I always get the feeling that there are certain writers out there who you’re supposed to love if you are truly a cutting-edge book person. Helen Oyeyemi is one of them. I’ve always read positive things about her books, yet there was something holding me back from diving in. That is, until I received Mr Fox as part of my Willoughby Book Club subscription. I almost always adore the books they send me, and out of all of Oyeyemi’s books, Mr Fox is the one that appeals to me the most. Continue reading
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
I used to be a huge fan of Mr. Rushdie’s books. Midnight’s Children – check, The Moor’s Last Sigh – my favorite, but his recent works have been, well, rather less well received by me. And yet, I see a new Rushdie novel and my only instinct is to read it. Continue reading
DNF – How To Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer
Oh boy. Can I just start by saying I really wanted to like How To Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer. I have been following Netzer’s career since she came out with Shine, Shine, Shine in 2012. She is one of those hot young things getting all the accolades and everyone I know seems to like her books. Boom. How To Tell Toledo came in at the library and I was ready. Continue reading
The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag
The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag is a slightly more whimsical and magical book than I normally go for. It is set in a magical house in Cambridge where notable women for generations have sought refuge. Here they have 99 nights to turn their lives around, find their path and listen to the advice magically offered by previous residents including Virginia Woolfe, Emmeline Pankhurst and Florence Nightingale. Continue reading
Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman
When I lived in India my friend and I believed that you either liked Rohinton Mistry (me) or Salman Rushdie (him). It was just another way of saying either you liked magic realism or you didn’t. I did not. That is why I have never read Andrew Kaufman before. I’ve heard him speak at various functions and gatherings and found him engaging and witty, but I couldn’t ever temporarily suspend my disbelief to give one of his novels a try … until now. Born Weird is wonderful, but you likely know that already because I have not seen one bad or even lukewarm review of it.
Born Weird is a simple story, a family saga. Angie is summoned to her grandmother’s deathbed to gather her siblings together for the grandmother’s death. You see, the grandmother, at each child’s birth, endowed them with a ‘blurse’ (a blessing/ curse). At the time of her death she wishes to relieve them all of their burden. It has been eight years since the siblings last saw one another, but Angie travels the country picking each one up along the way. Unusual happenings plague her journey. Some might call them coincidences, but not a Weird. Early on in the novel Grandma Weird declares,
Until you realize that coincidences don’t exist, your life will be filled with them … Everywhere you look there coincidences will be. Coincidence! Coincidence! Coincidence! But the moment you accept that there is not such thing, they will disappear forever and you will never encounter another.
I thoroughly enjoyed Born Weird in spite of the tidbits of magic realism (or coincidences?) that enter the story here and there. They are consistent with the over all tone and purpose of the story and do not overshadow the plot or characters in any way. RandomHouse has done a particularly good job in packaging the book. Each chapter is headed with a small illustration of a crown, shark, camera or some such thing as on the cover shown above. It’s a small thing, but it ties the work together.
Who would like this book? Born Weird is a quick, fun and entertaining read. It was nominated for the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 2013, so that lets you know the caliber of the writing and the level of the wit. It is also a truly Canadian novel, as the Weirds journey the breadth of Canada from the east coast to the west. From that point of view, it would be well suited to read during a great Canadian car trip. The focus on family could put it in a position to be compared to The Family Fang, though Born Weird isn’t nearly so dark. Overall, I would highly recommend Born Weird for a nice, quick summertime read (ideally read while lazing in a hammock with drink in hand).