Archive for the ‘trust’ Tag

Expectations and Perceptions   Leave a comment

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In Trust Exercise Susan Choi raises the question of perspective; everyone has their own version of a situation. Here it isn’t immediately clear whose is who’s.

David and Sarah are students at an elite performing arts high school; they have a summer romance between their freshman and sophomore years. They, their peers and Mr. Kingsley, the theatre instructor, do little to acknowledge the relationship once school resumes in the fall.

The novel’s three sections are all entitled “Trust Exercise.” This is clever since it not only relates to the classroom experiences designed by Mr. Kingsley to teach the students to depend on each other; it also admonishes the reader to have faith in the narrative.

The first section focuses on David and Sarah’s relationship with supporting roles provided by their classmates, teacher, parents and exchange students from England.

The second “Trust Exercise” re-introduces Karen, a character previously, albeit briefly, mentioned. The switch takes some adjustment since the storyline is now more hers than Sarah or David’s. It’s as if the roles have been switched from supporting player to star. Additionally, a switch from the omniscient narrator to Karen’s voice regularly occurs.

Asides to the reader create a theatrical ambiance, as if to remind of the ties to the performing arts. Drama, in all its forms –onstage and beyond the proscenium arch – is ever present. 

Choi has crafted believable characters in credible settings with the challenge of considering different points of view regarding relationships, commitment and loyalty.

Trust Exercise

Four bookmarks

Henry Holt and Co., 2019

257 pages

Love and the Passage of Time   Leave a comment

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An American Marriage is about the institution of matrimony and race in America. Author Tayari Jones introduces readers to Celestial and Roy as each provides their perspectives on their relationship from its early stages to the circumstances that shake its foundation.

Roy’s a country boy with grand aspirations who left rural Louisiana at his first opportunity; Celestial is an artist born and raised in Atlanta. She could be considered haughty, just as he could be seen as arrogant in his drive to move far beyond his roots. Yet, Celestial is the more appealing character of the two. She’s intelligent, independent and creative. There’s just something about Roy that makes him less sympathetic.

This is true even after he is sentenced to serve a 12-year prison term for a crime he did not commit. During his incarceration, the narrative is told through the couple’s exchange of letters. Initially, their correspondence is warm, loving, a continuation of their previous life together. Slowly, the letters become less personal, more terse and infrequent.

The other significant character is Andre, literally the boy next door; Celestial has known him all her life. They have always been close friends and it was Andre who introduced her to Roy.

One year quickly becomes five. Life moves forward for all concerned through professional success, a death and realizations about the past. Following an early release, Roy hopes the passage of time hasn’t completely removed him from Celestial’s world. All are left to wonder what future their marriage holds.

An American Marriage
Three and three-quarter bookmarks
Algonquin Books, 2018
306 pages

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If you remember 1984 and Animal Farm from high school or college reading requirements, The Circle by Dave Eggers will sound familiar. It’s just that Eggers, who has nothing on George Orwell, offers a contemporary setting in a Googlesque-complex in Northern California. The concepts of Big Brother and following the pack are nearly the same.

Mae, short for Maybelline, has just been hired by the prestigious organization thanks to Annie, beloved by her work colleagues and Mae’s former college roommate. Landing a position not only gets Mae out of a dead-end job, it provides an opportunity to be on the cutting edge of social change.

The Circle, the company’s name, thrives on numbers in the form of clicks, responses to surveys, extracurricular activities and tracking followers that makes Twitter and Facebook look like make-believe social media.

Mae’s initial job is in customer service. Her employers, from lower management to the triumvirate who founded the Circle, manipulate through passive-aggression and let the numbers speak for themselves: the higher the percentage or score, the better – no matter at what cost.

The trouble is that Mae is not all that likeable. Annie is far more interesting, but it turns out that her role is not much than that of a door opener. A former boyfriend, Mercer, provides a dissenting voice, but he’s one-dimensional with little chance of being heard.

Privacy, transparency, friendship and trust are all addressed here. While these are important themes, the characters are not strong enough to bear their weight.

The Circle

Three Bookmarks

Alfred A. Knopf, 2013

491 pages