Confession time – At almost a fourth of the way through Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, I was still expecting for the main character to somehow get to the Chicago slaughterhouse district because I had confused this novel with The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, which I read in high school.
Whew! That literary fail is now off my chest – onto the review….
Slaughterhouse Five is actually a semi-autobiographical novel about Vonnegut’s World War II experiences, as told through the character of Billy Pilgrim. While the story is about Billy’s experience, it is actually told via an unreliable narrator who occasionally reminds us that he is telling the story by slipping into the first person two or three times throughout the novel.
This book does not have a linear plot line, and for the first time in our books thus far, I didn’t mind it! Billy believes he was captured by aliens and became “unstuck” by time, so the story is told through a number of past and future time travel experiences that bounce back and forth between various points of the war and throughout Billy’s life in general, including the time he spent with an attractive celebrity as an exhibit in an alien zoo.
Due to these experiences, Billy has a dispassionate view towards death and has even seen in future travels how his own will take place. To Billy, when someone dies they no longer exist in that timeframe, but they do exist in a past timeframe where Billy will see them again. It’s very similar to The Time Traveler’s Wife in that regard.
This all works together remarkably well, as I was pulled right into Billy’s stories of aliens, war, optometry school, and all. The non-linear plot line via time travel worked for me because they were clearly defined; in other words, each time he travels, it’s stated when and where he traveled to. It was like riding a mad tea cup ride – zing! Now we’re in 1945 at the Slaughterhouse in Dresden… zing! Now were in 1976 at a convention in Chicago…zing! Now we’re in 1947 at the birth of Billy’s son, and so forth.
There are a number of secondary characters whose stories we follow when we travel back to their time frame in the plot. There were also a few asides that just made for an interesting page turner. For instance, at one point we meet William Gluck, a young German charged with guarding Billy and another soldier when they arrive at the Slaughterhouse. After an entire subplot involving Gluck accidentally loading them into the wrong area and some commentary about how Gluck and Billy have a similar look, the narrator notes that, “they are distant cousins, but they never discover this.”
Onto some quotes (with Kindle locator numbers):
- “I got into some perfectly beautiful trouble, got out of it again.” (235)
- “All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist.” (323)
- “All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet.” (347)
- “Somewhere the big dog barked again. With the help of fear and echoes and winter silences, that dog had a voice like a big bronze gong.” (581)
- “Derby now came to lugubrious attention.” (1236) There it is again! We also had a lugubrious sighting in To the Lighthouse.
- “…Trout lugubriously slung the bag from his shoulder…” (1939) Twice in this book, not once on my GRE.
- “She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies.” (1975)
So there it goes. I loved it. I didn’t think I would with the backdrop of World War II, but I loved it and give it an
Onward to Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Keep Reading!
Book Review for TCQ – A Framework for Further Research: A Review of Two Edited Collections on Video Gaming
This article was originally published in Technical Communication Quarterly, Volume 25, Issue 4. Please view the abstract for the article here.
This review was originally posted on RealRefreshment.com, August 20, 2014.
After a leisurely summer, back to school plans seem solidly underway. Status updates on Facebook have moved from summer vacation pictures to great school supply finds and free shipping deals. In my own household, my Kindergartner is set with all her supplies and a new backpack, thermos, and lunchbox; my middle schooler has a new backpack but is waiting until after orientation before ordering specific supplies on Amazon, and my highschooler is waiting until possibly the night before school starts to admit that the day is rapidly approaching and he may need some supplies.
There is no better time to get in some last minute summer reading and get ready for the school year than now, and Mary Jo Tate’s Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms helps moms do both of those. While the tagline mentions homeschool moms, her advice and suggestions apply to all moms who would like to maintain some balance, organization, and peace during this upcoming school year.
Tate offers a number of strategies in this encouraging book and begins by introducing her FREEDOM toolbox, which stands for Focus, Reflect, Educate, Eliminate, Discipline, Organize, and Multitask. One of the main ideas I appreciated was “educate,” because it offers a reminder that with all our to-do lists, checklists, and calendar synchronization, sometimes moms need to just sit and read a book or listen to an interesting podcast guilt-free.
Tate also leads moms through goal setting and making sure the goals are specific and measurable. She offers “seven essential planning tools” to help in achieving those goals, many of which are included in the back of the book. Tate is very clear that the planning tools shouldn’t overwhelm us – we can use what works or adjust them as necessary. She offers examples of how she’s used and filled out some of the sample forms. For instance, she provides a daily task list where she’s allocated everything by specific day, and also shows a more flexible version where tasks are listed by week. Seeing how she handles all her responsibilities for work, homeschooling, and getting her kids to their activities was helpful.
For homeschooling moms, there is a dedicated chapter that includes sound advice on setting realistic expectations, teaching children of different ages together, encouraging independent learning, and more. I enjoyed her honest reflections in “A Day in our Life,” where she offered a real-world glimpse into one day of her family’s life. I’ve done this exercise myself in the past in order to include it in our yearly scrapbook, and I recommend it! It’s interesting to see the twists and turns one day can take, and refreshing here to read about another family’s typical (or atypical) day.
Tate works from home as a freelance editor, author, and book coach, so I was drawn into her chapter regarding how she set up and grew her home-based business. This included sections on pricing, marketing, working with clients, finances, and more. Her advice would be helpful for anyone who is self-employed or who would like to learn more about starting a business on the side. She provides a number of examples and stories from freelancers in many fields.
It’s somewhat difficult to synthesize everything she covers in this helpful guidebook, but I would sum it up as “Life Management.” In addition to the chapters I’ve detailed, there is information on making memories with the kids, scheduling chores, nourishing your spiritual life, adjusting your attitude, and an additional chapter for encouraging the single mom. If you’re getting ready for the start of school, “Flourish” will give you the encouragement and tools you need to transition with hope and inspiration into this next year so you and your kids can learn, grow, and … flourish.