The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney – Book Review

The Invisible Ones is Stef Penney’s follow up to her acclaimed debut novel The Tenderness of Wolves. It opens with private investigator Ray Lovell in the hospital recovering from a brush with death via an unidentified poisonous substance. The hospital staff suspects that it may have been self-administered, but as Ray swims through strange, frightening hallucinations and recovers his mobility from partial paralysis, he starts to think that his near death might be connected to his investigation into the disappearance and possible murder of a newly married Romany woman several years back.

The story unfolds as a dual narrative that follows Ray as he is contacted by Leon Wood. Wood chooses him to investigate the disappearance of his daughter because of Ray’s partial Gypsy heritage.  The other perspective is JJ’s, a 14-year-old Romany boy who is a part of the family that Ray is investigating. The Invisible Ones carefully details the lives and views of modern day Gypsy families, but the story itself is slow moving. Set in 1980’s England, Penney’s Ray Lovell is an old school investigator, complete with notebooks and knocks on the door to get his man. Subplots dealing with Lovell’s emotional state after the dissolution of his marriage, and how he met his partner provide additional perspective on his character. The novel picks up in the last third to reveal a surprising host of secrets whose huge implications are only vaguely hinted at and barely explored. Some of them were more easily guessed than others.

Those interested in the Romany way of life will find Penney’s work both thoughtful and fascinating since her portrayal is so crystal clear – details on marriages and retaining “pure” blood, the struggles of the older generations to hold on to the traveling lifestyles and traditions, choosing campsites, and the hierarchies established in home ownership and displays of status provided insight for me in a culture with which I am not familiar. Oftentimes JJ provided the most poignant moments in the novel as his attempts to fit in at school fall short, and as his stress about his cousin sick with the “family” disease and the possible skeletons in the family closet grows. Penney has turned out a solid literary mystery, but better pacing and follow up in the aftermath would have made this a more worthwhile and enjoyable read for me.

Read More Reviews At: Caribousmom – Devourer Of Books (Audiobook Review) – Booking Mama

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BOOK CLUB – Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Welcome to BOOK CLUB, a joint venture between me and Jen from Devourer of Books.  Today we are discussing Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung which was published by Riverhead Books.

About Forgotten Country:

Weaving Korean folklore and history within a modern narrative of immigration and identity, Catherine Chung delivers a fierce exploration of the inevitability of loss and the conflict between loyalty and freedom. Forgotten Country marks the debut of a graceful, astonishing new voice in fiction, one with a quiet ferocity that will break your heart.

Here are a few of the reviews from BOOK CLUB participants.

If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page, and check back throughout the day as more questions are added to the post.

Let’s go!

  • What were your general impressions of the book?
  • Did you think about the title of the book at all? Did it shape your experience and thoughts while reading? How?
  • Forgotten Country is filled with stories and folklore. How were these stories significant in shaping the lives and experiences of Janie and Hannah. Which of the stories resonated most with you?
  • What kinds of questions did you have during your reading? Were they answered?
  • What was your reaction to the way Janie’s story unfolded alongside her family’s secrets? Were you surprised by some of her revelations? How did her family’s relationship to the past shape her decisions?
  • Did you get a sense of what the relationship would look like between Janie and her sister by the end of the novel? What was your understanding of their relationship by the end of the book, and how do you think they will move forward to their relationship?
  • All of the relationships in the novel were complex, much like the knot theory Janie describes, how do you see things changing in the aftermath of Janie’s father’s death?

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB Picking Bones From Ash, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

15 review copies of Forgotten Country were provided by Riverhead Books in order to facilitate this discussion. Thank you so much!

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Literary Feasts – Perfect On Paper by Janet Goss

Literary Feast Banquet Image @ Linus's Blanket

In Janet Goss’s Perfect on Paper, Dana Mayo is a woman finally getting back into dating after realizing that she has carried the torch for an inappropriate man for far too long. She meets two men, both of whom may  be inappropriate for their own reasons, but that doesn’t stop her from diving right in to try to figure out which one she should be with.

Look at the food choices that happen when she meets one of them for a date at the famed Katz’s Deli in NYC.

Ah. But I could  order a knish. A nice, bland, relatively compact knish. We approached the counter where Billy caught the eye of a server.

“I’ll have a knish,” he said.

Great, I thought. I wasn’t about to order the same thing. What else on the menu was smallish?

“I’ll take a hot dog.”

What the hell had I ordered that for? There was no genteel way for a woman to eat a hot dog. Now I was about to sit directly across from Billy Moody and go down on a six-inch length of meat.

Hot Dog, pictured above.  Photo source: Burning Love (checkout their post on how to grill the perfect hot dog.

I agree. I t’s pretty hard to be genteel with a hot dog.

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Literary Feasts – The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Literary Feast Banquet Image @ Linus's Blanket

Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child takes place in 1920’s Alaska. The main characters, Jack and Mabel, are having a difficult time in their marriage, and an even harder time taming the Alaskan wilderness to create a successful homestead. Most times they have to turn to nature to supplement their diet.

Thankfully, though, they had rhubarb pie.

When the weather was fine and the bugs were miraculously scarce , they ate outdoors. Jack and George would build an alder fire in a pit early in the morning and then roast a hunk of meat from a black bear Garrett had shot in the spring. Esther would bring potato and beet salad; Mabel would make a fresh rhubarb pie and spread a white tablecloth. The two women would walk together arm in arm and pick fireweeds and bluebells. In the background they would hear the men talking and laughing as the flames in the pit sputtered and flared with the bear fat drippings.


Check out the video of the making of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from the  The Joy of Baking.

I have only been lucky enough to have had any type of rhubarb pie once, and this was a couple of years ago. It just doesn’t sound that appetizing, rhubarb. Strawberry seems to be a popular pairing for it, though I saw a few recipes for blueberry as well.

 

Photo credit: Tablefare.com

 

This recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is from Bon Appetit (1997) appeared on Epicurious.com.

Ingredients

For crust

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 10 tablespoons (about) ice water

For filling

  • 3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
  • 1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Make crust:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in shortening and butter until coarse meal forms. Blend in enough ice water 2 tablespoons at a time to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)

Make filling:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter flass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush glaze over crust. transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

Enjoy!
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Until The Next Time by Kevin Fox – Book Review

until the next time by kevin fox picture cover

until the next time by kevin fox picture coverOn Sean Corrigan’s 21st birthday, he gets an unexpected gift from the man he expects nothing from, his father. In the space of a few minutes, Sean finds out that he had an uncle, Michael, who died before he was born. Michael was accused of shooting a black civil rights worker in cold blood before he fled to Ireland, joined the IRA, and was later killed as a traitor. Sean’s gift includes his uncle’s journal, an attractive bank account and a ticket to Ireland- an open opportunity to investigate his uncle’s crimes and punishment. Sean’s investigation into Michael’s past teaches him more about his heritage, and  introduces him to colorful relatives, dangerous situations, and maybe even the love of his life.

Until The Next Time is an engrossing read, though not without flaws. Fox has created characters and dialogue that leap off the page as the novel unfolds through the dual narrative of Sean in his present day 1996, and Michael, through journal entries, from 1972. Both narratives offer plenty of tension. Sean faces danger because what he finds out about his uncle’s guilt or innocence could implicate others who don’t want their secrets exposed, and Michael’s is especially tense because, among other things, you really want to know whether he shot an unarmed man or if there is something more to that situation than meets the eye. Complicating things is the mysterious Kate, whose old letter to Michael, Sean finds. The secrets are everywhere.

Fox ambitiously takes on religion and reincarnation; Irish faith, history and politics; and a murder mystery. After a while the books starts to flag under so much weight. It is well-balanced until about the middle when it become too philosophical and way too preachy. Characters run on and on while trying to prove their points and it was very repetitive. A lot of history of the IRA, the Provos and Bloody Sunday is included in the novel, but not in a way that its easily understood without having an overview of the history, and the reincarnation story line and who is fighting whom gets muddled in the midst of it all. I had a lot of unanswered questions about  Fox’s version of reincarnation, and the similar character names within the generations was somewhat problematic. The story rights itself by the last quarter, getting back to the heavy suspense that makes it a page turner, but the ending left me less than satisfied and with a vague feeling that I missed something somewhere.

Fox, a screenwriter, has an awesome ear for dialogue. You will really feel as if you were in Ireland with his use of language and with the way he can set a scene. Readers wanting heavy debate on Irish history, religion and politics will find much to chew on.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for Fox’s next novel, especially if its topics stay closer to home.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown   Book Review

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The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – Book Review

In Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters, Rose, Bean, and Cordy are sisters at a crossroads in their lives, and are suddenly living back home together just as their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer (for which she begins treatment). Their father is a renowned Shakespeare professor, and when he bothers speaking, it’s often in Shakespearean verse- so it’s a lucky thing that the entire family is steeped in the knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays. Each of the sisters has complicated issues to work out while back in the confines of the small college town where they grew up. They expected they had escaped for good.

Bean has let a scandal in her beloved New York run her home, while Cordy struggles to make  a decision on a newly acquired secret she’s carrying, and Rose still does her best to manage all the family burdens- but has to decide whether to set them down long enough to follow her own heart. The Andreas sisters have often been at odds with each other, and if you think adulthood has made them more tolerant and understanding of one another, think again.

The Weird Sisters is an absolute pleasure to read. It’s rich with literary references, girls curled up in nooks and reading for comfort and relief,  and college/small-town charm. The voice of the story is unique, but rather than become a hindrance, the plural collective of the sisters (which is how the story is told), becomes like a less judgmental and infinitely more reasonable fourth sister. She lovingly relays the story of the Andreas sisters’ trials and tribulations with gentle compassion, and puts their historical and present actions into perspective. Brown perfectly expresses the subtle and competing dynamics within a family, and among siblings in particular, as they juggle   to find their places within the family, and then the world. My heart was with each of the sisters as they cope with not only their own failings and setbacks, but their mother’s illness and the looming specter of death.

The language in this novel is a reader’s delight. It is richly woven with savory passages and lovingly balanced portraits of the sisters. The  history of the town is crystal clear and finely detailed. Barnwell sounds like a place you’d love to grow up in. This is a lovely novel. It will have you laughing and crying over the uneven relationships within this tight-knit family, and among sisters who don’t always like each other (really!), but who certainly do love each other. Highly recommended.

Read More Reviews At: Erin Reads (Audiobook) – Amused By Books (Audiobook) – Books and Movies – Lifetime Reading Plan – Beth Fish Reads – Devourer of Books

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March BOOK CLUB Giveaway – Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

gods of gotham picture

It is that time again! We are gearing up for this month’s discussion of Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung (here on Tuesday, February 28th), but it is also time to give away next month’s BOOK CLUB selection. In March we will be reading an offering from Amy Einhorn/Putnam Books, The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye.

gods of gotahm picture

 

We will be discussing The Gods of Gotham at Devourer of Books on Tuesday, March 27. 

From the publisher:

1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.

Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, saving every dollar and shilling in hopes of winning the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams literally incinerate in a fire devastating downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this untested “police force.” And he is less than thrilled that his new beat is the notoriously down-and-out Sixth Ward-at the border of Five Points, the world’s most notorious slum.

One night while returning from his rounds, heartsick and defeated, Timothy runs into a little slip of a girl—a girl not more than ten years old—dashing through the dark in her nightshift . . . covered head to toe in blood.

Timothy knows he should take the girl to the House of Refuge, yet he can’t bring himself to abandon her. Instead, he takes her home, where she spins wild stories, claiming that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of 23rd Street. Timothy isn’t sure whether to believe her or not, but, as the truth unfolds, the reluctant copper star finds himself engaged in a battle for justice that nearly costs him his brother, his romantic obsession, and his own life.

If you would like to be considered as a participant for March, please fill out this form below by noon, Eastern on Tuesday, February 21th. Your mailing address will be discarded if you aren’t selected to participate and used to mail you the book if you are. I do not share or retain any personal information. Only those selected will be contacted by email.

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Honey Badger Don’t Care: Randall’s Guide to Crazy Nastyass Animals by Randall – Book Review

If you haven’t already, meet the Honey Badger, voiced by Randall. Dubbed the “Crazy Nastyass”, this fearless creature fights all kinds of wild life in order to eat and take whatever it wants, and basically takes no shit off anyone and doesn’t give a shit about anything. In this book, he basically gives us the lowdown on  other ugly, crazy, nastyass creatures that are found in the wild, some of which are endangered animals.

Pop culture idiot that I am, I first heard of the honey badger, and resultant phenomenon of Randall, when I was sitting in a bar with a friend, looking over the cocktail menu. There was one called a honey badger, no doubt full of crazy, nastyass ingredients, which I can no longer recall. She found it very amusing. I had no idea why this was so funny. She was shocked I hadn’t heard, “Honey badger don’t care. Honey badger don’t give a shit.” Noted. I probably would not have picked up a copy of this book without having had that conversation.

Randall takes an irreverent approach (understatement of the year) in describing the beasts mentioned in his book. His view is that the average person really doesn’t want to be bored with scientific classifications and boring details of animal existence. We want the nitty-gritty. What they look like, what disgusting things they eat, how they mate and how they fight. Quite a few of the animals featured are badasses of the animal kingdom. The Tasmanian Devil is nicknamed “Friend of Satan”, and a picture of it is captioned, “We’ll come out and play, but then we’ll have to bite your face. OK?” Yikes.

I didn’t read it all in one sitting. I found it was better, and much funnier, to approach each animal anew. If you missed all the details on the Honey Badger,  not to worry, he’s the first animal profiled in the book, and then such creatures as the the Opossum, the Aye Aye, the Pink Fairy Armadillo,  the Tasmanian Devil, the Emperor Tamarin, the Tarsier, the Solenodon, the Wombat, the American Bullfrog, and more.  The language is vulgar (much more so than what’s in this review). The mating habits of the animals along with their anatomy, are provocatively discussed using slang and off-color humor, and the pictures are plentiful and hilariously captured. It makes a great gift for the animal lover in your life…ahem…as long as they are of a certain age. Recommended.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Out of Twenty: Alex George, Author of The Good American, Answers Six Questions

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Out of Twenty: Alex George, Author of The Good American, Answers Six Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer!  It is early days in 2012 reading, but already Alex George’s A Good American stands out as a favorite for the year. Laughing and crying through a books tends to shift it to that category. Here is what Alex had to say about reading, writing, and more specifically, how reading mediocre books got him to where his today.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

I am an Englishman, but I have lived in Missouri for almost nine years now. When I’m not writing or being a dad to my two wonderful children, I run my own law firm.  I am quite busy!

I began writing almost by accident. I’ve always read a lot, and at some point during the mid-1990s I hit a particularly barren spell of mediocre books. I began to complain to anyone who would listen about how poorly written they were. These rants usually ended with the blithe assertion that “I could do better than that.” Eventually it was gently suggested to me that rather than go on endlessly about it, I should shut up and actually do it. So I did. And believe me, nobody is more surprised than I am to discover myself here now.

As for the kind of books I like to write, well. I started this book with one overarching aim: to tell a really good story. I hope I have done that. It would be nice to think that the characters might linger awhile with the reader, that their stories and adventures strike a chord. Good storytelling is about making connections, pulling readers into your world and taking them on a journey. I hope I have connected. I hope people enjoy the trip.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

Being a lawyer can be a very time-consuming profession. There are often late nights at the office and demanding clients to distract me. Consequently I realized early on that the only way I would find time to write every day was if I got up early to do so. (And I do need to write every day.  I am a creature of habit.) So I began getting up at six o’clock every morning and wrote for an hour before going to work. It’s a slow way of writing books, but it works for me. These days, though, I get up at five. More writing gets done, but also a lot more yawning. I have been known to fall asleep while reading to my daughter before bedtime.

One ritual that I could not live without is my regular communion with my espresso machine during my morning writing stints – although at this point it’s really more of a medical procedure than a ritual. I am sure I suffer from a clinical addiction to caffeine.

I write incredibly, painfully slowly, correcting and rewriting as I go along. I expect this process runs counter to just about every how-to-write manual out there. No quick first drafts for me. I also, most unprofessionally, write very organically, in that I never know how a story will end when I begin it. Consequently my characters often go off and do unexpected things and I’m never quite sure where the story is going. It can make the process more entertaining, but also more nerve-wracking.

I very quickly discovered a deep and profound contentment in the process of writing, similar to the one that my narrator James discovers in the novel. I love to sit down each morning and immerse myself in the world I have concocted in my head. Characters take on lives of their own; unexpected things happen; I find myself moved and engrossed by the adventures unraveling in these worlds I have created. And, at the end of it all, there is the satisfaction of having made something new. There’s a wonderful Stephen Sondheim song, “Finishing the Hat,” which is in part about the act of creating something out of nothing.  I love to finish hats.

Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

The most interesting question that I’ve been asked in relation to this book, and which I’ve been pondering ever since, is this: What is a Good American?

I suspect that the answer may lie in the founding documents of this country, which to my mind are two of the most inspiring documents ever written.  Even if their spirit has not always been adhered to in practice over the past couple of centuries, the principles and beliefs that underlie the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution remain unimpeachable. Freedom, tolerance, diversity, equality – in my view, living in accordance with those concepts would be a good start to becoming a good American.

People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

Before starting A Good American, I had begun, and abandoned, a couple of other ill-fated novels, and was casting about for ideas, waiting for one to catch. Some of the most common advice given to writers is “Write what you know.” It’s a fine theory, but probably only if you know something worth writing about. As I was pondering this, it occurred to me that the experience of packing up my life and moving to a new country, with no expectation that I would ever return home again, might just qualify. So my experience of coming to America was the principal driving force behind the original idea of the novel, the reason why I had to tell it. Of course, as the book developed other themes emerged, particularly the question of how easy it is (or isn’t) to escape from your roots. Various characters in the novel are intent on leaving, but they all get pulled back in the end.

The story did shine a light on my own experiences, and those of my family. I come from a family of journey-makers. My mother was born and raised in New Zealand. In her early twenties she took a boat to England, met my father, and decided to stay. A few generations earlier, her great-grandparents had made the trip in the opposite direction, eloping from their English families who disapproved of their union, and hoping for freedom in the wilderness of the southern hemisphere. Writing Frederick and Jette’s story made me reconsider the journeys that my own family has made. In some ways, my experience of moving to America in 2003 could not have been much more different to my ancestors’ journey to New Zealand in 1864, or the Meisenheimers’ voyage to America in 1904. But certain essential elements had probably not changed much: the hope for a better life, the fear of the unknown, and the paradox of wanting to adapt to your new country without forgetting where you came from. (My mother has lived in England for more than fifty years now, but she still calls New Zealand home.) I have been thinking a lot recently about what “home” means. I’m still not sure what the answer is, but I feel as if I am more aware of both the country where I now live, and the one I left behind.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

I thought I knew! While I was writing the book, its working title was Paradise, which was the original name of the town. However, it transpired I underestimated Missourians’ optimism, or delusion (depending on your point of view): there actually is a town called Paradise, Missouri. I then looked at various musical terms for the town, but again no luck – there is, for example, a Harmony, Missouri. I finally settled on Beatrice as a good name for the town, but it didn’t work for the book itself. My editor, Amy Einhorn, and I spent months thinking of possible titles. The quality of my ideas was inversely proportional to my increasing desperation – Amy rightly rejected them all. I was beginning to lose hope when one day Amy suggested A Good American – one of the characters that Frederick and Jette first meet in the States encourages them to be “good Americans”. It was one of those brilliant moments of genius that Amy is renowned for. It’s a perfect title, I think – challenging, intriguing, perhaps a little provocative. And, I hope, quite memorable. The moment she said it, I knew it was the one.

What’s next?

I’m hard at work on my next novel, which is a story set in Maine in the 1970s. I don’t want to say too much about it at this juncture, for fear of jinxing it. The characters are slowly emerging on to the page from the confused miasma of vague ideas in my brain, and I am enjoying getting to know them better. It’s a fun time.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Literary Feasts – Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron

About: Alex George is a writer and a lawyer.  He was born in England, but presently lives in Columbia, Missouri. Worldwide rights for his novel, A GOOD AMERICAN, have been purchased by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of Penguin/Putnam.  Publication is scheduled for February 2012.  He is now hard at work on his new novel, provisionally entitled A HISTORY OF FLIGHT. Alex has two children, Hallam and Catherine.  His hobbies include listening to obscure jazz albums, playing his saxophone, and cooking (and eating) complicated meals.  He is proud to be President of the board of the Voluntary Action Center, a leading nonprofit organization in mid-Missouri.

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The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Book Review

In Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, Jack and Mabel are a middle-aged married couple who have moved to Alaska in the 1920’s to attempt the successful farming of a homestead. The land is harsh and unforgiving, and though it is of their own choosing, the couple is isolated from family, and have made no friends in the tiny community. They are also increasingly adrift from each other as they struggle to reach a meaningful balance within their troubled and childless marriage. Mabel is still deeply grieving their stillborn infant, and Jack cannot make a go of the homestead unassisted, but tries to when Mabel insists the couple keep to themselves. In the gift of an unexpectedly playful evening, Jack and Mabel create a child in the snow, and are stunned when she seemingly comes to life.

Ivey quickly creates a winning storyline that mixes hard reality and fantasy in this captivating début. The descriptions of the wild Alaskan landscape with its heavy snows, bitter cold and stark beauty mirror elements of the couple’s daily life and relationships. Jack and Mabel are both sympathetic and complex characters and fine writing by Ivey puts the reader firmly in the middle of their marital despair. The pair develop, both together and separately, based on their experiences with Faina (whom they think of as their own daughter), the land and burgeoning relationships with their neighbors, George and Esther. Their lives are changed in surprising ways as they uncover more about the Faina’s mysterious identity, and try to come to terms with her human and supernatural underpinnings. In the end I wasn’t completely sure what was going on with Faina, which was a little distracting, but ultimately the charm and the strengths of this fairytale re-imagined won out over minor confusions and quibbles. Recommended. 

Read More Reviews At: The Book Whisperer

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Literary Feasts – Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron

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