Bellwether by Connie Willis
Unfortunately, I missed the discussion because of rain. Bummer. So, I can't tell you what anyone thought, beyond the fact that our group leader told me everyone enjoyed it. I did notice the interplay of chaos theory and fads in a way I don't think stood out quite as distinctly during the first reading, but it's been 7 years since I read it so who knows what I was thinking back then. I enjoyed it every bit as much, the second time around.
Author Peter Allison is an Australian who ended up working in South Africa and then Botswana as a safari guide. Whatever You Do, Don't Run is a collection of his stories that focuses on things people have done that they absolutely should not have while on safari. And, the author is humble enough to include plenty of his own mistakes.
The best way I think I can possibly describe this book without telling you any of the stories is to share the fact that the entire time I was reading it, I was repeating my favorites to my husband. And, he loved hearing them. They're that entertaining. I will tell you part of one (in my own words), just to give you an idea of the contents:
During a safari with a particularly annoying amateur photographer, the author got out of his jeep to track the lions from one of the local prides. He found an adult lion's tracks and followed them with one hand, then cub tracks, which he followed with his other. And, then he realized his mistake. He was pointing in opposite directions and standing in the middle. The last thing you want to do is get between a predatory mother and her young. He said, "No, no, no, no, no!" and just then, the screams behind him clued him in to the mother stalking him. It was a close call that involved a lot of waving and yelling on Allison's part and some uncertain movements on the part of the mother lion. When Peter Allison was finally safe, the annoying photographer said, "Could you do that again? I missed it."
Highly recommended - Wonderful storytelling, both amusing and sometimes terrifying enough that I had to put the book down and walk away for a bit before I could talk myself into finding out what happened. It might make you think twice about whether or not you ever want to go on a safari in a remote location.
This review may contain spoilers, so I'm going to put a spoiler warning, here.
WARNING! Skip to the rating if you're concerned about potential spoilers!!!!
Exit, Pursued by a Bear (which the author describes as a cheerleading-Shakespeare mash-up) is unique in that the author chose to write it as a "model" for what rape victims should experience, rather than a story that describes the typical treatment of a rape victim. So, when Hermione wakes up, she's treated with kindness and respect by the police and they do everything possible to find the rapist, her friends and family are supportive and willing to give her space if she needs it or affection if she feels they're too distant. When the typical "She was asking for it" rumor starts up, people believe her when she tells them the truth about what happened and why appearances were deceiving. She is provided a counselor who drives to her house rather than making her go to him. And, as she slowly begins to recover her memories, she's well cared for when she experiences panic attacks or other physical reactions. The only things that aren't perfect: Hermione's boyfriend is angry and distant and, of course, there is a rumor to be dealt with.
I would say Exit, Pursued by a Bear is "feminist" in that it takes a topic that mostly applies to women and treats it as if women were valued equally. Otherwise, it's just a good read. But, it does require explanation and I found myself hungering to discuss the book, for that reason. Is a book that is written as a "What if?" rather than a truthful account of what happens in life problematic if it's not obvious what the author is doing? Or, does it matter that the author's notes are pretty much necessary to the understanding? Hmm, I don't know. I did need the author to explain what she intended, though. My entire perspective shifted when I read the author interview. Also, the title requires explanation if you're not knowledgeable about Shakespeare, and I am not. I was unaware that "Exit. Pursued by a bear." is stage direction from The Winter's Tale, which I've never read or seen performed. After reading about the meaning of the title, I understood the clever naming of Hermione Winters (there's a Hermione in the play) and the fact that she's wrestling with a metaphorical bear (how to regain her identity).
Highly recommended - Even if I had not been told (via an author interview) what the author was trying to accomplish, I would have considered Exit, Pursued by a Bear a well-written and thought-provoking book. Knowing her goal gave it a lot more meaning, though, so if you go into this book blind and there is no author interview available in the copy you read, I definitely recommend that you look for an interview with the author. Its meaning is entirely different from what it appears, once you understand her purpose. I did have one problem with the book. I always wondered why the police and Hermione presumed that one of her male teammates must be the rapist when there were clearly other males at the camp. But, that was the only flaw I observed.
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