Saturday, October 25, 2014

Keep Quiet

Jake has a rocky relationship with his teenage son Ryan.
As many parents of teenagers can agree, it is hard to find common ground and gain their full trust and attention. Jake tries too hard. He goes against his better judgment and allows Ryan to drive the car with him late at night after curfew for learners permit drivers. And their lives are changed forever. Tragedy strikes, split second decisions are made and lies snowball out of control. Pam, Jake's wife, cannot fathom what is happening to their family and every day they find themselves deeper in this horrible nightmare. There will definitely a lot to discuss at book club this month. Lessons learned about family, trust and standing by your beliefs. Unfortunately, the writing is mediocre, predictable and boring. The characters are not very likable so you just feel sorry for them but it is lacking someone to root for. Although I tried to like this read it failed to grab me. Sorry, reader friends, I really cannot recommend this one.

What is Visible

We all know the heroic tale of Helen Keller. As a child I
remember watching the movie multiple times in school. But hardly anyone is familiar with Laura Bridgman, her predecessor who had the strength and determination to conquer her disabilities and set the stage for all of those that followed. In the early 1830's (Helen's story takes place 50 years later) Laura, at two years old, is struck with scarlet fever. It leaves her not only deaf and blind but without her sense of smell and taste as well. Touch is all she has, and intelligence, wit, curiosity and determination beyond comprehension. This is the story of Laura's amazing life. Her struggles, her triumphs, her love and her losses. As young a girl whom most people had given up on, she is taken to the Perkins Institute in Boston which is primarily a school for the blind. Dr. Samuel Howe falls in love with this little girl and begins his mission of miracles by unlocking her mysteries and developing methods of communication. Her love of knowledge has no bounds. Her thoughtful writings and perceptions of religion, politics, and poetry to name a few are astonishing. Laura pushes the people and her capabilities to their very limits. There are those that adore her and she forms lifelong bonds, and those who have neither the patience or understanding for this girl that they simply cannot connect with. Her companion in the last years of her life is Annie, a young orphan kitchen girl, who later becomes the teacher of Helen Keller. This is a remarkable piece of historical fiction that I could not put down. I cannot believe I had never heard of this woman and I cannot believe this is Kimberly Elkins first novel.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Story of Land and Sea

Three generations of families in a small town in North Carolina
face hard choices during the late years of the American Revolution. The main character is John, an ex-pirate turned brave soldier who falls in love with Helen. She is the daughter of a successful businessman, Asa, that is unrelenting in his love and his religion. A good person buried deep inside of a slave owning man that lost his wife and raises Helen to the best of his ability. Helen is given a slave friend Moll when she is just a girl and they nurture a sister like love hate relationship for all of their lives. And then there is Tabitha whom John loves with all his heart. He is raising their daughter to the very best of his ability, land bound for ten years since she was born until she contracts yellow fever and they set sail believing the sea may save her. This wonderful small piece of historical fiction is a haunting read. The times are difficult and life was often cut short. Author Katy Simpson Smith truly captures the deep love that bonds father and daughter, the horrific reality of slavery and the moral compass that drove generations of people to accept this and in hardship life in this new America that strove for independence and truly believed in the future. Highly recommend The Story of Land and Sea.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I'll Be Right There

It is the mid 1980's in South Korea and Jung Yoon is a
young college girl finding her way to a new life in the big city. She is on her own for the first time and has left the safe haven of her cousins apartment. She is alone and she is lonely and learns quickly that these are two separate emotions. With unparalleled beauty this Korean author, Kyung Sook Shin, details the long days and nights that blend together endlessly for Jung Yoon. And then she meets Myungsuh, Miru and her cat named Emily (after none other than Emily Dickinson).  Their triangle friendship which is both complicated and beautiful mixed with the unending riots and protests that fill the city, close the universities leaving all the students along with  their beloved Professor bewildered and lost. All they want is to learn and read and be free but under martial law none of this is possible. The memory of Jung Yoon's mother and Miru's sister haunt them as they chase their literary dreams and experience young love for the first time. This is absolutely one of the most poetic storytellers I have encountered. Although it is a slow - somewhat sad read , it is different than anything I have ever experienced, truly a beautiful story. Different time, different place, different perspective.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You By Courtney Maum

Reverse love story that starts out with a cheating husband,
loses his girlfriend and then begins a long winding road back to his once beautiful marriage. Sounds twisted? Yes, it is, but what is captivating about this story is you really really like the characters and want them to be happy. There is not so much anger as you just want to bop Richard in the head and wake him out of his ridiculous stupor. Richard and Anne have been together almost a decade. She is a successful, beautiful, sophisticated French lawyer and Richard is a British artist that is having a mid life a bit young (only 34!) and is at a loss with his relationships and his artwork. All at once everything seems to be unravelling. Poor little Cam, their 5 year old daughter is caught in the messy tangle. With heartfelt wit and insightful retrospect Richard goes back to his childhood home and retraces his life. He is grateful for the lessons that begin to transform his priorities and get his life back into shape. But now he must convince Anne to give them a second chance. Forgiveness is hard, forgetting seems near impossible but can love really conquer all? Set in Paris which never fails to bring delicious food, lots of wine and an enormous amount of free time, Richard and Anne have only two choices, begin again or end their marriage. Thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into the lives of this crazy cast. Loved the writing by Courtney Maum, a mix of humor and intellect. Even under the most bizarre circumstances, the reality is not all that different for every couple.