While I’ve been enjoying Anna and Rebecca’s fall into the Randian rabbit hole that is Atlas Shrugged, I think it might be time to break all that up with something a little lighter. So let’s talk about the book that might be the polar opposite of Atlas Shrugged: Eli the Good by Silas House. One of the Amazon reviews called this book gentle, and that is the absolutely perfect word for it–it is a gentle story about a young boy growing up in a small town in the South in the 1970s. More specifically, the story follows Eli through the Bicentennial summer of 1976 as he and his family try to deal with his father’s trauma after coming home from Vietnam and the sudden arrival of his war-protestor aunt. I feel like that description makes it sounds more dramatic than it really is. While dramatic things definitely happen, overall the book has the sort of slow, leisurely feeling you get in the summer when even important things happen at half speed.
For me, the most powerful part of the book was how well House captures what it was like to be a kid in the rural South in the 70s. I am not quite old enough to remember the Bicentennial, but so many of the things he talks about in the book–trying to sleep in a house with no air-conditioning, riding bikes all over town with your best friend, riding around in the bed of a pick-up truck–were almost painfully familiar. (Okay, to be fair, my mother never let me ride in a truck bed. At the time I thought she was no fun, but now I’m thinking I should call and thank her for being ahead of her time in auto safety and for keeping me alive. See also: not letting me play with the fireworks you could buy on the side of the road.) The book also has a powerful feeling of nostalgia, since it is about Eli as a child but is told from a perspective of him looking back as a adult. This made the book feel even more like memories of my own childhood. I also really liked perspective on the political tensions of the Vietnam era. I feel like people don’t talk about that time much today–maybe because it’s too recent to be considered “History” but too long ago to be at the top of our minds–but it has shaped all sorts of things about the world today, so I always like reading about it.
At one point Anna and I had discussed doing one-word book reviews, and I think that is shorter than I can handle, but I am going to start trying a couple of new things in my reviews. From now on, I’m going to include a three-word review of each book, and a sort of book association game: “if you liked this other thing, you might enjoy this thing I am recommending.” My hope is that this helps our readers get a sense of the books, while also helping me really crystallize my feelings about the books. So, for Eli the Good:
Kinsey’s Three Word Review: Sweet Southern tale.
You might also like: Bridge to Terabithia or anything by Lee Smith.
And now the Atlas Shrugged live blogging can continue. (And for the record, while I remember enjoying The Fountainhead well enough when I read it in college, these days you couldn’t pay me enough to tackle Atlas Shrugged. I will stick with my YA and vampire books.)