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Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Uncut Diamonds by Karen Jones Gowen

I finished reading this book late Saturday night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The main character, Marcie, goes through a wide variety of emotions very similar to myself, for us being young moms forty years apart. Karen Jones Gowen does a fantastic job of showing the experiences of the times.

Set in the seventies, Uncut Diamonds follows the life of Marcie McGill, an LDS (Mormon) mother with four children. Marcie struggles with the economy, reconciling their losses, accepting her wilder younger sister, and dealing with an unemployed and then absent husband. Most of us can relate to the high gas bills (not that high), making bread and beans and rice because we're saving money, and feeling frustrated with our husbands because they don't help out at home.

Marcie's parents, the Pritchards, also play a part in the book. A sweet, elderly Methodist couple, they are the kind of characters that touch your heart and make you wish you knew them. Karen Jones Gowen does a great job of painting them with an aura of love and generosity.

The book is divided into two parts, one during the recession and one after. The first one shows the damage and the latter the recovery.

I found Marcie to be so like me that it was often uncanny. Many times I wanted to highlight a passage and write in the book something like, "This is so me! I do this!" Her life situations, from struggling with the family business and debt to worrying about sick kids and spirituality, even down to the fights with her husband, matched my own life and perspective.

There were a few things I didn't like: The beginning of the book started out rough for me; there were a few typesetting errors and fewer commas than I'm accustomed to. Also, the characters were introduced by their first names and then referred to by the last name, leaving me a bit confused as to who was who in the first two or three chapters. Finally, Karen Jones Gowen includes inserts from Marcie's grandmother's diary. I would've enjoyed these more if they had been smaller inclusions. Marcie is an intriguing character. I would rather have read Marcie reading these things, Marcie's reactions and thoughts, than just reading verbatim the grandmother's words.

This book is not a thriller, mystery, suspense, or any of the nail-biting genre. It's very real. You feel like you're taking a peek into someone else's life, and it's entertaining. I very much enjoyed the book and can see it becoming something of a literary, historical classic. I definitely recommend it.

5 comments:

Stephanie Faris said...

I haven't seen too many books set in the 70s. It sounds intriguing.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I hope you'll take a look at it. I think you'll find it very interesting.

T. Anne said...

Thanks for the review, I hadn't heard of it before. It sounds applicable to my daily life as a mom. It's always nice to comiserate right?

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

It will definitely remind you of your daily life as a mom! The feeling it gives is that you're not an anomaly...everyone goes through this! I felt like it helped validate my less than happy feelings that I occasionally have.

JennyMac said...

Hi Tamara...I always appreciate good book recs. Thanks!

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