100 in ’11: Lehane, Hosseini and Hannah

Mystic River – Dennis Lehane

Summary: Murder brings three old friends together in adulthood (tragedy also pulled them apart in childhood). A haunting, bleak tale of lost innocence in working-class Boston.

I first watched Mystic River in high school for English. And when I watched it again recently, it left me wanting more. I had heard the book was much richer and more rounded, and I wasn’t disappointed. There is only so much you can fit into a film, and the novel goes a long way toward explaining the actions and motivations of Celeste, Jimmy, Annabeth, Sean and most of all, Dave. This novel made me grieve for his soul and the boy who never had a childhood, a good, but troubled and downtrodden man who never believed in himself. Lehane (apparently he also wrote Shutter Island, another movie I enjoyed) paints his city and characters with a familiar hand – the prose truly comes alive, even without the benefit of visuals.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

Summary: Two women of different generations are thrust into each other’s lives, and form an unlikely friendship. As tumultuous Afghanistan is thrown into war once again, they demonstrate how far one will go for the people they love.

This book is brutal and depressing, and also somewhat educational (fiction set in foreign lands is fast becoming one of my favourite genres. Did you know there were once gigantic Buddha statues in Afghanistan? I didn’t. I wish I could have seen them before they were destroyed – during a time I was old enough to remember, even). It prompted me to find out how the Taleban differs from the al-Qaeda, why the Soviets were in Afghanistan…It enraged me, and reminded me how lucky I am to be a woman living in a liberal country. This is a proud testament to the human spirit, to the strength and independence of women in Afghanistan (and other similar places) who refuse to be cowed. And finally, it led me to wonder just how much the human race could achieve if we could stop killing each other, repressing females, and focus our energies on more productive tasks instead.

Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah

Summary: Two best friends take entirely different paths in life – the girl with the troubled childhood becomes one of the biggest TV journalists/talk show hosts of all time, while her foil Kate (living somewhat in her shadow, even marrying a man who used to pine for Tully) chooses a quiet life as a suburban housewife.

Let’s keep this short. Enjoyable – not particularly original, perhaps, but a pleasant, undemanding read. If you have super close female friends, or you lived through the 70s and 80s, perhaps it will resonate more with you. For me, what stuck most were the observations of life in journalism and the demands it makes on you – demands which Tully embraced and Kate shrunk from. Others have said it resembles a Lifetime move (“TV for stupid people!”) so take from that what you will.

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