THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE: A Review

Donna Everhart’s debut novel, available in large print, like any novel about childhood abuse, is hard to read.  This one is even more so because it is told from the child’s point of view.  From the opening of the story, we know that Dixie’s Uncle Ray is in jail.  As the plot unfolds, Eleven year old Dixie’s “spidey sense” that something is just “not right,” alerts the reader to expect the worst.  Dixie and her brother, AJ, already have a rough life living with a depressed  mother who has anger issues and a father who drinks to escape. Set in Alabama in 1969, Dixie struggles with the need to lie to cover for her mother and to keep the other girls at school from labeling her family as “white trash.” She becomes a deliberate and accomplished tale-teller, resorting to lies even when they aren’t necessary. When she tries to tell AJ and later her mother what Uncle Ray has done, no one will believe her.  Seldom have I met a heroine so young with such spirit and courage.

This is a difficult book to read as it peels away layers of family secrets leading to the eventual harsh ending.  There is a ray of hope at the end, one thing I require of any book I read before I will say it is a good book.  This is not an enjoyable book but one that book clubs and individuals might take on to open thoughts or discussions about a very serious problem.

 

GIRL IN TRANSLATION: A REVIEW

This 2010 debut novel by Kimberly Chang is a wonderful immigrant story with the young protagonist (based on the author, herself),coming of age under the worst of circumstances and overcoming, magnificently,the highest of obstacles. She is from China, surrounded by a foreign language and culture as she enters the U.S.  Her misunderstanding of words and phrases she hears in English are almost humorous to the reader as she enters seventh and eighth grade to discover that she has a “talent for school”, especially in the areas of math and science.

She and her mother are sponsored by a spiteful, jealous aunt to whom they are indebted and forced to live in squalor in a condemned apartment in the Bronx. The girl finds herself “growing up between two worlds” and experiencing the thrill and anxiety of young love. The love story has an unusual but satisfying ending. As she “staggers under the weight of her family’s expectations and the depths of her culture confusion” she keeps her integrity and high ideals, always true to herself. Only she can and must find a way out from under all this for her and her mother. The story takes her through the first year of college, then has an epilogue that occurs twelve years later which wraps things up nicely.

It is a good read, and I am pleased to recommend it.

Review:BEHOLD THE DREAMERS by Imbolo Mbue

Many good novels have been written about immigrants in America who came to this country seeking a better life. Many are based on personal experience, so when we see the author’s glamor-shot photo (typical book jacket photograph), we expect her novel to end “…and they lived happily ever after in America.”  Spoiler alert:  You may not want to read the next three sentences. This novel does not end that way. And, a life lesson we learn from Jede and Neni, our protagonists, is that living happily ever after may not require living in the United States. Let me add one qualifier, the individuals of the happy couple are not equally happy with the ending decision they make.

I am an aficionado of debut novels, and this one is outstanding.  Jende and Neni, our protagonists, are  immigrants to the United States from Cameroon.  They have big plans, hopes, and dreams for their infant daughter, born in America, and therefore an American citizen, and their son, young enough to begin school in America.  Liomi , their son seems more American than some of his “real” American classmates, comes to love living in the States, but he was raised on joyous tales of his father’s boyhood in Cameroon. Therefore,he would probably be able to live happily in either country.

As the book jacket states, it is a”… dazzling, fast-paced, and exquisitely written” novel. And indeed, Mbue is an excellent storyteller. I grew to love the characters and their family and friends, suffered when they suffered, and rejoiced when they rejoiced.  I can hardly wait to read this outstanding author’s next effort.

PATHFINDERS by Aidan J. Reid

This 2016 publication is the debut novel of an up and coming Irish author, Aidan J. Reid.  It has everything a reader would want in action, suspense and interesting themes.

Lucid dreaming, the ability to enter one’s dreamstate and affect what is going on has interested psychologists for a while now, and is being used in therapy (by changing nightmares into dreams with positive, uplifting outcomes) today.

In this book, Breagal, a mysterious,strange librarian and Victor enter the dream mind of Victor’s friend Norman, who is comatose after a horrific auto accident. The question posed on the back cover is, “Can [they] search the deepest darkest recesses of Norman’s mind and rescue [him] before time runs out?”  Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, leaving the reader wondering, “How will they ever get out of this predicament?” Fortunately, the author assures us one CAN affect what happens next in a nightmare.

Creativity is rampant in this novel, and I am sure professors who one day assign this to their classes will discuss thoroughly the symbolism throughout, but for those of us who just love a “good read”, this novel “fills the bill” thoroughly.

I am anticipating a complete shift in gears and a respect for the author’s versatility in his latest (June 2016) release, Sigil.