Category Archives: Books

Book Buzz: Leopard at the Door

January weather has been cold and a bit frightful, so snuggling up with my dogs (and my husband) and a good book has my activity of choice. With a fire roaring the fireplace (okay, it was gas) and the dogs curled up next to me, I happily attacked the looming stack of books next to my bed, one of which was Leopard at the Door, a novel so thought-provoking and timely I can’t wait to recommend it to my book group.

Book Buzz: Leopard at the Door

Written by Jennifer McVeigh (who you might recognize as the author of The Fever Tree), Leopard at the Door takes place in a British colony in Kenya in the mid-twentieth century. Across the magnificent and sweeping landscape of East Africa festered political and social tensions as the Africans came into conflict with the British colonists infiltrating their country.

Leopard at the Door

The protagonist is Rachel Fullsmith, a young girl whose British family settled in Kenya. When her mother died in a car accident, twelve year-old Rachel was sent back  to England to be raised by her grandparents, who imposed a strict and unaffectionate lifestyle. She yearned to go back to Kenya, and following her high school graduation, she returned.

What she found was a different Kenya from the one she had known six years before, both personally and politically. A new woman, Sarah, had come into her father’s life and taken over the household, with an imperious style that was shocking to Rachel. Her mother had always treated the Africans who worked for the family with kindness and respect. Under Sarah’s dominion, there was disdain and suspicion. Rachel’s father seemed powerless to go against Sarah’s wishes to get rid of servants who had been with the family for years. Rachel did not understand what had come over her father, and how he seemed to have given his soul to this woman so unlike her late mother.

Still struggling with that loss and confused about her place in this new constellation, Rachel felt her world crashing around her, unprepared for the tough decisions about family, loyalty and justice.

McVeigh does a superb job of creating the scene. You can feel the intense heat of the African sun, the screech of the monkeys, the rustling of the underbrush as a herd of zebras emerged. There was a palpable sense of danger, not just from the possible attack of a lion, but from political uncertainty and the threat of violence and betrayal.

The last twenty pages kept my eyes glued and provided an unexpected twist.

In her many travels to this area of the world, McVeigh researched the history of the Mau Mau Rebellion, a brutal uprising that took place from 1952-1960 and resulted in the deaths of thousands of Africans. I confess not knowing about this conflict until now. It is a terrible chapter of African history that should be told so that our understanding of international human rights violations can grow.

And with her gift of story-telling, McVeigh does exactly that.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Leopard at the Door. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Leopard at the Door from Putnam for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Book Buzz: A Dog’s Purpose

Anyone who knows me knows I love books and I love dogs. So it is no surprise that I love reading books about dogs.

I will tell you why A Dog’s Purpose is one of my favorites, one of the most charming dog books ever written. The author, W. Bruce Cameron, has an uncanny ability to get inside a dog’s head. Combine that with his sense of humor and talent for storytelling, and you can understand why his books are so pupular popular. A Dog’s Purpose was on the New York Times bestseller list for a solid year, and deservedly so.

I am so beyond excited that A Dog’s Purpose is coming out as a movie next month. More about that in a minute. Let me tell you first about the book.

A Dog’s Purpose

Book Buzz: A Dog's PurposeMeet Bailey the dog, the narrator of his story, who yearns to figure out his purpose in life, and finds himself reincarnated over and over to continue that quest. With each life he is a little wiser, remembering life lessons from his past that continue to guide him.  Author Cameron is so attuned to the gestalt of dogs, he has truly provided a window into their souls giving us readers a deeper understanding of what makes them tick. Why they love us unconditionally. Why they like sniffing nasty smells. Why they are clueless about cats.

Here, for example, Ethan the boy is teaching Bailey to rescue him in the water. Bailey recounts:

I looked down at the frothy water where the boy had gone in, then back at Grandpa.

“Go on!” Grandpa told me.

I suddenly understood and looked at him in disbelief. Did I have to do everything in this family? With one more bark I dove off the end of the dock, swimming down toward the bottom, where I could sense Ethan lying motionless. I gripped his collar in my jaws and headed for air.

“See! He saved me!” the boy called when we both surfaced.

“Good boy, Bailey!” Grandpa and the boy shouted together. Their praise pleased me so much  I took off after the ducks, who quacked stupidly as they swam away. I got so close to being able to nip off a few tail feathers that a couple of them flapped their wings and briefly took flight, which meant I won, in my opinion.

With the perfect balance of joy and pathos woven through a page turning adventure, the book will touch your heart, make you laugh and cry, and sigh with contentment at the end.

Bailey’s story will leave you hungering for more, and thankfully Cameron heard our cry and wrote a sequel, A Dog’s Journey, another terrific story.
Book Buzz: A Dog's Purpose

I loved this book too, in which Bailey is now Buddy, who rescues a little girl and realizes his purpose is to protect her forever. Over the course of her life, that is exactly what he does, but I won’t tell you any more because I don’t want this to be a spoiler.

I would have gone into a deep depression after finishing this book, bereft without a Cameron dog book to look forward to, but then I heard about the movie and I felt better.

A Dog’s Purpose, the movie

Starring Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson and Josh Gad, A Dog’s Purpose opens in theaters January 27, 2017.

True to the novel, the narrator is Bailey, a bounding Golden Retriever who has already lived several lives and come back to fulfill the elusive purpose he knows is his destiny. Bailey’s running commentary on life as a dog is just what you would imagine a dog’s thought process to be. I guarantee you will fall in love with him.

One of the takeaways is that you can make a dog very happy just by telling him he is a good dog. So don’t forget to do that when you have the chance.

This movie trailer gives you a preview of the magic that is to come. I can’t wait.

Don’t wait until January to become a fan. Read one or both of the books first.

Thanks to the author, I am delighted to offer either A Dog’s Purpose or A Dog’s Journey to one of my readers. Please leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Book Buzz: Born a Crime

Book Buzz: Born a CrimeOne of our Thanksgiving traditions is to go around the table and share our blessings. For me it is always a variation of being grateful for family, friends, our pets, our health, etc. This year, though, my expression of gratitude will be tinged with anxiety about a future that is hard to fathom, at least for the next four years.

Since the election I have tried to stay away from TV and radio news. I just can’t listen to it.

This erstwhile news junkie has gone cold turkey.

That works out well except when I’m in the car. I need a distraction when I’m driving. Music is great, but there are times when I need an alternative. As luck would have it, I have discovered Audible, and the timing could not be better.

Audible is a division of Amazon, and purchases are easy either on the website or the app, which I downloaded on my iPhone. Browsing through the selections, I discovered a ton of audiobooks that piqued my interest.

Born a Crime

I was totally caught up in one of Audible’s new releases, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. You may know Noah as the successor to Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show. In this memoir he reveals a background light years away from the celebrity life he enjoys now. Noah grew up biracial in South Africa’s apartheid.

Noah, the son of a devoutly religious Xhosa mother and a white Swiss-German father, was “born a crime” since it was against the law during apartheid for whites and blacks to be together, let alone have a child. The fine could have been imprisonment for either parent up to five years. Nonetheless, Noah’s mother would take that risk because she wanted a child so badly.

Noah says, “… my mother started her little project, me, at a time when she could not have known that apartheid would end. There was no reason to think it would end; it had seen generations come and go. I was nearly six when Mandela was released, ten before democracy finally came, yet she was preparing me to live a life of freedom long before we knew freedom would exist.”

Noah’s upbringing took place in the last years of apartheid, in the 80s and 90s, in a world of poverty and intense racism. His remarkable mother was determined her son would rise above it. Strong-willed and no nonsense, Noah’s mother taught him the values of education and freedom as she struggled with the restrictions in her own life.

With humor, Noah describes his mother as a woman deeply tied to her religion. She dragged her son to church four days a week and three different church services on Sundays, in three different towns.

In these essays, Noah shares personal stories and also the broader landscape of apartheid society: segregated housing, limited employment opportunities except for menial work, and curfews not imposed on the white population.

I was drawn in by Noah’s mellifluous voice as he swept me into his world. Learning about a life so different from mine, filled with obstacles that I have been fortunate never to face, was a lesson worth learning.

And another reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

If you would like to hear Born a Crime or any other selection on Audible, you’re in luck. Use this code for a 30-day free trial.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Book Buzz: Dogs and Their People

Why write about dogs, with all the turmoil in our country right now, and with little else on my mind but the election and its aftermath?

Book Buzz: Dogs and Their People

It’s been a tough week, a gloomy week, for me. I feel dispirited and unmotivated. I needed a pick-me-up. The book gods must have looked kindly on me, because this book could not have come at a better time.

Books and dogs are two of my greatest passions. Combine them and you’ve got a win-win.

Dogs and Their People

If you are a dog person — and I venture to say even if you are not — you will get a kick out of Dogs and Their People: Photos and Stories of Life with a Four-Legged Love.

Why? Because we humans are capable of going overboard for our fur babies and the stories in this book tell you just how far we can go.

Our furry friends have a knack for righting our worlds no matter what is going on. A soulful gaze, a wag of the tail, a sympathetic snuggle — they sense how we feel, and know how to make us feel better with their unconditional love.

So how do we respond to them? With love, care, and sometimes … well, we dress them up. We sing to them. We sleep with them.

Our two pups, Max and Wyatt, are just over a year old. While it often seems like we’ve got two unruly toddlers in the house, life would not be as full without them. Here they are in one of their quiet moments.

Book Buzz: Dogs and Their People

Filled with beautiful photographs, Dogs and Their People is a book that you can spend as much or as little time with as you choose, and come back to again and again. The stories about our love for our dogs, the lengths we will go to for them, certainly resonated with me.

For example …

Do you celebrate your dog’s birthday with a canine birthday cake?

Do you know the dog people in the neighborhood as “Ginger’s mommy” or “Dylan’s dad?”

Do you tell your dog you will be back soon when you are leaving the house? As if he understands that?

Do you arrange playdates so that your dog will have a social life?

I will neither confirm nor deny that I am guilty of any of the above.

Dogs and Their People will brighten your day. Here is an example.

Book Buzz: Dogs and Their People

You will read funny stories, touching stories, like the owner who sold her house to pay for the dog’s back surgery or another who went homeless for the sake of keeping a furry family together.

Book Buzz: Dogs and Their People

I can’t think of a better gift for dog lovers than Dogs and Their People.

Book Buzz: Dogs and Their People

In this time of uncertainty, there is at least this universal truth: dogs really are a person’s best friend.

Book Buzz: Dogs and Their People

That is reassuring to me.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Dogs and Their People. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Dog and Their People from Putnam for an honest review, which is the only  kind of review I write.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Book Buzz: You Will Not Have My Hate

It was an ordinary Friday evening in Paris, a typical Friday night when the cafes are still busy and the streets are crammed with people on their way to somewhere or nowhere at all, and the air is sprinkled with carefree laughter and theatres are filled with audiences out to enjoy a night of music.

On any Friday night, on every Friday night, this is Paris. But on Friday, November 13, 2015 the lively scene turned into a scene from hell.

You will not have my hate.

The beautiful streets of Paris were bloodied, strewn with carnage and death as terrorists stormed the city. Killing indiscriminately and brutally as they took to the streets, they positioned themselves at heavily populated sites to do the most damage. And at the Bataclan Theatre, where ordinary people were enjoying a concert by the American band, Eagles of Death Metal, the unthinkable happened.

Antoine Leiris, a French journalist, was at home with his 17 month-old son, Melvil, while his wife Hélène was attending the concert. Planning on waiting up for her, Leiris passed the time by reading a book. Then he got a text from a friend asking if he was all right. He turned on the television, and five words scrolling at the bottom of the screen changed his life forever: “Terrorist attack at the Bataclan.”

You will not have my hate.

In just a few hours he would learn that his beautiful wife Hélène lost her life at the Bataclan. Just like that. Gone.

You will not have my hate.

 

Book Buzz: You Will Not Have My Hate

Grief-stricken, he went on social media a few days later and wrote an open letter to the terrorists who killed his wife. “You will not have my hate,” he wrote.  “On Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hate.

“For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.”

Leiris’ words were seen by millions and shared. His resilience and strength were an inspiration to those of us throughout the world struggling to makes sense out of the most senseless of tragedies.

You will not have my hate.

I will always remember waking up Saturday morning to this terrible news and being stunned into silence. How could this happen? I couldn’t even articulate my feelings, but that Monday I wrote Mourning for Paris to pay tribute to the victims and their families and friends.

You Will Not Have My Hate is a slim volume, just 129 pages. It is honest and raw, and so compelling that you will finish it in one sitting. Leiris begins by recalling the first few days, the shock and disbelief, his overriding concern for his son, his resolute adherence to the normalcy of play, naps, meals, story time. In the midst of visiting the morgue, going through the motions of Hélène’s funeral, and dealing with his  own loss, he was first and foremost his son’s Papa.

Leiris’ story of courage and grace, of finding the will to go on after the most excruciating loss, tells us that while there is no way to understand why evil exists, it is our obligation to honor the memory of the dead — and defy those who would destroy us — by continuing to live.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of You Will Not Have My Hate. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly chosen.

 

I received a copy of You Will Not Have My Hate from Penguin for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Book Buzz: A Gentleman in Moscow

Picture Eloise, the eponymous star of the beloved children’s book: the tiny whirlwind who flits through the Plaza Hotel with panache and a running commentary. If Eloise were a man in Stalinist Russia, you’ve got the premise of A Gentleman in Moscow.

A Gentleman in Moscow

If A Gentleman in Moscow is a harbinger of new titles coming this fall season, we are in luck.

Book Buzz: A Gentleman in Moscow

Written by Amor Towles, author of the well received Rules of Civility, A Gentleman in Moscow is Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, a former distinguished aristocrat now designated a “Former Person” by a Bolshevik tribunal and sentenced to house arrest in the Hotel Metropol, a grand hotel across from the Kremlin, for the crime of writing incendiary poetry.

Booted from the luxury suite he has lived in, he is resigned to live in a storage room in the attic and allowed only a few furnishings.

With aplomb, the Count makes the best of his plight and immerses himself in the life of this fancy hotel. Enter in a cast of quirky and delightful characters, including a serious nine year-old girl whose father is a member of the Party, the French maitre’ d, a sultry movie star, the seamstress who teaches him how to sew on a button, the handyman who keeps a beehive on the roof, and more.

The novel spans 30 years, from 1922 to 1952, some of the most tumultuous years of Russian history. Wars rage, famines take place, thousands of citizens are banished to Siberia, but the Count only knows of this through reading his morning paper and speaking with guests of the hotel.

The Count is a Renaissance man, one who savors haute cuisine as passionately as he admires the works of Chekhov and Tchaikovsky. Thus, he enjoys discussing the appropriate wines to pair with food, ancient philosophies, American movies, and any other aspect of culture.

It is due to Towles’ genius that a riveting, funny and completely charming story can take place within the bounds of four walls — in Stalinist Russia.

His writing is so masterful, so clever, it is tempting to highlight passages of exceptional creativity. For example, the Count is attempting to move a mattress here:

When he bent over to life the mattress from the bedsprings, it crossed its arms, held its breadth, and refused to budge. When he managed to get it upright, it immediately flopped over his head, nearly knocking him off his feet. And when he’d finally dragged it down the hall and flumped it in his room, it spread out its limbs, claiming every spare inch of the floor.

And here, the Count overhears the waiter’s recommendation for a wine to a couple sitting at the table next to him and is aghast at what he hears.

The Rioja? Now there was a wine that would clash with the stew as Achilles clashed with Hector. It would slay the dish with a blow to the head and drag it behind its chariot until it tested the fortitude of every man in Troy.

Last week I  finished a wonderful book that had me longing for another that would grab me the same way. Well, I found it here, and then some. A Gentleman in Moscow is hands down my favorite book of the year and will likely retain a spot on my all time favorite list.

Bravo, Mr. Towles!

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of A Gentleman in Moscow. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of A Gentleman in Moscow from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Book Buzz: The Couple Next Door

You’ve heard of chick lit, but did you know that there is a new literary genre called “grip lit?”

Grip lit refers to the smoldering, tension-driven, dark crime novels written by women and featuring morally questionable female narrators.

Gone Girl comes to mind, of course. Its huge success spawned others in short order  — The Girl on the Train, for example.

Grip lit is a trend that is on the fast track, and understandably so. Who doesn’t love a dark, spine tingling domestic drama that keeps you on edge until the last page?

The Couple Next Door fits this bill, beautifully.

Book Buzz: The Couple Next Door

So, first, a warning. Do not read this book if:

You are on the beach or by the pool and low on sunscreen.

It is late at night and you have to get up early the next day.

You can’t handle suspense.

Written by the talented debut author Shari Lapena, the premise is one that will resonate with anyone, parent or not.

Anne and Marco are a young married couple whose life seems just about perfect: a loving relationship, a swanky townhouse, fancy cars, and a beautiful new baby girl.

One evening they are getting ready to go to a party next door. At the last minute, their sitter cancels. What should they do? The hostess (childless and clueless about parenting) has discouraged them from bringing the baby. Marco persuades Anne to go and she reluctantly agrees, provided they take along the baby monitor and return to check on the baby every 30 minutes.

When they return home at the end of the evening, they discover to their shock that the baby has been abducted. Snatched her from her crib in the middle of the night just minutes after the last time she was checked. The distraught parents can’t imagine who could have done such an evil thing. They are desperate to get her back.

As the police get involved, fingers are pointed and alibis are suspected. Whodunit?

And … I am not going to tell you anymore, because you should enjoy every twist and turn in this page-turner. In true grip lit fashion, author Lapena’s razor sharp writing will lead you to suspect one character, then another, then back to the first, and you’ll probably be wrong about all of them.

It is also a contemporary story that involves several provocative issues, such as the moral responsibility of parents, the pressure on new mothers to be perfect, the role of technology in solving a mystery.

If you are like me and love diving into a heart-pounding frenzy of a psychological thriller, you will love The Couple Next Door.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Couple Next Door. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Couple Next Door from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Eight Great Books About Dogs

 

Eight Great Books About DogsHere it is, late August. Hazy hot and humid seesaws with crisp and cool, a sign that summer is tapping fall on the shoulder, the annual game of tag you’re it.

The dog days of summer, they are. Nightfall comes earlier now. The evening performance of the cicada orchestra is unfailingly on time. Local blueberries are no longer in season; once plump and juicy, they are now unpleasantly sour and soon will be gone until next year.

If it sounds like I’m in an end-of-summer funk, it’s true.

But dog days remind me of dogs, and that cheers me up. If you love dogs, and even if you think you don’t and might be persuaded to, here are some really good books about canines you might want to try.

Warning: weeping may happen.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

In a flashback, Enzo the dog reflects upon the ten years of his life with Denny, a semi-professional race car driver, Denny’s wife Eve, and their baby daughter Zoe. Since Enzo believes he will come back in his next life at a human, he is a keen observer of the human condition. No lie, you will be a soggy mess at the end.

The Dogs of Babel, Carolyn Parkhurst

How many times I’ve wondered what my dog would say if it could talk. When Paul’s wife Lexy dies in an accident, Lorelei, a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, is the only witness. Grief-stricken and haunted with questions, Paul attempts to teach Lorelei to talk so that she can communicate what happened. You will tear up for humans and dogs alike.

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, John Grogan

The subtitle clues you in about Marley, a big galumph of a dog whose antics and foibles take over the lives of John and Jenny. Equal parts humor and pathos, this book will delight anyone who has seen both the worst and the best in their dogs and loves them just the same. On a scale of 1 to 10 on the Cry-o-meter: off the scale.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski

Hamlet is retold with tail-wagging canines as the characters. Edgar is the mute son of a family that breeds a special variety of dogs, Sawtelle dogs. Edgar has an uncanny sense of communication with these dogs and is able to get to the bottom of a murder mystery with their help. Have tissues at the ready.

A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron

Buddy the existential dog is the narrator in this novel as he tries to understand why he is here. Author Cameron totally gets the essence of dogs and Buddy’s voice is genuine. As if I haven’t showered my dogs with endless affection, now I religiously tack on a “good dog” several times a day. This book will soon be released by Dreamworks as a movie and I can not wait. Expect a cascade of tears.

A Dog’s Journey, W. Bruce Cameron

Thank God Cameron wrote a sequel, because I could not bear to think that Buddy’s story was over. More smiles and tears with this book, just as wonderful as the first. I kid you not, the sobs started in the first chapter.

Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself, Julie Barton

When her life came crashing down on her at age 22, Julie could not find a way out of her depression. Not therapy, not medication, not moving back into her parents’ home. But when she and the Golden Retriever puppy Bunker found each other, her world became brighter. Sniffles throughout for Julie and Bunker.

Good Dog. Stay., Anna Quindlen

A sweet, funny, poignant tribute to her big old Black Labrador Beau, this memoir can be read in a single, joyful sitting. Among the words of wisdom is this: “Occasionally someone will tell me that they won’t have pets because they are messy … the truth is that we were far messier without dogs than with them.” I love that. Tears and hiccups.

Have you read these? What other books about dogs have you read and loved?

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Book Buzz: With Love From the Inside

Words fail me, except for OMG, WTF and whatever other net-centric acronyms exist to express shock.

Book Buzz: With Love From the Inside

If I could insert a shocked face emoticon, I would, flummoxed as I am by With Love From the Inside, the page-turning debut novel written by Angela Pisel.

With Love From the Inside

This novel, about the relationship between a mother on death row and her estranged daughter, packs a punch.

Grace Bradshaw was convicted of killing her infant son William. The charge was murder by Munchausen by proxy. With traces of poison found in his formula bottles, it appeared to be an open and shut case. Despite Grace’s protests of innocence, the evidence was irrefutable and she was sentenced to death.

It was a horrific case, to say the least. Understandably, her daughter Sophie, 12 years old at the time of the trial, was traumatized. The death of her brother had been tragic enough, but now her mother, from whom she had only known love, was apparently a monster.

Sophie continued to live with her father but after he died she moved away and tried to erase her family history forever. When asked, she said that her mother died of cancer years ago.

She never wanted to see her mother again.

When the story begins, Sophie is now in her late twenties and married. Her husband and his family know nothing about her background. She has managed to keep her secrets so far, but she is tormented by thoughts of her mother in prison.

With Love From the Inside is recounted from two points of view. As Sophie tells her story from the outside, Grace tells hers from her prison cell. With all appeals exhausted, there is seemingly nothing that can save her. She keeps a journal which allows her to “talk” to Sophie because she despairs of ever seeing her again. She wants to make sure that once she is gone Sophie will have this journal and will finally know how she felt about her daughter, the baby who died, and her experiences in jail.

In researching this book, author Pisel interviewed many women on death row, and her sensitivity to their plight illuminates the story. The descriptions of life in jail are stark and real: prison guards both sympathetic and cruel, rigidity of rules, tensions between inmates, the constant dehumanization.

Grace clings to hope for a reconciliation with her daughter as the clock ticks closer to the date of her execution. She begs her defender to find Sophie. And eventually he does.

But will Sophie want to see her mother?

Sophie struggles with two conflicting thoughts. Is her mother the personification of evil, as she has believed all this time? Or was something overlooked, something that could exonerate her mother and end this nightmare? Memories from childhood, repressed for so long, now reemerge, reminding her of the loving mother and happy family she once had.

This is an emotional and intense read, and the pace quickens in the last few chapters. It is also an indictment of our flawed justice system, in which too many innocent people have fallen through the cracks.

Will that happen to Grace? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of With Love From the Inside. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of With Love From the Inside from Putnam for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg

Book Buzz: Leaving Lucy Pear

I love historical literary fiction, especially when it teaches me something new. The luminous Leaving Lucy Pear is a novel so rich in sensory images that I found myself transported to a time and place I knew little about and felt instantly connected.

Book Buzz: Leaving Lucy Pear

Leaving Lucy Pear

Author Anna Solomon takes us to 1920s Prohibition-era Gloucester, New England, eschewing the glamor of that period for the dark side: the rampant racism and bigotry. The economic instability, political turmoil, the poverty, the violence.

Against this backdrop lives the eponymous Lucy Pear, the daughter of two women. Born to Beatrice, the unwed teenage daughter of a wealthy Jewish family, Lucy Pear is abandoned by her mother in the family’s pear orchard. It is the season when Irish trespassers steal the ripening pears to make bootleg moonshine.

Ashamed to keep the baby, and unwilling to surrender her to an orphanage, Beatrice sneaks out late one night clutching the blanket-wrapped baby and sets her under a tree. The plan works as the thieves discover the baby and whisk her away. Emma, an Irish Catholic immigrant already the mother of a large brood, becomes Lucy’s new mother.

For the next 10 years, the two families intersect in various ways, but the truth of Lucy’s parentage remains hidden. Lucy, a bold and instinctive child, senses there is information being withheld from her. At the same time, she holds on to disturbing secrets of her own.

Solomon uses two historical events that speak volumes in illustrating the bigotry of the time. There was the infamous case of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian-American anarchists who were arrested, imprisoned for seven years, and finally executed for a murder in spite of any solid evidence implicating them.

There was also the “secret court” at Harvard, a witch hunt to expose and then expel homosexual students.

The contrasts in the novel are many:  Jewish and Irish, the haves and the have nots, the fecund and the barren, heterosexual and homosexual, yet implicit in all of them are restrictions of the freedom we often take for granted today.

But the most heartrending contrast is between two women from different classes and places in society, of different temperaments and beliefs, who are bound together forever through their love for a child.

Bookended by the turn-of-the-century influx of European immigrants and the rumblings of World War II, the setting of Leaving Lucy Pear is one of the most absorbing features of the novel.

Solomon is an exquisite writer and skillfully weaves together multi-dimensional characters with a plot that is never predictable. You know when you can’t stop thinking about the characters?

That’s the sign of a great book.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Leaving Lucy Pear. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Leaving Lucy Pear from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
Facebook Twitter Email Stumbleupon Pinterest Linkedin Delicious Reddit Tumblr Plusone Digg