Sometimes it's the little decisions in life that take us on a completely different path than the one that was planned. Alice Munro's latest collectionSometimes it's the little decisions in life that take us on a completely different path than the one that was planned. Alice Munro's latest collection of short stories are set in small towns in Ontario, Canada in the 1940s and 1950s. With most of the stories, she shows us something unexpected about the characters that sets them in a new direction. Train trips, car rides, and changing residences--all ways of moving on in life--are involved in many of the stories. I especially liked "Train", "To Reach Japan", "Corrie", and "Leaving Maverley".
The end of the book features four works that are more autobiographical in nature about her early life, her parents, and the village where her family lived....more
Fabian Vas, the narrator, introduces himself in the beginning of the book: "I am a bird artist, and have more or less made a living at it. Yet I murdeFabian Vas, the narrator, introduces himself in the beginning of the book: "I am a bird artist, and have more or less made a living at it. Yet I murdered the lighthouse keeper, Botho August, and that is an equal part of how I think of myself." In the story that follows, Fabian reflects back on the events that led up to the murder.
Fabian lives in the isolated village of Witless Bay on the eastern coast of Newfoundland in the early 20th Century. It is so remote that it takes a month for a letter to be delivered by mail boat. There are frequent mentions of waiting for letters, especially from his correspondance art teacher, that increase the sense of isolation. Everybody seems to know everyone else's business in Witless Bay. There is a sense of comfort in the known for some of the characters, but a desire for the thrill of the unknown (outside Witless Bay) for others.
Fabian is a talented bird artist who supplements his income by working on boats. He is sleeping with Margaret, a heavy drinking, intelligent, reckless woman who loves him. But his mother hopes to keep him away form Margaret by developing plans for him to marry a distant relative that he's never met. As the story progresses, the reasons for the murder of the lighthouse keeper are revealed.
The book is a coming-of-age story as well as the story of a murder. The book has a marvelous sense of place, and some interesting, unusual characters. I was glad that I had visited Witless Bay....more
Nomi Nickel is the narrator of this novel set in a rural Mennonite town in Manitoba, Canada. She lives with her religious father Ray since her older sNomi Nickel is the narrator of this novel set in a rural Mennonite town in Manitoba, Canada. She lives with her religious father Ray since her older sister exited the repressive town, followed a few months later by her mother. Nomi is a rebellious sixteen-year-old who tells her story in flashbacks filled with cynical humor. She would love to escape to New York City, but does not want to leave her father alone. She also wonders if she'll burn in hell someday if she totally abandons the Mennonite teachings. Nomi looks at what awaits her if she stays in her hometown--fifty years of working at a chicken processing plant, then the Rest Haven nursing home.
The fictional book is partly based on Mirian Toews' hometown, a Mennonite community in Manitoba. The author writes in a believable 1970s teenage voice in this coming-of-age book that will pull at the heart one minute, and set the reader laughing a few pages later....more
This is a charming biography of L.M. Montagomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables books, many other children's books, several adult novels, andThis is a charming biography of L.M. Montagomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables books, many other children's books, several adult novels, and many poems and short stories. Born in 1874, Maud Montgomery was raised by her grandparents on Prince Edward Island after her mother died and her father traveled to western Canada. In addition to her writing, she had a strong interest in photography and the occult. She married in her late thirties to a minister, moved to Ontario, and raised two sons. It was a difficult marriage since her husband suffered from depression, and she inwardly rebelled at always having to present herself as the perfect minister's wife. She died in 1942.
Montgomery's books are still popular today, and have been translated into other languages. Anne of Green Gables is included as a literature text in Japanese schools, and Prince Edward Island has an especially large number of Japanese visitors visiting L.M. Montgomery's childhood home.
This was an enjoyable biography suitable for older children or young adults. It included photographs of important family members and homes....more
Read 11/17/13. Reread for book group 9/9/14. Colum McCann has woven a story about four generations of fictional women with three actual events featurinRead 11/17/13. Reread for book group 9/9/14. Colum McCann has woven a story about four generations of fictional women with three actual events featuring some very admirable men from history. The characters cross the Atlantic, by ship or by plane, from Ireland to North America and back. The search for freedom, and the tragedy of war on both continents figures in their lives.
In Dublin in 1845-46, Frederick Douglas is on a lecture tour, selling his book to raise money for the abolitionist cause. The Irish are dying of hunger during a terrible famine. A poor Irish maid, Lily Duggan, is inspired by Douglas' speeches about freedom, and crosses the Atlantic by ship in search for a better life.
In Newfoundland in 1919, two aviators who had flown in World War I transformed a bomber into a plane with multiple fuel tanks. Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown headed for Ireland in the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Lily's daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, were a reporter and a photographer covering the event. At that time, it was very unusual for women to have occupations in the press.
In 1998, Senator George Mitchell flew from New York to Belfast to oversee the peace talks with the British and various Irish groups. He meets Lottie, who had settled in Northern Ireland, and her daughter Hannah. The family had suffered through a heartbreaking event during The Troubles. This is the slowest section of the book where the author dwells too long on everyday events like drinking cups of tea, sitting around the airport, and meeting a chauffeur.
The book goes back and forth through time, and between continents. It continues to the present day as Hannah ages in Northern Ireland. The book shows both the strength and vulnerability of the generations of Lily's family members during hardship and plenty, war and peace....more
A gyrfalcon was carried by winter storms in northern Canada southward to British Columbia. Also called a snow falcon, it was a beautiful brown and creA gyrfalcon was carried by winter storms in northern Canada southward to British Columbia. Also called a snow falcon, it was a beautiful brown and cream colored bird with a wingspread of three feet. The falcon was shot by a hunter working for a taxidermist, but was found by Michael Somers who worked to rehabilitate her.
Michael, recently released from prison, had just moved back to his hometown to work through some difficult childhood memories. His attractive next door neighbor had a traumatized son, Jamie, who had not spoken since his father died in a hunting accident. When Michael and Jamie work together training the falcon, a strong bond forms between them.
The book is about trust, healing, and second chances for both the humans and the falcon. It would probably make an entertaining Hallmark movie. The book also had a good sense of place, a small town near Williams Lake and some beautiful mountains. My favorite parts of the book were the descriptions of the gyrfalcon, and the techniques used to rehabilitate her so she could eventually be released into the wild. It brought back memories of seeing some falcons presented by a woman who devoted her life to rehabilitating these gorgeous, powerful creatures....more
It was hard to put down this unusual multilayered novel. While walking on an island beach in British Columbia, Ruth found a barnacle-encrusted plasticIt was hard to put down this unusual multilayered novel. While walking on an island beach in British Columbia, Ruth found a barnacle-encrusted plastic bag containg a Hello Kitty lunchbox with a book, a bunch of letters, and a watch inside. She and her husband theorized that it might have been caught up in the ocean currents traveling from Japan after the 2011 tsunami.
The book is a copy of Proust's "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" ("In Search of Lost Time") with the pages cut out and replaced with blank pages. It was the perfect secret diary--no one would think of looking in an old book. A teenage Japanese girl starts the diary: "Hi! My name is Nao (pronounced Now), and I am a time being." So we know that time is going to be an important element in this novel.
Nao goes from being funny and irreverant to despairing to philosophical as she tells the story of her family. They had been living in Silicon Valley until her father lost his job, and they had to move back to Japan. Her father was unable to find a new job, and fell into a suicidal state because of the shame. Nao was treated as an outsider coming from America and subjected to terrible bullying. Nao also contemplated ending her life.
A bright spot was a summer spent with her great grandmother, a Zen Buddist nun over a hundred years old. Jiko's Buddist ceremonies and philosophy bring some calmness and warmth into Nao's life. Jiko teaches her to do zagen, a meditation to enter time completely.
Nao started the diary intending it to also tell the story of her great grandmother's life. Ruth, the Japanese-American reader of the diary, becomes very concerned for Nao as she reads the diary. She searches the internet for clues of what happened to the troubled family. The letters, which were written by Nao's great uncle in World War II, were heartbreaking and a glimpse into the brutal training of kamikaze pilots.
Ruth is a semi-autobiographical character. The author does live in an island community in British Columbia with her husband Oliver. He also serves as a character, giving the readers some interesting science information and acting as a soundingboard for Ruth. The author is also an ordained Zen Buddist priest.
Although the novel touches on some serious subjects, there is an element of humor that runs through it. The story shifts from past to present, and from reality to the magical. It combines Proust, Zen philsophy, quantum physics, Japanese culture, and historic events. But it was the good storytelling that produced a book that I didn't want to end....more
Mercy tells the interwoven stories of two generations in the small town of Mercy, Manitoba. In 1948, passion springs up between a young priest and theMercy tells the interwoven stories of two generations in the small town of Mercy, Manitoba. In 1948, passion springs up between a young priest and the wife of the butcher. The author tells their tale of longing in very sensual language, sprinkled with quotes from Solomon's "Song of Songs" and Saint Augustine's "Confessions".
About twenty years later, a womanizing preacher comes into town with plans to build a summer camp by filling in a spruce bog, the home of a young woman who grew up in the wild. The world is also seen through the eyes of the preacher's daughter, an artistic autistic child. Other townspeople are also important in both story lines. The author has created characters seeking spirituality, sensuality, family, and a bonding with the natural world.
I would recommend this book for readers who would enjoy a good story told in beautiful lyrical prose. There are scenes of the butcher slaughtering animals that might make vegetarians a little queasy....more