40. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My great aunt loaned me this book; otherwise, I wouldn't have picked it up. I'm not big on hype or bestsellers (though I've read and loved my share), and I've long since overdosed on World War II books.
All the Light We Cannot See isn't a World War II novel. It is a set of prose poems composed around the theme of that which we cannot see, but surrounds us. It is a clever and authentic story focused on the lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German soldier skilled with radios. My great aunt asked me why the chapters are not in chronological order, and the best answer I could give was that taking each moment out of time forces the reader to experience each moment one at a time. It's a technique that reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife, but plot is even less relevant. Narrative tension exists, but this book turns on a light we can feel, if not quite see.
41. Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Born Confused was a pivotal novel in my life. It arrived unbidden, when I wasn't seeking it, in an issue of Seventeen magazine. But once I read that chapter, I had to have the rest of the book. It's one of those books I've read over and over. It got me through adolescence, ups and downs of friendships, break-ups. I've practically memorized the silky butter prose.
Bombay Nights arrived after I had long surrendered hope for a sequel. Perhaps that's the problem. I've aged several years; the characters have aged only two. It's a different setting, a different moment in the character's life. And I don't relate as strongly. Hidier's writing seems even more music-infused, if possible, in a way that I would think was a gimmick if I didn't know her writing so intimately. It's genuine, I believe, coming from her, but I'm not quite as musical and I don't "get" it quite as much. I loved the poetry of some lines in Born Confused, but this entire book is practically a set of lyrics, including the less-than-sensical kind.
I want to like this book so much more than I do. I will probably read it again. There are some parts that are so true about being confused and growing apart from those you love. There's a scene at the end that brings everything together that reminds me more of the earlier novel. If you loved the first book, I wouldn't dissuade you from buying this one. If you're more musical than me, it may very well become a favorite. But I'll let this rest on the shelf awhile and hope I'm ready for it someday.
42. Drown by Junot Diaz
Finally, I read Drown! By the time I purchased it in the bookstore, I'd already read most of the stories in it before, but Diaz is always amusing and a little heartbreaking, in just the right sarcastic fatalistic way. This is about Yunior's childhood and young adolescence, so not as much of the scoundrel I've grown to know and love, but well on his way.