One of my main curiosities throughout The Tell was trying to figure out which of the three main characters would have the most meaningful discoveries...more One of my main curiosities throughout The Tell was trying to figure out which of the three main characters would have the most meaningful discoveries regarding personal growth of his or her self, as well as his or her perceptions of others. Would Mira's love for Owen ever match the depth of his for her? Would Mira be allowed to follow her philanthropic passions? Would Wilton turn out to be more than a slick, opportunistic, charmer? Is Owen willing to tolerate stressful shenanigans? Are addictions able to be controlled or eliminated or are they always devastating?
As an author, Hester Kaplan has a gift for delving into human foibles. Her main characters, Owen, Mira, and Wilton, although very different in temperament, each walk that fine line between social acceptance and personal demons. They muddle through just like regular people in the reality of everyday life. All three are looking for companionship, love, connection, and logical answers. All three struggle with loss, jealousy, functioning during crisis, and honesty.
The Tell is chock full of wonderful figurative language and outstanding word choice. Hester Kaplan's words are both rich and precise.
My Favorite Quotes "Owen presented her the giant artichokes in their tin foil coats. They looked like steaming jungle oddities."
"He'd [Owen had] been inside only once, after the ancient owner had croaked in her bed and the place had been efficiently emptied by her officious out of state children. The apocalyptic vacancy of the rooms, the fissured ceilings, the washcloth on the floor of the tub, the isopropyl chill in the air, had awed him. There was something about all those aristocratic details of leaded glass, inlaid floors, and lights hanging like distended organs that made him think of an old man, useless now in a threadbare suit and expensive shoes whom no one wanted to talk to anymore."
"A casino would either ruin the state or save it, and what went on inside, depending on where you stood, was either gaming or gambling, harmless or moral destruction. Letters in the paper talked about jobs and revenues and the rights of reservations, while others pointed out the proximity of proposed sites to schools, churches, and nursing homes, as if kids, parishioners, and the feeble were most vulnerable to the evil vapors."
"Owen went to Mira to pull her away from her foreboding, but stopped where a huge, lumpy, brown clay pot sat like an unloved mutt. Mottled and covered with blemishes of glaze, there was something especially furious and shitlike about it. Its ugliness was impossible to miss, and hard not to admire." (how much does this sell for at the fundraiser, you ask?).
"Large windows on each of the two floors spread across Brindle's brick facade. The building had once housed supplies for the costume jewelry industry. Later, it had stayed vacant for decades, except for the occasional squatter or rat. Mira's father, in the family tradition of mindless acquisition, had bought it for reasons unknown to Mira, though she'd said it definitely wasn't because he saw an art school in it or her future. Occasionally Mira would still find a sparkle or chip of ruby or sapphire glass between the wide wood planks. She collected them in a jar she kept on her desk."
"The man [Wilton], in his mid-sixties, Owen decided, spoke with a kind of put-on accent of breeding and affluence, half high-up East Coast, half something fake British, and as though he meant everything and nothing at the same time. A vaguely ridiculous person...a man too much about himself. The standard blue eyes were watery, the blade of nose off-balance, not the result of a fistfight--he was too wispy for something like that--but from aging imperfectly and maybe dissolutely, and there was the first slackness of skin on his neck. His wiry body had an almost dissipated look to it, the former muscles gone stringy as if his personal trainer had recently defected..."
"There was something about the man that made Owen think he might understand how the murk of sadness could blur the stars. When he was a kid on a night like this...he would smell the slime of tadpoles and hear the ferns unfurling around the pond where he grew up and believe that everything was possible in his life. Later, a night like this had shown him how that possibility could be over when a friend had died."
"At six-foot-six, he [Owen] was more than a foot taller than Mira and had to bend to get his hands around her swooping waist, his pinkies grazing her inviting hipbones. She had spent the day at Brindle, the striving art school she owned and ran on the other side of the Point Street Bridge, and her dark, chaotic curls held the smell of clay and poster paints. This was her perfume--industrious, ambitious, alluring, the scent of best intentions. He adored her in a way that made his legs go watery."
"Owen realized that moments of terror can have their own solipsistic lucidity." (According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary solipsism means "the theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; extreme egocentrism.")
"All those multicolored kids with the funny accents and all those shaky recovering drug addicts--they just don't bring in the bucks like they used to. My donors are suffering from compassion fatigue. And the older they get, the less they care. Old people love their pennies all over again.' "
The Tell will appeal to readers who enjoy reading about human complexities, relationships, and Rhode Island. (less)
I was initially drawn to read this book due to its connection with Japan (one of my favorite genres). The story itself moved at an interesting pace an...moreI was initially drawn to read this book due to its connection with Japan (one of my favorite genres). The story itself moved at an interesting pace and at times my emotions ran the full gamut. The four main characters are well developed and I was curious to see just how their paths would cross. Ten Yen True will appeal to readers who enjoy human foibles and growth, suspense, and miracles of faith.(less)
How does an altruistic protagonist, Ellie Hathaway, who sets out to fill an emotional void by teaching in Africa, eventually sleuth her way into a sca...moreHow does an altruistic protagonist, Ellie Hathaway, who sets out to fill an emotional void by teaching in Africa, eventually sleuth her way into a scandal? That was my exact question!
The Palaver Tree is a novel which incorporates suspense and irony within the theme of upheaval and survival in the African country of Ducana, where the long-established National Party for Independence is challenged by the opposition, the Ducana Democratic Party. There is an obvious juxtaposition between heart-felt dedicated philanthropy and the dark side of human nature in the forms of extortion, embezzlement, and murder.
Ellie is consistently responsible, caring, and virtuous. She rises above her own sadness from childhood to care for her angry and critical mother as necessary. She has strong beliefs and a solid work ethic.
Antagonist, Gabriel Cole, director of the Hope Foundation and headmaster of an African school, is unbearably controlling and deceitful. His cunning and cold-hearted approach stir up multiple layers of trouble.
Among a myriad of supporting characters are Diane, the loyal yet impulsive friend, Tiffany the insecure naive twenty-something, Hector the more-savvy-than-you-know driver, and Promise the young anxious and hardworking teacher.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word "Palaver" means a long parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication. "In the villages out in Ducana they choose a tree, one with spreading branches and cool shade and they call it their Palaver Tree. The men sit together, and though it might look as if they're doing nothing, they are actually exchanging ideas. They talk things out and they find a way to make life work in circumstances we couldn't even begin to understand or tolerate...The old men sat in the shade of the Palaver Tree, telling stories. They spoke of the young ones who were gone to the towns with high blood and strong words."
Wendy Unsworth has a gift for incorporating rich similes into her writing. For example, "Berriwood seemed to sigh appreciatively as its bloated population shrank back to its former shape, like an old leather chair relieved of a burdensome bottom," or "Along the ragged fringe of the runway, where the crumbling surface had long succumbed to the encroachment of sprouting vegetation, marabou storks sauntered, strung out in a line like a group of school bullies up to no good."
I have an immense respect for authors and their writing processes and I am putting forth a couple of observations because I know the story ideas have great potential and would love to see Wendy's series take off. As I was reading The Palaver Tree, there were many times I would feel a sense of adventure or piqued curiosity but then have to put those feelings on hold for a bit due to the wordiness of the pages. Sometimes there was too much description in places in the story that may not have needed it. I do understand, however, how difficult it must be as a writer to gracefully yet succinctly have characters transitioning between England and Africa as settings due to their vastly different cultures and geography. It does take a lot of "show don't tell" to give the reader a mental image. However, this stop-and-go feeling was a bit frustrating because I was engaged with the characters and their respective plights and just wanted to keep moving through the story. This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy mysteries, stories of Africa, book series, and irony.
Teasers: "In a community like Berriwood it was impossible to poop without at least half the population knowing about it...observations laced with lurid conjecture gathered mass like downhill snowballs."
"Secrets, she learned, were well used in Limba."
(Foreshadowing) "The tea lights that she had so rashly lit in readiness were caught by a sudden squall of wind. The little flames cavorted, bowed, and died."
"Ducana Scareways, the world's least favourite airline."
"You know you're having a really bad day when you wake up and realise your shoes are full of urine."(less)
Stranger Will grabbed my attention because it seemed like quite a different take on literary fiction than I typically read. After reading the cover bl...moreStranger Will grabbed my attention because it seemed like quite a different take on literary fiction than I typically read. After reading the cover blurb I remember thinking...carrier pigeons? Joining what exactly? Why would it be hard to leave the group?
Author Caleb Ross engagingly and consistently uses rich descriptive language throughout the novel..."William saunters through the mudroom door, the engine of his bioremediation cleaning van still ticking in the driveway. He flicks a spent cigarette filter deep into the weeds overtaking the house's north wall. Seen through romantic eyes the abode could be a cottage, but William suffers from universal practicality..."
The novel is centered around provocative social issues such as societal and personal pressures couples feel to reproduce and have children of their own, abortion, and the idea of a society of "perfect human beings." "William continued, however, using magazine articles, newspaper headlines, tabloid clippings, medical journals, and bar graphs all supporting his theories regarding the eminent turmoil associated with 'bringing a child to term in a world like ours.'"
Main characters in Stranger Will were chock full of human character traits -- William: Serious, depressed, mundane husband with emotional baggage from his own childhood, employed as a stain removal specialist, self-designated sleuth with stolen paper messages. Julie: Quietly resilient wife, former waitress, chock full of maternal instinct, somewhat lazy. Mrs. Rose: Elementary school principal, keeper of messenger pigeons, ambitious, demanding, opinionated, and controlling "adoption" advocate. Frank - Fellow stranger - "It sounds like a title the way he says it: Stranger -- with a veiled mysticism. It comes out as a tactile breath, heavy, built with smoke."
In actuality, this book hooked me from the beginning and absolutely held my attention. I loved the quirkiness and excellent writing. This book will appeal to readers who like unpredictable books, psychological/horror, or odd characters (by "odd" I mean Geek Love by Katherine Dunn).
Teasers: For a second William hears footsteps decrescendo, but they stop. Then, breaking the sky, the raccoon soars back over the fence and hits William on the cheek before falling into the stained grass. He tastes decay.
The bell rings and the children infiltrate the playground like maximum coverage is an inborn reaction. They cover sand pits and the soccer field, swings and the concrete basketball court in three frames of an instructional slideshow: Empty. Full. Organized.
The best part of this book was its resonant heartfelt message of perseverance...Mama says it the best, "And when the time's just right, each caterpill...moreThe best part of this book was its resonant heartfelt message of perseverance...Mama says it the best, "And when the time's just right, each caterpillar forms its own cocoon. About two weeks later, when it's time for them to fly off into the world as a butterfly, they have to struggle with all their might to break out of that cocoon. And believe me, they can't fly until they've struggled for a very long time." Mama, the mother of Joan, mother-in-law of Frank, and the grandmother of Brian and his older brother, Ross, is a maternal pillar of strength who draws on her own wisdom, life experience, and belief in God's greater plan to guide the family through transitions, expectations, grief, anger, and acceptance after hearing the gravity of baby Brian's diagnosis. She actively models upbeat dedication and emotional support for the family members who are forced to dig deep down and find the necessary levels of courage, faith, and energy required when life makes unprecedented demands. As a result of the many intense tribulations, Brian's mother Joan navigates between feelings of helpless victim, mother guilt, and eventually tough love. Brian's father, Frank, struggles emotionally. He is grossly overwhelmed with frustration regarding his inability to do what good fathers do, which in this case meant fixing the situation or providing what is necessary, or protecting his family. His feelings of powerlessness lead him to dark places. Brian's older brother Ross is genuinely kind, compliant and sweetly tenacious, which just happens to be a perfect sibling match as the older brother of Brian, who needs unrelenting love, steadfast patience, and unwavering belief in the unknown. In a story such as this, I always root for the underdog, and in this case, I couldn't wait to see who would muster the necessary strength and who might cave in from the weight of matters. (less)
Had to put other books on hold until I finish Shogun. Need to finish it for my book club by second week in January and its a whopping 802 pages!
This b...moreHad to put other books on hold until I finish Shogun. Need to finish it for my book club by second week in January and its a whopping 802 pages!
This book is tricky to review. I was impressed with the amount of research and detail about a fascinating time in Japan's history. However, that same amount of detail made the book extremely tough to plod through at times. Initially, there are many characters to keep track of and it took me about 150 pages to have a clear sense of characters, settings, motives, etc. My three-stars is more of a nod to the author and all the work he put into this book than me actually being drawn into the story and enjoying it.
This female author was definitely ahead of her time considering this was written in 1937. The characters speaking in dialect gave me sense of their pe...moreThis female author was definitely ahead of her time considering this was written in 1937. The characters speaking in dialect gave me sense of their personality and relationships with each other. Some of Hurston's metaphor's were amazing!(less)
I was caught between 4 and 5 stars on this one...went with five because of the author's ability to use words (granted, well-chosen ones) to absolutely...moreI was caught between 4 and 5 stars on this one...went with five because of the author's ability to use words (granted, well-chosen ones) to absolutely nail modern human emotions. I now want to read more of her writing!(less)