Sunday, February 6, 2011

This Glittering World

Rating: 5 out of 5 Arizona Snowstorms

One November morning, Ben Bailey walks out of his Flagstaff, Arizona home to retrieve the paper. He finds Ricky Begay, a young Navajo man, beaten and dying in the newly fallen snow. Unable to forget the incident, especially once he meets Ricky's sister, Shadi, Ben begins to question everything, from his job as a history professor to his relationship with his fiancee, Sara. Ben decides to discover the truth about Ricky's death, in hopes of filling in the cracks in his own life. Yet the answers leave him torn between love and responsibility and between his once-certain future and the choices that could liberate him at a cost. "This Glittering World" is the book T. Greenwood's fans and critics have been waiting for - one that cements her reputation as one of today's most eloquent and impressive talents.
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T. Greenwood never ceases to amaze me. This is the third book of hers that I have read, and, while it wasn't my favorite of hers, it still managed to astound me.

I hated Ben Bailey. The main character drove me nuts! Usually I get all mad when I can't stand the main character in a book, but then I looked at why I don't like him. He's certainly flawed: he never stands up for himself and when he does it backfires, he is caught in a loveless relationship, he's passive-aggressive, he cheats on his girlfriend, he is always a victim, he doesn't really make things happen they just sort of happen to him and around him. I was hoping some redemptive quality would pop up in there by the end, but it never happened. Then I realized I was okay with that because it makes him human. I may have disliked him as a hero of a story but he leaped out of the pages. Maybe I saw a lot of myself in him. That, my friends, is the beauty of Ms. Greenwood's writing. It is effective and hits so true to home that it is impossible not to walk away unchanged.

At first I didn't understand the different colors but then Greenwood brought in the tapestry analogy and it all made sense. I am reminded of the Robert Frost poem "Fire and Ice." Ben Bailey's world will either end in fire or ice. While he desires "ice" he may have to settle for "fire." Read it and see if that makes sense to you.

The ending surprised me. I kept waiting for Sara to find out about Ben and Shadi and confront him and tell him to take a hike. But it didn't happen. Of all the characters, I sympathized with Sara the most, but even she was easy to hate sometimes. In fact, there was not a single likable character in here, but I was not put off by that. Greenwood is a master of creating human characters that are so believable and realistic and flawed that it feels like you are reading about an old friend. And that, my friends, is why I will continually go back to read T. Greenwood.

I just had an Aha! Moment, too. The title, This Glittering World, alludes to the Native American struggle to decide between two worlds (Native and White). Ben Bailey has his own struggle of which "world" to belong to. So it is ironic that he is a white who longs to belong with a Native American. Now I have an even greater appreciation for the brilliance behind this book. I give it 5 out of 5 Arizona snowstorms.

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