I’m getting near the end of The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, which I used a week or two ago as my Tuesday Teaser. My goal was to randomly copy two or three lines/sentences that would tease you into wanting to read the book. At the time, one blogger friend used the word “creepy” to describe the passage I was currently reading. See if you feel a creepiness still in this later passage.
“You stay away from that man, you hear me?”
“I’ve got to go and see him, Ma. He’s been in the lockup for ages! This is all my fault!”
“Don’t talk rubbish. You’ve reunited a baby with her mother, and you’re about to pocket three thousand guineas reward…Use your loaf, boy. You’ve done your bit, now just keep out of it!”
This is advice is given to a man who had seen a baby’s rattle, a christening present to a baby supposedly lost at sea, in the hands of the same baby in another mother’s arms. Creepy? Maybe. Mysterious and tragic? Definitely.
This 2018 novel by blogger (“This Is My Truth Now”) and author (Watching Glass Shatter), is a wonderful read. It begins with a “teaser” opening. One is approaching the two story cabin on the cover and sees two bodies, a man and a woman, who have just crashed through a window, lying on the ground. All we know from the police who have arrived is that one is dead, the other severely hurt.
Then the story alternates between Amalia (beginning in August of 1984) and Brianna (beginning in June of 2004), chapter by chapter. Amalia, submissive daughter to an abusive mother, Janet, and a 60 year old, quiet man, Peter, lives a life of shame and physical abuse. She and her parents live in Brant, Mississippi. Her brother, Greg and his best friend are about to come home from college to Brant for the summer. Amalia begins to realize that Greg’s friend is a tease, and ashamedly enough, he awakens feelings in her she has never experienced before.
Brianna, who lives in New York with her single mom also struggles with feelings. She is about to go to prom with her boyfriend, Doug, and knows that Doug has “expectations” for prom night, but she also has feelings for her best friend, Shannelle, who prefers women to men. Her story is one where she explores her sexuality, not coming to any conclusions until the very end.
There are many twists and turns in Father Figure, as well as many reveals and unravellings of family mysteries and connections. Both girls make the decision to go to college, both attempting to escape from something only to discover their own connections and pasts are intertwined. It is a good novel that spools out, clear and easy to follow as laid out by the author, but warning: DO NOT try to figure out the connections or who was lying on the ground at the beginning/end of the story. YOU WILL BE WRONG, until Cudney decides to tie up all ends and reveal all. It is a darned good read.
Kiss Her Goodbye by Wendy Corsi Staub, the book I read for “K” in my Alphabet Challenge, has something for everyone: a thriller, crime, mystery, family and marriage relationships, family secrets–you name it, it’s in there. This was a paperback written in 2004 that was turned in to my Little Free Library after a neighbor read it. There is both a prologue and an epilogue, features I always appreciate.
It opens with the approaching birthday of Jen Carmody, the fourteen year old who becomes the focus of mysterious speculations, stalkings, and secrets. Stella, for whom Jen babysits and her husband, Kurt (who is a possible suspect at one point) are having marital difficulties. The family secrets mentioned are revealed and explored which involve Jen’s father, Matt, her mother, Kathleen, and Kathleen’s father who is “confused” and in a nursing home. Her best friend, Erin’s mother, Maeve, is a single mom who is interested in each of the aforementioned men. The story begins in August with the disappearance of a young girl in town, and the story runs October through May. Several murders occur, and I challenge you to follow the clues and determine “who dun it.”
The Baker’s Secret, a 2017 novel by Stephen P. Kierman is set in occupied France in the small village of Vergers. The book hooked me from the very first line: “All through those years of war, the bread tasted of humiliation.” It is spoken by the apprentice baker, a young woman named Emmanuelle, known in the village as Emma, who has secretly been adding straw to the flour for the mandatory loaves she bakes for the German Kommandant daily, so she can give the extra loaves to starving villagers. The story covers the period prior to and during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. The description of what Emma sees on Omaha Beach is vivid and heart wrenching. Her horrendous close calls and brutal beatings are told in a way that makes the reader hold his breath or ache all over his body as he reads.
The story appeals to young adults (junior high and up) and adults as well. At the end, the publisher includes an interesting interview with the author and study questions for discussions. It is the perfect selection for a book club.
Thanks to blogger friend S.J. Higbee (of “Brainfluff,” a great blog) for continuing the meme originated by “The Purple Booker” called Tuesday Teaser. The point is to pick at random two or three sentences of what you are currently reading and post them in order to tease others to read the same book. Include title and author, and no spoilers, please.
Here is today’s Tuesday Teaser:
From Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, The Man Without a Shadow
“‘Eli (Margot speaking), what a beautiful necktie! You are always so well dressed.’ Each day he is brought to the Institute for testing, Elihu Hoopes dresses with the care of one who anticipates good news. Over a period of more than three decades this will be! And Margot Sharpe has been a witness through these three years.”
Eli is the test subject, Margot is the psychiatrist studying him. Eli has no memory, cannot remember for more than 70 seconds due to a traumatic brain disease. However, he seems to remember things (especially from times long past), or it seems to Margot, at least that this is true. Is Margot becoming attached to Eli? She is definitely attracted to him, and she believes he is attracted to her, even though each session, she has to introduce herself to him all over again. What will or will not develop is anyone’s guess.
Walker Percy has described this strange 1980 publication of Robinson’s first novel as a “haunting dream of a story.” The characters are strange; the plot is strange; and the ending is strange, open to more than one interpretation. Even the characters are strange enough to wonder if they are sane or not. Ruth, the older of two sisters has never fit in, nor never wanted to. Her younger sister, Lucille is just the opposite, desiring to be popular and to lead a “normal” life. Eventually, the sisters come under the care of their mother’s sister, Sylvia Fisher, the strangest of characters I’ve ever read. She is described as “eccentric” and “remote,” a definite understatement.
Underlying the story is the river and the railroad that crossed the river once, sending a whole train and all its passengers into the glacial waters so deep no one ever found the train or any traces of it. The girls’ grandfather was killed in the accident. There are no chapters in this book, to speak of ; one section just flows into another, pulling the reader along as the river pulls along the things and people who fall into it. Thematically, the novel deals with the transience and impermanence of things and of life, The Great Depression, insanity, death, and suicide. In places it is depressing, but, throughout, it is beautifully written. There are even some spots of dark humor.
Years ago I had read and loved Gilead, Home, and Lila, Robinson’s outstanding trilogy, and came to her debut novel late, expecting something that was not present. The novel left me impressed with the writing, intrigued and a bit puzzled by the ending. I could not rate this novel if I wanted to and kept the copy I ordered rather than passing it along because I am sure I will, at some point, read it again.
I have often read cozy mysteries (where there is a murder, but there are no gory, graphic details or scenes, and the person killed is someone you “love to hate”), but I would describe Christine Nolfi’s 2012 novel, first book in the Liberty Series, as a “cozy romance.”
There are all the elements required for coziness: a handsome, rugged man who works with his hands, a mechanic named Anthony; a female protagonist, in this case Mary Chance, who is a doctor, but has inherited from her eccentric Aunt Meg a cafe and grill in a small town, Liberty, Ohio; a leukemia-striken kid, Blossom, Anthony’s daughter ;and the combination of these elements makes for a fine, inspiring novel.
The book begins with the disastrous opening day of the Second Chance Grill. (Get the connection? Mary Chance is the second “Chance”, after Meg, to run the grill.) Nothing goes right, and the cook nearly runs off the entire town. Mary really gets off on the wrong foot. Blossom decides from first sight that Mary is perfect for her widowed father’s second wife. What she doesn’t know is that Mary is only taking a break from doctoring to escape from the extreme grief she feels over the sudden death of her closest friend, and she intends to take over the deceased girl’s father’s practice just as soon as she meets her obligation to her aunt to get the grill up, running, and making a profit.
Of course, Blossom nearly dies, and the reader meets Anthony’s zany family who immediately agree with Blossom’s pick for her stepmother. So many miscommunications and plot twists happen that the reader never loses interest or becomes bored. There are thirty-one short chapters that keep the reader swimming in cliffhangers. It is the perfect escape read, something all of us need from time to time. The next book will be titled Treasure Me, which probably involves the many antiques that make up the decor of the grill.
The most impressive thing about this massive novel by Annie Proulx is its size–717 pages. And, I’m so glad I tackled this big book because it is a book I will continuously look back on and never forget. Prior to reading Barkskins, Proulx’s The Shipping News, first the book, then the film, was one of my all-time favorites. This novel has been described as “…epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic…” and it delivers on all counts.
Barkskins narrates the story of two Frenchmen with nothing to their names and is set in Canada, then known as New France. We follow the Sel and Douquet families for several generations (the families’ charts at the end of the book will explain all the connections). Proulx is a wonderful storyteller, and the story she tells carries the reader along like the great rivers described in the story. Some parts are humorous, reminiscent of Mark Twain’s Roughing It. Her “enchanting descriptions” are poetic in themselves, and her characterization skills demonstrate that she understands the human heart. Characters’ motives are always clear, whether they be admirable or dastardly.
It took me months, picking up and putting down this volume for periods of time to finish, but I am so glad I did. This book is not for everyone, but for those who are willing to be swept along by magnificent narrative and captivated by the history of the barkskins (wood cutters) and their descendants, the undertaking is worth it!