I enjoyed George Bishop's first novel, Letter to My Daughter and was excited to read this book, his second. I was not disappointed. Bishop explores si...moreI enjoyed George Bishop's first novel, Letter to My Daughter and was excited to read this book, his second. I was not disappointed. Bishop explores similar themes in this book, as his narrator looks back on his childhood and the lives of his parents.
Alan Broussard, Jr. looks back on his freshman year of high school, when he fell in love for the first time, his father was his science teacher, his parents' marriage fell apart and came back together, and the comet Kohoutek didn't quite show up. Bishop is adept at bringing his characters to life and managing all of the threads of his narrative. The story isn't complicated or startling, but it's believable and satisfying.(less)
In this collection of short, loosely connected stories, Shiobhan Fallon tries to give the reader an insider's view of military family life. The storie...moreIn this collection of short, loosely connected stories, Shiobhan Fallon tries to give the reader an insider's view of military family life. The stories all deal with an army cavalry division deployed from Fort Hood, TX to Iraq; some stories deal with the soldiers, others with their wives, and they all touch on the difficulties military families face both when they are separated for long periods of time, as well as when they are reunited.
Some of the stories ring true, like the story of a wife who is concerned that her husband has started an affair with a female soldier while he is overseas. Others strike a false note, like the one where a woman describes listening to the "wildly beating heart" of her fetus. With other stories, it seems that Fallon wrote herself into a corner she didn't know how to get of. The best example of this is the story of Meg who becomes obsessed with her new neighbor, Natalya. Natalya’s husband is deployed with Meg’s, but Natalya herself is a mystery. At the end of the story, the husbands all return (Meg’s and Natalya’s among them) and that is that. No explanation is given for any of Natalya’s actions, nor is she even mentioned in the rather abrupt conclusion.
By and large, though, these stories can be enjoyed by both military and non-military readers. They may resonate with members of the military or their family members, and will give a glimpse into military lives for those of us with no military connection.(less)
I tend not to like books about people who seem incapable of making good decisions. And one of the characters in this book is definitely like that. She...moreI tend not to like books about people who seem incapable of making good decisions. And one of the characters in this book is definitely like that. She just never seems able (or willing) to take any responsible action. Realistic this may be, but it's also annoying.
Another main character, on the other hand, tends to make good decisions. Decisions that are responsible financially, good for his family, and on the right side of the law. And yet, things don't turn out well for him either.
If this is a book the purpose of which is to show how quickly things can spiral out of control, then it succeeds. Good decisions or bad, no-one wins here. Too many of us, who manage to have lives that are more or less in control, this is a valuable thing to learn about. But this is an awfully depressing education.(less)
This book is built around Elizabeth's search to find the truth about what happened to April, her first grade friend who disappeared from school one da...moreThis book is built around Elizabeth's search to find the truth about what happened to April, her first grade friend who disappeared from school one day. At the time, Elizabeth couldn't get an explanation from her teacher, and her mother was too busy with a new baby and her own issues to really notice that Elizabeth's friend was gone. The truth of what happened isn't too hard for Elizabeth to find out as an adult. After all, when a mother kills herself and her two daughters, there are newspapers articles, which Elizabeth is easily able to find. But it turns out that her search is really to know the unknowable: why did April's mother do this seemingly unthinkable thing?
On a quest to try to answer this question, Elizabeth confronts issues of postpartum depression, especially in the early 1970s, before it was recognized as a treatable condition, and the common prescription of Valium to help women who were depressed, whether it actually benefited them or not. Although Kogan gets a bit heavy-handed on these subjects, her characters are well-drawn and believable.(less)
You know it's bad when you go online to see what the big secret is when you're halfway through the book. But that's what I finally had to do with this...moreYou know it's bad when you go online to see what the big secret is when you're halfway through the book. But that's what I finally had to do with this book. I just got overcome by curiosity. Or possibly driven mad by all the vague hints and innuendo. (And yes, all my suspicions were correct.) If you're looking to find the answer, you'll have to look elsewhere (I suggest Wikipedia), but at least now you know you're not alone in not being able to wait for the big reveal.
Aside from all the secrets, this book is populated by a vast and confusing cast of characters. Told in alternating chapters between the life of Ruby Lennox (who narrates her own story from the moment of conception) and the stories of her maternal antecedents (told in the third person), we learn about several generations of women who make bad decisions in marriage and what happens to them as a result. Needless to say, this isn't a particularly cheerful book.(less)