I have never been so thankful for finally finishing a book. What a challenging and unfulfilling experience reading 'Life After Life' was for me. I con...moreI have never been so thankful for finally finishing a book. What a challenging and unfulfilling experience reading 'Life After Life' was for me. I continued reading to the very end, hoping to find some type of redeeming qualities but, to no avail, there was no redemption. Following the many lives of Ursula Todd, each influenced by various 'what if' scenarios, was perplexing. And, to suggest that Ursula could have changed history in such a dramatic way, is preposterous.
If you are struggling with reading 'Life After Life', and are reading these reviews to find encouragement, my suggestion to you is to close the book and move on!(less)
'Requiem' tells the story of the internment of approximately 21,000 Japanese Canadians who were 'forcibly removed from their homes on the West coast a...more'Requiem' tells the story of the internment of approximately 21,000 Japanese Canadians who were 'forcibly removed from their homes on the West coast and moved inland'. The year was 1942 and the actions were in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The narrator of the story, Bin Okuma, is an accomplished artist who, 50 years later and recently widowed, sets out to confront his past, revisit the internment campsite, and finally 'chase the ghosts' that have haunted him throughout his adult life.
The novel transports the reader through 3 different timeframes; the past where young Bin and his family are removed from their fishing village home in a matter of hours and are only allowed to take with them what they can carry on their backs, the recent past that highlights Bin's marriage to Lena (a Caucasian from Montreal) and their son Greg, and the present timeframe that transports Bin back to the West coast of Canada where he can confront his past and hopefully find redemption.
This is a beautifully written novel with strong, raw emotions. The dignity with which these Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry faced their ultimate fates and mistreatment was remarkable to say the least as reflected in the passage, 'We did not protest. We stood soundless, as if we were also invisible, while the boat took us away.'
Fifty years later, when Bin revisits the campsite, he recalls, 'This is the place.... the buried place.... no sign that a community endured... that elders died... that children played and shouted... that I and all the others, young and old, had to set aside our dreams and hopes.'
In 'Requiem', Frances Itani has written a remarkable novel and although this is the first of her works that I've read, I will be looking for more of her novels to read and enjoy.(less)
It’s been a while since I’ve been ‘wowed’ by a book so it was with great pleasure that I recently finished reading The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. Se...moreIt’s been a while since I’ve been ‘wowed’ by a book so it was with great pleasure that I recently finished reading The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. Set in the 1800’s in the Pacific Northwest, the characters in this story represent what would be considered an ‘unconventional’ family by some standards in our current society – a family created out of horrific circumstances when 2 young (and pregnant) girls (Jane and Della) come upon William Talmadge (“Talmadge”), a loner who tends to and nurtures his orchards of apricots, apples and plums. Talmadge’s family roots are similarly tragic – he and his sister, Elsbeth, were orphaned as youngsters. And, at the age of 16, Elsbeth walked into the woods and never returned, leaving Talmadge alone and left to wonder what became of her. This lack of closure regarding his sister’s disposition is a key driver to the relationship he develops with Jane and Della - that of a nurturer and always wanting to provide a sense of comfort and belonging.
The complexities of the relationships that Talmadge has with Jane and Della, as well as Jane’s eventual daughter, Angelene, are compounded by the circumstances that drove Jane and Della to escape their painful upbringing and living environment. Trust and a willingness to be nurtured are not always welcome and these are the forces that drive the conflicts between what Talmadge wishes for the girls and the final outcome of the tragic events that continue to shape their lives.
(view spoiler)[ There is a lot of disappointment, despair and sadness expressed throughout this story. But, instead of making the reader feel depressed, the author’s style and poetic prose is so captivating, I couldn’t help but feel uplifted to experience the beautiful verses that expressed the love that Talmadge had for Della. Here are 2 such examples of this love:
“Her (Della) anger at him (Talmadge) was deep, but finally had little or nothing to do with him. The anger was a mask of an emotion that would not show its true face. She fought against the same force which he fought. Fate, inevitability, luck. God. He would fly in the face of this force now, for her. If she could be freed from it, he would free her. He would make it all up to her, now.”
“… And so he (Talmadge) liked to think that she, Della, had begun to accept her life, and calmed. He did not expect her to be happy – how that word lost meaning as the years progressed – but he only wished her to be unafraid, and be able to experience small joys. He wished that she would get out of that place – prison – and find her home again in the orchard. Or wherever else she thought would welcome her.” (hide spoiler)]
Although it is still early in the year, I think it’s going to be hard for me to come across another book in 2013 that is so beautifully crafted and inspirational. Bravo to Amanda Coplin for this splendid novel!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The Virgin Cure is a fascinating story about life for one girl (Moth) in the slums of New York during the 1870s. Born to a gypsy mother who read fortu...moreThe Virgin Cure is a fascinating story about life for one girl (Moth) in the slums of New York during the 1870s. Born to a gypsy mother who read fortunes and sometimes had to turn tricks to pay the rent when it was due, young Moth is sold as a servant at age 12 to a wretched woman (Mrs. Wentworth) who inflicts terrible abuse on the child. Eventually, Moth escapes and is introduced to a madam (Miss Everett) who runs an “Infant School” that specializes in preparing young girls (virgins) to be the whores of well to do gentlemen. I found the whole process of how the young girls were matched with their gentlemen suitors (who were intent on ‘deflowering a virgin’) intriguing; however, at the same time, this was a terribly sad story. Not only for Moth, but for all of the families who lived in New York during this time period that did not have the means to support or feed their children. In her notes, the author indicates that during the 1870s, there were 30,000 young children living on the streets of New York City.
During this same time, syphilis was widespread in the city and there was a notion that men who were inflicted with the disease would be “cured” if they lay down with a virgin. Young girls such as Moth were instructed to examine their gentlemen suitors very carefully for fear they would become infected.
Moth is a spunky character and like most children, she wants so dearly to be loved by her mother. This, however, was not to be. I was very touched by a passage when Moth is being sold to Mrs. Wentworth where she says “Mama stared at me not with sadness, but with pleading… I wanted to believe that she knew what was best for me. I wanted to believe she was like every other mother and that she loved me more than I loved her. I hoped, if I followed her wishes, I would finally make her happy…. There were no tears at our goodbye.” And, despite all of her hardships, years later, when Moth learns of her mother’s death, she says “Her passing had brought me more sadness than any lie she’d ever told. Betrayals can be forgiven and forgotten. Nothing changes death.”
Throughout, Moth is a survivor. She is a young girl and young woman who envisions a better life for herself that she knows is out there somewhere. A bit of advice given to her by another one of Miss Everett’s young ladies goes like this: “The trick to getting what you want is to make duty seem as easy as desire.” (less)
In The Tender Mercy of Roses, Pony Jones has made her mark in the rodeo circuit where she has taken the coveted prize by riding a bull better than any...moreIn The Tender Mercy of Roses, Pony Jones has made her mark in the rodeo circuit where she has taken the coveted prize by riding a bull better than any of her male competitors. Sadly, Pony turns up dead and it is up to her father (Titus Jones) and Joe Beth Dawson (former detective who has taken to the bottle) to solve the mystery. Although Pony is dead, her spirit remains very much alive and cannot proceed to the afterlife until her murderer is tracked down and the case is closed.
Family secrets, deception, and finally redemption tie all 3 of these characters together in this fast reading murder mystery. Although I felt the story dragged on a bit, the Native American theme was insightful for me. Notably, I found a reference to death most interesting:
“May the Great Spirit shed light on your path. There is no death, only a change of worlds.”(less)