My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard

My Struggle
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Can the mundane details of everyday life be transformed into literary art?  This is Karle Ove Knausgaard’s accomplishment in his six-volume novel/memoir entitled My Struggle.

Four of the six books have been published in America, and we are joining a worldwide chorus of praise for this new literary star.

So what is Book 1 about?  As Jerry Seinfeld might say – it’s about nothing.  In blinding detail, Karl Ove takes us along on simple events in his life, bouncing from adulthood to childhood and back again.

Is it a novel or a memoir?  It’s a memoir with such great detail that he either has an encyclopedic memory, or he’s filling in his personal story with lots of fiction-like details.  This is not your typical novel by any stretch.

Somehow, his hyper-real style pulls us deep into his world, and…well, it’s difficult to get out.

I, for one, am hooked.

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word
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I was eager to read this book because of my own experience with Pure-O OCD.  For those who don’t know, Pure-O OCD is a lesser-known form of OCD that “has fewer observable compulsions, compared to those commonly seen with the typical form of OCD (checking, counting, hand-washing, etc.)”  It was very obvious that Tamara Ireland Stone did a lot of research and took her time interviewing the teen who inspired her interest in this topic.  Sam’s intrusive thought spirals and panic attacks felt very real, and her therapist  sounded authentic.

Ever since kindergarten, Samantha has been a part of a clique called the “Crazy Eights.”  Even though she finds herself drifting from the group, and despite the fact that her therapist has recommended that she work on finding new, less “toxic” friends, Samantha feels stuck.  She is too afraid that parting with the clique will leave her without any friends and also make her a target of their bullying and gossip (like another girl who previously left the group).  Because of her OCD, Samantha lives in constant fear not only of her intrusive thoughts and panic attacks, but also that people will find out how “crazy” she is.  When Samantha meets a girl named Caroline, who offers to show her something that will “change her life,” she actually goes for it.  She follows Caroline, discovers a secret poetry club, and starts to make new friends.  Writing poetry helps her to work through her feelings, and making new friends helps to boost her confidence…  But will it be enough for Samantha to finally accept and just be herself?

The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman

The Day We Met
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The Day We Met tells the story of Claire, a woman in her forties who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  As she begins to lose more and more of her memories and her sense of self, she begins to write in her memory book so she will not forget the important people in her life.

The novel alternates between present day and sections written in the memory book, sometimes told from Claire’s point of view, and sometimes from her daughter, husband, and mother.

I found this book a little difficult to read at times, because of the reality of Alzheimer’s that is presented.  However, I thought the book was well written and that the characters were all well developed.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl
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Cath was not just a Simon Snow fan.  She was an über Simon Snow fan who actually had followers of her own.  How?  Cath wrote fan fiction.  More specifically, she wrote Simon/Baz fan fiction.  And her story, Carry On, got tens of thousands of hits every time she posted a new chapter.  While I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that Cath entered college with the intention to be a fiction writer, I was interested in how she struggled with creating stories all her own even though the fan fiction flowed so easily for her.  Even more than that, I was impressed by how wholly I found myself being absorbed into Cath’s everyday life and her struggle to adjust to the new realities of her life as a college freshman.

On the surface, my experiences as a college freshman wasn’t much, if anything, like Cath’s. Much like when I was reading Eleanor & Park, I found that the details of the main character’s life didn’t have to match up for the story to touch me on an almost spiritual level. Maybe it’s because there is just something so fundamentally real about Rainbow Rowell’s characters? Maybe they are people I could see myself being friends with?

The one major complaint I had about this story was that I wanted to know more about Simon Snow.  I enjoyed the passages that supposedly came from the Simon Snow books and from Cath’s fan fiction… but I wanted to be able to read all of the Simon Snow books and watch the movies, too!  I was absolutely delighted, therefore, when I saw an announcement  about the cover art reveal for the Carry On book from Rainbow Rowell, which is due out in October!  (The book was apparently announced back in December, but it probably didn’t register on my radar because Carry On didn’t mean anything to me until I read Fangirl.)  You better believe I immediately signed in to my book ordering account and added this title to my pre-order list.  I’m just hoping, now, that I will find lots of other stuff to read and keep my mind off Carry On so I don’t go crazy waiting.