HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #23: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

I like to read high concept books, simply based off of their premise.  In The Brief History of the Dead, we see two parallel stories.  First, are the people living in the space between their life on Earth and whatever comes next.  They believe they only exist in the inbetween for as long as someone on earth remembers them. And second, we see a young woman, living in Antarctica, as the rest of the world dies from a plague.

The premise alone makes the book worth reading. It’s unique, and Brockmeier does a great job exploring the intricacies and logistics of how this type of passing on would actually work. And the descriptions of how people slide from their earthly life into the next are amazing, beautiful, incredibly creative.

What really struck a chord with me is the idea of trying to figure out how many people you know, or are acquainted with.  We can catalog our lives much easier with social networking, but beyond your 500 or 1,000 Facebook friends are probably 10,000 other people you’ve met at some point in your life.  

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HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #15: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This book has been reviewed no less than five times already on Cannonball Read V thus far. I kept seeing reviews, most of them were raves, some were neutral, so I figured I’d take a look. Semple was a producer on Arrested DevelopmentMad About You and Suddenly Susan, all shows I loved in my youth, or love now, or both. You can feel some of those sensibilities in the book, and you can really feel how she traditionally writes for the screen.

This is a family drama, at heart. It’s about Bernadette, the reclusive mom who is fiercely protective of her daughter but also fiercely paranoid and losing it a bit. It’s about her husband Elgin, a high level Microsoft executive work-a-holic who realizes too late his family is falling to pieces. And it’s about the mature beyond her years Bee, their daughter, who ends up driving the story, suffering hurt but moving past it with the incredibly resiliency of a teenager and forcing her parents to face their problems.

It’s no surprise that the movie rights have been acquired. Nor is it a surprise that the 500 Days of Summer writers are scripting it, because it’s full of that same type of whimsical quirkiness.Antarctica, eccentric architecture, mud slides (the natural disaster, not the drink), odd homes, prescription drugs, outsourcing your life to India, recluses, etc. If you’re not into that, I’d recommend staying away. But if you can look past the oddball details, there’s a compelling story here. It keeps your attention, it’s funny, and really it makes you think about how people handle themselves when tragedy strikes, or life deals them a hard blow.

More reviews over at my blog!