Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Published by: Simon & Schuster in 1999 (original publication)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)
Reuben St. Clair has given an extra credit assignment in his social studies class for years, asking students to come up with something they can do to change the world for the better. But never has he seen a student take the project as seriously as Trevor McKinney whose project, “Pay It Forward,” has wide-reaching and unexpected effects that create a national movement. The simplicity of Trevor’s idea makes it easy to achieve, and his dedication to seeing it through invigorates the project with a real spirit. But his dedication to its success might also blind him to the the actual successes it is achieving overall. In the end, this is a story about how a little extra kindness in our world can go a long way to make a difference for those we help but also stretch to people we have never even met.
I did really enjoy this book, but I must tell you it immediately made me dislike the film (I think I was only a chapter in . Unfortunately, the film is white-washed in a number of ways and important content that apparently wouldn’t play well to mainstream filmgoers at the time of the movie’s release (alcoholism, child abuse, LGBT characters, hate crimes, etc.) was written out of the film adaptation. And what’s sad is that the story is far less powerful for it. I do encourage people to read the book, even if you’ve seen the movie (and liked it or didn’t), as I think the story in its original form is impactful, inspiring, and interesting.
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
Published by: Simon & Schuster in 1964 (original publication)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)
George is a British college professor struggling to cope with the death of his partner, Jim. Times being as they are, most people see Jim as George’s friend and roommate. And he’s not sure he can share the truth with everyone.
As we follow George through a day in his life, we see that he’s not the only one with questions about how he’ll get through. His friends and even his students are searching for answers they’re not sure they will ever find. And even if George might be tempted to help them with their burden, he knows that at the end of the day he needs to focus on himself.
I’d seen the movie before reading the book, which can sometimes be a challenging position for me. What I really enjoyed, though, is that it seems to tell a bit of a different story. In the book, we spend all of our time in George’s head. We get a much deeper understanding of his motivations and fears than I think comes across in the film. And it gives it all a different sort of meaning to a reader.
I’d recommend this for fans of introspective literature, character studies, and books that provide a glimpse of what it was like to be gay just a few short decades ago…
Title: Insignificant Others
Author: Stephen McCauley
Publication Date: June 8, 2010
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review: Richard Rossi, an HR professional at a software company in Boston, seems to be doing well in life. His job is stable – and he’s being considered for a promotion – and things are going well with him and his partner, Conrad. But when Richard discovers a text message on Conrad’s phone just prior to another of Conrad’s business trips to Ohio, he finds himself wondering if things are quite as ‘together’ as they appear. But does Conrad have what Richard refers to as an ‘Insignificant Other’? And, as Richard examines the choices he’s made and the truth of his own life, what does it mean to him if his suspicions are true.
McCauley’s first-person narrative is definitely an interesting read. There’s a definite reality to Richard that I found easy to relate to (even his distaste for President George W. Bush, which comes up more than once) and an interesting development in Richard’s character over the course of the book that seems natural and not forced at all. The writing is broken down into small sections (I wouldn’t say chapters because some are as short as a page or less and others are a few pages long) which make it easier to follow the shifts in Richard’s thoughts and feelings. This format did throw me just a bit at first as I was unclear on timelines, but after I was few pages in, I had little trouble following along.
It’s definitely an interesting commentary on doing what’s expected versus what we want and finding a way, no matter where you are in life, to be true to yourself. A recommended read.