Guest Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

 

Special shout out to Midsummer Contributor, Brittany, for reading and reviewing The Circle!

 

 

 

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

This novel was a friend’s choice in our book club.  I was only supposed to read half the novel for our first meeting but I couldn’t stop.  I ended up reading the entire book and I LOVED IT.  Yes, I have read books that have a similar storyline (very 1984ish) but I was really able to relate to this specific portrayal. This is my first time reading the author, Dave Eggers, but I will now be looking into more of his work.    

The Circle is a powerful tech company that is slowly taking over….basically everything…the way you shop, the way you interact with others, and even the way the government works.  In my mind I pictured something along the lines of Google or Facebook.  The Cirlce made me question my own presence on social media.  It made me question the power of the internet in general.  It’s quite chilling because I could potentially see this as our future.  There were multiple times when I put my book down and just thought, “Holy crap.  This could really happen.”  This novel made me ask questions.  What are our limits as a society when it comes to sharing knowledge? Where is the line between innocent curiosity and breaching privacy?  Are we becoming dependent upon instant gratification?  

Some of the ideas and beliefs of the Circlers are just mind blowing.  For instance, if you don’t post a picture of yourself surfing in Costa Rica then you are selfish and are denying others the opportunity to be involved in the experience.  Their belief is that everyone is entitled to ALL knowledge and “sharing is caring”.  Out of context it seems obviously insane, but Eggers brings you so deep into the Circle that these radical ideas begin to make sense.  It brings forth your true notions on how society and privacy should be constructed.  

Mae is such a wonderfully well written character.  I loved watching her journey in finding her place within the Circle and the unraveling of her humanity.  I’m super pumped because this is going to be a major motion picture with Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega.  It looks SO good!

Eggers does an outstanding job with this novel.  And let me just say, the ending is awesome.  

5 bards 

Guest Book Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

 

cas-and-les

Lesley (left) and Cassie (Right)

As you know, many of my best friends are helping out Team Midsummer with our LGBT History Month Celebration, and today’s Guest Book Review is by Lesley!  Lesley and Jess met at church a few years back, enjoyed many a trivia night together, and are now part of the fabulous five best friend group.  Lesley is now married to Cassie (another one of our Guest Reviewers!) and they are the most adorable of the adorable.

 

11595276When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship — one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to ‘fix’ her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self — even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

I grew up in a very small farming community in rural Michigan.  My parents were evangelical Christians and most of my friends and their families were, in some form, Christian too.  I was a “jock girl”, very tall, athletic, slightly arrogant and underneath it all, very gay.  Given this information, it would seem obvious to anyone reading the notes about The Miseducation of Cameron Post to see why I might have identified with Emily M. Danforth’s plucky main character.

However, Cam’s tomboy antics, Jesus-loving friends and family and pension for lady love aren’t the only things that make her relatable.  In fact, most of us can identify with Cam’s struggle for acceptance and identity regardless of our experiences or sexual orientation.  In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, we follow Cam on a journey from ages twelve to seventeen as she looks for her true self in her relationships, struggles and daily life.  She seeks acceptance from friends, lovers and the adults in her life the way any child would.  In the end Cameron finds the most satisfaction in accepting herself and in starting a life that reflects her beliefs and choices.

After a youthful crush and sugar-sweet first kiss, Cam experiences a devastating loss.  Forced to navigate her formative years with only her born-again aunt and elderly grandma to guide her, Cam gets into the usual trouble created by the boredom of teens in small town America.  Her trouble is often overlooked until her greatest secret is twisted from the truth and revealed as a dark path from which she must be saved.   Instead of finishing out high school, Cam is sent to a rehabilitation school for kids with similar “afflictions”.

This book is one that tells the story of each of us as we grow in a world that prefers the status quo.  While the subject matter is a bit dark, the depth of Danforth’s characters creates a light and lovely story.  It reminds us to celebrate our differences and that a diverse world is a beautiful one.

I absolutely recommend this book for anyone struggling with self-acceptance for any reason.

4 Bards, as I liked the book, but the ending left me hanging, which I didn’t really like.

fourbards

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