Tag Archives: Special Needs

Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

It took no time to be swept up in the magic in The Luster of Lost Things, Sophie Chen Keller’s new novel set in a tiny bakery in New York City. Tantalized by Keller’s mouthwatering descriptions of flaky croissants fresh from the oven, sweet vanilla wafers with sea-salted caramel filling, and double butterscotch pops, I was practically swooning with desire for one of the sugary concoctions created by Lucy at her bakery,The Lavenders.

Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

Lucy, a talented pastry chef, pours her energies into running The Lavenders while faced with the sadness of being a single mom. Her pilot husband disappeared when his plane crashed in the ocean while she is pregnant with their only child. Now she is devoted to making a life for herself and her son.

One cold wintry night, she invites a homeless woman into the warmth and comfort of her bakery, and in return the woman gives her a book of drawings that Lucy displays in the shop. This book, known as the Book, becomes pivotal to the story.

Twelve year-old Walter Lavender Jr. might remind you of the boy in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. He is bright and good-hearted with a communications disorder that renders his speech difficult. Taunted in the school yard, his refuge is the bakery where he pitches in before and after school, and every day places a lighted candle in the shop’s window, hoping it will bring his father home.

Plaintively, he wonders,

“Couldn’t Walter Lavender Sr. try a little bit harder to come back or send a sign? I am the one doing all the looking even though he is the one who is supposed to be here, to teach me the things I do not know.”

Walter Jr. has a super power of sorts: he can help people find lost things. He finds a missing cockatiel, a bassoon, and even a lost dog that ends up becoming his own, Milton.

But when the beloved Book goes missing and business in the bakery flounders, he sets out to find it and realign the stars. This takes him on an astounding search through New York City, in the dingy tunnels of the subway system, in Chinatown, across Central Park and so many other landmarks. In his quest, he learns about what it means to lose and find something precious, and also what it means to be him.

Oh, does Sophie Chen Keller have a way with words. Describing the end of a school day, she writes,

“… when the afternoon bell rings, the cherry red doors fling open and the kids pour out like spilled birdseed.”

Walter Jr. says,

“… I step behind the counter and search for the squeaking mice, nudging away a ring of passion fruit marshmallows engaged in a sumo match. I wait, looking into the display case as a jelly frog studded with chopped dates and hazelnuts hops across the second level.”

And when Lucy and Walter Jr. bake together:

“I tilt my bowl over the mixer and we alternate adding our wet and dry ingredients so the bubbles of air in the batter don’t pop and the cake emerges tender and fluffy from the oven. Lucy pours out the batter and it cascades across the first baking pan in a butter-silk curtain.

‘Masterful,’ she pronounces.”

 

Yes, it is.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Luster of Lost Things. Please leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Luster of Lost Things from Putnam for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Harmony

Harmony is that rare novel that hits my trifecta of an amazing read: compelling family drama, dark humor and heart pounding suspense.

Book Buzz: Harmony

Harmony

Written with storytelling skill and compassion by Carolyn Parkhurst, whose The Dogs of Babel was a huge favorite of mine, Harmony is about modern day parenting and the lengths we will go to in order to do right by our children.

It is about the pressure we put on ourselves as parents, the struggle to succeed at parenting and the scrutiny from society, the disapproval, that makes us doubt ourselves.

Alexandra and Josh Hammond, a middle-class couple living in Washington, DC, have two daughters. Tilly, age 12, is a precocious, creative child who happens to be on the autism spectrum. Iris, age 10, is the “normal” one.

The parents agonize over Tilly’s special needs. Her behavioral issues get her kicked out of every school. People stare at her. Children point fingers. Desperate to find the right school, the right therapy, Alexandra doggedly pursues every option, only to come up short. As Tilly’s extreme behavior dominates their lives, Alexandra despairs that Tilly’s issues will only get worse and it will be her fault, her failing as a parent.

My heart sank for this couple. I felt their frustration, their searing anger when other “normal” children made fun of their daughter. Wouldn’t I search everywhere for help as they did?

And if I were at the end of my rope with no stone left unturned, would I also surrender myself to an alternative therapy endorsed by a self-proclaimed parenting expert named Scott Bean whom I am convinced understands my child like no one else? Would I also persuade my husband to sell our house and possessions to follow this cult-like messiah into the wilderness, to a place called Camp Harmony, with just us, our children and a carload of belongings?

Recounted alternately by Alexandra and Iris, the plot thickens as the Hammonds become one of three families, each having a special needs child, to inhabit this experimental society in a rustic setting where communication to the outside world is cut off.

Will Scott Bean’s parenting theories put into action make a difference in the lives of these children? Will the parents of these children finally get the answers they have searched for, the answers that will lead to their children’s happiness and growth?

As the experiment slowly takes on a sinister shadowing, the tension builds  and … well, I’m not going to tell you any more. Let’s just say it elicited more than one OMG from me.

I don’t have a child on the spectrum. But after reading Harmony, I am more enlightened about what it means to live with a child who relates to the world differently but is no less of a person, whose potential can be discovered with love and patience, whose families deserve our respect and support.

Harmony captivated me from page one. I loved it.

 

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

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

If you like my blog post, please share it!
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