" 'It's an unspeakable thing to believe you can judge a person's character by the shape of her head.'
'Why?' said Joe Wear. 'People judge your character by the shape of your body all the time.' "
"His sister, Almira, wrote back, Now you will find out how sorrow shapes a life.
But sorrow doesn't shape your life. It knocks the shape out. It severs, it unstuffs, it dissolves. It explodes."
Have you ever come into a book as a skeptic, stayed a skeptic, and finished it a skeptic? That’s how I felt about BOWLAWAY by Elizabeth McCracken. It didn’t bowl me away, I guess you might say - if you enjoy terrible puns as much as I do
This book is ridiculous, and I love it for that. It opens with Bertha Truitt, a woman found sleeping in a cemetery in small-town Massachusetts around 1900. Bertha carries gold ingots in her purse and insists that what the tiny town needs is a bowling alley. We follow Bertha, her descendants, and her bowling alley over the course of sixty or seventy years. There are a lot of characters to keep track of: the softhearted doctor Bertha marries, her daughter, the man who claims to be her son, his two boys who are different as different can be, the women who bowl with Bertha in the alley's early days. Everyone is odd and rough and sympathetic in their own way. There are also a whole lot of disappearances, a side effect of having so many characters with so many secrets. Many come back into the story. Some don't. You'll just have to deal.
The writing is what really makes this book. Bizarre details stick out here and there: an octagon house named Superba (which, unfortunately, means "arrogant," but don't tell Bertha that, she won't listen), a death by molasses factory explosion, covered dishes stolen on boats off the coast of Italy, a very strange doll. I love McCracken's strange, sharp images:
"Our subject is love because our subject is bowling . . . This is New England, and even the violence is cunning and subtle. It still could kill you."
This book, too, is cunning and subtle, though I don't know if it could kill you. Worth the read, certainly.
I never thought a book with so much sorrow could be so fun to read. A quirky and playful take on a multi-generation family saga. Don't expect to read it like a straight forward story about a family or a mystery. I was truly delighted by the book's silliness and New England charm.
I enjoyed this quite a bit but I did not love it; just a little too sprawling and broad for my tastes. reminiscent to me more than anything of Karen Joy Fowler's historical fiction
This started out interesting enough, with a woman found unconscious in a cemetery. It definitely sounded like my kind of read, something a bit whimsical and quirky.
But I started to lose interest in it about a quarter through. I didn't want to give it up so fast, maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for it. So I moved on to something else (a faster paced, fun read) and then came back to this one. I gave it another try but in the end, decided I did not care enough to find out what happened to any of the characters in the book. It didn't work for me, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't for you. There's some great writing in here.
I didn’t like this as much as I thought. The initial protagonist’s role diminishes over the course of the book, and there’s not really any central action that ties events and people together. I liked the writing, but the story did t do much for me.
Starting with Bertha Truitt who brings candlepin bowling to a fictional Massachusetts town, the book follows the generations of family that come to own or work in the alley.
I did a quick challenge back in September/October to read books that my friends gave 3 stars! What better way to find out how well you and your friends match than reading a book they thought was "just okay"?
See video here!
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