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Gin and Tolstoy (Summer 2018): Book 9(5 Posts)
Discussion thread for group 1, book 9
This was an interesting read for me, in that it caused me to pick something up and stick with it that I would not normally have read.
It's a fictional work by an evangelical Christian author, published by a Christian publishing house. I am not a Christian myself but I have read and enjoyed other books in which the author or their characters have talked about their faith (Minaret by Leila Aboulela and In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden are two that come to mind - both wonderful books).
The parts of this book that dealt with the character's relationship with God were thought-provoking. The message was to trust God, and while I think it would probably horrify the book's author, I think that's also in some ways a useful lesson/thought experiment for those who aren't religious - to stop trying to control things that are outside our control, and concentrate on fixing the things that are within our reach.
I really didn't like the set-up of the book - I thought the gender roles were painfully restrictive. The nurturing, controlling mother, the handsome but unavailable husband. Here's Ava, the main character, planning for a visit from her college student daughter (Dane is her husband, Jason her teenage son):
"Dad, you aren't paying attention," Jason said as he watched a sci-fi show, one of the space spin-offs that he and Dane usually watched together. They often discussed the plot and elements of the show, but it sounded like a foreign language to Ava, with all their photon blasters, warp speeds, and light years.
Ava, Jason and Dane lounged around the living room. Ava held her electronic tablet with her list of Sienna's weekend at home. She'd make her daughter's favourite pumpkin soup and order bread from the brock-oven bakery in town. To appease the guys, Ava would pop a beef stew in the Crock-pot.
So boys like science and beef stew, and girls like pumpkin soup (and according to the next paragraph, wedding planning and retail therapy). Ri-ight. I hated this aspect of the book and the fact that it was never challenged. It saddens me that the author has written a best-selling series for little girls called Gigi, God's Little Princess, featuring "the world's pinkest little girl".
The other thing that really turned me off was the attitude to wealth and prosperity. By the end of the book, Ava accepts her immediate family's fall in fortune as part of God's plan for her, but both the materialistic descriptions of her former wealth and the lack of charity towards her impoverished and miserable relatives left me feeling queasy.
The second half, where Ava leaves her smug affluent home life to go on a road trip back to her painful past, was more interesting and readable than the Forth Worth section. Closed this book with mixed feelings - at times an interesting insight into a particular kind of Christianity but essentially not for me.
Just finished this book and - being honest - I struggled to keep reading to the end.
I found the casual sexism throughout the book really grating, and the more I learnt about the main character's attitudes in general, the more I didn't like her, or therefore, care about what happened to her in the end.
I also maybe didn't realise just how much of an atheist I am. I was cringing at the god references from the start, and the more they came at me, the more I wanted to throw the book across the room! (I didn't though - since it's not mine to throw )
So really not for me - interesting to try something so different but as such a clearly staunch atheist this one was just a step too far away from my reading 'zone' - sorry!
Hmm, this was an interesting read. I found the religion bit slightly overpowering - not because I object to religion per se (I'm Catholic myself) but it was just a bit too much in the way that it dominated the way the characters behaved. I also agree with the points around the sexist portrayal of men vs women - this just sounded so old-fashioned.
I did find the book picked up in the second half, just because the story developed beyond the bible study groups - maybe not as much as I would have liked, but at least enough to keep my interest going to see what happened.
I'd be interested to hear from the book chooser as to why this was their choice. What was it you liked about the book? It was definitely something different and I assume the religious aspect was a big part, but why this book in particular?
Just finished this one. It is not something I would ever have picked up as I really don't enjoy religious books. It wasn't my cup of tea and I really didn't like the main character or her best friend. I doubt I will read another book by this author as it is definitely much to religious for me.