Sunday, January 9, 2011

Magel's Daughter by Nancy Baker

At first glance, Karin is your typical housewife.  Delving deeper, we find how skeletons in the closet have affected her delicate psyche.  This book takes us from a solid woman looking to find herself in a world lost in dirty dishes and helping the children with homework to a place so dark that few tread.

One of the things I love most about reading is that each book is a different form of art.  There are some that are just set in stone and we extract the facts and integrate them into our own lives.  Most books, however, are put together in such a manner that the reader has to extract the images and put them together in a different manner.  Your mind becomes the ending place for whatever you've filtered from the book.  Each of us finds something different, as if determining what we choose to take away from a painting.  The facts are all there but we interpret them differently.

I had so much fun with this book!  It's dark and humorous and there are so many different ways to interpret it.  The back of the book proclaims that we're watching the end of Karin's journey into insanity.  I spent the entire book trying to rationalize her behaviors and thoughts because I don't want her to be crazy.  Is she?  That's up to the reader.  In my opinion, she could be or she could not be. 

Sometimes when I go check out other review before writing mine, simply because I want to know if others got the same thing out of the book that I did.  Every single other review that I found focused on the matriarchal viewpoint of the book.  It's there and it's definitely a focal point, but there's so much more.  It's interesting watching Karin fight against the history of her family and her mother's controlling ways.  For me, this wasn't the main plot of the book, however.  Insert art viewpoint here.

As a read, this was definitely engrossing.  I was immediately sucked in by the odd behaviors of the family and the entertaining comments of the 'ghosts'.  The characters are all real and dark.  You love them and hate them, all at the same time.  You despise their weaknesses and inhumanity while at the same time relishing their intricacies and strengths.  Don't pick this up looking for a light summery read, however.  This is a dark look at life, though grossly fun.

The only complaint I have about this book is that I would have loved to have seen a study guide questionnaire added to the back.  This is perfect book club material.  After reading, there is so much that you have going through your mind and you need to discuss it with others.  You  need others to bounce ideas off of in order to gain the full potential of the book.  Not only are there the major points regarding familial bonds and power within the family, but there are subtexts throughout the entire book.  I can't imagine how long it took Nancy to develop such a stimulating book while entwining so many life views and possibilities without coming across as preachy and boring.  Well done!

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