There is a long-running debate about whether it’s better to read the book first or see the movie. My opinion on this matter of the utmost importance is, without any doubt, see the movie. The book is almost always better, so you see the movie first and think “Wow, that was great!” Then read the book, and discover it’s even better. If you go the other way around, there’s an inevitable sense of disappointment about what was changed or that the actor they chose didn’t match the picture in your head at all.
Stranger than fiction may be a cliché, but it is one that succinctly describes many of my favorite non-fiction works. No book embodies this more than Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary. This true story, set in 1895, is often referred to as Ireland’s last case of witch burning, but the reality of Bridget Cleary’s horrific murder was more complex. Believed by her husband and a group of extended family members to be a changeling – a sickly double or imposter left by the fairies in place of the real Bridget – the young dressmaker was burned to death in the hearth of her own cottage in an effort to release her from her captors and destroy the evil spirit that had taken her place. Bourke describes the crime and those whose lives were altered by it with vividness and compassion, and the story is both sad and fascinating, exploring as it does the explosive mixture of traditional folk beliefs, gender roles, and the societal changes of late nineteenth-century Ireland that combined to bring about such a tragic occurrence.
Harlan Coben’s suspense fiction usually involves rapid action and dialogue revolving around ordinary people who find their lives changed by extraordinary events, and Hold Tight is no exception. Tina and Mike Baye are parents of sixteen year-old Adam, worried because Adam’s friend has recently committed suicide and Adam has become distant and secretive, then disappears. They debate the issue of their son’s privacy and install a spy program on Adam’s computer, resulting in their finding a disturbing message on the computer. The story also involves a sadistic killer and neighbors with their own problems. The various plot lines converge and the suspense continues until the last page. Coben raises many issues for parents today–how much freedom and privacy to allow our children? What lengths will we go to in order to protect them? How much information do we share with children and at what age? How much privacy are children entitled to? I found the book hard to put down and, if you have children, the questions raised by the story are ones to think about for a long time.
John Grogan’s first book, Marley and Me was a success story because of a wonderful, goofy dog that claimed our hearts. The cover art showing adorable Marley would grab the attention of any dog lover. When I read that John Grogan had another book coming out for adults I couldn’t resist seeing what else he had to share.