I’m going to take a break from the book challenge today to post about two novels that I have finished this past week.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
This is not a book about a cat or a cradle; instead, imagine the string trick known as a cat’s cradle. It is also a game played by two players to take the string formation made by the other player and alter it slightly. The game ends when a player makes a dead-end figure or makes a mistake.
The book does contain a cat’s cradle string formation, but moreso it is about a religion called Bokononism, a chemical known as ice-nine, and the island San Lorenzo. The only true thing in this book is that there is an island called San Lorenzo, but I doubt it has been consumed by the fictional ice-nine. In fact, the entire novel is based on fictional and somewhat unrealistic people, events, and things, but this fantastical reality is created to reflect Bokononism which says that you should “live by the foma (harmless untruths) that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.” The book also opens by saying that “nothing in this book is true”.
After a first read, the message of Cat’s Cradle seems to be that science is a more founded truth than religion, but even a pursuit of science can leave characters stuck in a sticky web. There’s so much that could be said about this novel, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers. If you choose to read this book, expect raised eyebrows at the nonsensical inventions and know that you may need to re-read in order to figure out Vonnegut’s message. I think that’s where I am right now. I’d give this book a 4 out of 5.
Night by Elie Wiesel
This true story of a Holocaust survivor follows 15-year-old Eliazer Wiesel from the time that he lived with his parents and studied religion to the time when he is finally freed as an orphan from the last camp he stays in. This 108-page novel is a quick read but not an easy read.
There is a thread of his religious thinking. He begins the story by talking of Moshe the Beadle whom Elie watched and admired as a 12-year-old. At this point, Elie believes. Throughout the novel, Elie begins questioning the goodness of God who would allow so many to suffer and die. There is a point of connection between himself and his father when he knows that they both are questioning God.
While the novel tells many hard stories, it wasn’t until Elie’s father died that I really felt intense emotion. “His last word was my name. A summon to which I did not respond. I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep.” Throughout the story, Elie’s one motivation is his father, and his one fear is that he will at some point abandon his father. His one desire is to be free. This climactic moment ties all of those motivations, fears, and desires into a short punchy paragraph.
The language in this book is appropriate for the subject matter, but it left me at times forgetting that this is a true story. As a non-writer, I’m not sure if there is a way to combat this. Maybe it’s a problem within myself.
I’d give this book a 4 out of 5.