Thursday, May 31, 2012


Story Description:

ISBN: 978-0-7642-2992-3 

Constant companions in their youth, Manasseh, son of King Hezekiah, and Joshua, son of the palace administrator, have been primed for leadership of Judah.  But anger toward God begins to smolder in Manasseh’s heart upon his father’s unexpected death.  As Manasseh comes to power, his insecurity leads him down the path of sorcery.  Fearing a conspiracy, he lashes out at the leaders of his father’s regime. 

As the mayhem of Manasseh’s reign begins to unfold, Joshua and his family suffer devastating loss.  The battle lines are drawn as Joshua seeks revenge against his boyhood friend.  And with the future of god’s faithful remnant at stake, Joshua struggles with whether to run from Yahweh…or to Him. 

My Review: 

Another wonderfully written novel by the very talented Lynn Austin.  The Chronicles of the Kings series has been a magnificent read.  I’m about to begin Book #5 which is the last in the series titled: Among the Gods.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Story Description: 

Baker Publishing Group|September 1, 2005|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7642-2991-6 

Chronicles of the Kings – Book #3 has rewarded Hezekiah’s faithfulness with great wealth and power, but the godly king has no heir.  In desperation, his beloved wife takes forbidden measures to ensure fertility.  With all that is going on in his kingdom – and with the Assyrians approaching – Hezekiah does not discover his wife’s idolatry until it’s almost too late.   betrayal cuts to the very core of his being and belief in God.  Will his faith sustain him in the face of this deceit, and against an overwhelming enemy? 

My Review: 

King Hezekiah and his wife, Hephzibah, were very much in love but she remained barren.  Unable to provide her husband, the king, with an heir she turns to worshipping the fertility goddess which is strictly against Hezekiah’s rule.  This king only worships one God – Yahweh.  When the king discovers Hephzibah’s blasphemous behaviour he divorces her and banishes her to a life alone. 

Coping with his insurmountable grief over the loss of his beautiful wife, King Hezekiah listens to the wrong advice and becomes embroiled in what he thinks is “making allies” with other kingdoms.  He soon finds out that this was a huge mistake!  This fast-paced and action packed book will keep you turning the pages until you’ve turned the very last one!  Onto Book #4.

THE TALE OF TWO NAZANINS: A Teenager on Death Row in Iran and the Canadian Who Vowed to Save Her (NAZANIN AFSHIN-JAM & Susan McClelland)

Story Description: 

Harper Collins Publishers Ltd|May 14, 2012| Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-55468-972-9 

In 2006, Vancouver’s Nazanin Afshin-Jam was on top of the world.  A year earlier, she had won runner-up at Miss World, the first time an Iranian-born woman had ever finished so high in the competition.  She had signed her first record deal and was a sought-after fashion model.  But one rainy afternoon, Nazanin received an email that would change her life.  Please help!  Please save her! 

Thousands of miles away in Tehran, the subject of that email: a poverty stricken seventeen-year-old Kurdish-Iranian named Nazanin Fatehi was preparing for her execution, punishment for an act that was, in her mind, not a crime: she had stabbed a man who had tried to rape her.  Afshin-Jam quickly came to Fatehi’s defence, striding into the world of the United Nations and international diplomacy, attempting to force Iran to reopen Fatehi’s case and stay the execution. 

The Tale of Two Nazanins weaves the inspiring real-life stories of two women, their sisterly bond and their fight for justice that, for the first time since the 1979 revolution, brought the Iranian regime to its knees, if only for a brief moment. 

My Review: 

It is not very often that I don’t actually write a review of my own but this is one of those times.  This was the most startlingly, eye-opening, heart-crushing piece of non-fiction I’ve read in a while.  I think the description above tells, in fairly good detail, what this story is about.  I recommend that everyone read it you’ll be appalled at the number of executions of “teenagers” and the brutality that they suffer at the hands of their captors.  It’s unimaginable!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Story Description: 

Penguin Press(HC) | September 21, 2010 | Hardcover | ISBN: 978-1-59420-265-0 

Ingrid Betancourt tells the story of her captivity in the Colombian jungle, sharing powerful teachings of resilience, resistance, and faith.  Born in Bogota, raised in France, Ingrid Betancourt at the age of thirty-two gave up a life of comfort and safety to return to Colombia to become a political leader in a country that was being slowly destroyed by terrorism, violence, fear, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness.  In 2002, while campaigning as a candidate in the Colombian presidential election, she was abducted by the FARC.  Nothing could have prepared her for what came next.  She would spend the next six and half years in the depth of the jungle as a prisoner of the FARC.  Even Silence Has an End is her deeply personal and moving account of that time.  Chained day and night for much of her captivity, she never stopped dreaming of escape and in fact, succeeded in getting away several times, always to be recaptured in her most successful effort she and a fellow captive survived a week away, but were caught when her companion became desperately ill; she learned later they had been mere miles from freedom. 

The facts of her story are astounding but it is Betancourt’s indomitable spirit that drives this very special account, bringing life, nuance, and profundity to the narrative.  Attending as intimately to the landscape of her mind as she does to the events of her capture and captivity, Even Silence Has an End is a meditation on the very stuff of life-fear and freedom, hope and what inspires it.  Betancourt tracks her metamorphosis, sharing how in the routines she established for herself-listening to her mother and two children broadcast to her over the radio, daily prayer-she was able to do the unthinkable: to move through the pain of the moment and find a place of serenity. 

Freed in 2008 by the Colombian army, today Betancourt is determined to draw attention to the plight of hostages and victims of terrorism throughout the world and it is that passion that motivates Even Silence Has an End.  The lessons she offers here-in courage, resilience, and humanity-are gifts to treasure. 

My Review: 

What a powerful and heart-wrenching story this was!  Ingrid Betancourt is a true survivor who lived through the worst nightmare anyone could imagine.  After being abducted by a terrorist group called FARC, Ingrid suffered immeasurable abuse, the harshest of conditions, disease, insect bites, and illness deep in the Colombian jungle.  For six and half years she was a puppet, manipulated and mistreated, often starving for food and drink, being forced to use bathroom conditions that were sub-human, sleeping quarters that often left her laying soaking in the rain with a chain around neck and attached at the other end to a tree to prevent escape.  Miraculously, she did manage to escape on several different occasions only to be caught and dragged back to the camp and re-chained.  Her last escape netted her an entire week of freedom with a fellow prisoner but she also received the harshest treatment after that final escape attempt. 

I was completely mesmerized by the story and the faith, stamina, and resilience Ingrid showed in the face of such dire adversity.  An immensely strong and brave woman, Ingrid often fought her jailers and spoke up for kind treatment of her fellow prisoners, often earning herself even crueller treatment. 

This is one book that I think everyone should read.  You can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to live under the conditions Ingrid did for as long as she did.  Just the mental exhaustion and anxiety alone would have been enough to do me in.  I certainly hope and pray that Ingrid has healed well and has had a smooth transition back into her family and with her children after enduring what she did for six and a half years. 

Even Silence has an End is a hugely powerful story!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Story Description:
Penguin Group Canada| April 10, 2012| Trade Paperback| ISBN 978-0-14-318611-3 

Spirited and intelligent Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and family in busy modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria.  An adoring little sister, their traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo’s home their own.  So there’s nothing unusual about her charming but troubled cousin Bros T moving in with the family.  At first Morayo and her sister are delighted but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her. 

Thrust into a web of oppressive silence woven by the adults around her, Morayo must learn to fiercely protect herself and her sister from a legacy of silence many women in Morayo’s family share.  Only Aunty Morenike – once shielded by her own mother – provides Morayo with a safe home and a sense of female community that sustains her as she grows into a young woman in bustling, politically charged often violent Nigeria. 

My Review: 

Morayo was 5-years-old when her baby ‘albino’ sister, Eniayo was born.  She was shocked to see that her baby sister was white with pink eyes and she was afraid to hold her for the first time but did so out of respect.  This was the very first day that the word “afin” exploded into her world, meaning ‘albino’ and believed to bring bad luck to her entire family.  Following Yoruba tradition, Eniayo’s naming ceremony was held eight days after her birth.  That’s when the neighbours began talking: “Where do you think this ‘afin’ child come from?”  Another neighbour had said: “I just know that this is not a good thing…these ‘afin’ children, all they do is bring bad luck.”  A few days later, Morayo’s father’s great-grand Aunt, Iya Agba, the oldest person in her father’s family came to see the baby and she was absolutely livid the child was a ‘afin’!  She blamed Morayo’s mother saying she caused the child to be born an albino by walking in the hot sun at noontime during her pregnancy thereby giving “mischievous evil spirits the opportunity to occupy her human body.”  Morayo’s mother hung her head in total shame with tears streaming down her face while great-aunt Iya screamed: “Your disobedience has brought bad luck to this poor child and to our entire family!”  To show her great and continued displeasure with Morayo’s mother, she refused to eat the special meal that had been prepared for her, and refused to sleep in their home that night and demanding to be taken to another relatives house.  Morayo was upset that her mother was so sad and crying, that great aunt had yelled at her and refused her food and told herself it was all baby Eniayo’s fault.  Her family had been happy and full of laughter until “she” came along, and now it was full of tears, shouting, and sadness.  In the first few weeks Morayo refused to even go near Eniayo constantly amking up escuses as to why she couldn’t help with her or hold her.  Besides, Aunty Adunni had come to stay for a while to help out, she was one of her mother’s relatives.  However, Morayo’s mother finally caught up to her one day and asked her: “What is chasing you?”  She confessed that she was afraid of Eniayo, a “spirit child” and what great-aunt Iya Agba had said.”  Her mother put her arm around her and told her: “…your sister is not a spirit child.  She is ‘afin’ due to some things the doctors call recessive genes.”  She continued on for a few more minutes explaining more of what the doctors had said.  Morayo didn’t understand most of it, but was overjoyed to know she didn’t have to sleep at night with one eye open anymore and that she had nothing to be ashamed about over her little sister.  Finally, as the days and months passed, she no longer noticed her sister’s pale pink eyes and instead only saw an “annoying little girl, calling my name and determined to follow me everywhere I went.”  Eventually, as the years passed, Eniayo’s features, yellowish hair, pink eyes, and milky white skin became as familiar and welcome to Morayo as the sun in the sky.  

Morayo is now ten-years-old and Eniayo almost five.  They live in Ibadan, Nigeria in a block of six flats along the busy Poly-Sango Road.  The flat has three bedrooms on the second floor of an old building with bold red letters painted above the front door telling visitors they were entering Remilekun House.  Remilekum was Baba Landlord’s late mother.  Morayo and Eniayo shared a bedroom and woke each morning to the minibus driver calling out their next destinations which for them was their alarm clock.  Lucky for them Lake Eleyele was right across the road. 

After school each day the girls roamed the streets together with their friends.  Their father was a pharmaceutical salesman who often travelled and their mother had her tailor shop at the Amunigun Market and didn’t come home until late in the evening.  Aunty Adunni stayed home with the girls and was always busy dong household chores.  

In February of 1984, the family moved out of their 3-bedroom flat into a new two-storey house on Eleyele Road, which was just minutes from their old neighbourhood.  The rooms were bigger and the louvres on the windows opened completely inside their black, burglar-proof metal casing.  Their father had begun building the house shortly after Eniayo was born and was proud it was finally complete as they now had something to show for all the years of hard work.  Morayo liked the new house because she and her sister now had their own bedrooms.  Eniayo didn’t like sleeping alone, so she still went to Morayo’s room at night.  

Eniayo turned seven-years-old three months after they moved into the new house.  Their second cousin, Aunty Morenike and her three-year-old son, Damilare came to visit.  Eniayo was so excited to see them and Damilare blurted out that his Mommy had made her a birthday cake.  

The following morning, Aunty Tope showed up for a visit too and they hadn’t seen her in two years.  It was sad though as she didn’t have her son, Bros T (Tayo) with her.  Later Morayo went to find her mother and realized she was in her bedroom with her sister, Aunty Tope.  She was just about to knock on the door when she heard someone crying and it was Aunty Tope.  She heard Aunty Tope say: “Tayo has finished me, imagine the audacity to slap your own principal!  And this past holiday, he and his friend, Abu stole a suitcase full of foreign currency from Abu’s father.  That boy almost slept in prison.  I have nowhere else to turn, I cannot send him to live with his father’s people and this kind of behaviour, what would they think of me?  I want him to finish his education here and he needs to go to university but he needs the firm hand of a man to guide him.”  Morayo knew that Aunty Tope’s husband had died so Tayo no longer had a father.  Suddenly Morayo realized footsteps were coming toward her so she fled to her bedroom.  Now that she was twelve she understood well what was going on. 

It took Morayo’s mother three months to finally cave to her demand to have Bros T move from Jos to Ibadan to live with them.  The following week the now six foot Bros T swaggered into their home with a cocky smile.  The family’s troubles would soon begin and Morayo would pay a high price for the rest of her life.  The only stability and real sense of a family closeness she would have would be Aunty Morenike. 

Daughters Who Walk This Path is a phenomenal story and one which I didn’t want to see end.  I hope Ms. Kilanko will consider writing a sequel to it someday.  If you want an intense, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-page read, then this is the book for you.  I’m keeping it as part of my permanent collection.  Excellent, excellent novel.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Story Description:

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|October 14, 2003|Trade Paperback|ISBN 978-0-385-7281-3

The debut novel from the PEN/Faulkner Award Winning Author of The Buddha in the Attic

On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions.  Like thousands of other Japanese-Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their homes and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert. 

In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thick-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism.  When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today’s headlines.  

My Review: 

Overnight signs appeared on trees, billboards, bus stop benches, and store windows in Berkeley, California, in 1942 ordering Japanese Americans to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.  They had been “reclassified” as enemy aliens.  This novel follows one family’s story; Mom, Dad, and two young children, a girl and a boy. 

The father had been taken a few months prior by the FBI in the middle of the night in his bathrobe and slippers and imprisoned leaving Mom and the children alone to face the internment camp. 

Everyone was given an identification number to pin on their shirt and boarded a bus that would take them to a train.  The train was slow moving and old and hadn’t been used in years.  Broken gas lamps hung from the walls and the train was fuelled by a coal burning broiler.  Some of the passengers were sick from the uneven rocking of the train cars.  The compartments were crowded and smelled of puke and sweat making the nausea people felt even worse. 

The train finally stopped in Delta, Utah where the people were led off the train by armed soldiers and led onto a bus.  The bus drove slowly until it reached Topaz where the passengers saw hundreds of tar-paper barracks sitting beneath the hot blazing sun.  They saw nothing but telephone poles and barbed wire fencing.  As they stepped off the bus they were assaulted by clouds of fine white dust that choked them, which had once been the bed of an ancient salt lake.  The white glare of the desert was blinding. 

Each new day brought the smells of food: catfish, horsemeat, beans, Vienna sausage.  Inside the barracks there were iron cots, a potbellied stove and a single bare bulb that hung down from the ceiling.  There was a table made out of crate wood, an old Zenith radio and no running water and the toilets were half a block away. 

In early autumn farm recruiters arrived to sign up new workers, and the War Relocation Authority allowed many of the young men and women to go out and help harvest the crops.  Some went to Idaho to top sugar beets, some went to Wyoming to pick potatoes, some went to Tent City in Provo to pick peaches and pears.  Some of the people returned wearing brand new Florsheim shoes while others came back with the same shoes saying they were shot at and spat on and would never go back.  They reported that there were signs posted all over the town that read: NO JAPS ALLOWED. 

Every week there were new rumors in the camp.  They heard that men and women would be put in separate camps; they would be sterilized; they would be stripped of citizenship; they’d be taken out on the high seas and shot; they would be taken to a desert island and left alone to die; they would all be deported to Japan; and on and on the rumors went.  The people took these assaults on their mental and emotional health in stride. 

In mid-October a school was opened in the barracks for the children.  Each morning they had to sing: “Oh, beautiful for spacious skies” and “My country ‘tis of thee.” 

After 3 years and 5 months the war was over and they were finally home!  The house had changed; paint was peeling from the walls, it smelled, the window frames were black with dry rot and their furniture was gone, probably stolen.  Although many people had lived in their house during their time away, they had not received one single cheque from the lawyer who promised to rent their home for them.  It was a difficult readjustment for them to suddenly just pick up their lives where they left off and try to continue on and reintegrate. 

When their father finally returned home after more than 4 years he looked much, much older than his age of 56.  His face was lined with wrinkles, his suit was faded and worn, his head was bare, he moved very slowly and carefully using a cane.  Their father never spoke about his years in prison and never said what they eventually accused him of – sabotage? Selling secrets to the enemy?  Was he innocent?  He was a much changed man who was suspicious of everyone, even the paperboy.  He never returned to work.  The company he had worked for before he left had been liquidated and nobody else would hire him: “he was an old man, his health was not good, he had just come back from a camp for dangerous enemy aliens.” 

At 144 pages this was an interesting and quick read and gives a very good picture of a rather embarrassing part of American history.


Story Description:
Baker Publishing Group | May 1, 2005 | Trade Paperback | ISBN 978-0-7642-2990-9 

As King Hezekiah embraces God’s Law, he leads his country into renewed prosperity.  But following the will of Yahweh is a perplexing process, requiring unpopular choices – for both his personal life and political career.  Now his archenemy’s demands for tribute are forcing Hezekiah into a precarious situation. 

Jerusha, a young Jewish woman far from home, has seen firsthand what the dreaded invaders are capable of doing.  As the powerful Assyrian army sweeps through the northern provinces, leaving little but devastation in its wake, Jerusha longs to escape.  Her desperate will to live could become a link to Jerusalem’s survival. 

With Assyria on the march, moving closer to the heart of Judah, Hezekiah’s decision to follow the everlasting One is about to face the ultimate test.  

My Review: 

King Hezekiah is the son of the now deceased King Ahaz who worshipped the idol Molech and offered his own sons as a sacrifice pushing them into his fiery mouth to their deaths.  Thankfully, Hezekiah had his grandfather Zechariah who taught him that the One and only God was Yahweh.  Yahweh means “the Lord”. 

King Hezekiah ruled Judah from 716 to 687 BC and was only twenty-five-years-old when he became King.  “After King Solomon’s death in 931 BC, the Promised Land split into two separate kingdoms.  Israel, the larger nation to the north, set up its capital in Samaria and was no longer governed by a descendant of King David.  In the southern nation of Judah, David’s royal line continued to rule from Jerusalem.” 

As the book opens King Hezekiah had walked down the hill from his palace to the Valley of Hinnom, and followed the path he had taken the night he was torn from his bed as a child to become a sacrifice to Molech.  It was hard for him to understand now how anyone could have worshipped the brass idol much less sacrifice their own child to it.  That horrible night his brothers had been sacrificed instead of him.  He remembered his brothers Eliab and Amariah as he watched the workers destroying it and remembered how his brothers had burned alive.  Although now toppled over, King Hezekiah knew there were still people who would choose to ignore the truth about Yahweh and continue to make sacrifices to Molech, only in secret.  He instructed Jonadab, his captain of the palace guards to warn his guards at the Valley Gate to watch the place after dark when people were most likely to sacrifice their children under the cover of darkness.  He wanted the idol “…smashed into pieces, melted down and weapons forged from it – swords, spears, arrowheads, and shields – then fill his armory with them” as he knew someday he would once again have an army and wanted Jonadab to lead them.  He promoted him to “General” Jonadab. 

King Hezekiah’s intentions were to turn his people back to Yahweh and away from all other idols.  He enlisted the help of his grandfather, Zechariah, to teach him how to pray, how to believe, how to love and how to trust totally in body, mind, and soul in Yahweh.  He wanted the people of Judah to experience all Yahweh’s promises and commands. 

His other intention was to stop paying exorbitant taxes to the Assyrians who were a ruthless and morbidly violent army of men.  Under his father’s reign he had entered into an agreement of protection from the Assyrians but it was literally bankrupting Judah.  Unsure of his decision to withhold the tribute to Assyria, he asked Zechariah if he was making the right decision for the right reasons.  Zechariah told King Hezekiah that trusting God was never a mistake.  God commands you not be afraid, so to be fearful is to doubt God, and that is a sin.  Yahweh never promises that life will be without problems but you are to meditate and pray on what He has promised and to allow that to be your strength. 

Jerusha, is a young Jewish woman who lives with her mother, Hodesh; father, Jerimoth; and younger sister, Maacah.  They are a poor family living on a small farm.  One horrible day the Assyrian’s storm through their community killing and maiming people in their wake.  The evil Iddina grabbed Jerusha and spirited her away on his horse and she was terrified at having been taken captive by these barbaric people.  Six days after the raid they reached their camp in the far north.  Jerusha was pushed in front of all the other men by Iddina who was proudly displaying her as his “trophy”.  These men seemed more animal than human and Jerusha was forced to become their prostitute.  She was raped over and over by many men and forced to cook for them.  She belonged to all of the men now.  Everything in Jerusha’s new world was oppressive and evil.  She watched as the men returned to camp with other captives whom they tortured.  She listened to the cries of human pain for death was a sport for the Assyrian’s.  It was a way of life for them and their god.  Her life became an unrelenting grind of slavery, preparing meals, and being used, abused, and raped by Iddina and his fellow officers at night. 

Now the Assyrian’s are on the march again and King Hezekiah is rallying to fortify the walls of his city and rerouting his water supply but knows the Assyrian’s NEVER lose.  Will his faith in Yahweh save his nation?  Will Jerusha ever escape or become one of the many slowly tortured until her death? 

I couldn’t put this book down and read it in one sitting.  I was completely entranced by this story and will be keeping it as part of my permanent collection.  I’m really looking forward to reading Book #3 ‘The Strength of His Hand.’  Pick this one up, you won’t be disappointed.

The Bicycle Factory

The Bicycle Factory: Help send 5000 bicycles to students in Africa at the

Come on peope, PLEASE help me and others to build 5,000 bicycles for African children so they "ride" to school insteading of "walking".  It only takes 1 minute per day to build "5" bike parts and there are only "72" days left to participate.

PLEASE, won't YOU help this worthy cause?  It doesn't cost you one single cent, only one single minute of your time is necessary and it's fun.  Build bikes alone or gather a team and start building and most of all, have FUN!!!  I am.

The children of Africa thank YOU for your participation.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Story Description:
Baker Publishing Group | February 1, 2005 | E-Book | KOBO
Gods and Kings is the story of King Hezekiah, heir to the throne of King David.  When his evil father plots to sacrifice him, Hezekiah's mother, Abijah, searches frantically for a way to save him. But only two men can help her, and neither of them seems trustworthy.  In a time and place engulfed by violence, treachery, and infidelity to Yahweh, Abijah and her son must discover the one true Source of strength if they are to save themselves and their country. Book 1 of Chronicles of the Kings. 

My Review:

Gods and Kings is the best Biblical Historical Fiction novel I’ve read that follows the Bible closely.  It’s obvious that Ms. Austin has done her research well and has an intimate knowledge of the Bible and it comes to life on the pages before your very eyes.  I was hooked from the first page on. 

Bringing the Old Testament back to life was totally compelling and so well written that you were transposed into the book as a by-stander watching all the goings on.  In reality, on the one hand, what a frightening time to have lived in, but on the other hand what an experience the people of this era had.   

Lynn Austin is an extremely skilled author with the ability to take any story and make it totally understandable for even the most misguided reader.  After reading this first book in the Chronicles of the Kings Series, it will be much easier for you to turn to your Bible and read the story again with much greater understanding and appreciation.  The accuracy with which Ms. Austin writes is truly astounding and makes sometimes difficult reading easy to understand. 

There are five books in the series and I plan on getting them all. The second book is titled: “Song of Redemption” and I don’t want to miss a single one!  Kudos to you Ms. Austin.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Story Description: 

Born in an Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her large family in a small earthen-walled dwelling.  In her village of indigenas, it is not uncommon to work in the fields all day, even as a child, or to be called a longa tonta – stupid Indian – by members of the ruling class or mestizos, or Spanish descendants.  When seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her village to be a servant to a mestizo couple, she has no idea what the future holds. 

In this poignant novel based on a true story, acclaimed author Laura Resau has collaborated with Maria Virginia Farinango to recount one girls’ unforgettable journey to self-discovery.  Virginia’s story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world.  It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope. 

My Review: 

Seven-year-old, Virginia lives in a small indigenous village in Ecuador with her mother and father; older sister, Matilde, twelve-years-old; Hermalinda, her younger sister; and Manuelito, her younger brother. 

Virginia is sent away to work as a servant for the people who own her father’s land.  The wife, the “Doctorita”, a dentist and her teacher husband, Nino Carlos have two boys: Jaimito and Andrecito.  Doctorita is a harsh and cruel woman often pummelling Virginia with beatings, slaps and punches and degrading her by calling her names. 

Virginia finds her new home is in one large room, with a giant wooden wardrobe dividing the living room for the bedroom, but Virginia is forced to sleep on a rug on the floor and she is given one box to put her clothing in. 

This isn’t the first time Virginia’s mother has given her away.  A couple of years prior, she gave her to an indigenous woman named Marta.  Marta wanted a little traveling companion when she sold her wares, so her mother offered Virginia to her.  Virginia had her own bed in that house, it was big, beautiful and fluffy and she was allowed to watch television something which she hadn’t seen before and she pealed with laughter at the antics of the cartoon characters.  But, it didn’t last, her mother returned the following morning to take her back home.  Virginia was disappointed, not only did she have television, a beautiful soft bed, but wonderful tasty food to eat instead of her mother’s every morning potato soup. 

Virginia had already realized that the Doctorita and her husband wouldn’t be treating her as well as Marta had so convinced herself that her mother would show up and retrieve her from this new horrid place.  She wasn’t even allowed to eat off their dishes and was instead given a gray metal plate, cup, and a dented spoon. 

Maria Virginia is told how to do the dishes correctly, right down to the precise numbers of soap drops she is to  use; how to make the beds and how many times to fold the sheet back.  She is told NOT to ever sit on their bed, not touch the television or stereo except to clean them.  She is not to sit on the red chairs or the sofa, she may not open the drawers in the dressers, she is not to let the Doctorita’s son, Jaimito touch anything dirty, she must change his diapers immediately the moment they are wet and she continues laying out rule after rule after rule.  Virginia is sure her own Mamita will arrive to get her just like the last time – but Mamita does not come. 

Virginia is washing diapers with a washboard but the poop stains won’t all come out of the material no matter how hard she scrubs so she hangs them on the line to dry anyway.  The Doctorita comes out screaming at Virginia and begins hitting her in the head her fists just pound her little head.  Pain sears through her but the woman continues to punch and slap until Virginia’s head is a ball of aching, screaming fire.  The Doctorita tells her to wash the diapers again and if they’re not clean then she will be forced to: “scrub them with your teeth and eat the caca right off of them!” 

This is the true story of a 7-year-old indigenous “child” who was forced into slavery in Ecuador.  Maria Virginia’s story although heartbreaking, is made utterly compelling in the capable hands of Laura Resau.  Virginia, from such a young age was forced to find her own way, educate herself, and learn the ways of the world on her own.  Through sheer determination and true grit she emerges into a well-educated woman with many accomplishments under her belt.  For a child of seven to have the strength and courage that Maria Virginia did to enable herself to suffer through years of torment and abuse is a testament to her ability to love herself and to want a better life for herself. 

The story was extremely well-written and I was hooked from the first page and believe a great deal of adults and teenagers will get a lot out of this story.  Very well done!

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Story Description:
Crown Publishing Group | February 8, 2011 | e-Book | KOBO

Lisa Napoli was in the grip of a crisis, dissatisfied with her life and her work as a radio journalist. When a chance encounter with a handsome stranger presented her with an opportunity to move halfway around the world, Lisa left behind cosmopolitan Los Angeles for a new adventure in the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan-said to be one of the happiest places on earth.

Long isolated from industrialization and just beginning to open its doors to the modern world, Bhutan is a deeply spiritual place, devoted to environmental conservation and committed to the happiness of its people-in fact Bhutan measures its success in Gross National Happiness rather than in GNP. In a country without a single traffic light, its citizens are believed to be among the most content in the world. To Lisa, it seemed to be a place that offered the opposite of her fast-paced life in the United States, where the noisy din of sound-bite news and cell phones dominate our days, and meaningful conversation is a rare commodity; where everyone is plugged in digitally, yet rarely connects with the people around them.

Thousands of miles away from everything and everyone she knows, Lisa creates a new community for herself. As she helps to start Bhutan's first youth-oriented radio station, Kuzoo FM, she must come to terms with her conflicting feelings about the impact of the medium on a country that had been shielded from its effects. Immersing herself in Bhutan's rapidly changing culture, Lisa realizes that her own perspective on life is changing as well-and that she is discovering the sense of purpose and joy that she has been yearning for.
In this smart, heartfelt, and beautifully written book, sure to please fans of transporting travel narratives and personal memoirs alike, Lisa Napoli discovers that the world is a beautiful and complicated place-and comes to appreciate her life for the adventure it is.   

My Review: 

In January of 2007, 43-year-old, Lisa Napoli, found herself trekking up a treacherous mountain in Bhutan to a place called “Takshang” built on a sheer cliff that soars ten thousand feel into the sky.  Lisa is in Bhutan for the summer volunteering at a radio station called Kuzoo Fm. 

The Bhutanese people are very hearty in many ways.  They live off the land as farmers which is a hard life. 

Trekking up the mountain, Lisa is huffing and puffing against the high altitude and the intensity of the climb.  The interesting thing is that children are brought there from the time they are babies, so you often see slight and frail seniors navigating the twists and turns and inclines deftly from memory, in a fraction of the time it takes foreigners half their age.  At the top is a cluster of temples of which the most sacred of altar rooms is only open to the public once per year. 

It is believed that meditating for just one minute at Takshang will bring you exponentially greater blessings than meditating for a month at any other sacred site.  What Takshang promises to all who visit is cleansing and renewal.   

The Bhutanese follow Buddhism and believe the long revered Guru Rinpoche is the Second Buddha.  Lisa says “this is the story of my mid-life crises and how I wrestled with and then transcended it...” 

Over a couple of years, Lisa befriended some wonderful people from the Bhutanese people and returned to Bhutan on three different occasions. 

I found the book to be extremely interesting as very, very little is known about this closed and secluded country.  I would definitely recommend this book to others who have penchant to learn about new places that are literally unheard of or where very little is known about the country and its people.