Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review - Heaven is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy

Heaven is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy


Stephanie Nielson

Category: nonfiction, memoir, burns/recovery, Christian

Synopsis: Badly burned with her husband in an airplane crash, Nielson heals and rebuilds her life.

Date finished: 9 April 2013

Rating: ****

Comments: While I was reading this book, a friend asked me what it was about. When I told her, she said she couldn’t read that, she needed a more uplifting book. I assured her that it was uplifting. And that’s almost the extent to which I can comment on this book. It’s not flashy, no purple prose or angst-filled soliloquies, just honest emotions, struggles, and joys. She didn’t go into much detail about what healing entailed, and at times I was fuzzy on exactly what hurt and why, but that may have been for the best. The physical disabilities and wounds weren’t what interested me.
     The psychological wounds, the trauma of having your life and abilities changed, and especially the hurdle of getting over the physical changes to her face and body, that’s what made me think. Even though we tell our children, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” that’s a hard truth to remember when faced with facial scars, skin grafts, and gawking onlookers. I’d bought the book because it was so highly reviewed on Amazon. And then I let it sit on my shelf for months. I wasn’t sure if this was a journey I really wanted to go on. But I picked it up last week and opened to a page at random, and it happened to be the part where hospital staff is urging her to look at herself in the mirror for the first time. That really got my attention, and I wanted to know how she’d react to what she saw.
     The simple writing made it easy to put myself in her shoes, and the part that was most heartrending was when her sisters decided it was time for her children to see her. It would seem that they’d not prepared the children well for what they would see, and they sprung it on Nielsen. It didn’t go well. I felt such empathy for Nielsen. I was angry, hurt, and disappointed, too.
   All in all, this was a nice, honest book about a life-changing accident and its recovery. There was a pleasant Christian (Mormon) overtone that seemed natural, not preachy or overwrought. I enjoyed this read more than I thought I would.

Would you recommend this to a friend?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review - Blue Nights

Blue Nights


Joan Didion

Category: nonfiction, memoir, grief

Synopsis: Didion tells about her mourning period after her adult daughter dies.

Date finished: 3 April 2013

Rating: ***

     For the first time, I have no idea what to say in my review of a book. Plain and simple, to critique this book, I believe, is to critique how it’s written. And Didion’s writing? Not so much my style. It’s part stream-of-consciousness, part academic, and almost entirely affected. I found it distant, disconnected, unpleasantly dark, with a tone that suggests mental illness. It’s coherent, but the way it weaves certain phrases through the entire book, from one chapter to the next, although a nice literary device, feels ominous, oppressive. I read her Year of Magical Thinking when it came out, and I didn’t care much for that either. I just reread a portion of it, and it is similar in writing. I’ve not read her other nonfiction to compare. Perhaps this is her style, why she’s so highly regarded as a writer. To me, the writing is just unpleasant.
     Beyond the writing, I found her insistence that her daughter know that Didion and her husband needed her—not loved her, but needed her—disturbing. She used the word over and over. I don’t recall the word “love” appearing once.

Would you recommend this to a friend?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review - 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess


Jen Hatmaker

Category: nonfiction, memoir, downsizing/stuff, simplicity, sustainability, Christian, project

Synopsis: Hatmaker and her family set out to simplify seven areas of their lives by fasting from items, events, and stressors.

Date finished: 2 April 2013

Rating: ****

     Let me start off by saying that I was fully prepared to be annoyed by this book. Reviews I’d read indicated that the tone might be preachy, the writing annoying, and the author out-of-touch with how the rest of us live. I have to say that from the beginning I was surprised by how very much I was enjoying the book. Yes, her odd sense of humor and teeny-bopper way of expressing herself did grate on my nerves occasionally, but she was always able to rein herself in before things got out of control.
     I found the book introspective and genuine. Compared to some, her life might look privileged; her family might have a bigger house, newer things, more gadgets, but she readily admits to her family’s excess. In fact, that was the whole point. I think I was likely the demographic she was writing to.
     I’m not of the Christian tradition that fasts, but I can appreciate why some Christians do, and certainly it produced fruit in the author’s life. By fasting from food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress, the family lightened their load of earthly “stuff,” became more ecologically responsible, ate better, learned to rest, and became more focused on serving the have nots of the world. By fasting from the things of the world, she was opening herself up to the things of the Spirit. “It is supposed to be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Not because I’m a narcissist but because the discomfort creates space for the Holy Spirit to move.” (page 16)
     I agreed with most everything she said. For instance, “Think about the things you’d most hate to lose (outside of your family), and you’ll identify your idols.” (page 116) “Obedience isn’t a lack of fear. It’s just doing it scared.” (page 86) “Parenting my garden requires way more emotional energy than I expected.” (page 127) “If you think you want something, wait a month.” (page 169) “At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it…” (page 172) “…to be lifted we bow…” (page 174)
     At times I felt a distinct sense of regret and guilt that I do not do more to help the poor and afflicted. And as she states, “Sometimes conviction is mistaken for guilt…” (page 9)
     I appreciate that she shares her point of view without patronizing or condemning. I especially appreciate that she doesn’t bring politics into the discussion. She would have lost at least half her audience, and they would not have heard her beautiful message. Still, I wonder how much of this could be solved with conscience-voting. And I’m not talking about the guy who wants more money for food stamps, I’m talking about the guy who’ll use tax revenue for those who have no opportunity to be anything but poor (and by this I mean non-Americans). It says a lot about America and Americans that we spend $16 billion in foreign aid and $276 billion on (domestic) advertising. (page 93) The haves get more and the have nots get nowhere (except, it can be argued, for the ones put to work creating all the stuff for the haves to consume).
     As for domestic homelessness—one of her family’s pet causes—there are many of us who wonder if it’s time for less handouts and more hands up. What does it really do to feed the homeless every Sunday? Is that done for us or them? If they don’t receive help for addictions, occupational training, and life skills, what good does a hot meal and new shoes do? This may be why so few of us do things at home but sponsor starving children in other countries (and in some cases, adopt those children). I would have really appreciated a discussion on this topic. The fact that she didn’t address it means she’s either never thought about it or she sincerely believes the Bible doesn’t support this line of reasoning.
     I also would have appreciated a list of world charities that are honest and true, who do the most good with the least overhead. So many of us are poised to give more, but we don’t know where to give it. I happily noted the nod of approval for kiva loans (micro loans made to help entrepreneurs of other countries start businesses—the repayment rate is 98%), but I would have liked a list of resources for additional organizations.
     All in all, this book has the potential to change one’s heart—and one’s worldview—if you are open to the message. We all have too much stuff, and most of us can admit it. We all should eat better, and most of us are trying. We all should live just a little closer to the earth, but it takes so much work. We all know we should give more, do more, but we don’t know where to start. I think the author would say, “Start here, right where you are.” We’re so afraid that our efforts won’t be big enough to bring about enough change, so we do nothing at all. But we have to realize changing one life with our one life is the beginning of a chain reaction.
     I do have to mention that this book had an uncommonly large number of errors in it. I got tired of finding and circling them. By page 50, the author had misused “it’s” and “its” three times. This bothered me a great deal, because the author considers herself (page 170), “a word girl….I correct misspelled words when I text. When the PowerPoint has a grammatical error during worship, I have to close my eyes to avoid this language failure.” I’m a word girl too, and I was closing my eyes and praying not to judge A LOT with this one. Editing that bad is sort of unforgivable. The errors are why I gave 4 stars instead of 4.5 or 5 stars.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes, especially Christians or others with a heart for it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review - Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner: A Memoir


Bich Minh Nguyen

Category: nonfiction, memoir, childhood, Vietnamese-Americans, refugees

Synopsis: Nguyen details her childhood as a Vietnamese refugee in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Date finished: 27 March 2013

Rating: ****

Comments: I was surprised at just how sad this book was. There were no major crises or traumatic events, per se, but overall there was a gloomy gray cloud always hovering. The tension, secretiveness, and dysfunction of her blended-family home and the normal difficulties of growing up, was all compounded by their refugee status. Bich and her sister Anh learned to be American via television, but they never learned to be Vietnamese. Nguyen lost the ability to speak Vietnamese as she gained the ability to speak English, everything a tradeoff, the balance never quite right. This was another book about identity and home and what refugees—what we all, really—sacrifice to define who we are. It didn’t have the luminosity of Kao Kalia Yang’s The Late Homecomer, nor the intellectualized poise of Azadeh Maoveni’s Lipstick Jihad and Honeymoon in Tehran, but it stood its own.
     My main complaint is the skips and gaps in time. The book is obviously composed of essays that were unsuccessfully hobbled together. There is no chronology, but in most of the chapters (essays) she’s either seven or twelve. Her high school years are skipped altogether, and in the last essay she’s in college. This jolting from one age to another and then back frustrated me. The gap of her teenage years made me wonder.
     At times the passages hit a little too close to home. As the San Francisco Chronicle endorsement says on the front cover, “This story resonates with anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider.” Although I don’t have the experiences of a refugee, the feeling I remember most from childhood was the feeling of not fitting in. Like Nguyen, I spent my time alternating between working to be the smartest girl in class and wishing to be invisible. I also watched a lot of television. Being the same age, the television shows, snack foods, and songs she mentioned were my childhood, too.
     The breaths of relief came when she talked about holing up in her top bunk and reading. She writes, “I read to be alone. I read so as not to be alone….I plowed through books as fast as possible in order to read them again.” I often wonder what my childhood would have been like had I found reading during it.
     Although I wondered about her high school years, I was glad to know she reunited with her mother during her college years. Her father, his mother, and his brothers fled to America with Nguyen and her older sister, leaving her mother behind without so much as a note. No one talks about her to the girls after that. One of my favorite passages comes when Nguyen is considering her mother: “I had always known that whoever my mother was, she was not the stuff of fantasies. She was, on the contrary, the stuff of too much reality. And I avoided that reality—my whole family had—for years.”
     Another favorite passage, in fact the passage that distills her entire identity struggle, comes when Nguyen looks back on a conversation she had with her Mexican stepmother, Rosa, about visiting Rosa’s family: “I couldn’t explain to her that it wasn’t dislike, it was unfamiliarity. Her family didn’t know me as I didn’t know them. It was too much for me to synthesize white American culture, Mexican-American culture, and my own Vietnamese culture all at the same time. I couldn’t explain, either to Rose or myself, that in wanting to belong everywhere I ended up belonging nowhere at all.” 
     This wasn’t exactly the book I had anticipated. I thought we’d see more of a progression instead of just a childhood. I expected more issues with barriers—language, cultural, and otherwise. But what was presented was an honest, interesting, story of isolation, uncertainty, and the difficulty of growing up American while most people around you don’t consider you American. I can see why this is required reading in college classrooms around the U.S. The ideas presented are important ones to explore.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes, especially to those interested in refugees, assimilation, and culture. Would be good for teen and college-age readers.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review - My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes)

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes)


Luisa Weiss

Category: nonfiction, memoir, Germany, Berlin, food, cooking

Synopsis: Weiss, the daughter of an American father and Italian mother, raised in Germany and America, finds her place in the world when she falls in love with a German and settles down in Berlin.

Date finished: 21 March 2013

Rating: ***½

Comments: While I enjoyed this book, it wasn’t exactly what I expected. I’ve been following Weiss’s website for several months now, and while the recipes don’t usually appeal to me, there’s something that keeps me coming back. I suppose it’s her writing, her way of telling a story, or maybe, I realize now, it’s her larger worldview. What I didn’t really realize until I read this book was that she’s not a very chipper person—not a depressive, but not entirely cheerful. That’s the tone of this book, somewhat somber. It’s interesting to read a romance story told in this voice.
     What I found so interesting about this book (aside from the fact that I’m still unsure if the subtitle “A Love Story” refers to her relationship with her boyfriend-turned-husband, or her relationship with Berlin) was how the book was about something I’m not even positive Weiss intended. For me, the romance was secondary. The primary storyline here was “home.” What constitutes home? Where is home? Especially, where is home when your father is American, your mother is Italian, and you were raised in Brookline, Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany. The better part of the book was about Weiss finding the place she truly belonged. I’d never thought about this before. I was born and raised just an hour from where I now live. Home to me has always been a farm or a dorm room or student rental or apartment or a little ranch-style house on a corner lot. Home was never a question of which state or which country or which continent I found myself.
     I think this sense of dislocation, of not fitting in—or of fitting in too many places—was what lends the somber tone to Weiss’s story. Every time she settles somewhere, another of her homes beckons her back. In the end, though, she decides her home is Berlin.
     All in all, this was a well-written, even charming story. It suffered from poor editing (I found a half dozen errors within ten pages), which was too bad. It also offered a good introduction to German food (or at least Berliner food—if it differs from German food overall, I’m unsure). I found her recipes rather fussy and bossy, and chuckled to find she realized she was a bossy recipe writer, when she labels herself that on page 104.
     Here’s my favorite moment in the book, and it gives you an idea of the writing. A few minutes before midnight, she and her fiancé decided to ditch a New Year’s Eve party they were on their way to. On their way home they come upon folks celebrating in the street.
It was a stunning couple of minutes. I felt so lucky to have had them. They were like a gift, like someone drawing open a heavy velvet curtain on the secret machinery of humanity and letting me have a few minutes to watch it all unfold. Thank you, I thought, sending my gratitude upward and outward to whoever was responsible for all that had happened to me in that impossibly hard and wonderful year. I could see it all now, the heartbreak included, as part of a continuum.
Would you recommend this to a friend?
Probably. Would appeal most to foodies, expats, and globetrotters.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review - Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way


Mayim Bialik

Category: nonfiction, parenting, Attachment Parenting, families, celebrity

Synopsis: Bialik explains what Attachment Parenting is, its benefits, and what it looks like in her family.

Date finished: 19 March 2013

Rating: ***½ 

Comments: Having read books in the past about attachment parenting (though I’m not sure it was called such), I knew that it wasn’t likely the parenting style that I’d choose in my life. Regardless, I wanted to read this book with an open mind, without judgment, and not dismiss any part of what she says out of hand. After all, Bialik assures us in her first chapter that “this is not a judgmental book. This is not a book in which I explain to you why what you have done or want to do is wrong…”
     Well, both of us failed in our attempts (read chapter 7 on “Elimination Communication” and perhaps you won’t blame me). But I think we both get points for effort.

     Briefly, attachment parenting is based on the following principles:
  •      birth should be natural with as little assistance from the medical world as possible
  •      babies should be breastfed
  •      parents should be sensitive to a child’s needs
  •      bonding happens through touch (baby wearing, breastfeeding, etc.)
  •      families should co-sleep (everyone in the same bed)
  •      parents should be the primary (preferably, only) caregiver
  •      discipline should be gentle (reasoning vs. spanking)
  •      your needs and your child’s needs should be balanced
While I think critiquing a mother’s parenting philosophy is dangerous territory, there are some things that I had to wonder about. Although Bialik presented her philosophy with candor, intelligence, and sincerity, there were times I just wanted to shake her. We all use what we want to back up our parenting philosophy. Some use the Bible, some subscribe to a certain pediatrician or book, and some, like Bialik, use scientific research. This seems the most wishy-washy of the options considering you can find studies to back up any position—even harmful ones—you want to hold. For instance, as I understand it, attachment theory is based on the idea that if all of a child’s needs are met quickly and sensitively from infancy on a child will form a strong bond with its parent/s, thus making his future independence easier and seamless. In other words, baby sets the schedule, and parents facilitate it.
     Opponents to attachment theory would say that the kind of dependence where a child is never left to his own devises, is never left to cry or play alone, will grow up to be narcissistic and needy, unable to meet his own needs because he hasn’t the tools to. To illustrate this: Bialik’s children were both well over one year old when they learned to walk (at least one walked at 17 months, page 166); both were over three years old when they stopped breast-feeding (weaning was child-led, not parent-led); and both of her children were over three years old when they learned to talk. She explains this—I think it’s fair to say—delayed development, away as just slow developing. What would be cause for alarm in some circles is “just the way he is” in others. But I have to posit that all of us non-attachment readers are thinking, “Maybe your kids aren’t walking because they’ve always been carried. Maybe your kids aren’t talking because they’ve never had to ask for anything.” (Or more crassly, “because they’ve always had a breast in their mouth.”) Of course, this is not child abuse, and her children are sure to catch up to other children their age, but the point is, she doesn’t think they necessarily should be like other kids their age, and she doesn’t think her parenting has any effect on delayed development. They are simply slower than other children. Perhaps yes, but I can’t quite bring myself to believe that.
     With her PhD in neuroscience, she often bases her defense of attachment parenting on hormones and evolution. Evolution is another slippery slope, though, because she’ll use it to back up one opinion but ignore it when backing up another. So, while she’ll tell you that breastfeeding and co-sleeping have been done throughout human history up until very recently, making an argument that we are hardwired to do these things, she does not discuss the notion that perhaps humans are “evolving” beyond the need for it. Isn’t it possible that we’ve evolved beyond the need for co-sleeping? Isn’t it possible that our ancestors co-slept because they needed to keep baby safe, and warm, and now that we no longer have to ward off predators and have reliable heating in our homes, we don’t need to co-sleep? Isn’t it possible it was never about human bonding and only about human preservation? 
     I found it odd that someone with her education couldn’t better anticipate her reader’s questions and head them off at the pass. Perhaps she didn’t want to, but I came away feeling that my questions weren’t addressed, and therefore, weren’t valid. Now, I know it’s not her job to validate my parenting beliefs nor defend hers, but in the pricklier parts of the book, I think some of this was necessary, and it was likely a missed opportunity for her.
     She spent a long time talking about teaching children to share and how she thinks this is a silly idea. She doesn’t think her child should have to give up a toy because another child wants it. She doesn’t think she should have to tell him to share and he should obey simply because that’s the way it’s done in polite society. And she has a point. I’ve heard this debate before. Many times. It’s a big thing out there, in case you didn’t know. What I think parents on both sides are missing is that the problem isn’t with the child who has the toy and doesn’t want to give it up when another child fixates on it. No. They problem is with the child who thinks someone should give up a toy because he wants it. There’s where your behavior modification needs to come in, people! That’s the kid who should be told to “share!” if anyone is. But I digress…
     One more thing. Shortly after the book came out, Bialik and her husband announced they were divorcing. The newscaster or writer (I forget where I heard or read this) said it was not due to attachment parenting. I remember thinking that was a strange statement at the time, but now I can understand how this kind of parenting could wreak havoc in a marriage. Although Bialik wrote quite a bit about how she and her husband were in agreement on their parenting, and how attachment parents need to keep their marriages strong, I now wonder if this was a factor in the breakup. Any marriage that puts the children ahead of the union will navigate rocky seas and be more likely to wreck upon the rocks.
     So, in conclusion, this was a well-written account of how one family uses attachment parenting to raise its children. It offered much food for thought, and there were areas where I agreed with her wholeheartedly, such as physical punishment being unnecessary and illogical. In the end, we all just want to have respectful, intelligent, and happy children. Each family must get there on their own, listening to and following their intuition.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Only if they are looking for information on this type of parenting or for variations on parenting theories.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review - The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club


Will Schwalbe

Category: nonfiction, memoir, books, reading, families

Synopsis: While his mother undergoes cancer treatment, Schwalbe and his mother, Mary Anne, form a two-person book club.

Date finished: 18 March 2013

Rating: ****

Comments: All through this book I kept thinking: why has this book resonated with so many people? Not that is shouldn’t have, but there’s no denying that this book has done what few books about books do. I suppose it owes a lot of its success to the death component of the book, the part I enjoyed least (I kept wishing for more “book club” and less “end of life”), but I also think that there were many things going on here, that many different people in different phases of life could react to. There was the end of life aspect and the avid reader aspect, of course, but there was also the mother/child relationship, the activist, the gay son, health, and politics. A lot to relate to.
     Oddly, it took me awhile to truly care for the narrator or his mother, but I found myself enjoying them—if not really relating to them—by the book’s end. Though I disagree with his mother’s politics, I understand her reason for them, and by the end of the book I fully respected them as well as the woman who held them. It took a while, but Schwalbe succeeded in creating a fleshed-out mother, with her years of work in Afghanistan and literacy; her disdain for silliness; her pride and positivity; her spiritual prayer life.
     I’m glad he didn’t spend much time on her actual death. It was all wrapped up in a few pages (almost abruptly considering all the lead up).
     What I found myself enjoying most was the talk of books. Although most (all?) of the books discussed were fiction, and therefor books I’d never read, they were all books I’d heard of, and they were discussed in a very understated, yet intelligent, way. I’ve read many books about readers reading, but this book was the most successful. I actually enjoyed reading about the books they discussed, regardless of the fact that I’d likely never read them myself. This is because, as Schwalbe says, “All readers have reading in common.” (page 314)
     One of my favorite exchanges between mother and son was on page 151:
     “It’s cruelty that gets to me. Still, it’s important to read about cruelty.”
     “Why is it important?”
     “Because when you read about it, it’s easier to recognize….”
     I also thoroughly enjoyed his description of the reader’s voice many writers put on when reading their work in public (page 205). It made me nod and laugh out loud with its accuracy.
     All in all, this was a well-written tribute to mothers, books, and what endures.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes, especially to those who love books about books.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Review - Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail


Cheryl Strayed

Category: nonfiction, memoir, hiking, Pacific Coast Trail

Synopsis: In order to change her life and shake the grief of losing her mother to cancer, Strayed plans to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) alone, from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington.

Date finished: 13 March 2013

Rating: ****

Comments: All along I was thinking: how am I going to rate this book? It seems like whenever I read a book that’s become hugely successful, I feel swayed by the reviews that came with it. On the one hand, this is a wonderfully engaging read. It was the kind of book you have a hard time putting down. Strayed is a successful storyteller, capturing and holding your attention. I felt like I was taking that hike with her. It was fascinating.
     On the other hand, though, I found her immature and self-destructive behaviors (drug use, indiscriminate sex, etc.) something I wanted to, at best, pity, and at worst, run from. Almost worse was her absolute unpreparedness for the trek she’d embarked on. She hadn’t read a book, asked other hikers what to expect, considered the weight of her pack, nothing. It was like watching a kid run away from home with only a bag of candy and a comb. Yikes.
     There were a few times during her everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong tales when I wondered if I was being had. Was I being moved along by a true story, or had she embellished for effect? While this is a risk with all memoirs, it’s especially risky in a memoir about an event that takes place in virtual solitude. No one could corroborate or deny her story. It seemed almost too good (or bad) to be true. I hate to be this cynical, but the thought did occur to me, so it seems fair to mention it here.
     In the end, we’re left to believe that the trail cured her. Cured her of her grief over losing her mother years before, cured her of her drug abuse, cured her of her lascivious appetites, cured her of the desire to destroy the good things in her life, cured her of her naiveté. I’m not sure I bought it. Yet, while she was wildly immature, her story was told with a depth of maturity that I can only attribute to her years spent after the trail. So maybe the trail did “cure” her. Certainly an experience like that would change a person.
     I appreciate how her last page or two mentioned the fact that she married and had children. I had worried that when it was all over, when she reached her destination, and we all got off the trail with her, she wouldn’t give any indication of where she ended up. I’m glad to know.
     I’ll leave off with one of my favorite passages that, to me, encapsulated the feeling I got while imagining myself on the trail—in her hiking boots—so to speak:
Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. The radical aloneness of the PCT had altered that sense. Alone wasn’t a room anymore, but the whole wide world, and now I was alone in that world, occupying it in a way I never had before. (page 119)

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes, but with the warning of drugs, sex, and other behaviors that may turn some folks off.