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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

    Wow. Just wow. I am ignorant in the history of the Central Europe country of Georgia, even though my husband and I have it on our travel list soon. But this book, really opened my eyes to the former Soviet country, and the difficult transition it made after communism. Here is my book review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili.

    Tbilisi Georgia

    Vardiashvili’s first novel is not a biography, although he, like the novels protagonist, fled Georgia in the early 1990’s for London as a young boy. The novel introduces us to Saba, his brother Sandro and his father Irakli, who fled Georgia together leaving their mother behind. The plan was to get the mother out as soon as enough money could be saved for her counterfeit papers to be bought.

    But that never happens. London is harder than Irakli can manage. Barely earning enough to keep a roof over the heads of himself and his two boys. Years go by. Decades. Irakli threatens many times he is going back to get her. He never does. But then, he steps on the plane.


    Irakli disappears. The last communication the boys get is “don’t follow.” Sandro flies to Tbilisi and also disappears. This leaves Saba, guilt ridden and afraid, in London. He has no one he can turn to in either London or Georgia. He takes the plunge, despite getting a warning at the airport from a stranger not to get on the plane, he does anyway.

    Danger at Every Turn

    Saba’s passport is confiscated at the airport. The first sign that he is being watched. Saba, exhausted with no plan, gets a taxi where he meets Nodar. Nodar will become his local guide, friend, and ultimately sacrifice himself for the cause of Saba and the corrupt and violent Georgia.

    The novel is violent yet humorous. It keeps you on your toes throughout as Saba searches for his brother and his father and tries to understand this country that he fled. Most everyone he left behind is dead, but he encounters a few old “friends”, follows a poetic and cryptic trail of clues left by his brother, meets quietly supportive new friends who help him dodge police and harm.

    In the end, he is left with unexpected results and feelings about Georgia and his life back in London.

    Book Review Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

    I thought this was a great story. Intense. Raw. But I loved the commitment this young man has for his family. He grows in this book. I liked that. It’s not an easy book. It certainly made me even more interested in seeing and learning about Georgia in the near future.

    *****Five stars for Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili. See last week’s book review Northwoods by Daniel Mason. We love it when you comment, pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review James by Percival Everett

    If you read Huckleberry Finn when you were a child, or even as an adult, you may have thought of the slave Jim as a rather minor character. Percival Everett sees it differently, writing an amazing novel of the Huckleberry Finn story but his time, from the viewpoint of Jim. Here is my book review James by Percival Everett.

    Mark Twain

    I think Twain would approve of this incredible retake on Huckleberry Finn through the eyes and voice of slave Jim (James). Considering Twain’s book Huckleberry Finn was written in 140 ago in 1884, Twain would surely see the genius of Everett’s modern-day twist.


    When Slave Jim learns he is about to be sold, he lets out to hide and becomes a wanted runaway. When Huckleberry Finn fakes his own murder Jim becomes a suspect. And of course if you know the Huck Finn story the two will make their way down the Mississippi River and engage in a variety of dangerous adventures.

    Bringing the story around to Jim’s view, we are presented with a multitude of new ideas about James and slaves in general, during this period just prior to the Civil War. Everett creates a deep and intelligent human in Jim’s story, so different to the quiet and stupid character portrayed by Twain. As James tries to make his way to freedom, and to free his family as well, the character brims with compassion and anger, reason and fear, creativity and empathy. And most of all bravery.

    Book Review James by Percival Everett

    This new release and Pulitzer Prize finalist is bound to become an American classic. You must read James by Percival Everett. *****Five stars for James by Percival Everett.

    See last week’s book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Thanks for reading my book review James by Percival Everett for this week’s Reading Wednesday.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson

    The Story of One Man’s Personal Pandemic Battle

    Throughout the world, each person’s individual experience with the global pandemic was different. Many people felt anger, fear, helpless. Others dug in for a long haul and tried to stay positive. Children and young adults suffered sadness and loss. This debut novel by Rustin Thompson is one man’s story of desperation. It is raw and will resonate with many. Here is my book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Covid in 2072

    Thompson starts the novel in 2072. More than fifty years have passed since Covid One and the planet is now under the siege of Covid Four. The pandemic has never really gone away, and tens of millions have died, mostly those unvaccinated. This world fifty years in the future was partially foretold by writers after the 2020 Pandemic. But at the time, these writers could not find a publisher. No one wanted to read about what they had just lived through. But fifty years on, one man’s story is told. The story of little known author Richard Duvall.

    Covid in 2020

    Richard Duvall finds his life in limbo, feeling unconnected, immaterial and depressed. Suicide has crossed his mind. The pandemic has really hit home in Seattle and Richard and his wife Beth are feeling the pinch. Already suffering malaise as a sixty-something man battling a sense of irrelevance, the pandemic brings Richard to the brink.

    Richard’s tiny bubble of family, a handful of friends and a couple of neighbors is what keeps him going while political stupidity flows like a river through the United States.

    Covid and Mental Health

    It’s no secret how many people throughout the drama of the pandemic had similar feelings as our protagonist Richard. Even four years on, mental health issues related to the pandemic persist. As do ongoing staffing issues, economic issues and supply issues. Hard Times in Babylon made me think more deeply about my own personal experiences of the Pandemic. Though I never felt suicidal I certainly had fears. I feared for the collapse of my country. I feared for the collapse of the banking system and supply chain. And I definitely feared for my children and their futures. Addressing these fears and acknowledging that other people suffered similarly is a good tool to healing.

    History Repeats

    For thousands of years plagues of all kinds have taken entire populations. And yet, life goes on. Books like Cloud Cuckoo Land and Station Eleven, two of my favorites, look at how past and future generations deal with fear, hunger, violence, plague, anarchy and life expectancy. Despite Covid and our current unstable political situation, we still are living in some of the best of times. What comes next? Thompson ends his book in 2072 with a frightening speculative scenario about Covid Four. But will Richard Duvall survive Covid One as he teeters on the edge of depression and personal tormoil? His story in 2020 ends with a hopeful phrase;

    So much life. All around us. So much life.

    Book Review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson

    Thank you for reading my book review Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Thompson is a Seattle based author and has self-published this first novel. I have known him and his wife for many years. Getting published is a difficult task and I congratulate him on his efforts.

    *****Five stars for Hard Times in Babylon by Rustin Thompson.

    Read last week’s book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay. We love it when you comment, share and pin our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama.

    This beautiful, easy to read novel made me choke up at the end. I highly recommend it. Here is my Book Review The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama.

    1930’s Japan & China

    Tsukiyama, who herself is part Chinese and part Japanese, creates a beautiful narrative of 1930’s pre-war China and Japan. We are introduced to a 20-year old young Chinese man, who comes home from university to recover from tuberculosis. His family sends him to their summer home in Japan, to get him out of the city and to help him recover near the sea.

    Stephen misses his family, especially his younger sister, but over the course of year he becomes close to Matsu, the caretaker of the families home. Despite the Chinese boy and the Japanese man’s different upbringings, economic status and cultural differences, the two develop a bond. And Stephen learns about Matsu’s secrets, his loyalty and love.

    Matsu will teach Stephen about devotion, and survival in a world that prizes honor more than life itself. As we learn more about past tragedies in Matsu’s life, Stephen both matures and returns to health.

    But when Japan invades China, and World War is mounting, the two friends will say good bye with hopeful hearts to see one another again.

    Book Review The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama

    A short and easy to read novel, with an underlying message of tolerance and love, that goes beyond any Chinese or Japanese story I have read before. *****Five stars for The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama.

    See last week’s book review Still Life by Sarah Winman

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Still Life by Sarah Winman

    I loved this book. One of the best novels I’ve read in months. Unforgettable characters and a story of love, family, poetry, art and war. Here is my book review Still Life by Sarah Winman.


    At first I thought this was going to be a WWII story. And though we start in Italy in 1944, when we meet Ulysses and Evelyn, at it’s heart it really isn’t about the war. The war will certainly follow the characters through the story and through the next thirty years, but the real story is about love.


    I’m not talking a romance novel here. Oh no. The love in this book is about so much more than physical attraction, although there is a lot of that too. The love that comes out of a chance meeting in Italy at the end of the war will surround this novel and it’s fascinating collection of character. Winman expertly guides the reader through all ranges of the emotion from the love of a man and women, the love of a women and women, the love that comes from friends who are closer than family. The decades long epic novel explores the love of art, food, poetry, as well as authors, artists even a parrot.

    Confused? Don’t be. Open your heart to this book, it’s beautiful story, it’s well developed characters and it’s underlying sizzling theme.


    Winman takes the reader from 1940’s Tuscany to London and back in this sweeping thirty year portrait of people you will fall in love with, as they fall in love with each other, life and country. It’s a deeply respectful epic of generations thrown together and clinging for dear life. And one parrot.

    Book Review Still Life by Sarah Winman

    *****Five stars for a perfect book that will make you laugh and cry and fill you with wonder. Thanks for reading my book review Still Life by Sarah Winman. See last week’s book review Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

    I have only read one other book by James McBride, that was Deacon King Kong back in 2021. I liked that one. His new book The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store has garnered all kinds of praise. So I had to see what it was all about. Here is my Book Review The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride.

    Pay Attention

    McBride is a master of weaving a tale, and so you gotta be on your toes with this novel. In this book you will meet a wildly varied group of characters, each brilliantly developed and lushly described by McBride. We find ourselves on Chicken Hill, a run down neighborhoods of Pottstown Pennsylvania where African Americans and immigrant Jews live and work side by side.


    The folks of Chicken Hill manage to get by despite living on the margins of the wider white community who control everything from the water system to the police. Blacks and Jews work the system as best they can, but without each other it doesn’t come together for the people of Chicken Hill.

    Our Story

    Our story focuses on Moshe an immigrant Jew and his beautiful wife Chona an American born Jew. There lives are entwined with Nate, a black worker at Moshe’s theater and Nate’s wife Addie who helps Chona at the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. Nate and Addie’s 12 year old nephew Dodo, who is deaf, finds out the “State” is trying to put him in an institution. Trouble ensues as the entire community comes together to silently and conspiratorially help Dodo.

    Meanwhile the white elite of the town, including lecherous Doc Roberts and a local City Council man are creating additional problems for the people of Chicken Hill. This is when the bonds of friendship, love and community will come together. Not everyone will survive, but no one will ever be forgotten in the tight knit community of Chicken Hill, home of the Heaven and Earth Grocery Store.

    Thank you for reading my Book Review The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

    *****Five Stars for The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. See last week’s book review After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

    I’m a big fan of Maggie O’Farrell, a prolific writer from the United Kingdom. Although most of her work is contemporary fiction, my favorite books of her are her historical fiction including Hamnet and The Marriage Portrait. But this contemporary novel, published in 2000 is a page-turner. Here is my book review After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell.

    The Plot

    Alice has suffered an unimaginable loss. Her heart is broken and so is her will to live. She takes a train to Scotland to visit her sisters, but while in the restroom she witnesses something horrible. But what is it? Whatever it is it’s enough to send her running back to London. But by the next day, Alice lays in a hospital in a coma. Hit by a car, or was it a suicide attempt?

    Interwoven Stories

    Throughout the book O’Farrell jumps around from before Alice was born to present day, focusing separately on characters in Alice’s life. Alice’s mother, father and grandmother each have their own story. Alice’s true love John and John’s father play a crucial role. And then there are others…a mysterious man, a high school boyfriend, her sisters who are nothing like Alice.

    As Alice lays in a coma, her memories of things she knows float in and out, while people in her room also float in and out. Some of these people are talking and Alice can hear them, although she cannot speak. But missing pieces of her life are falling into place as she listens. Alice’s will to live is diminishing.

    A Special Visitor

    It will take a special visitor to reach deep into the coma cocoon Alice is trapped in and pull her out. Will that person come to the hospital?

    After You’d Gone

    O’Farrell has such a way with words that all her books, contemporary or historic, are unforgettable. I hope you enjoyed my book review After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

    *****Five Stars for After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell. See last week’s book review Fox and I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven.

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