#863 The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret AtwoodThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Charmaine and Stan live in their car. Stan used to have a job, but he lost it. Charmaine works in a bar. Lots of people don’t have jobs. People live in their cars. Gangs roam the streets rampant and intent on victimizing anybody to make their lives just a little easier.

There’s something going on, an experiment. It’s an experimental community. The community provides jobs and a place to live, the only catch is that every other month you have to go to prison. Husbands and wives are separated. Another couple lives in the house when the first couple is in prison. They’re called alternates.

Life goes ok for a while. Stan works with chickens and Charmaine does something in medication administration. Things start to get a little weird though. A friend had told the couple not to go into the community because it was dangerous. Everything is bugged. People are expected to behave a certain way. Charmaine soon meets the alternate man who lives in her house when she’s not there. The two start an affair, always meeting in abandoned houses, without bugs, or so Charmaine thinks.

This is just the beginning though. It turns out the alternates in Stan and Charmaine’s house are activists and Charmaine and Stan are getting dragged right along with them. Soon the couple is learning about strange sex robots and bran surgery that makes a person imprint on another person. There are sex robots that look like Elvis and they’re a big hit. There’s something even more nefarious going on in the community that involves human beings. Charmaine and Stan are going to play a part in putting a stop to it.

What I liked

I do tend to like most things that Margaret writes and this was no exception, although it’s a little strange. There was definitely humor in this book. Who would think that sex robots that looked like Elvis would be a huge hit? It certainly doesn’t float my boat.

Margaret is looking at a financially depressed society in this book. It’s not now and it may not be ever, but it could be. It’s actually quite plausible. If we had a more significant economic collapse where would people live? It’s very possible that many people would end up out in their cars and on the streets. Is there the potential for humanity to be taken advantage of during this time period? Could humans be placed in facilities to live and work? Yes and yes. If you listen to conspiracy theorists out there, the government has something called FEMA camps, which is where we’re supposedly going to go after we’re rounded up by the government for whatever reason. Is it true? I have no clue.

In this book’s case, the community is run by a private organization, no doubt with backing from various politicians. It’s for profit. There’s nothing magnanimous about this. It’s too good to be true and everyone there should be worried about it.

What I didn’t like

It’s a bit of an awful thing when one part of humanity thinks it can take advantage of another part of humanity for whatever flimsy reasons it gives. In this case, some people were so poor they couldn’t make it on their own, so it’s ok to prey upon them and essentially herd them up like cattle. Not cool.

The thing is, I think there would be some people who would take advantage of others in these situations. Would it be on the nightly news? Maybe not, but I think it would happen.


If they say they’re going to give you a job and pay your rent, there’s probably a catch so big it could fill Rhode Island.

Weigh In

If you were broke, would you take your chances in a community like the one in this book?

Do you think some people just wait for unfortunate societal circumstances to take advantage of others?

#863 The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood was originally published on One-elevenbooks


#862 Blue Bay Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Blue Bay Mystery by Gertrude Chandler WarnerBlue Bay Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Grandfather has a surprise for the Alden children, which is a relief because they were wondering what all the whispering was about. It turns out Grandfather has planned a trip for them all to the South Pacific. Their bags are already packed and on the boat. The Aldens only have to get on it, because Grandfather is made of money and he can do things like this.

The boat trip is delightful and the Aldens find a small island to live on for a time. There’s no one else there, or so they think. When things start going missing from their camp, they start wondering. There’s a Myna bird that can talk and it keeps talking about Peter. Who in the world is Peter and why does a bird know his name?

What I liked

I used to live in the Pacific, not the South Pacific, more like the north Pacific. I lived in Okinawa for three years; it’s a subtropical island. It’s a nice place to live for a while, or just visit. I would definitely like to see more of the Pacific one day.

What I didn’t like

Seriously, what the heck–where does Grandfather get all this money? Maybe, he’s selling some of that Uranium to the Russians. Grandfather has a Uranium mine, if you didn’t know. Do you know how expensive it is to go to the pacific islands if you live in the States? Try around $1300, at the least, for plane tickets. Renting a boat, to sail on, to the south Pacific–lots of money. Hardly anybody has this kind of money. It’s certainly not a normal occurrence for children. Children’s books should aim to parallel a child’s life to some degree. Imagination is nice, but a child needs to be able to relate to that character, in that book, in order to take any lessons to heart.


Sure, everyone can just get on a boat and go to the South Pacific.

Weigh In

Would you drop everything and go to the South Pacific?

Would you live on a small island?

#862 Blue Bay Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner was originally published on One-elevenbooks

#861 The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

The Man in My Basement by Walter MosleyThe Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

Charles can’t get a job and he’s late on the mortgage payments. The house has been in the family for years, but he risks losing it. He asks about a job, but is turned down. Come to find out when Charles was a teller at the bank he stole some money and everyone knows about it. No one will hire him.

A white man offers Charles lots of money to rent his basement. Charles forgets about this for a while so he can drink, womanize, and masturbate; this is pretty much all he does. When he realizes that he’s not going to get a job, he takes the white man up on his offer. The man turns the basement into a prison cell. He wants to be treated as a prisoner. He’s committed some awful crimes in his past, which Charles is just dying to know about.

While the man is in the basement, Charles continues to drink, womanize, and masturbate. He does have some philosophical conversations with his prisoner, who gets some sort of self-torturing kick out of having a black man as a jailer. Charles also finds that some of his family heirlooms are worth a heck of a lot of money, but he doesn’t know how to handle the situation.

What I liked

I liked that Ernie Hudson read this book for the audio book.

What I didn’t like

Look, I know people have a lot of great things to say about this book philosophically. There’s a man who made himself a prisoner to atone for some awful wrong-doings he committed because society didn’t punish him and God hadn’t gotten around to it yet, at least this guy developed a sense of morality. That’s more than I can say for the basically alcoholic, serial womanizer, and chronic masturbator that Charles is. I’m not impressed with Charles. I bet he went right on back to drinking and womanizing the minute all of this was over, despite his supposed great philosophical awakening.

How in the heck do you write a book that talks about masturbating so much? This isn’t The Joy of Sex or She Comes First. This is a novel, but, I mean, I guess it’s ultimately up to the author whether or not they want to write a book punctuated with the word masturbate instead of semicolons.

I don’t particularly like Charles; he’s a loser and he’s always going to be a loser. He’s one of those people who are content to sit on the couch all day watching TV rather than being a productive member of society. Those kind of people irritate me.

Why the ever-loving #!$* would a woman, any woman, be interested in Charles? Sure, maybe he has a big penis, but that’s not enough of a reason to sleep with someone, but maybe my standards are much higher than everyone else’s.


This was a strange book, but at least Winston from Ghostbusters read it to me.

Weigh In

Do people who have no motivation irritate you?

What do you think about Charles?

#861 The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley was originally published on One-elevenbooks

#860 The Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens have just visited their aunt and are on their way back home. They find a lighthouse and decide to rent it. They stay there two weeks. There are some strange goings on, as usual. There’s a little boy who doesn’t go to school, but he wants to. His dad won’t let him go. The Aldens poke their noses in that.

What I liked

Staying in a lighthouse could be cool for a while.

What I didn’t like

Honestly, this book and the ghost ship book ran together. I had to actually look up what this book was about after I read it, because it was unremarkable compared to the previous Boxcar Children book I read. Sure, lighthouses are cool, but what family has the money to just randomly go stay somewhere two weeks?


It’s probably haunted, oh wait, Grandfather doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Weigh In

Would you stay in a lighthouse?

Do you know anyone who can up and decide to randomly go on vacation for two weeks?

#860 The Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner was originally published on One-elevenbooks

#859 The Ghost Ship Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

 The Ghost Ship Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner The Ghost Ship Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are vacationing on the coast. They get to stay in a special suite at the hotel called the Crow’s Nest. The name of the place is The Black Dog Inn, and there’s actually a black dog. In the night, the Aldens see lights out over the water and wonder what they are. They are told about the ghost ship, or legend says anyway. A local boat was lost at sea, the grandfather of someone still living in the village. No one knows what happened to him, but there are rumors that there was a mutiny aboard the ship and one person betrayed another. Because of this there are hard feelings between some of the descendants. The Aldens start poking around to see what treasures they can find.

What I liked

I bet there are a lot of good stories about the ocean, if you live in a small ocean town. I am not an ocean person, but sometimes it’s neat to feel that mystery. It’s neat to imagine that the sea is to one side of you, the land is to the other side, and there’s all kinds of mystery out on the water that you can’t see.

I also really like ghost stories. They’re interesting first of all, but they tend to tell a lot about the history and culture of an area and maybe an era.

What I didn’t like

Again, this story involves people who are mad at each other without a lot of evidence. It’s one thing if you know someone did something awful to someone in your family, but if you only have guesses and whispers, it’s unfair to everybody involved to be harboring bad feelings towards someone. What did they ever do to you? Nothing, apparently.


If you see a strange light on the ocean, it’s probably a ghost ship.

Weigh In

Do you have a favorite ocean ghost story?

Have you ever been mad at someone without having any evidence of a reason to be mad at them?

#859 The Ghost Ship Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner was originally published on One-elevenbooks