Ostrich: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

A brilliant and moving coming-of-age story in the tradition of Wonder by R. J. Palacio and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon—this debut novel is written with tremendous humor and charm.
 
This is Alex’s...
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Ostrich: A Novel

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Overview

A brilliant and moving coming-of-age story in the tradition of Wonder by R. J. Palacio and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon—this debut novel is written with tremendous humor and charm.
 
This is Alex’s story. But he doesn’t know exactly what it’s about yet, so you probably shouldn’t either.
 
Instead, here are some things that it’s sort of about (but not really):
 
It’s sort of (but not really) about brain surgery.
 
It’s sort of (but not really) about a hamster named Jaws 2 (after the original Jaws (who died), not the movie Jaws 2).
 
It’s sort of (but actually quite a lot) about Alex’s parents.
 
It’s sort of (but not really) about feeling ostrichized (which is a better word for excluded (because ostriches can’t fly so they often feel left out)).
 
It’s sort of (but not really (but actually, the more you think about it, kind of a lot)) about empathy (which is like sympathy only better), and also love and trust and fate and time and quantum mechanics and friendship and exams and growing up.
 
And it’s also sort of about courage. Because sometimes it actually takes quite a lot of it to bury your head in the sand.

Praise for Ostrich
 
“Irresistible! Ostrich is loaded with wit, charm, and wisdom. Alex is one of the sweetest and most inspiring narrators I’ve ever encountered. I dare you not to laugh, cry, and fall utterly in love.”—Maria Semple, New York Times bestselling author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

“A coming-of-age story of some brilliance . . . I laughed heartily, sobbed unexpectedly, and significantly improved my grammar.”—Nathan Filer, author of the Costa Book Award winner The Shock of the Fall

“One of the bravest novels I’ve read in a very long time. Matt Greene lets the reader become detective, and clue by clue we uncover not only the truth of Alex’s world, but the deepest truths of what it means to love and lose.”—Carol Rifka Brunt, author of Tell the Wolves I’m Home
 
Ostrich has given me the most enjoyable reading experience I’ve had all year and has one of the funniest and most engaging young narrators I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Matt Greene is seriously funny and in Ostrich proves comedy can be the finest of arts.”—Matt Haig, author of The Humans


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Irresistible! Ostrich is loaded with wit, charm, and wisdom. Alex is one of the sweetest and most inspiring narrators I’ve ever encountered. I dare you not to laugh, cry, and fall utterly in love.”—Maria Semple, New York Times bestselling author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

“A coming-of-age story of some brilliance . . . I laughed heartily, sobbed unexpectedly, and significantly improved my grammar.”—Nathan Filer, author of the Costa Book Award winner The Shock of the Fall

“One of the bravest novels I’ve read in a very long time. Matt Greene lets the reader become detective, and clue by clue we uncover not only the truth of Alex’s world, but the deepest truths of what it means to love and lose.”—Carol Rifka Brunt, author of Tell the Wolves I’m Home
 
Ostrich has given me the most enjoyable reading experience I’ve had all year and has one of the funniest and most engaging young narrators I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Matt Greene is seriously funny and in Ostrich proves comedy can be the finest of arts.”—Matt Haig, author of The Humans

Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
Are Mum and Dad splitting up? What's with the hamster? And how to handle this brain tumor thing? These questions weigh on the 12-year-old protagonist of British author Greene's slack first novel. Clearly, Alex Graham has a lot on his mind. One might think the tumor would be uppermost. He's been having chemo for two years and is facing high-risk surgery, yet the operation is dispatched briskly, and the intermittent postoperative seizures are not that big a deal. Alex as narrator is intent on passing on to readers everything he has learned in class. A graffito on a bathroom wall gets him started on tautologies. He's a precocious kid but hardly an endearing one. And while he may be a whiz in the classroom, he's an amateur at reading his parents. They may have a spat or two, and Dad, a driving instructor, loves to kid around, but their devotion to Alex and to each other is not in doubt. This does not make for an exciting story. His friend Chloe, whose parents actually have split, does try to stir the pot. This is where the hamster, Jaws 2, comes in. Mum was supposed to care for him while Alex was in the hospital, so why has the critter lost all of its energy? Had Mum, Chloe wonders, been distracted by Dad's possible affair? As Alex's English teacher tells him, "there's nothing worse than a narrator who doesn't know what kind of story he's in." Exactly right. The elliptical writing style doesn't help. Looming over this novel is Mark Haddon's tale of an autistic boy, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. This work is its miniature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345545206
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/27/2013
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 619,075
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Matt Greene was born in Watford, England, in 1985 and studied English at the University of Sussex, where he edited The Badger newspaper. He is the co-author of four plays, including the Edinburgh Fringe sellout farce The Straight Man, and his debut feature film Oliver and Becky Would Like to Meet is currently in development with Big Talk Productions and StudioCanal. This is his first book.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2013

    This book is written from the point of view of a precocious teen

    This book is written from the point of view of a precocious teenager trying to make sense of the world around him and showing how a young mind flits from one topic to another in a sometimes random manner. It deals with very adult issues from a young person's perspective with great insight and sensitivity. Through his eyes we learn how his parents deal with his brain tumour and the strain it puts them under. All this while Alex is taking school entrance exams himself.

    This is a deep and affectionate book with very amusing, laugh out load moments and a moving end that brought tears to my eyes. It is an unusual and rewarding book and I would thoroughly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Probably, the most enjoyable 6 hours I've spent ( doing anything

    Probably, the most enjoyable 6 hours I've spent ( doing anything) this year. "Alex" grabbed my attention from the 1st page with his unique mixture of wit and wisdom that was tempered by a literal sense of perspective that only a 13 year boy of great intelligence might have when he is unburdened by the experience of years. Without wishing to spoil the plot, I realised half way through that each twist and turn was intrinsic to the wider story and i found myself skipping back to an chapter to confirm my latest epiphany.
    A child with epilepsy and a brain tumour is neither an obvious nor easy subject for any book. To have created a début novel of this quality (with as many comedic high notes and to have avoided the pitfalls of sentimentality) is a high achievement. I am looking forward to his next book.

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  • Posted August 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Ostrich by Matt Greene is a blunt book about the different ways

    Ostrich by Matt Greene is a blunt book about the different ways one person can feel ostracised (hence the title) through the eyes of a twelve year old boy.




    First Paragraph:




    "I can tell my parents are unhappy by the way they smile at waiters. In that small act of ingratiation I can see the custody battle to come. It won't be fought in the courtroom but in HMV and Game. Stocks in Nintendo will soar as my affections are auctioned off to the highest bidder. My teeth will rot."




    PLOT




    Alex is an "almost thirteen" year old boy, though his mind seems much older. In his own words, he is a "worldy and cynical" person. Alex is different. Not just in any of the usual ways (though he is some of those too). Alex has a brain tumour. If the school grapevine wasn't enough to get the info around, the shaved head is. 




    But for all Alex's 'cynicism', he is quite an optimistic, young boy. His surgery is scheduled and soon he hopes to be on the road to recovery. Not just for himself, but for those around him too. If the first paragraph didn't tip you off, Alex's parents' marriage has hit a snag. The stress of daily life, added to the stress of Alex's condition, has taken its toll on them, leaving him on the outside as they 'politely' squabble the days away. But is that all there is to it? What exactly is going on with his parents' marriage?




    REVIEW




    It's a little hard to pinpoint what this book is about, because it's not really about anything. It's more Alex's observations and perceptions of the world around him. It's a little slice-of-life, coming-of-age, with Alex's illness and the way it affects not just him, but those around him adding a darker tone to the story. 




    There are a lot of off-topics mentioned in this book, that most people tiptoe around. Here, they are laid bare. From religion, sexuality, terrorism, illness, bullying, racism, puberty, divorce, depression and many others, this book incorporates a lot of big issues, some more 'controversial' than others. Some are only briefly mentioned (with a passing comment) and some are the basis for the entire story. All are spoken of bluntly, viewed through the eyes of a boy who doesn't necessarily even understand them. Satire is woven through almost every page, with keen quips at the world around us. 




    The writing is without a doubt the strongest element. The wordplay is incredibly clever, and the way the author manipulates the language is a treat. I wouldn't say this is a funny book, but I would say it was witty- which is much the same thing, but requires more intelligence. 




    I adore Alex himself. A dead-pan, incredibly smart main character. He's bright, friendly, funny, but also damaged- as can be expected. A very inquisitive boy, he's filled with the 'wonder of the world' and feels the need to explain his newest discoveries of what is mostly useless trivia (though sometimes subtly relevant) to his readers. His tumour causes 'absences' (literal blackout periods for him, that look normal to others), causing him to become incredibly perceptive, so he's very good at noticing things other people would miss. And how much do I love him for having a 'To Google' list?




    As for his explanations? They are basically tangents, though interesting and entertaining (for the most part). Their nature and use are a little reminiscent of the excerpts from the Guide in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. On the whole irrelevant, but enjoyably odd and sometimes quite apt.




    At its core, this is a story about how the people in our lives affect us, especially when we're young and still becoming people ourselves. Alex embarks on a mission to find the truth about his parents not because he wants to know, but because he needs to. They say 'the truth will set you free'. Though in my experience, that is highly dependant on the particular truth in question. While some may 'set you free', others hit you in the gut, stealing your breath away and leaving you gasping in a heap on the floor and remembering another idiom- 'ignorance is bliss'.




    I won't say anything about the ending- not one thing. There is nothing I could say that would describe it well enough, without giving anything away. It can be a little confusing, and a little ambiguous or perfectly clear depending on your interpretation of it. In my opinion, exactly what happened is unclear, but definite- in that I know what happened, but I don't know how or why. I can make educated guesses, but that's all they'd be.




    I could tell you how the ending made me feel, but that in itself would be a spoiler. If I told you it made me happy, you could guess it was too. If I told you it broke my heart, you could guess the nature of that ending. If I told you it completed me, you'd probably think I was a little obsessed. If I told you it was all three, you'd be confused. So really, I can't tell you anything. How did it make me feel? The answer is obvious isn't it? It made me feel the way it made me feel. Nothing more, nothing less. 




    Was it the perfect ending to the book? No. I'd like to say it was a very good ending, and one befitting the story, but this is one of those stories that will be undeniably personal. For the most part people react in similar ways to an ending. This story however, it's anybody's guess how an individual will take it.




    Personally, I loved this book. The down-to-earth reality, the feeling that everything has a consequence, kept light and funny through Alex's unintentional (mostly) humour. However, this is a love it/hate it book. Which side you're on will vary according to you.




    I wanted to briefly mention one thing. This book has been compared to "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", but I'm not going to do that because I want you to go into this book with no preconceptions about it. Don't think about what you think it will be, just read it. Don't think about it in terms of other stories, just think about it. In my opinion, there's no faster way of ruining something than to go into it believing it to be something else. A perfect example? Going to a movie based on a book you love. You spend the entire time complaining about what they did differently. I learnt long ago that the secret to enjoying things with similarities, is to completely forget they have any relevance to each other. Oh and fyi, while I would say the above books mentioned have similarities (what doesn't), I wouldn't necessarily say they were anything alike. I don't like this book because it reminds me of something else, I like this book for itself.




    Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy of this book through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

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  • Posted August 27, 2013

    This review is based on an advance copy received from the publis

    This review is based on an advance copy received from the publisher.

    I wish that I could rate this book higher, I really do. The narrator, Alex, is a brilliant twelve year old with a brain tumor that is causing him to have seizures. His stream of consciousness narration is engrossing and hilarious,
    with the contrast between his intellectual abilities and his emotional perception, and the occasional deliberate prank played on him when he asks his father what something means, or at least when he did before he started to keep his mental To Google list instead. (My favorite, "Francophile" defined as somebody who is "sexually attracted to fascist dictators.")

    However, it loses a star or so at the end because of my inability to reconcile the final part before the epilogue and the epilogue. I have read other reviews that suggest that the timeline is not necessarily linear, but if this is the case I'm unable to identify any other point where things are out of order before the very end, excluding when Alex is clearly remembering things, so it's a strange place to start jumping around. It's also possible it has something to do with Schrodinger's Cat. In either case, there's a significant gap in action between the last bit of the book that makes sense and the part where it
    stops.

    The rest of the book is a wonderful ride; I wish I didn't feel so let down by the ending.

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  • Posted August 27, 2013

    Funny, witty, compassionate, brilliant! My husband has a way of

    Funny, witty, compassionate, brilliant!

    My husband has a way of ordering steak: "Make it rare to have it still embarrassed, but make sure the vet cannot save it anymore"
    So I immediately connected to the story when I read in the prologue that Alex's dad ordered his steak "Cooked long enough that his family aren't in denial but not long enough that they're at acceptance. Anywhere between bargaining and depression. Just so long as it's seen the inside of a warm room."

    This observation of Alex will actually become the embedded truth in the narrative.
    Apart from that I also felt the connection with an ostrich. "I already know what it's like to feel ostrichized, which is a better word for excluded (because ostriches can't fly, so they often feel left out).

    We farmed with them for many years, having between 3000 to 4000 of them hanging around in the breeding season. The huge 'chick rooms' where all the hatched chickens were cared for the first two months of their lives, were in a huge barn - the only place on a remote African farm with underfloor heating! We humans, battling winter out, had to settle for old wrought-iron stoves or bonfires burning in a sheltered spot to keep warm.

    So with all this in mind I was wondering why a young Brit would associate himself with an ostrich and what did he really know about them. Of course it peeked my interest in this book.

    It was soon clear that Alex's epistemological view on life, on everything, would have me in stitches, even at five in the morning with the first cup of coffee in hand. His scientific approach to pornography had my laughter sound like a 1948-Fordson tractor with locked bearings - combustion inhibited by gaseous protests! 

    Talking about gas.
    "I attribute Mum's insomnia to her concerns about The State of Her Marriage. It can be helpful to use the word state when describing a marriage because it makes you think of the people involved as particles. Right now Mum and Dad's marriage is a gas."

    I am sure he would have made Einstein proud as well (not only P.G.Wodehouse & Co).

    Einstein:
    "How does it happen that a properly endowed natural scientist comes to concern himself with epistemology? Is there not some more valuable work to be done in his specialty? That's what I hear many of my colleagues ask, and I sense it from many more. But I cannot share this sentiment. When I think about the ablest students whom I have encountered in my teaching — that is, those who distinguish themselves by their independence of judgment and not just their quick-wittedness — I can affirm that they had a vigorous interest in epistemology. They happily began discussions about the goals and methods of science, and they showed unequivocally, through tenacious defense of their views, that the subject seemed important to them."

    The wit and humor influences of P.G.Wodehouse, Woody Allen and alike is evident everywhere in this tragicomedy. 

    With everything the courageous young Alex went through, he never lost his sense of reason and his urge to dissect even the minced meat in his school lunch with a paint brush he borrowed from the Art department! 

    Mr. Sinclair: "Try and imagine your brain as an orchestra." 
    ( I try, but it's difficult, because my brain is already a circuit board, a dog kennel, a water park, and a hostage negotiation.)"

    The ostrich analogy: although they cannot fly, have feathers and lay eggs, the ostrich doesn't know he is a bird. He doesn't look up in the sky and cry seeing other birds overhead, because he has never been there himself. He has legs - long, strong, and fast, making him the most dangerous bird on earth! And believe me, the ostrich is very proud of that fact! Alex might have felt left behind, due to his condition, but the ostrich never did. 

    Besides, if this gigantic bird was able to fly, a flock of them landing on a house, would have it crashed. There is a reason why it should not fly, at least in our human reasoning! Alex has all the reasons in the world to just be as proud as an ostrich. He has proven himself and his abilities in enough other ways than flying.
    And so did Einstein. Fatally compromised? I think not. Not at all. And Einstein was also ostrichized by an educational system and society which could not accommodate his genius!
    Before I venture too deeply into the epistemology about this book I should stop. Laughter can be deadly too, you know! If dissected, it becomes really a scary phenomenon! I'm sure Alex will agree with me!

    "Those staff members who taught Alex comment that his record of work was consistently good. They spoke to the keen interest and intellectual curiosity that he brought to the classroom. His written work was described as imaginative, fiercely logical, strongly argued, lucid, and unwaveringly grammatical. His command of concepts was confident and advanced."

    That is what Alex and this book is all about. A skilfully crafted plot, a masterful tying together of all the detailed elements of the story line. It must have been quite a challenging novel to write. Thought-provoking - YES! Compassionate - YES! 

    BRILLIANT first novel. I am a fan forever! 

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