Okay, I admit I’ve been a slacker because I said this would be a “regular” post. Although, in my defense, I said it would be “somewhat” a regular post. Then again, I haven’t done a weekly book pile since the last (and only) Book Pile post, which was on January 28. Despite the fact I’ve read 16 books since January 1, I’ve only reported on 3 of them. Hence I’m a slacker.
I know, I know. Bad booknerd! [slaps my own hand]
But I aim to do better. So this post will be about 2 books* I’ve read since January 28. And I’ll try to write the next Book Pile before April.
This week’s Book Pile has a theme of sorts. See if you can see the common thread.
1. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry not only involves an unlikely pilgrimage, but also an unlikely protagonist—a 65-year-old retiree. Harold, who lives with his wife in a small English village, has a routine, mundane life. But an unexpected letter launches the first step that becomes the pilgrimage.
I don’t remember exactly what made me pick up this book to begin with. Maybe it was Harold and his commonplace, ordinary life. A life that once held potential, but sputtered and fell into a rut long ago. (Then again, maybe I’m projecting.) Maybe it was the title. A pilgrimage that was unlikely sounds interesting. Whatever the reason, I picked up the book and didn’t put it down until the last page.
At first, I found Harold rather workaday and pitiful, and his wife rather bland. Both merely existing in their small world they created for themselves, but neither living and certainly not enjoying what should be their golden years.
But with each step, Harold becomes more than he even himself envisioned. As the pilgrimage progresses, so does the character development of both Harold and his wife. Each milestone finds the facade that he and his wife had built slowly start to crumble. By the end, I admit, I cried, but not because it was sad (although the ending had its bittersweet moments).
I always enjoy a good story about people, or rather a story on the study of people. Because that’s what this is at its heart. Maybe it’s the sociologist in me, but I love to read about people and their journeys. To learn what happened in their life to set them on the course they’ve been on and the catalyst that alters that course, whether for better or worse. And while an actual pilgrimage may be a bit of a cliché as a transformative tool, I actually found it believable, especially since Harold had no intentions to do any kind of pilgrimage in the first place.
Overall, a beautiful and poignant read that shows that moving forward sometimes requires looking back.
2. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
As much as I enjoyed Harold, I might love Ove (pronounced ooo-vuh) even more. Ove is a curmudgeonly, recently retired man with rigid principles and an orderly routine. His world goes a bit sideways upon the arrival of new neighbors—a pregnant Iranian, her husband the IT consultant, and their two young daughters.
What drew me to this book was the cover. More specifically the title, which, on the version I have, takes up most of the cover in white block print (click the link above to see the cover). I happened to be browsing the book section of Target (take me to any store that has books, no matter how small a book section, & you’ll find me in the book section every time) when I saw this book.
Ove is not a name you see every day. In fact, I had never seen it before, so its uniqueness stuck out. (It’s a Swedish name. I learned this because the author is a Swede and the book is, you guessed it, set in Sweden.) Of course, because of the uniqueness of his name and the interesting block print title, I picked the book up and started reading the first chapter.
Needless to say, I was hooked. (And left Target with this and 2 other books. Really, I should never be left unsupervised in the book section, particularly when there’s a promotion like buy 2 get 1 free, which there was.) But back to this book.
A Man Called Ove carefully, but beautifully reveals Ove’s story. While we first see him as the man that everyone tries to avoid, we slowly learn why. Like the peeling of an onion, the layers come off Ove and we see the heart of the man instead of just his irascible shell.
And as we learn about Ove, we also learn about Ove’s neighbors—some who’ve lived there for years, some who are newer. And we discover how wonderful community can be when we are truly neighbors (a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward his or her fellow humans) instead of just being the people next door.
Overall, a moving and touching story that shows us we should never judge the goodness or beauty of someone by their outer layer and how powerful community can be.
Have you read these books? What did you think? Any books you’d like me to review? Tell me your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.
What’s up next on my to-read list:
- The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- Marked in Flesh, Book 4 of The Courtyards of the Others, by Anne Bishop
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