At the start of COVID-19 I wasn’t doing much reading. I really couldn’t focus. I added a bunch of audiobooks to my library queue and have spent some relaxed hours listening to books while doing puzzles.
The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
It’s important to note that this story begins with a teenage girl, Nofar, falsely accusing a man of rape, or rather, not ‘correcting’ the assumption of rape. The story explores the extent and context of ‘truth’, because although the man did not rape Nofar, he did verbally assault her. The story also demonstrates the cumulative and ripple effect of lies, through both Nofar and a number of secondary characters.
The story is told from multiple perspectives, without judgement or bias, showing that we are not binary beings, and that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘honest’ and ‘deceitful’ exist on a spectrum within every person (ultimately The Liar presents two characters – a ‘good’ person who does a ‘bad’ thing, and a ‘bad’ person copping the consequences). The voice of Nofar is well-pitched – authentic and age-appropriate – and through her, we see how many teenagers are dispossessed of authority.
I pondered the place of The Liar within the context of the #MeToo movement. There’s potential for the book’s message to be interpreted in a way that supports the criticisms of #MeToo (that ‘everything’ is blown out of proportion; that a female’s accusation is believed at all costs, no matter the evidence). The premise of the book doesn’t sit comfortably but I think that’s also its strength, putting the challenge squarely in the readers’ hands.
Run by Ann Patchett
Like the other stories I’ve read by Patchett (Commonwealth and The Dutch House), Run has a fairy tale quality – the talisman of the statue; motherless boys; a girl with a talent, waiting for her opportunity to break from her Cinderella existence. However, Run lacked the warmth and humour of Patchett’s other stories.
The majority of the story takes place over a single night and day, and is told from multiple points-of-view – this structure helped create the tension and there’s a wonderful sense of time and place. However, the focus is on the action rather than the emotion and, as a result, I spotted the twist well before the reveal. In an action-driven story, authors are more compelled to tie up loose ends – Patchett does exactly that and there was no reason to think about the characters once I’d closed the book.
I count myself as a Patchett fan and, being a completist, I will read all of her books but I wonder if I set the bar too high by beginning with Commonwealth and The Dutch House?
Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan
When Jessica Pan found herself jobless, friendless, and living in a new country, she decided that she needed to break from the comfort of her introverted life (she describes herself as a ‘shintrovert’ – a ‘shy introvert’), and spend a year living as an extrovert (the main goal being to make new friends).
Full disclosure: I’m an extrovert. I actually love meeting new people and I frequently have long conversations with strangers (after such convos, my kids have often said, “Did you already know that person?”). Basically, I’m Jessica Pan’s worst nightmare!
I read this book because I have many introverts in my life – I’m frequently forcing them out of their comfort zones, and I do wonder why they keep me in their lives, given that I’m so pushy… Anyway, Pan’s memoir was a nice glimpse into how ‘the other half live’. She wonders why all extroverts aren’t walking around as anxious, exhausted balls of nerves (and equally, extroverts might wonder why introverts aren’t all lonely and depressed – these generalisations reveal the flaws in generalisations!).
There’s a bit of explanation about the reptilian brain and why we are geared in certain ways, but ultimately Pan’s conclusions give us all something to think about – that extroverts can borrow some ‘self-reflection’ and ‘down time’ tips from introverts; and that introverts can borrow some ‘how to meet people’ and ‘how to turn acquaintances into friends’ strategies from extroverts.
Pan’s book is honest, very funny in parts, and horrifying (even this extrovert would draw the line at improv comedy classes).