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February 2015 book reviews

When We Wake, and, While We Run, Karen Healy

Tegan is accidentally shot at a protest rally and dies in 2027. When she wakes from cryonic sleep, it is 100 years later and the world has changed. Same-sex relationships are no longer taboo, Muslims are respected in society, and computers are more like overhead projector sheets than bricks but also more trackable through the government’s highly developed surveillance networks. It’s a world where the hysteria around sharing Australia’s resources by accepting refugees has gone to new heights, and new technologies have been developed to cope with the drastic climate change that has occurred. I guess you’d call it a dystopian world, but it felt more like a possible future to me. I largely agree with the political ideology of this novel, but even I found it a little preachy at times. Nevertheless, I read on to the sequel and I’m glad I did. It’s told from the perspective of Tegan’s love interest Abdi and explores more of the characters’ own ethical conundrums which opens up new possibilities in the storytelling. The characters in both books have a self-awareness which makes them less self-absorbed and thus much less infuriating than other ya characters!

The Disappearance of Ember Crow, Ambelin Kwaymullina

This is the follow up to The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf in ‘The Tribe’ series and Kwaymullina continues to set herself apart from the hoi polloi of young adult dystopian fiction. I’ve found most books in that genre build the world in book one and then lose that sense of discovery in the subsequent ones. However, in Ember Crow new things about the world are revealed and the sophistication of the storytelling maintained. Themes in this series such as climate change, race and technology overlap with When We Wake and While We Run but they’re addressed much more subtly.  I’ll continue following this series with interest.

I Do Not Come to You By Chance, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Though set in Nigeria, the premise of this story was familiar to me from university graduates here in Tanzania. Kingsley is a chemical engineering grad but he is rapidly coming to see that the education his parents so valued as the way to a better life is far from it. Though he has exemplary grades, he cannot find a job, and consequently keep his girlfriend. With the death of his father, he’s left with the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings. Meanwhile, his uneducated uncle has become fabulously wealthy, and it’s to him that Kingsley turns in search of employment. At that point that he’s confronted with some major ethical issues. This was a much more enjoyable read than the other Nigerian fiction I’ve read. Even though the subject matter was just as serious, here I felt the author effortlessly succeeded in making me as the reader empathise with the person on the other end of those Nigerian scam emails we all get.

Us, David Nicholls

Douglas’ wife Connie tells him she thinks their marriage has run its course just as they’re setting off with their son Albie for a Grand Tour of Europe. The trip goes desperately wrong, and that’s confounding to Douglas because he’s thought very carefully about what his wife and son would enjoy. The problem is that he’s made an unbending, laminated schedule that must be kept to! This book is more humorous than it sounds because of Douglas’ combination of self-awareness and self-dismay. (There is a particularly funny scene where he tries to eat a bowl of Vietnamese soup in an effort to show that he is open to new things.) The reader is privy to his memories of when Douglas and Connie met as well, so what emerges is the tender story of the conservative scientist and the outrageous artist who fell in love, and what they are and what they might have been after 30 years.

Out of a Far Country: a gay son’s journey to God, a broken mother’s search for hope, Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan

I was a little worried when I started this auto/biography that it was going to be a gay conversion story in the ‘I used to be gay and now I’m straight’ sense. There are a number of elements of that in it, including an experience of a ‘gay lifestyle’ that is stereotypical enough to suit any conservative – promiscuity, drugs, HIV, etc. Two things make it better than that. The first is that this is also the mother’s story of repentance. The chapters alternate between Christopher and his mother Angela and we see the change in her as well, from her outright rejection of Christopher when he came out, to her own conversion to Christ and decision to love her son unconditionally. As she matures in her faith, she learns not to pressure her son and to entrust him to God. When Christopher eventually becomes a Christian, while in prison, it’s the discovery that “for the rest of my life, I was going to live with this felony on my record… but with God is seemed I had no record; I had no debt to be paid; I had no shameful past.” So this book is not about becoming not-gay so much as it is about two people discovering the love of God and its implications for their relationships, especially their relationship with one another.

 

Categories: Book book review Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

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