.
Suzette’s mother neglected her. She learned no parenting skills. Because of this, she was insecure in her own skill as a parent. Also, she suffered with a disease that caused her distress and embarrassment. She knows what it is like to suffer alone. She knows what it is like when real issues are unattended to and ignored by the one you love. She worried that she, too, would be a bad parent, like her mother, unable to care for her child properly or resolve issues when mishaps occurred; she often blamed herself, believing that it was her ignorance of child raising skills that was the cause of Hanna’s problems. She feared blame. No matter how dreadful or how common sense should have pointed to another catalyst for the behavior problems, she questioned herself.
Hanna adored her father too much and competed for his love. Her need for her father’s attention turned her against Suzette. She viewed her mother as her rival. When her anger and frustration become too much for her to handle, she created an imaginary friend. This friend took on the personality of a dead witch. Because Hanna was unusually gifted intellectually, although developmentally arrested emotionally, her behavior grew worse and her actions became dangerous as she began devising diabolical plans to eliminate her mother from her father’s life so that she could become the center of his attention. Although she often blamed the imaginary friend, she too was an active accomplice. She never showed her demonic behavior to her father, which helped to keep him in the dark, questioning those who condemned her behavior.
Hanna is a scary child. Suzette is emotionally dysfunctional. Alex is in denial. This combination of personalities created a monster that they refused to recognize, at first, and then, when they finally did, they had to deal with enormous consequences.
The book raises many questions. Are there evil children? Are they created or born? Can they be helped? Are parents responsible for the inappropriate behavior of their children, even when it is bizarre? Do children learn by example? Can children feel true jealousy? Are some parents jealous of their children? Do children have a positive or negative affect on a marriage? Does life have to change after the birth of a child? Can a couple maintain their privacy and love with a child in the picture? Did living with Crohn’s disease, an illness that is incurable and difficult to control help Suzette understand that Hanna’s mental illness was probably on the same level, incurable and difficult to control? Would she ever truly feel safe if Hanna was released or would she always fear that she was going to plan to hurt her? There is no definitive way to determine if a mental illness has been arrested or cured. Could it recur in the same way her Crohn’s disease might someday return?
This book would definitely make for a good movie, and it feels like the ending set it up for a second book to follow.

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The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family’s Quest to Bring Him Home, by Sally Mott Freeman

jerseyThis is an amazing story about the search for Barton Cross, who was lost during World War II, somewhere in the Philippines. It will take the reader on a journey into the midst of the horror and brutality that the prisoners of war were subjected to by their Japanese captors, captors who did not abide by the Geneva Conventions, or any conventions, for that matter, that could be described even resembling human decency. From all the evidence, it shows that they mistreated the prisoners in the most despicable ways. Story after story emerges about the savagery and viciousness of the Japanese government and their commanding officers and soldiers. Some readers who might have doubted the judgment of President Truman when he agreed to drop atomic bombs on Japan, may soon have a change of heart. I know that I did after learning about atrocity following atrocity that was committed by the Japanese against the captured POW’s.

I have read so much about the Holocaust, that I thought I could not be surprised again by man’s inhumanity to man, but this very detailed, and well researched presentation of information on the Pacific Theater of World War II, separate and apart from German barbarism, has enlightened me further. There seems to be no end to the capability of man to be inhuman to man. I came away from this book feeling that an unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor began our war with Japan, and it was fitting that our retaliatory attacks against Nagasaki and Hiroshima ended it. The book will also help the reader to understand why the Japanese internment camps were set up, and why they might have been very necessary. Dual allegiance was very real.

The author is the daughter of Bill Mott and the granddaughter of the parents of Barton Cross. She has done one masterful job of research. She has painted the most lucid picture of battle after battle, of disputes within the ranks, of missed opportunities to rescue captives, and of the politics that governed the conduct of many moments in the war, influencing decisions that often led to the unnecessary death of thousands American soldiers in order to preserve the arrogance of one man, presumed to be very powerful and influential, Douglas MacArthur. He and his minions were responsible for the deaths of many POW’s at the hands of the Japanese when they actively inhibited the attempts to rescue them.

Reading this is not easy, but it is necessary. I was on the battlefield, in the conference room, in the POW camps, experiencing the bestial conditions that the men were made to endure. It is a horrific tale, made more so by the fact that it is true. Detail after detail exposes the deplorable behavior of the Japanese. They had neither respect for the lives of the enemy soldiers, or for the lives of their own soldiers. To lose was too shameful, so every effort to maintain their pride was expended. Surrender was unacceptable and fighting continued longer than necessary. The infighting that existed between the branches of the armed services caused unnecessary loss of life and, in hindsight, Douglas MacArthur and his enormous ego, coupled with the hero worship of his ardent followers, in addition to a President weakened by war and illness, were responsible for the loss of many more of the lives of our heroic soldiers than necessary.

Barton Cross was the youngest son of his mother. Her two other sons, from a previous marriage, were largely neglected by her, but they never resented their half brother for her greater show of affection; they adored him. One of the half brothers, Bill Mott, worked in the White House; the other, Benson Mott, was on the Navy ship Enterprise, and their half sister, Rosemary Cross, was a Wave. When Barton enlisted, Bill used his influence to station Barton in what he hoped would be a safe place, especially to please his mother who favored Barton. Barton, however, wound up in the Philippines. When the Japanese successfully invaded the Philippines, Barton became a prisoner of war. This is Barton’s story, and what a story it is! It follows the unending search for a brother and son that was very well loved and very much missed.

The book is so exhaustively researched and finely detailed that facts, hitherto unknown by me, and I am sure many others, were revealed. The most eye-opening information concerned the details of the brutality that the POW’s under Japanese control faced and dealt with. The story is based on the facts gleaned from eye witnesses, records, letters and other forms of correspondence giving a bird’s eye view of the carnage and destruction wrought by the Japanese. The POW’s were starved, beaten and tortured. Their illnesses and wounds went untreated. The living conditions they were subjected to were subhuman. Many were outright murdered by Japanese soldiers whose orders and behavior were barbaric.

The author expressed herself so capably that the reader was placed on the battlefield, on the Naval vessels under attack, and even on the improperly marked Japanese vessels that were carrying the POW’s from prison camp to prison camp in the foulest of conditions. Because the Japanese deliberately did not indicate that they were carrying POW’s, the American soldiers, unknowingly, condemned their fellow Americans to death when they dropped their payloads on Japanese ships. Friendly fire casualties mounted and numbered in the thousands.  POW’s were hidden and crammed into the holds of ships for lengthy periods of time, with little or no clothing, shoes, food, water or air, in terribly unsanitary, germ ridden conditions, and they had absolutely no way to protect themselves from danger or to warn the incoming planes that they were there.

From all accounts told, even though Barton was subjected to horrific conditions, he was always an inspiration to the fellow prisoners. He never lost faith and encouraged others to keep up their spirits. He believed they would be rescued and sent home when the war ended. The worst part, however, about Barton’s plight, for me, was the fact that MacArthur only evacuated Army personnel from the hospital in which Barton was being treated, early in the war. That decision effectively condemned all of the injured naval personnel. They were deliberately left behind, to be captured. Finding Barton’s whereabouts was then made more difficult by Barton’s own behavior. Rather than worry his mother, who tended to extremes, he did not tell her of his injury. He told her he was well and expected to be home for Christmas.

I learned so much about the history of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, of the Philippines occupation by Japan, and about the general conduct of the war. I recommend this book to all. The author has the gift for language, and it is very well written as well as being a very interesting read.However, be warned, it will not endear you to the Japanese people, and it may make you wonder why Americans, for years, avoided German cars, but never seemed to react that way toward Japanese car makers. The Japanese were responsible for the unnecessary loss of America’s human treasure.

 

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The Incendiaries, R. O. Kwon, author; Keong Sim, narrator

incendiariesThis book appears to highlight the plight of the immigrant and the difficulty of adjusting to life when one feels unsuccessful or like a “stranger”, even when fully assimilated. Often, insecurity has its deleterious effect on some as they yearn to belong, but do not feel they do.

A lapsed Christian, Bible School drop-out, Will Kendall, and a guilt-ridden, charismatic young girl, Phoebe Lin, have met and developed a relationship at Edwards. Both of them have had difficult, dysfunctional family histories. These young South Korean college students seem to be searching for acceptance, acknowledgment, love, and respect.

As many young are prone to do, they fall under the spell of a young man, John Leal, who was once imprisoned in the Gulag. This young man is portrayed as a Christ-like figure who now believes he hears the voice of G-d directing his life. He feels it is his duty to direct others, as well. He is charismatic and attracts followers to his cult. When these young students fall prey to their insecurities, making them more vulnerable to outside influences and more gullible, they join this out of the mainstream group. Phoebe actually decides to follow this false god who encourages them to commit acts of terrorism.

I found the book a bit confusing and a little disjointed. Told in alternating chapters titled with the name of each of the main characters, it is about students who were all traumatized in some way, carrying emotional burdens and secrets they could not unload. Also, it as an audio book and the narrator’s reading, in the voice of Will only, made it difficult to discern the voice of the separate characters he described. There was no change in the tone or modulation to accommodate male, female or emotional mood.

Still, it was a creative, imaginative, original idea that deserves attention and discussion to clarify it.

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The Death of Truth, Michiko Kakutani, author; Tavia Gilbert, narrator

truthThis is nothing but a hit piece, a hatchet piece meant to trash the current President because this liberal author despises him. She suffers from the lies of omission. Her hate is obvious, her derangement apparent and her anger palpable. Shame on this author who is pretending that she is presenting facts, when she is cherry picking the sources she needs to support her opinions. She does not present both sides of any issue, but simply trashes the right as if the left was not guilty of all the sins of which she is accusing the right.

In fact, this book is a perfect example of what is wrong with politics today. It is duplicitous as it presents negative information about Trump, as if he alone is evil, while she ignores the sins of the left and worships Obama. She ignores his reprehensible behavior.

Obama lied (you can keep your doctor) Obama made foolish statements (there are 57 states), Hillary lied (Benghazi is about a video, she was shot at while flying over Europe), Blumenthal lied and said he served in Vietnam, NOT, Obama told Medvedev, on an open mike, that he would be more flexible when he was re-elected (how did he know he would be reelected, was he colluding with Russia?), Hillary had a reset button which failed, Obama drew a red line in Syria that suddenly disappeared conveniently, Obama’s talking heads lied to support his agenda, i.e. Susan Rice, his Attorney General Eric Holder was held in Contempt of Congress, his IRS targeted the right and not the left with non-profit issues, Obama interfered in Israel’s election donating to Netanyahu’s opposition, he funded terrorist groups, he definitely divided the country with identity politics, with Trayvon Martin and the Harvard Professor, and he denigrated the police officers, never giving them the benefit of the doubt. He fraternized with the Reverend Wright who was anti-American and anti-Semitic, he fraternized with known accused terrorists, he fraternized with Louis Farrakhan, a hateful anti-Semite, he bought his home for a lower than market price from someone with a less than stellar reputation, he never managed many people and had no experience other than community organizing which might be called rabble rousing. The author trashed Trump’s morals while ignoring accusations of rape against Clinton, while ignoring his part in corrupting and ruining the life of an intern, Monica Lewinsky, disregarding his getting half million dollar fees while his wife was Secretary of State as if it was innocent and not an effort to buy influence as with the Uranium 1 deal, disregarding her personal server and attempts to destroy evidence, smashing and bleaching information on her phones and computers, divulging classified information and pretending ignorance. Obama secretly had a fortune of money flown into Iran, making the deal in defiance of Congress because he had a phone and a pen. He disregarded the Legislative branch of government, overstepping his power. He defied the press, often calling out the newscasters that disagreed with him and locking out Fox News from certain press moments. The author is pretending that the press is noble when it is a proven fact that it is far more negative than with Obama’s administration, with the negative coverage topping 90%. The author is pretending that Obama did not dislike the negative press. The author never objected to the myriad mistakes and overreaches of his administration, but suddenly has found G-d when it comes to Trump.

This book is sheer hypocrisy. It is disingenuous. Of course, if you are suffering from the same Trump Derangement Syndrome that she is, and if you sing lalalala when anyone tries to give you an opinion that you disagree with, then you will like this book because it will reinforce your bias completely. The author is guilty of the same shameful behavior of those on the left who abandoned Senator Lieberman when he had an opposing opinion and the ostracizing of Alan Dershowitz, the legal scholar who defended Trump with legal opinions about impeachment. She criticizes those who have turned against McCain for his obvious betrayals to the party while ignoring the disdainful behavior of her comrades. To the Democrats, those who disagree are anathema and subject to exile.

Judging from this presentation, the author does not understand what the definition of truth really is for this is a convoluted presentation simply designed to put her own political preference forward, rather than to present an honest appraisal of the problems with truth today. Her prose is hateful. Her narrator is guilty of inserting herself and her own emotion into the presentation, negating any attempt to make this book seem honest and fair. Both are unable to accept the results of the election.

Yes, the author is an intellect who worked for the New York Times, the same New York Times which has published so many false reports, including one about McCain’s supposed affair when he was running for President, an affair which never took place. She read many books, and she quotes from the many authors and important human beings she admires, so we know she is bright, hurrah. That does not make her opinions factual or what she says true. As a matter of fact, this brief book is a composite of hateful opinions spewed in a hateful rhetoric and narrated in a disgraceful tone of voice. Every sentence is insulting. Further, the narrator betrays her profession by over emoting and inserting herself into the narrative rather than portraying it intellectually, without infecting it with her personal opinion.

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The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer, author; Rebecca Lowman, narrator

femaleAlthough the novel was probably meant to illustrate the abuse of women and to support a change in that environment, I did not feel it accomplished that goal, nor did I feel that it was authentic in its approach. There seemed to be too much of an effort to present the liberal agenda regarding sexual expression, language and opportunity for all. Most of the characters appeared to have some kind of a dysfunction, or they were selfish, self-absorbed, and self-serving to some degree. Those that weren’t were out of the mainstream or emotionally unstable for a time.

I found few narratives with pure causes or appropriately moral behavior. Of course corporate greed was a major villain in the book, but so were the people who ran feminist organizations once they entered the mainstream market. Most of the characters were flawed. Many of them were willing to compromise ethics in order to serve their own needs.

While reading this, I questioned why so many female authors seem to feel they have to pepper their books liberally with filthy language, unacceptable under most circumstances, and sex that veers close to what once was called pornography. It diminishes their credibility in my eyes and diminishes the quality of the book. When a book masquerades as an important piece of writing, but is really a political message, using low class language, it is disappointing. I do not feel that I have to use my mouth as a toilet in order to compete or to be strong or acceptable.

At times, I found the dialogue defied reality in its innocent simplicity when it came from the mouths of supposed geniuses. In order to satisfy the needs of the current PC culture, the author included all sorts of liberal themes. The reader is confronted with words like cisgender and trans. There are lesbians and homosexuals. There are Latinos, and of course, they are super moral and hard-working, but poor; there are inappropriate jokes about Jews and race, however, and completely inappropriate language is used in normal conversation. Personally, I have no interest in homosexual sex or in women who are portrayed as weak and mindless, unfeminine and loud. Frankly, I am tired of the progressive agenda infecting all of the literature that is being produced today. When it is not overt, it is hidden in the various messages and themes that are subtly presented. I am being bombarded with a belief system I do not necessarily support 100%.

The “heroine” worship of the characters portrayed as feminists, coupled with their dysfunctional personalities, only made me wonder why the feminist movement ever even caught on. It felt as if in order to participate in the movement, one had to exhibit some kind of anger, disappointment or dysfunction of personality or goal. I wondered, what did feminists really want? From this book, I got the impression it was fame, fortune, and, as a by-product, perhaps more freedom for women. Did the end justify the means?

Abortion, of course, was front and center, portrayed as a magic bullet or cure-all for the world’s ills. Women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, LGBT issues, gender terms, sexual freedom, misogyny, an unjust judicial system when it came to adjudicating the abuse of women, and drug abuse are major themes introduced but not all are broadly developed; some seemed as if they were introduced as propaganda. Filial devotion and responsibility, parenting or lack thereof, and parent/child relationships were more heavily developed with the emphasis on maturity moving the characters to be more accepting of their own mistakes and the mistakes of others.

The main character is Greer Kadetsky. She is disappointed with her parents’ parenting skills. She wants more attention and discipline than they are willing to provide. Her parents are very much into their own personal satisfaction and pleasure. Greer’s parents are atheists who were often high on marijuana. They are left over hippies. Her best friend, Zee, is a lesbian. She may be Jewish, judging from her name and residence. She comes from Scarsdale, a suburb of Westchester heavily populated by people of the Jewish faith. Both of her parents are judges. They are the stereotypical Jewish family, educated and people of the book. She is portrayed stereotypically as financially solvent, as well. She is wealthy, but unsatisfied with her life which feels meaningless. She tries to please her parents rather than herself. She identifies happily as female but prefers females to males. Both Greer and Zee come from “white privilege”. Greer’s boyfriend is a Latino who has hard-working parents who pay attention to his needs. They are sterling examples until a tragic accident alters all of their expectations and futures. Faith Frank is the woman that Greer idolizes. She is a fraternal twin, from Brooklyn. She is not close to her brother. She is portrayed as aging and self-serving, but also as a great communicator. She is a prominent activist for women’s rights and Greer winds up working with her.

Regarding sexual abuse, many of the women perceive it in varying proportions, from groping to rape, with all intervening stages as almost equal in injustice.  They are very offended by what they perceive as bad behavior in most men, however, they sometimes seem to encourage the poor behavior and to tolerate it for the sake of their own advancement. This makes them somewhat complicit in my eyes. I think the book fails in its attempt to adequately promote the causes women wish to highlight. Also, there are men who are abusive to women, who have unreal expectations of what liberties they are allowed to take, but they are not in the majority, in my experience. In the book, the reader is made to feel that every man has the tendency to take advantage of a female.

I did not feel that the author authentically presented this issue of women’s rights. She became too embroiled with reproductive rights and the PC culture, which was to the detriment of the issues in the workplace environment and injustice to women in general. Too many of the feminists were unhappy and sexually confused and the men who supported them did not seem masculine, as if someone with masculine tendencies had to be driven by his sex organ, not his brain or his heart. The ending was too much like a fairy tale with everyone finding their nirvana.

 

 

 

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