Saturday, January 28, 2017

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

A couple months ago my book club read Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb.  A few of the members raved about his other books, although they found them quite different from his Christmas story.  Based on this recommendation, I selected I Know This Much is True and dowloaded it to my Kindle without a second thought.

I read on my iPhone during my lunch hour and started this book with great anticipation.  The first chapter is quite gruesome but sets the tone for all that is to come.  If you can get yourself through the beginning, I'm pretty sure you can get through the rest.  I kept reading.  And reading.  The percent read that my kindle happily tracks for me, barely moved.  Day after day I watched my barely existent progress.  When I'd had enough I finally checked the statistics of the book.  It has a whopping 982 pages!  I will be sucking down the battery on my phone for the next ten years reading the story on a 4 1/2 by 3 inch screen.  But I persisted.

Thomas and Dominic are twins, one born on December 31st and the other born on January 1st. They are even born in different decades, one in 1959 and the other in 1960.  Their mother, Connie is not married but thank goodness her strict Italian father died before he discovered she was pregnant.  The boys are never told who their biological father is and both have an very contentious relationship with Ray, their step father, who adopts them as toddlers.

The brothers are angry.  The tone of their story is filled with anger because everyone here has issues.  Thomas is mentally ill and finds himself living in a variety of mental institutions.  Dominic, the supposedly sane twin, is Thomas' self appointed protector.  Dominic's life is a train wreck and he blames Thomas for all that is wrong with him.

There is so much going on here, that Mr. Lamb needed those 982 pages.  The story blew up slowly until is became a big abscess and it finally burst, letting the infection run freely out.  The story ended all tied up in a neat little bow.  I couldn't stop reading this book but I wasn't always engaged in this book.  I Know This Much is True requires a commitment of time and energy.  The treatment of mental illness in this country is spread out for the reader to live and experience.  The story is worth reading but beware.  It's exhausting.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman

Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman

Andre and Vonnie are struggling to make ends meet while raising their young son, Simon.  Little do they know however,  how much their lives will change when their elderly neighbor, Elizabeth decides she can fly and falls from her roof.  This event sets in motion the arrival of Jody, Elizabeth's granddaughter, who is banished to the small town by her mother, to take care of grandma.  Jody is a teenager with plenty of oats to sow, and quickly sets her eyes on Andre, well just because she thinks she can do whatever she feels like.

As the chaos heats up between Andre and Jody, Vonnie is stricken with severe panic attacks.  She can't leave the house and spends hours a day driving her truck up and down the muddy driveway desperately trying to break through her imaginary bubble.  Adorable little Simon, is trapped between the comings and goings of all of the adults.

Alice Hoffman does a great job of developing a diverse cast of characters and weaving their actions together.  I enjoyed this book for the most part.  The one thing that bugged me however, is why the title was Illumination Night.  The lighting of lanterns played a very small part in the story.  And I didn't feel that any of the characters found "illumination" by the end.  Only Jody moved on, every one else simply moved back into a pre existing comfort zone.

Illumination Night is not my favorite Alice Hoffman novel but it's high on the list and worth the time  I invested in it.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

First off, my thanks to NetGalley for an advance reading copy of The Fifth Petal.  I remember reading The Lace Reader many years ago and wanted to give this new novel by Ms. Barry a try.

In 1989, on Halloween night in Salem, Massachusetts, three young women were brutally murdered while trying to honor their ancestors who were hanged in the Salem Witch Trials.  The women were known as the goddesses and carried a dark secret.  The child of one of the women, Callie survived, along with the goddesses's mentor and local historian, Rose.

The murders remained unsolved and the case cold, until another suspicious death on Halloween night, in the town of Salem, happens some thirty years later.  Enter John Rafferty, the police chief, who is now married to Towner, a gifted lace reader. Callie, now a grown woman and a music healer, returns to Salem to help uncover the truth.

I enjoyed the parts about Salem and the witch trials.  From a historical perspective, I found there was a lot to gain from this book.  I felt there were many holes in the plot of the story though.  I found myself backtracking a few pages too many times to pick up the current story thread.  That is never a good thing.  The characters didn't make me want to care about them.  For example, Callie and her love affair were flat and unemotional, sparking no romantic engagement from me.

If you're a fan of Salem, or like witches and mystery, then I think you will find a lot to like in The Fifth Petal. I want to be fully invested with the characters in the books I read, and even though I learned about a piece of history, I just didn't get there with the rest of the story.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I have loved this book since the first time I read it!  And I've read it more than once. This time however, I listened to it on CD.  I loved Lily, August and Rosaleen even more when their voices came to life.  And I disliked T Ray even more when I heard him yelling "Jesus Christ, Lily".  And he said that a lot.

On her fourteenth birthday, the motherless Lily decides accompany Rosaleen, her black housekeeper, who plans to register to vote. Lily doesn't bother to tell her always angry father, T Ray, where she is headed.  He didn't remember her birthday anyway so what would have been the point.  The racial divide of the south in the 1960's sets in motion events that will change Lily and Rosalyn's lives forever.

The Secret Life of Bees shows the reader all that is good in the world while trying to make sense of all that is bad.  Through the eyes of a teenager, life takes on a naive and often highly emotional slant. But the Boatwright sisters welcome Lily into their home and as they teach her the business of bees, she learns that life can be filled with the sweetness of honey.

There is much in this novel that is pertinent to the struggles we are facing in society today.  So if you haven't read it, please put it on your list.  And if you've read it, please listen to it.  The Secret Life of Bees is more than special, it's extraordinary.  

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...