The following two books have already received lots of attention, publicity and accolades (or criticism) so I am just going to give my very brief thoughts on each title.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Ursula Todd is born in the harsh winter of 1910 and thereafter experiences re-birth and a circular life cycle throughout her existence. The plot of this novel bends back on itself several times over as Ursula dies again and again and is taken back to the snowy day of her birth. Each time she begins her life again a different circumstance, decision, or the actions of someone in her life cause a unique outcome and, sometimes, the outcome can save the world from war. She doesn’t remember her past lives, but does have a small glimmer and inkling of things that have happened in the past and is able to make decisions that change her path based on that knowledge. The writing in Life After Life is quite beautiful, the kind of writing that gets to your heart and makes you think and ponder the purpose of life and the nature of human behavior. I really loved the setting and the time period (England and the early twentieth century) and was mesmerized by the scenes set during the London bombings during World War II. I worried about how Atkinson would finish the novel, but the ending is perfect and complete.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, urges women in her bestselling book to lean in to their careers and banish internal barriers to leadership and success. She uses lots of academic research to back up her argument that women tend not to promote their own interests at work and gives some great advice for learning how to stand out in your profession and achieve the highest positions in industry and politics. She is speaking to a very limited audience here – women who have the education and opportunity to become industry leaders, who can afford quality childcare and have supportive husbands – but I still found value in her message. I may not agree with her views on gender roles and the importance of mothers in the day-to-day nurturing of children, but I do agree that the more female leaders and role models we have the better off we will be.
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