Monday, March 18, 2013

Blue Clay People

Blue Clay People: Seasons on Africa's Fragile Edge
Author: William Powers
Source: Recommended by mom
Days to read: 10

Traveling to Liberia to work as an aid worker to fight poverty and help save the environment, William Powers provides an incredible account of his experiences. Upon arrival in Liberia, Powers is eager and ambitious. He quickly discovers that the intricacies of the issues are far more complex than he could ever have imagined.

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world and many cities lack running water and electricity. Upon his arrival into the capital city of Monrovia, Powers describes a mountain of garbage that is piled in the middle of the street. Children can be seen scaling it in search of useful items. While there are many parts of the book that are down right depressing, Powers also describes the wonders of Liberia such as the beaches, the rainforest and the resilient people who inhabit it. Throughout the book Powers refers to the notion of “enough”. Coming from America where consumerism is out of control, Powers is intrigued and fascinated by this mantra of the Liberian people who have so little. It is a concept that every reader should take from this story.

I really enjoyed reading this one and I learned a lot about Liberia, it’s people and the many complex issues that they face as a nation. We often think other countries problems are isolated to them and do not really affect us/we do not affect them. This book opens your eyes and dispels that argument. Who is purchasing rich and expensive mahogany furniture for their super sized homes? Not the Liberian people. However they are the ones with little choice but to clear-cut their forests and destroy the environment at an alarming rate in order to cash in on North American’s expensive tastes. This is just one example in which outside influence and life style play a major role in the many issues that Powers’ addresses and seeks to find a solution to. 

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Author: Muriel Barbery
Source: Ali's book club choice
Days to read: 8

Now this was a challenging book but well worth a read. It is evident that the author, Muriel Barbery is familiar with Philosophy!

The book has two different voices. The first is a middle-aged concierge named Renée who suppresses her intellect and interests in order to fit into the stereotype of a simple, lazy and uneducated concierge. The second voice is Paloma, a 12-year-old genius who is irritated by everything and everyone in the world until she meets Renée. When the new Japanese tenant Ozu moves into the prestigious building, both Renee and Paloma are intrigued to find another individual they consider an equal.  Through joint interests and enjoying each other’s company, Paloma is finally able to see some good in the world and Renee’s spirit is awakened by her new friend Ozu who sees and knows her for the person she is.

We had a really good discussion about this book at our last meeting and the majority of us really enjoyed the book. Both characters hide their true thoughts and feelings and essence of who they are to the outside world. Fortunately, Paloma is young and is able to learn from Renee and appreciate things in life.

There was some disagreement regarding the end of the book. Some people were left sad and disappointed while others felt it came full circle and were satisfied. I hover somewhere in between these opinions. Without giving too much away, a traumatic event occurs that does evoke sad feelings however I felt that this event was only the closing to a bigger story and that lessons were learned and new and wonderful experiences were had and recognized.

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