#86 ~ The i Tetralogy

July 16, 2008 at 5:00 am | Posted in Books, Culture, LIfe, Reading | 13 Comments
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The i Tetralogy by Mathias B. Freese

I remember very well the first time I learned about Hitler and what happened to the Jewish people under the rule of Nazi Germany. My teacher taught us that Hitler wanted to create a pure race and to me at that time, Aryan meant blond haired and blue eyed. I was very relieved when he said that. I was certain that me and my family would have been safe from the tortuous concentration camps. Reading The i Tetralogy brought those thoughts back to the surface. I had never considered what it might have meant to be one of Hitler’s chosen. As a child I only felt better knowing that we wouldn’t have been tortured. I never gave any thought to what it would have been like to look the other way or, perhaps worse, to become the torturer.

The i Tetralogy is a fictional account of the Holocaust and its impact from four points of view: a nameless Jewish man enslaved in a concentration camp (seems to be Auschwitz), from Gunther, one of the lead “untersturmfuhrer” of the same concentration camp, from Gunther living in the United States at the end of his life, and finally from Conrad, Gunther’s son born after WWII ended. It is a vicious web that allows no one to escape unscathed.

In graduate school I took a Literature of the Holocaust class and it was one of the most profound of my life. The work covered in that class was mainly autobiographical and focused on such works as The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi, Night by Elie Wiesel, and This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman by Tadeusz Borowski. We also read Maus and Maus II by Art Spiegelman. For me, Primo Levi’s work was the most difficult, emotionally painful, yet precious to read (if this makes sense). The i Tetralogy reminded me of that experience and amplified it. In it Freese said those things that were left unsaid by the survivors.

Freese, as I discovered while reading Down to a Sunless Sea, is a talented writer. The passion he poured into this novel is clear. It was a difficult book for me to finish. Over the week it took me to read this novel, my anxiety level rose steadily. My jaws would be so sore when I woke up in the morning and I found them clenching for no reason throughout the day. My physical reaction is a testament to the power of the experience. The i Tetralogy would not have worked if it were written by a lesser author.

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To buy this book, click here.

#04 ~ Keeping Faith

January 31, 2007 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Books, Jodi Picoult, Parenting Dilemmas, Reading, Religion | 4 Comments
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Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

I love Jodi Picoult. The last time I finished one of her books I suffered withdrawal symptoms because I didn’t have another one waiting in the wings. So it was surprising to me as I began this book that I was growing tired of her. I actually was wishing I’d chosen another book. This happened a couple times before while I was in high school. I read so many Steven King and Danielle Steele books that I began to recognize patterns and just couldn’t read them anymore. At one point I swore that if I ever read another book that mentioned Carmel, CA that I would throw it against the wall. Thankfully, as I read further into the story, I got hooked and couldn’t put it down.

This is the story of a messy divorce and custody battle and its effects on an only child named Faith. Mariah, Faith’s mother, suffers from a lack of self esteem. From the moment that Colin shows interest in her in college, she allows him to mold her into the type of wife he wanted. She loses her identity. Colin’s first infidelity drove Mariah to suicide. He had her institutionalized against her will and it was in the hospital that he discovered her pregnancy. That was the only thing that kept their marriage together. The book begins when Mariah and Faith come home to retrieve a lost ballet leotard; they find Colin getting ready to take a shower with another woman. In the aftermath, Colin leaves, Mariah calls in her mother to take care of Faith while she gets herself straightened out, and Faith begins to see and talk to God.

Mariah takes Faith to psychiatrists, doctors, rabies, and even allows interviews with Catholic priests in order to get to the bottom of Faith’s visions. Faith was found by all to be mentally stable, but no one was brave enough to believe that Faith’s visions were actually contacts with the divine. That is, until her touch brings her grandmother back to life after being clinically dead for an hour. Once that story hits the press, people begin to congregate outside of Mariah’s home. The story is spread even further by an atheist televangelist name Ian. He has made it his life’s work to debunk religion and especially the miracles. When Colin returns home from his honeymoon with his pregnant wife, he discovers what is going on and decides to sue for full custody of Faith, using a renowned cutthroat lawyer. Not only does Mariah need to find the inner strength to handle the situation with Faith, she then has to fight to keep custody of her daughter.

Some of the relationships that develop seem too convenient and predictable. As with many other of Picoult’s lead female characters, Mariah is not alone for long. On the other hand, I enjoyed the way in which Mariah interacted with her mother. They have a truly special relationship. Still, the most interesting thing about this particular Picoult novel is the way in which visions, religion, faith, and God are handled by each of the characters. I believe that the book covered this topic and all sides with respect.

This was not one of my favorite Picoult books, but I would recommend the book to others. It provides the opportunity to explore your beliefs about the extraordinary. What would you do if your child began seeing visions of God?

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