Sunday, June 25, 2023

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin


My third Zevin (though I haven't written about Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, I did review The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) and my thoughts about her are still the same. I'm not a huge fan of her gaps in time, nor the distance from the characters' thoughts and emotions. I feel incredibly aware that I'm reading a book the entire time, instead of really engaging with the world and thinking of the characters as real people. That said, her story concepts are AMAZING.

In this book, I LOVED her concept of death - the logistics, how it happens, how you realize, how you "age." I did think the love story was pretty forced. It felt like it was there just because a book "should" have a love interest (disclaimer: not my opinion) or the editor said to add it. I didn't feel anything for the characters, I didn't "ship" them. I also thought it was pretty icky - I know the ages are different on Elsewhere, but there was still a strange gap that I just couldn't get on board with.

I also didn't like the end, mostly because I wanted to experience more "life" on Elsewhere. However, I appreciate the concept of everything going full circle. (Although, spoiler alert: the newborn baby laughing? I know it's a book but that took me right out of this reality, it seemed way too cutesy and unrealistic.)

I guess this makes a pretty unsatisfactory review of the book because I'm not totally raving or ranting about it, but I do think it's worth a read. I'm glad I read it for the concept of death alone - it definitely got my imagination running wild.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

America the Beautiful? by Blythe Roberson

You know I had to take a photo of the book with the backpack I lived out of for six months straight.

Ah yes, two travel books back to back. Though this one is very different from Emily Henry...

In this book, Blythe Roberson quits her job to travel the country... just like I did in 2011. Well, I didn't quit - my company sold its business overseas and fired everyone. But the general concept is the same! Instead of fighting with dozens of other graphic designers to get a new job in the city, I just... didn't. I gave up my lease and put my stuff in storage and planned trips for months at a time, living out of a backpack.

Roberson goes to some of the same parks I hit, aka the biggest National Parks. But there are many I didn't visit, and many I'd never even heard of, so it was really interesting to read about her experience, which was somewhat similar to mine in many strange ways, but also very unique. I too met up with friends along the way, sometimes traveling together, sometimes just crashing at their places. I too drove alone for long stretches and started to feel like life wasn't real. I too wondered why the hell I was visiting these tourist traps along with everyone else in the country.

It's a unique experience to go to a beautiful, natural place and drive around for an hour looking for a parking spot. I thought I was the only grinch who experienced that lack of luck and felt bitter about it, but no, Roberson did too. I don't think that makes it a good thing necessarily, but it makes ME feel better, and that's what matters.

In all seriousness, this is a funny book about travel and friends and getting to know yourself, perhaps too much. There's a fun hook of Roberson earning Junior Ranger badges (which I did NOT do, and now need to do it all again). She also delves into the history of many parks, which I also didn't do - I just went to experience the location and take photos (many of which are now lost thanks for the great hard drive death of 2021).

It was hard for me to read this diplomatically because I kept stopping and thinking of my own experiences, so I might venture into the Goodreads reviews and see what people said if they didn't have a road trip foundation. I'm also very tempted to unearth my travel journals and see what embarrassing book I could write about my experience...