Please Look After Mother by Kyung-Sook Shin

Aaaaaand, another book review because holy cow I’m bored af.

There’s so much to love in this novel, and I really liked it. First because the author is a girl, second she’s Asian and third, it’s a cultural and familial sort of read. This novel will in no doubts touch you. A family of a hardworking mother trying to raise all of her children , and when they’re all grown up and left the village , one day she goes for a visit to Seoul , she gets lost even though she is with her husband, and that’s when everyone remembers to care, that’s when everyone remember all the time they hurt her , all the time they ignored her , all the time they saw her as a cooking and life providing machine .

The author goes through three characters that could easily be reduced to stereotypes. A rebelleious daughter now a successfule novelist, the eldest son-the family’s favorite, tje cheating husband. Each takes up the story and Mother’s life is slowly revealed.
With hindsight, all of these characters are able to clearly see the faults in their relationship with this woman, and the signs that clearly not everything was ok. The constant headaches noticed by the oldest daughter, for example, or the breast cancer that the husband tries desperately o ignore because he just didn’t care. In many ways, this woman comes off as a saint of the highest order, simply for dealing with a shitty family. And we need to be careful here – I don’t think the family was doing it out of any kind of spite, malice, or even doing it consciously – that is simply the way they treated her, and that was that.

This is a deceptively simple book. There is so much more going on here than I would have given it credit for before I opened it. So many ideological battles are being played out underneath this plot: city and country, male and female, generational change – it’s all in here. I loved it. 7/10
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Wicked by Gregory Maguire

I picked this because I wanted a short break from John Grisham. I didn’t expect that this will still be peppered with politics and more. It was both a childrens’ entertaining story, and a criticism of economic policies. Wicked itself, has political as well as philosophical themes. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, green skinned as she is, was bound to be bullied in her community and in Shiz. But she rose above her circumstances, she used her wit, sarcasm and even her “abnormality” as shield against anyone who made the feeble attempt of slighting her. I like her youthful courage and radicalism which I somehow identify with if given the oppurtunity to join any significant movement that reflects my ideologies. She joined the resistance against the government who trampled on the rights of the Animals which is quite admirable given that Animals were a minority in her university and in Oz and she could have a choice to remain apathetic of the new policies against Animals imposed by the Wizard of Oz. Yet, believing that Humans and Animals are sentient beings alike, she fought for their rights though later it would be discovered that the coup attempt wasn’t much of a success. Regardless, she continued to question the moral fibers of the leaders, ceaselessly pondering over what is evil or what is good and what drives them to do which they do. I like how she chose to remain emphatic towards the lesser privileged tribes despite her being the rightful Emminent Thropp which gives her a lot of advances if she wished to. This is how Elphaba described the Emerald City under the leadership of the Wizard and how the Gale Forces were executing the law of the lands: “They march in those boots over the poor and the weak. They terrify households at three in the morning and drag away dissenters – and break up printing presses with their axes – and hold mock trials for treason at midnight and executions at dawn. They rake over every quarter of this beautiful, false city. They harvest a crop of victims on a monthly basis. It’s a government by terror” She could just have supported whatever was popular to avoid chaos but she resisted, she wasn’t so keen about the idea of tyranny thus her choice being an insurrectionist. So far, this is quite a great read for girls, it talks a lot about how a woman can stand and think on her own. 6/10 because there were passages that shouldn’t have been in the book. Those were draffing chapters that didn’t make a connection to the conclusion, I am referring to her extended stay at the Vinkus with Sarima, her kids and her sisters.20228302_10212145274259271_2213946935466113288_n

The Bretheren by John Grisham

While some reviews chose to dwell on the book’s homosexuality, I decided that mine would veer a little farther from what were commonly discussed in GoodReads and other blogs The novel is generally about extortion and national security but its political dash hit home a little too close to ignore so I took particular attention to the details of the presidential campaign and suspected a sharp relevance to the presidential election in PH just ayear ago. The author has somehow maneuvered the novel to move in a way that the two subjects weaved in dramatically. Some of the excerpts I found interesting are:

1. “Fame won’t win the election”
“No, It won’t. But money will. Money buys television and polls. And that’s all it takes. ”
This was a dialogue between Aaron Lake, expressing his doubts of winning the election and Teddy Maynard, CIA Director affriming and boosting his confidence that money can buy presidency. Ofcourse, every voter knows that a candidate without enough funds have very thin chances of getting elected. It’s just interesting how JG was able to sculpt a detailed strategy of how the game is played properly and how to ultimately win it. The single key to victory no doubt is money. I have an inkling that this was how the game was played last year in the Philippines.

2. “The theme, the platform, the only reason for running was national security and Lake hammered out the appalling statistics proving just how thoroughly the current Administration had depleted our military. ”
Very similar campaign platform in PH when PRRD run for president last year wherein he strongly advocated for total eradication of drugs. That was the only theme and the Filipinos have been drugged to believe that his message is far more important than tax cuts and affirmative action and abortion and family values and all other issues like human rights, contractualizations healthcare and other equally compelling subjects. This is a self induced myopia, failing to consider all the other sociallly pressing issues in favor of one “very important cause”.

3. “York knew what was coming. The people would indeed squirm and dislike the ads, then get the hell scared out of them, and Lake would suddenly become a visionary. Teddy was working on the terror. ”

York was Teddy Maynard’s PA and this was his reaction after watching the doomsday advertisement of Aaron Lake as part of spreading his message. Aaron Lake’s doomsday ad was received with a frenzy. Landed with a thud. No doubt projecting him as a saviour. WIth a banner that says: Lake before it’s too late. In PH parallelism, the campaign banner of “Change is Coming” was strongly supported by fans.
The lucrative promise raked in several millions of dollars of donations from armory company. In short, the promise sold pretty well among these companies and were willing to stash 5mil to assure the placement of a president who valued military defenses among many other pressing issues that beleguered America. What came to my mind as resemblance to this campaign strat was PRRD’s promise of doubling the salaries of the men and women of PNP and AFP. This ofcourse was received and believed so well and effectively.

These among many other points are but few of the many political bullets fired by JG in his book. I would have loved to read what happened after the campaign but Grisham, as anti climactic as he is in most of his novels, did not give me the pleasure of relishing how pathetic a single themed campaign is in the long run.20229311_10212145274819285_4951407297742226189_n

The Hollow by Agatha Christie

I’ve been hearing the name Agatha Christie since highschool but for some reason ,I haven’t gotten myself to either download an e.copy of any of her books or purchase one at bookstores. Anyhoo, I purchased five of hers at a thrift online store and I intend to binge on them after I’m done with all of the John Grisham books neatly piled in my bedroom. The Hollow was the first one because the title sound so mysterious.
If Agatha was an actual person I’ll have to meet, I’d say I haven’t done my assignment of background checking, say stalk Facebook or IG account. I had no idea she was into this genre – mystery/thriller. The Hollow in particular is a classic mystery book with sufficient spices of juicy riddles and compelling characters that ultimately wrapped up in a deliciously intriguing murder. I am particularly fond of Henrietta Savernake, an artist, an empath, a sort of fling to Dr. Christow and the one who kind of manipulated all the evidences to point the attention of the detectives and the police far from the killer. She is quick on her wits, easily spotting on cues that might lead to the discovery of the murderer and extraordinarily smooth in dodging near discoveries. It is amazing that she didn’t succumb to grief after Christow’s death. Instead of yielding to shock and sorrow at seeing the love of her life sprawled lifeless in a pool, she chose to stay cool by disposing of the proof of someone’s crime. Also, I like how she poured out her life to her passion – sculpting. At one point, John Christow said “If I were dead, the first thing you’d do, with the tears streaming down your face, would be to start modelling some damned mourning woman or some figure of grief”. And true enough she was working on something when the book concluded. 6/10
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Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Can you believe how brilliant this cover is? Well, first off, book title is Sycamore Row as in a row of Sycamore trees. And as the story unfold, you’ll discover that out of the six trees that used to be standing in that spot, only one was left. The same tree where Seth Hubbard, the sort of protagonist in the story, hung himself to death. Coincidentally, that’s the same tree where Seth’s father Cleon Hubbard ( five decades prior to his suicide ) lynched Sylvester Rinds by hanging. So that explains the single tree in the cover.
Now the color, when Seth Hubbard died, he left a vast fortune to his housemaid, how vast is vast? Gasp, gasp 24million dollars. And guess what he disinherited his wives and children. Yip 90% of his wealth according to his holographic will goes to his housemaid Lettie Lang. Naturally, the immediate family, Seth’s children would contest the will as there had been one made a year earlier and LL was out of the picture. The “rightful heirs” were in that will ofcourse. And so the battle of wills began. Simply put, a war over millions of GREEN bills. Thus the grass colored text of the author’s name. Here goes black and white, anyone who has read the novel would certainly be able to relate with me when I say that this was a war defined in terms of white versus black. Cleon Hubbard’s white pride couldn’t stand the thought that a black man, Sylvester Rinds owned an 80hectare land. So to lick his wounded ego, he lynched the man, burned the house and had every Rinds flee from the place. Brilliant. But Seth was a better man, sixty years down the road, he found a way to atone for his father’s vileness, leave the wealth he was able to amass in the last ten years of his life to Sylvester’s progeny, Lettie Lang. Tadaah!! Surprise of the century. Ok ,I’m gushing. And I am completely spewing words incoherently. Sum this up, I am thoroughly impressed with the book’s cover designer and the author’s brightness in stringing a courtroom drama. So many elements here that drove me close to tears. Brilliant.
ps: Zoe Saldana is vividly portrayed in my mind as Portia Lang, Jake Brigance’s paralegal who happened to be Lettie Lang’s daughter.
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