Reading Challenge Update

Whoosh – September really flew by this year! It’s time for the monthly Reading Challenge Update.

Despite my best intentions, I think the Goodreads Seasonal Challenge is going to be more than I can get my head around this season. Although I’ve read 4 books in September, I haven’t posted any completed tasks yet.

I am hanging in there with my 2011 goal of reading 52 books. I’ve finished 39 so far, which Goodreads assures me is right on track.

For the all important Thoughts From the Back Third Trimester Reading Challenge, I have only completed #10 – Rain, please! by reading The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block. Nine books to go in three months, there’s still hope for me. At least this challenge helps Daughter #1 pick out which audio book to get at the library to help her survive her long daily commute.

I enjoyed Storm at the Door, but I have to say that I preferred his first novel, The Story of Forgetting. Block didn’t succumb to a sophomore slump, the writing is fabulous, but the story was a little slower and, for me, not as compelling. Block has always been curious about the grandfather he never knew, the grandfather who everyone tells him he favors so strongly. In 1962, his grandfather spent about 6 months in a private mental hospital. Originally Block tried to write a non-fiction account about his family during this time period, but he realized that there were too many missing pieces, too much information that only his grandfather or his grandmother would know. So he took the facts that he had and imagined what it must have been like both for his grandfather and for his grandmother who was suddenly raising 4 daughters alone, without knowing when she could be reunited with her husband or if he would be changed for the better or the worse by his institutionalization.

Block is terrific at setting a tone and mood with his writing. I had a constant feeling of uncertainty while reading – what’s happening, what’s being accomplished, what’s the point? I’m sure the people living this were feeling the same frustrations, but it didn’t make for easy reading for me. What I did find very interesting was that I recently finished One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and there were definite similarities between the mental health care systems depicted in the two novels.

I was left with the impression that this was the story that Block felt compelled to write. That he needed to explore this part of his family history, both to help understand how much it defined his family and to help him realize his own connections to his grandfather. I’m hoping his next novel is back to connecting with the reader and with his own imagination.



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