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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

    Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors and I have read a lot of her work. My favorites include The Museum of Extraordinary Things and The Dovekeepers. Skylight Confessions, one of her older books published in 2007 was very good, but not my favorite of her work. Here is my book review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.

    Paranormal

    Like all of Hoffman’s vast collection of novels, there is a mystical element to Skylight Confessions. But Hoffman’s gift is to seamlessly weave the magic and paranormal into a realistic plot with normal characters. In Skylilght Confessions opposites attract early on in the book when John and Arlyn have a powerful magnetism that results in a lifetime of regret. A loveless marriage filled with infidelity will result in two children, the first named Sam finds life and acceptance difficult from the start.

    Death

    Death visits the family when Arlyn dies and leaves a devastated John who turns to the neighbor for physical love. Arlyn’s death also crushes George, her one true love. But most of all it changes young Sam’s entire world and he will never be the same.

    Haunting

    Meridith joins the family as a nanny, but Meridith’s presence is only as a result of her ability to see Arlyn’s ghost. Arlyn is unable to cross over and haunts the families mansion and her husband John. The weight of this paranormal presence will create chaos and unhappiness through the decades, fracture the family even further and cause Sam and his sister Blanca to hate their father and stay as far away as possible.

    Book Review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

    This is a sad story of how love, mistakes, dishonesty and grief disintegrate lives and a family…but the ending will give you hope for healing.

    ***Three stars for Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.

    Thank you for reading my Book Review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.

    Read last week’s book review The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

    A strange book. I spent a lot of time wondering what was happening…but I stuck with it. Liked but didn’t love it. Here is my book review The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

    A Celebrated Novel

    This book, much celebrated and awarded just didn’t do it for me. Sometimes it happens. My mood? My stress level? Who knows, but I struggled. But other’s have certainly found this book remarkable – New York Magazine claiming it “A triumph”.

    I can certainly say it was unique. A wild ride through a families grief after the loss of a child. A mystery of sorts as you navigate an ever changing narrative of how this child died. Or did he die? Is he just missing?

    Grief

    At its core, this novel is about grief and the multitudes of ways people negotiate grief. Cassandra, who was the only witness to her brothers death is plagued with uncertainty through out her life, her multitude of therapists, her visions and dreams…is she mentally ill?

    Her mother, neurotic and obsessive, with no body ever found, she refuses to believe Wayne is dead. Could a seven year old survive alone somewhere? Has he been kidnapped? Her unwillingness to process through the grief leaves the family torn, disembowled, breft.

    Cassandra’s relationship with her parents – one who stays and focuses only the lost child and one who leaves and starts a whole new family – will be all she has for her entire life following Wayne’s death. Until she meets someone who also is searching…searching for a life without doubt.

    It’s a grim story of mourning and memory, letting go and living.

    Thank you for reading my book review The Furrows by Namwali Serpell.

    ***Three stars for The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

    Read last week’s book review The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Sometimes wonderful, often strange, I struggled with parts of this book but in the end loved it. Here is my book review The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Pre-Civil War

    Slavery is alive and well but the great plantations of Virginia are diminishing and struggling. We are introduced to Hiram, a mixed race slave fathered by the plantation owner of Lockless. Hiram’s mother was sold when he was very young and he struggles to find his own place. Unlike any slavery novel I’ve read the vocabulary surrounding the era is interested. The “enslaved” are referred to as “tasked”, the plantation owners are the “quality” and the low-class whites are “the low”.

    Conduction is the super human ability he possesses, with a handful of other like him, he is recruited to help with the underground railroad. He is betrayed by one he trusts, loses the love of his life, meets Harriet Tubman and is able to find his way in helping the Underground, and eventually finding his way back to the family he loves.

    Conduction

    Hiram knows always that he is different than many of the other slaves. But he doesn’t understand the super natural events that he has witnessed in his young life. He knows he is intelligent with an extraordinary photographic memory, but only after his half brother dies in a freak accident does his unique super natural abilities come to light…for both himself and one of the “quality”.

    Not Just Another Slavery Story

    Coates debut novel is a unique twist on the Pre-Civil War story, a look at life in slavery, the Underground work down by black and white alike, and the super natural power many African slaves believed could and would save them from the depths of a horrific life.

    Four tars for The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Thanks for reading my book review The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    See last week’s book review Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.

    My current read Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

    I have read at least a half a dozen Ann Patchett novels over the years (she has 14 novels I think) and this one, Tom Lake, is my favorite by far. A beautiful story. Here is my book review Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.

    Pandemic

    I’ve been waiting for the first book to fall that really uses the pandemic and lockdown as part of the plot. Tom Lake does it effortlessly. Without drama or politics, the pandemic and the family bubble of the Nelson family during Covid, provides Patchett the perfect opportunity to unravel this tale.

    Once Upon a Time

    Northern Michigan in the spring of 2020 is about as far away from Hollywood and Movie Stars as you could get. But here we meet Lara and her three adult daughters. With husband Joe the family operates a cherry farm in Northern Michigan. The girls have returned to the nest during Covid, and together the family is desperately trying to get the cherries off the trees before fruit rots. This work, done all by hand, takes hours and hours, but gives the perfect opportunity for storytelling.

    Daughters Emily, Maisie and Nel, each trying to find their own path in life, want to use the tedious time to hear their mother tell them the story of her brief time as an actress. And her brief time in a relationship with famous actor Peter Duke.

    Family

    This is a story about family first and foremost. It’s a look at how our children often can’t see us as people, or understand who we were before we were their parents. It’s also a story about self-discovery, young love, youthful recklessness and true love. It’s a book that makes you think about hope and happiness, even during a historic period where it seemed the world was falling apart. One of the most charming parts of this book is the solid and sublime relationship Lara has with her husband Joe…even in the midst of her narrative to her daughter about her first love Peter Duke. Patchett’s remarkable talent pulls you into the affection and tenderness this family has for each other.

    Audible

    This book was one of my summer audible reads, in the car. Brilliantly narrated by none other than the incomparable Meryl Streep I highly recommend it as an audible. Although I’m sure it would be just as amazing on kindle or book in hand. Whichever you chose, read Tom Lake by Ann Patchett. One of my favorites of summer 2023.

    Thank you for reading my book review Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.

    *****Five stars for Tom Lake by Ann Patchett. Read last week’s book review The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

    My current read The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

    See this year’s Reading Round Up – My Favorite Books of the Year.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

    So right up front I have to tell you this book, published in 2013 (and the 2013 Booker Prize winner) is a difficult read. It’s long and has a complicated plot, with multiple inscrutable characters. But Catton has a gift for story development and I am glad I stuck with it…despite a few moments where I wasn’t sure what was happening. Here is my book review The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

    New Zealand 1866

    It’s a gold rush in New Zealand’s south island when we meet the novels protagonist Walter Moody. A prospector who has arrived in Hokitika to make his fortune. But Moody finds himself entangled immediately into a local murder mystery of one Crosbie Wells and a missing person of one Emery Stains. Moody discovers the 12 local men, all suspect – each with a claim to a fortune and a girl.

    Wikipedia describes “The novel’s complex structure is based on the system of Western astrology, with each of the twelve local men representing one of the twelve signs of the zodiac, and with another set of characters representing planets in the solar system.” I found this part of the novel difficult to follow and frankly unnecessary.

    The Ladies

    Anna Wetherelle, innocently arrived and thrust into the prostitution profession and Lydia Wells “in the entertainment business” and one of the most despicable characters of the book, each play heavily into the mystery. Anna and Lydia are deeply associated with both the dead Wells and the missing Stains and linked to many of the other unsavory and upstanding local 12 men.

    The Storyline

    Written in a narrative that is not a straight line…the plot is unveiled through fantastically written story telling from the present moment and months throughout the past year. As the past and present merge so do the menagerie of characters, many out to kill each other all in the name of gold, revenge, opium, secrets, loyalty and love.

    It’s a whodunnit it right up to the very end. Stick with it and I think you will be pleased. Thank you for reading my book review The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

    ****Four stars for The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

    My current read Tom Lake by Anne Patchett

    See last week’s book review The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray

    Did you see our Travel Wardrobe post? See it here My Travel Wardrobe – 8 months & 19 Countries

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray

    Last spring while we were visiting New York City ( I love NY!) we visited the Morgan Library for the first time. Oh my, I was intrigued. Following that visit several people asked if I had read The Personal Librarian? What? No, I hadn’t. And now that I have, I can’t wait to return and visit the Morgan Library again the next time I am in New York. Here is my Book Review The Personal Llibrarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray.

    Secrets

    This is the story of the life of Belle De Costa Greene, the Personal Librarian of J.P. Morgan and first director of the Morgan Library. Greene was incredibly intelligent, well-read, personable, beautiful, savvy and an amazing business women for the time. She was all of these things that made her successful and indispensible to J.P. Morgan for years. But she also carried a secret, one that if found out she would lose everything. She was black.

    Turn of the Century

    At the turn of the century, no black women, or man for that matter, held a more powerful position than Belle de Costa Greene. And everyday she fretted over the secret she carried. Born to a fair skin mother and father…her parents split when her mother insisted they all live as white. Belle’s father disappeared and Belle, her mother and her siblings moved to New York, changed their names, and began a life that was a lie…living as white.

    J.P. Morgan

    It’s unclear if Morgan ever knew this secret. It’s assumed others in the circle did but kept quiet. And somehow Belle rose through the social ranks and lived a life that others of her race could not even dream about.

    Before her death, Belle burnt all of her correspondence in an effort to keep the secret beyond the grave. But eventually it became common knowledge. This book is written with both facts from other historic documents, and a healthy dose of fiction. But it’s an intriguing story of the lengths someone with so much intelligence and gifts had to endure to be successful.

    I look forward to visiting the Morgan Library again. Thank you for reading my Book Review The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray.

    See last week’s book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews. And be sure to see our 2023 Reading Round Up...our favorite books from the past year.

    We love it when you pin, comment and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Women Talking by Miriam Toews

    This book is apparently an Oscar winning movie…but I didn’t know that when I picked it up. It’s a strange story, that takes place over a short two-day period, in a hayloft, will surprise you, anger you, and scare you. Here is my book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews.

    Mennonite Colony, Bolivia

    This book (and subsequently the film) is loosely based on a real crime that took place in a Mennonite Colony in Bolivia. Over a period of several years, the men of the colony consistently drugged and rapped women in their sleep…even girls as young as three. The women are told by the men that they have been visited by the Devil because of their sins.

    Eventually one women wakes up during the ordeal and discovers the two men attacking her. At first the men of the colony try to impose justice within the colony, until one of the women tries to kill the men and another woman commits suicide. The perpetrators are then arrested by the Bolivian authorities and sent to jail.

    Women Talking

    While the other men go to the city to try to bail out the suspects and bring them home, the women gather in a hayloft to discuss what they might do to save themselves. Only one man is present in this secret meeting. August Epp is invited to take “notes” since none of the women are literate. The question at hand is should the women stay and fight? Or should they flee? They have very little time to make a decision. The personalities of the women come into play heavily in the discussion, argument, consideration and eventual decision.

    The Decision

    Written in an interesting style, Toews has you pulling for these women…despite the fact they are illiterate, don’t speak the local language, have no money, transportation or even a map. Can this story end happily?

    Thank you for reading my book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews.

    ****Four stars for Women Talking. See last week’s book review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unworth.

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