Jane Eyre is described as elfish, plain, with auburn or hazel hair and green eyes. Here she is with a favorite quote of mine.
Oh dear. If you’re new here, you know I rarely unleash one of my handy “just stop” memes for my book reviews. And that when I do it, it’s for good reason. I’m saddened to report a “wtf book” so early in the year, but here we are. That said, I don’t think many will agree with me when it comes to The Maid by freshman author Nita Prose. The book has already been picked up for a movie adaptation and is high on the NYT Bestsellers List. I can see why people will enjoy this, but I didn’t. It has all the makings of ~the unputdownable~: first person narrative, overcoming the struggles as the underdog, murder, romance, suspense. And still, this fell flatter than a pancake. If you read further, here’s the obligatory 🔥 SPOILER ALERT 🔥.
The story follows Molly the Maid (yep), a character I can only describe as a female mashup of Sheldon Cooper and Forrest Gump, who happily works at a four-star hotel. She is dedicated to bringing rooms back to a “state of perfection”. One day she finds one of the hotel’s prolific and famous guests dead. From there, she unwittingly uncovers a series of dark happenings, all while trying to survive on a measly salary following the death of her grandmother.
What bothered me was the inconsistency with Molly. She was naive and uneducated when it worked for the story, then deceptive, capable, and cunning in the next instant which made her innocence about the most basic of things ridiculous. Molly is a complicated character, which would have been fine had there been any consistency whatsoever. Yes, she was sheltered, had what I can only guess would be considered Asperger’s, and was raised through her grandmother’s endless usage of proverbs and empty platitudes (which you will have to read over and over). But that still doesn’t explain her actions, which led me to believe the author did it to try to create the element of surprise for the reader. And by creating that element of surprise, you lose the believability of your titular character. The other, more disturbing, issue is that if you are going to write a story about a person with autism, be careful to do it justice. Make it clear that wrongdoing, lying, or turning a blind eye to unforgivable harms is a moral compass issue, one that has nothing to do with the disorder the character may have. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating confusion and suspicion about an already misunderstood diagnosis millions of people live with.
Don’t waste your time or money on this maid service. Let this one collect dust.
2/5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️
I’ll be blunt. A Million Things by Emily Spurr will break your heart. But know the following: even as you lie on your kitchen floor shattered and ugly crying into a dish towel after reading this remarkable book, you will be better for it. We all need a reminder that we aren’t alone, even if we are lonely. To know that animals are just like any other family member worthy of respect and care, that parents can hurt and leave us, and that judging neighbors harshly can prevent us from forming the most meaningful of relationships.
I waited for this to come out on Audible because I was hesitant to read it, and knew I’d stop picking it up if I had a hard copy. I knew it would hit too close to home. Mentally ill mom. Check. Becoming an adult when you aren’t even a teenager yet. Check. Being left alone way too young. Check. Having your closest family member be a pet. Check. Based on those similarities alone, I didn’t think I could get through this given the heavy subject matter. But I found it was actually good for me to read something that shows the complicated upbringing of a girl, because I haven’t seen much of that or felt any connection with a female protagonist in this way. And y’all know I read a lot. We have so many coming of age stories about boys (Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies). And if the story Is about a girl, it’s always about how her heart is broken over a boy, or she has an eating disorder, or how she’s in love with her middle aged teacher. This here is no YA book. This was more like Room, where the perspective of a vulnerable but resilient child going through very adult trauma tells their story. We need more books like this, about children with imperfect parents, and how they survive the unimaginable. Know that this is a hard read, but a good one. Content warnings include suicide, hoarding, and mental illness, and child and animal physical injury.
Big spoiler: I clearly loved the book so I feel like I need to explain my rating. The reason I gave this four stars instead of five was because of the graphic part involving the description of Splinter’s injuries at the end. It actually made me feel a bit sick. It didn’t add anything to the story and was overkill. I didn’t think the same was true for the way Rae must cover up the smell of her mother’s corpse, as that served a purpose in showing the reader how she was trying to maintain appearances and save the only home she’d ever known.
Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dream Cast: 🎥 🍿
Rae: McKenna Grace
Lettie: Dianne Weist
Mom: Isla Fisher
Oscar: Iain Armitage
Spoilers ahead (kinda):
What a superb work of literature this was. An unforgettable story about a person who has forgotten. This was so richly layered, unique, and thought-provoking that I’m pretty sure this will be my go-to book recommendation to friends for some time to come.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is the story of a man living in a huge home constructed like a labyrinth. Room after room, covered with symbolic statues, wildlife, and surrounded -and fortressed in-by an unforgiving ocean. Piranesi, the title character, knows The House well, but it is so massive that even he discovers new things or new creatures, often to his delight. And because he doesn’t have a calendar, he has created his own measure of time starting from the day two albatross arrived at the labyrinth (i.e. six months since the albatross visited). But he doesn’t know much more than that about the time and space he finds himself in. How did he get there?
Piranesi is alone on this expansive property save for one other person, aptly named “The Other”, who has tasked Piranesi with helping him research the labyrinth. “The Other” is an unkind and short-tempered pendejo, something Piranesi, in his innocent and childlike wonder, doesn’t realize. And because Piranesi trusts “The Other”, and we are seeing life from his perspective, the reader doesn’t know what to make of him either. All we know is that he doesn’t stay, he comes and goes, while Piranesi never leaves. Making matters more complicated, Piranesi relies on “The Other” for supplies, even shoes. He also senses that Piranesi isn’t even his real name, just one given to him by “The Other”. So there is a ton of control and manipulation at play here. One day, Piranesi comes across someone new in the labyrinth, someone “The Other” doesn’t want him to talk to. This chance meeting sparks of a series of events that changes Piranesi’s life.
You can feel the isolation of Piranesi’s existence. Even though he doesn’t seem to mind, because it is all he knows, Clarke does an excellent job describing the emptiness of The House for the reader. Just imagine walking hall after hall in rooms filled with birds and gorgeous statues, and not knowing why or how you got there. You have to create your own calendar, make your own food, and survive the cold. You become with the ocean tides, that you know when a flood is coming. And for some odd reason, you know the statues surrounding you portray people and actions that are based on something real, but you’re not sure how you know that. And the skeletons be finds? This was a total mind boggle, and disorienting. Oh, and by the way, it turns out the labyrinth will cause you to lose your memory if you stay long enough. Hence Piranesi’s amnesia. Uncle.
Piranesi is a magnificent character, who is kind, curious. and appreciative of everything, despite the many hardships and obstacles that come his way. He respects all creatures, and has a sentimentality to him that made me love him even more. I felt oddly protective of Piranesi, and when I didn’t like how he was being treated, had to take a break from the book.
When I read up on Susanna Clarke, and discovered that she herself was in isolation due to poor health when she wrote this, it made this wonderful work of fiction even more meaningful. Because her struggle inspired her to create something quite beautiful. I wish I could hug her and thank her. Her strength through adversity gave us the masterpiece that is Piranesi.
Note: I enjoyed the audiobook of this more than any other I’ve come across. The narrator, Chiwetel Ejiofor, absolutely knocked it out of the park.
Dream cast 🎥 🍿:
Piranesi: It simply must be Chiwetel Ejiofor, no one else. I won’t hear of it.
The Other: Colin Firth
The Prophet: Jeremy Irons
Sixteen: Regina King