Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Lock My Door Upon Myself

Oates, Joyce Carol. I Lock My Door Upon Myself. New York: Plume, 1990. Print.
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My Thoughts
This book is only 98 pages and divided into three parts. Within these few pages are many elements of a good story. The book starts off with the narrator telling the reader that she didn't really know her grandmother. Then the story flashes back to tell the grandmother's story. The grandmother was born in 1890. Edith Margaret Honeystone (known as "Calla") lived an interesting, unconventional life. Calla was married, but it was a marriage of convenience, not love. She finds a (black) man she loves and does not let societal conventions hold her back from the love. She doesn't care what other people think. "I do what I do, what I do is what I wanted to have done" (Oates 37). She follows her forbidden love during a time the color of the man's skin was more upsetting than the affair itself.

What happens to this couple is shocking. Yet, the reader then understands why the narrator didn't know her grandmother. Her grandmother became reclusive, but I think there is a depth of why the grandmother locked "the door upon [her]self" and just existed. It fit her character (at least as the narrator described her).

What happens to this couple is also comical, at least as the rumors tell what happened. Chapter 29 begins the stories/lies of the "sightings" of the couple and what happened to them. The actual story of what happened doesn't surface until Part III of the book.

The title reference is on page 83.

Another story I thought about while reading Part III is "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. There are similarities with the women in the stories. There is also a direct description of Calla's wallpaper. Both stories bring up feminist issues and victims' rights.

I Lock My Door Upon Myself was a quick read and a good introduction to Joyce Carol Oates. I will make time to read more by this author.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.
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My Thoughts
For several years, this book has been recommended at my book club. It was finally chosen for this month's discussion. I was happy to have the deadline that made me actually pick up the book and read it. WOW! What a story!

Hillenbrand researched, interviewed and composed a great story. The book is not just a biography of  Louis Zamperini. It is a story of man's ability to endure. The writing is so descriptive that I often felt like I was experiencing Louis' trials. Hillenbrand also puts in footnotes to add value to the story.

The bulk of the story is Louis' time in a Japanese POW camp. I realized that most of my knowledge of WWII concerns Europe and the Jewish Holocaust. I did not know that such horrible treatment of people also existed in Japan. "Historians estimate that the Japanese military murdered between 200,000 and 430,000 Chinese, including the 90,000 POWs, in what became known as the Rape of Nanking" (Hillenbrand 88). After reading the treatment of Louis at Omori, I wanted to kill The Bird myself. He was a horrible man.

Louis' mother never doubts that her son is alive. "A fierce conviction came over Louise. She was absolutely certain that her son was alive" (Hillenbrand 139). This is after he's been missing for quite a long time. She never wavered. 

The book is divided into five parts. Part Five was the most compact section. Without giving away the story, I will say this part of the book was also the most rushed for me as the reader. She does include an epilogue as well.

One complaint I do have about the book is the switching back and forth between names. Sometimes I had to stop and remember who she was writing about because she flipped between using the first and last name.

I flagged many things in the story, but I think to appreciate the story, one must read it and let the experiences, suspense and shock come as the story unfolds. I hope the upcoming movie does the story justice.