Books I Read in September 2019

The Testament by Margaret Atwood

As this is one of the most popular books this year, I found myself lucky to be one of the first on the hold list at the library. It's an excellent follow-up to The Handmaid's Tale told from three perspectives—none of which are Offred from the first book. The narrative perspectives offer experiences outside Offred's, and they help to round out the world in a more thorough way. Each character is informed by her upbringing and the events happening around her. The plot is engaging and character-driven. For fans of The Handmaid's Tale, this book does not disappoint, but there's no need to have read it to understand this book. As far as sequels go, this one exceeded my expectations.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

In an island off the coast of Japan, various items are disappearing—not only from the world but from people's memories. Birds, bells, fruit, and so on. The people in this small community continue on living without these items, though there are a few people who are unable to forget, and the Memory Police are there to seek them out to keep order in the world. The book's writing style is nonchalant, just as the people experiencing this memory loss are; they lose any sense of emotional attachment to the items once they've been removed from the world. It's an extraordinary exploration of sentimentality and how we move on from loss.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

I had some trouble with this one. This writing is absolutely poetic and beautiful, but I felt that it takes itself too seriously. It's written as a letter from a young man to his mother, a Vietnamese immigrant. The writing is stunning, and the topics the book explores are important and uniquely defined. Thematically, the book is about the power of storytelling, of the secrets we decide to keep and when and how we decide to tell them, and of how our relationships are changed and defined by these secrets. In terms of the atmosphere of the book, I'm not sure I was in the right mood to appreciate it; it came off a bit pretentious to me. I used to adore "pretentious" books, if I'm honest, but I've become more sensitive to them now. This book is wise, and it knows it's wise, which was off-putting to me. Again, I may just not have been in the right frame of mind to enjoy it, but the writing truly is beautiful.