Book Review: Ohio

Author: Stephen Markley
Published: August 21, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
FLW Rating: 2/5

I was so drawn to this book as a mash up of murder and social commentary — but I’m here to tell you it was neither. What I got out of this book was a very long and very wordy diatribe on modern America. To make it worse the pacing was uneven and the loose ends that made the plot intriguing never came together. Let me explain.

Ohio is the story of one night in the small town of New Canaan, Ohio, when four former classmates have returned home and somewhat accidentally run in to eachother. Told from the perspective of four distinct voices, each protagonist revists their past, while building up to the night of reunion, to form the full story of life today in America’s midwest.

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This story covered it all — 9/11, terrorism, the opioid crisis, domestic violence, gay rights, and honestly probably even more than this. Basically – this book tried to do it all (hence the length of almost 500 pages). My issue is that it didn’t do any of them well. Most topics were both skimmed over and brutalized. The story didn’t dig in to any topic in particular, but instead just created a sort of chaos of negativity. In the end I didn’t finish the book with a heightened sense of awareness on any given topic and that truly disappointed me.

In a book like this, I like to trace the story through the perspectives and guess as to how they will all come together. Near the end of the prologue, Markley established that there was an accident on the far end of town where, as it foreshadowed, all four story lines would unite. The first three stories got there, but the fourth never did. I wasn’t sure if I had missed it, but I discussed the book with a few other reviewers and they agreed, the plot never looped back to the accident at the end — which left me extremely confused and unsatisfied as the reader. In rereading the book description, it appears that the connection between each story was meant to be Rick, a classmate who died in Iraq, but even that didn’t feel like a common thread, more a random coincidence.

The pacing of the book followed a similar pattern — three first stories were slow, but led you to believe that they were headed towards a common climax. On the contrary, the fourth book was INSANE, fast paced, and went in a different direction. I’ll admit that in other books I’ve read recently, I’ve forgiven a slow start for an action packed and rewarding finish, but since the pieces didn’t come together in this case the action packed finish never paid off and was just a greater reminder of the uneven pacing in this book.

My advice to you (since we all interpret books differently so I wouldn’t say don’t read it), is to really prepare yourself. This book is dark, heavy, intricate, and complicated with a ton of sex, violence, politics, and drugs. It may be for you, but it is not for everybody.

Book Review: What Happened

Author: Hillary Clinton
Published: September 12, 2018
Genre: Memoir (Political)
FLW Rating: 4/5

As I’ve mentioned on here before, I don’t usually read books about recent history. If we’re being honest, I bought What Happened mostly as a coffee table book – something to display on my shelf for eternity as a sign of who I voted for in 2016. I kind of intended to read it, but after a few months I resigned to my fate of not reading it. But then I started The Unread Shelf Project and made it a goal to finish all books purchased before 1/1/2018 this year – so here we are.

I ended up listening to this book on audio, and I have to admit, I teared up in the first chapter. I almost stopped listening because it still felt too soon, but I powered through and the rest of the book was matter of fact – which to me is the strength of this book. It’s a non emotional explanation of intents and mistakes of the 2016 Presidential Election. No antics, no tears, no need to respond to attacks. I found it really helpful for me to have it all laid out in a civilized manner, so I can finally put the election behind me and focus on the future.

What Happened is the story of the 2016 Presidential Election, from the perspective of Hillary Clinton. It feels like an attempt from Hillary to be open with her supporters and let us know the background of many scandals that didn’t get proper coverage, focus, or explanation during the campaign. She discusses what she’s doing now, what it’s like to be a female in politics, Russia and why it matters, and those damn emails. It’s a must read for anyone looking for closure from the craziness of 2016!

While there no denying that this is an “agenda pushing campaign book”, I found that it had a lot more than that to offer. I enjoyed learning more about Clinton’s research in to females in politics and her perspectives on being a working mom. I also really enjoyed learning more about the email scandal because the reporting on that was all over the place during the campaign. And while I had been warned that the book was all about Comey, I found his role in the book to be considerable but not to the point of annoyance. There were times when I agreed with Hilary, but also times that I disagreed, and I would encourage everyone to read or listen to this book with a grain of salt.

I listened to this book on audio – which I thought was a great way to do it. The obvious perk is that the book is read by Hillary Clinton herself. You can hear where she gets exasperated or excited or any various emotion you may miss in print. It felt very personal to hear her expressing her confusion over why people didn’t find her to be an open book when she was as open as she possibly could be. The other perk is that in a long book about politics, there are times when you may want to zone out – audio was perfect for this 😊. The downside is that this book is very uniquely structured in hardcopy. There are sub chapters and sub sections separated by a boldly formatted quotes. When these are read in audio, it can seem confusing since they don’t explicitly tell you the chapter is changing, but once you get used to it, it starts to make sense.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. It was great for me for reflecting on the election and moving past it – the last section of the book focuses on where do we go know. The answer: always forward.