Thursday, March 28, 2013

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend


BUDO is a good friend to eight-year-old Max. When the woman who works with Max in the learning centre is about to do something terrible, Budo is the only one who can save him.
But even though he narrates this eccentric novel, Budo is not real. He is imaginary. And Max is the only person who can see him.
           Max may have Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by problems with social interaction and sometimes intense interests in mechanical things. Dicks shows us through Budo what it's like for a young boy who lives in  his head. More than anything, Max likes to be alone and he loves his Lego and toy soldiers. His parents argue constantly about how to deal with him.
             Memoirs is told from Budo's point of view. This is a little challenging because readers must find a way to wrap their heads around the concept that the story is being told by someone who does not really exist.  On the other hand, because Max isolates himself from people and lives mostly inside his own head, having Budo tell the tale seems appropriate and clever."

I remember my imaginary friend.  The premise that they really exist and can interact with each other grabbed my imagination.  Budo helps Max learn to deal with life.  This was a fast read and an enjoyable one for me.  Like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time it was interesting to get inside the mind of someone with Asperger’s/Autism. I have since read all the other books by Matthew Dicks.  Imaginary Friend is not my favorite but he is now one of my favorite authors.            
My Rating:  4 stars



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blue Asylum


Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property.
On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents--some seemingly sane, some
dangerously unstable.  Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris.
           The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment." She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home?”
From Goodreads

 I was hesitant to read this one at first simply because I think I have read everything I every wanted to about the Civil War. The Insanity angle intrigued  however and I downloaded a sample.  By the time I finished the sample I knew I would have to get the entire book. 
             We rarely see anything about the male dominant culture of the South. Plantation owners are either portrayed as loving father figures with lovely southern wives or evil slave beaters whose wives stand by in approval.  How many times was there dissension over slaver between a couple?  What could happen to a woman who disagreed with her powerful husband?
 My rating:  3.75 stars


Monday, March 25, 2013

The Dry Grass of August


“On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family's black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there - cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father's rages and her mother's benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally. Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass and of the racial tension that pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents' failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence...Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us - from child to adult, from wounded to indomitable.”
(Barnes & Noble)


I enjoyed reading The Help, which also explores the south during the beginnings of civil rights.  However, I enjoyed The Dry Grass of August even more.  Perhaps it was the frankness of the  narrator as she observes what happens as her family travels south.  My generation never experienced the prejudice and ‘normality’ of segregation in every walk of life.  People younger than me are even more ignorant of how ‘it used to be’.  I think this book helps us to see how unfairly blacks were treated.  While we need to move on, and for the most part, young people are blind to color, I do think we should be aware of the injustices of our past. 
 My rating:  4 stars