Saturday, September 29, 2012

ALL THINGS NEW: A NOVEL (LYNN AUSTIN)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Baker Publishing Group|October 1, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7642-0897-3 
 
New Historical Novel from 7-time Christy Award Winner!  In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to the Virginia plantation.  But the bitter realities of the life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken.  The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream.  And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well.  Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival – and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know.  Josephine’s mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak…but a bitter hatred fuels her.  With skill and emotion, Lynn Austin brings to life the difficult years of the Reconstruction era by interweaving the stories of three women- daughter, mother, and freed slave – in a riveting tale. 
 
My Review: 
 
Twenty-two-year-old, Josephine Weatherly is sitting by an upstairs window in her Aunt Olivia’s home with her sixteen-year-old sister, Mary.  They thought that they had been through the worst of the war but that wasn’t the case at all.  President Davis and the Confederate government were leaving Richmond, Virginia, people were looting, and fires could be seen in the distant sky.  “The enemy invasion everyone had long feared was about to begin.”  The Yankees were coming and they feared for their lives.  The two sisters watched refugees fleeing by the wagonload but Josephine didn’t know where else they could go.  Hunger was making Josephine uncaring and unable to think clearly. 
 
Josephine was feeling slighted by God and felt He was ignoring her.  She had tried to be good, do what she was supposed to do, and prayed for him to protect her two brothers as they’d marched off to battle.  But Samuel had been killed and no one had heard from Daniel in weeks, and her father had died of pneumonia.  Now she was praying for God to watch over her mother, Eugenia, Mary, and herself who had all been left alone on their plantation outnumbered by slaves.  Josephine felt God’s reply was to send a “flood of Yankees into the countryside, forcing her family to flee to Richmond for safety.”  Josephine didn’t know if she would ever see White Oak Plantation again. 
 
Josephine was angry with God and she had decided in church that prayer was a complete waste of her time.  She decided that He would do whatever He wanted anyway regardless of her pleas.  She also decided she wouldn’t ask for protection from the fire or the spreading chaos or the Yankee invasion, what was the point.  She no longer cared about the outcome and deliverance would come by death, uncertainty, or overwhelming sorrow.  She only wished it would end soon as the fear was almost paralyzing. 
 
The next-door neighbour came to the door to inform them they had more than looters to worry about now.  All the guards at the state penitentiary had left their posts and all the prisoners were now on the loose.  He advised them to allow their slaves to sleep inside the house with them for extra protection. 
 
Josephine still believed in God, only “a fool could deny the existence of a Creator.  But she no longer believed in prayer or in a God who cared about her suffering.  It was time to bury her childish faith in a God who was her loving Father, watching over her, doing what was best for her.  As far as she was concerned, He was as distant and unreachable as her own beloved father.”  It is sometimes difficult not to lose your faith in the face of such adversity.  We are, after all, human and not perfect.
 
Eugenia, Josephine, Mary and their slaves moved back to White Oak Plantation.  All the slaves were free now and could leave whenever they wanted, some already had.  Lizzie and Otis decided to stay for a while which was fine with Eugenia as long as they would continue to work for her, free or not, they could stay. 
 
Josephine continued with her lack of faith in God and struggled to believe that He ever listened to her.  She was truly feeling that God didn’t answer prayer.  How many times in our own lives do we feel this way?  Sometime we want something so badly that ashamedly we find ourselves bargaining with God in the hope that it will prompt Him into giving in to our desires.  It is at times like these or when facing adversity that we have the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons but due to our lack of faith we are blinded and don’t see that at the time. 
 
The other issue Josephine dealt with was her anger at God.  She felt He was leaving her adrift in the sea of life and just ignoring her, had tuned her out and she didn’t know how to deal with those feelings.  When she meets a young man named, Alexander, who is firm in his belief and faith in God and his good knowledge of scripture, he was able to assist Josephine in sorting out these feelings of abandonment and anger.  She didn’t know that it was okay to be angry with God, but once she did know she didn’t understand how to communicate those feelings to him.  My heart went out to Josephine for the struggles she was coping with in her daily life but more importantly her feelings of loneliness without God.  It is only through this young man and one of their freed slaves, Lizzie that Josephine finally begins to understand. 
 
All Things New was not only a story about losing faith and feeling anger, but how to go about regaining that faith and turning that anger into joy.  It is also a story of change – each woman in the story changes due to the circumstances they are faced with and it made me realize how much more positive I could be in my own life by making some changes.  Some of us can remain deeply faithful during times of great adversity or when we feel that God just isn’t listening to us, while others can remain steadfast in their faith no matter what.  God is always listening to us, God always answers us but sometimes we’re just so caught up in our troubles that we don’t hear Him, or we do hear Him but pretend we don’t because sometimes change is painful and its sometimes easier to stay in our comfort zone. 
 
Lynn Austin has outdone herself again with All Things New and I’ll definitely be touting its virtues to all who will listen. 
 
I’d also like to thank Lynn Austin and Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary copy of the book.
 


Sunday, September 23, 2012

JOY FOR BEGINNERS: A NOVEL (ERICA BAUERMEISTER)

 
Story Description: 
 
Berkley Trade|June 5, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-425-24742-6 
 
A Library Journal Best Book of the Year 
 
What would you do with a second chance at life? 
 
Having survived a life-threatening illness, Kate celebrates by gathering with six close friends.  At an intimate outdoor dinner on a warm September evening, the women challenge Kate to start her new lease on life by going white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon with her daughter.  But Kate is reluctant to take the risk. 
 
That is, until her friend Marion proposes a pact: if Kate will face the rapids, each woman will do one thing in the next year that scares her.  Kate agrees, with one provision – she didn’t get to choose her challenge, so she gets to choose theirs.  Whether it’s learning to let go of the past or getting a tattoo, each woman’s story interweaves with the others, forming a seamless portrait of the power of female friendships.  From the author of The School of Essential Ingredients comes a beautifully crafted novel about daring to experience true joy, starting with one small step at a time. 
 
My Review: 
 
Kate is home again after just surviving breast cancer.  To celebrate she invites six of her closest friends to come and share in an intimate dinner.  Kate was hit very hard when she discovered she had breast cancer. 
 
The evening of the dinner arrived and each friend: Daria, Ava, Sara, Marion, Caroline, and Hadley each arrived at Kate’s door with some part of the meal.  While in the kitchen, one of her friends sees a pamphlet on the fridge about white-water rafting in the Grand Canyon.  She brings it to the table with her and asks Kate to explain.  Kate tells the group that her adult daughter is going on the trip.  The women all agree that it’s a fabulous opportunity and think that Kate should go with her to celebrate her second chance at life.  It takes a little bit of convincing but Kate finally relents and agrees to go with her only after Marion declares that if Kate is going to be brave enough to white-water raft, then each of the six of them will do one thing in the next year that scares her.  Of course, Kate thinks this is a marvelous idea and adds that since she didn’t get to choose her challenge, she herself will pick everyone else’s challenge. 
 
I found I could relate better to some characters better than others.  My favourite challenge was Sara’s trip to Italy as I’ve learned a lot about that country, love Italian food, have a long-standing pen pal there, and would love to visit someday myself. 
 
Joy for Beginners is a great representation of being able to find joy and learning to feel and embrace that joy.  It’s a story of love, friendship, heartbreak, hope, and remembering that life is for living especially if given a second chance.
 


THE FISHERMAN (LARRY HUNTSPERGER)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Revell|February 1, 2003|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-8007-5844-8 
 
Few New Testament characters are as fascinating as Simon Barjona, the man called Peter – a reluctant disciple who changed the face of Christianity.  For more than twenty-five years, author and pastor Larry Huntsperger has spent hundreds of hours studying New Testament documents in preparation for writing this fictional first-person account of the life of this enigmatic disciple. 
 
The result is a novel that faithfully follows Scripture while offering a powerful, fresh narration of the story of one of Christianity’s greatest men.  In the fast-paced chapters of The Fisherman, readers will relive Peter’s initial resistance to the pull he feels toward Jesus and his ministry.  They’ll walk with Peter alongside Jesus through the events of the Gospels and catch intimate glimpses of the disciples’ personalities.  They’ll even “feel” the dust on the roads as familiar stories are transformed into original, spellbinding accounts from Peter’s life. 
 
This fascinating novel will help readers “to see the Master as a man.  For, if we cannot see him correctly as a man, we have no hope of understanding him correctly as our God.” 
 
My Review: 
 
The Fisherman was a very moving story narrated in the first-person by Simon whom Jesus renamed Peter, “The Rock.”  Peter was a man like so many of us, we each have our own agenda on how Jesus should work in our lives but when He shows us the correct way, we often do the opposite.  What happened to “THY WILL be done?” 
 
Mr. Huntsperger managed to pen this novel in such a way that I felt throughout the book that He was talking to me.  I can’t believe the level of love that I felt nor the emotions his words invoked in me.  I feel I now have a much better understanding of Jesus through the way He talked and in the way Mr. Huntsperger presented the information. 
 
The vivid descriptions and the way in which the material was presented made me feel as though I was there.  In my mind’s eye I could clearly see Jesus and the twelve disciples and could feel the sand under my feet and the wind blowing through my hair.  The emotions this story invokved in me was real and there were times when I hung my head in shame and others where the tears were dripping down my cheeks. 
 
Mr. Huntsperger is a talented writer with the uncanny ability to place the reader into the pages of the book.  The disciples were just ordinary everyday people like you and I and I wonder had we been there then would we have been chosen to be a disciple?  The epilogue at the end added that extra umpf and was phenomenal.  This book was a real eye-opener and one that I will be reading again and again.  Thank you Mr. Huntsperger for penning a novel in lay-man’s terms that we could understand.
 


Saturday, September 22, 2012

BELOW STAIRS: THE BESTSELLING MEMOIRS OF A 1920's KITCHEN MAID (MARGARET POWELL)

 
 

STORY DESCRIPTION: 

Pan MacMillan|March 29, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-330-53538 - 0 

A compelling and colourful memoir that takes the reader inside the forgotten world of domestic service. 

Arriving at the great houses of 1920’s London, fifteen-year-old Margaret’s life in service was about to begin... 

As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and even bootlaces to be ironed.  Work started at 5:30am and went on until after dark.  It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. 

Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaid’s curler’s, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlour maid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation.  Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants, Below Stairs is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman, who, though her position was lowly, never stopped aiming high. 

My Review: 

Below Stairs is the true story of Margaret Powell who worked as a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – in 1920’s England.  Margaret had lived with her parents and siblings where laughter was abundant but money and food were not.  At the age of fifteen she was forced to go to work so her parents would have one less mouth to feed. 

Working as a ‘domestic’ was not easy – the hours were long, the pay cheap, and the work hard.  We have to remember that this took place in 1920’s England when there were no modern conveniences.  Old stoves had to be blackened by hand, sterling silver polished daily or weekly depending upon the mistress you worked for, rugs had to be beaten and the domestics lived and slept in the cold, dark, damp basement. 

When Margaret began working as a kitchen maid or helper to the cook, she didn’t have a clue how to set up a table properly or how to put a meal together.  Luckily for her, she was a quick study in most things and eventually become a pro with vegetables, desserts, and souffl├ęs but couldn’t cook a piece of meat to save her life. 

After spending many years as a kitchen maid she did eventually become a cook herself which pleased her to no end. 

I appreciated the book for its honesty, directness, and the informative way in which it was written.  I also appreciated the integrity with which Margaret wrote – she wasn’t backward at coming forward about expressing the anger and contempt she felt for some of those she worked for. 

Overall I found Below Stairs to be a funny, honest, and charming read. 

Margaret was born in 1907 in Hove and died in 1984 at the age of 77.
 


Friday, September 21, 2012

BEAUTIFUL RUINS (JESS WALTER)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
HarperCollins Publishers|June 4, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-220713-5 
 
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat.  She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. 
 
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier. 
 
What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives.  From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the star struck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.  Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams. 
 
My Review: 
 
I was very disappointed in this novel.  For all the hype and drum rolls I heard, I expected an interesting and phenomenal read – boy was I wrong! 
 
It’s hard to explain but I actually found the story confusing at times and at other times rambling on and on and on but really not going anywhere.  I will admit that I skipped and just skimmed through some of the chapters just so my misery could end a tad sooner. 
 
Giving an undesirable review of a book bothers me greatly but when I began this book review blog I vowed to be honest.  And, just because I didn’t enjoy Beautiful Ruins doesn’t mean that you won’t.  I’ve read many glowing reviews so I know a lot of people did enjoy it thoroughly and I sincerely hope that you will too.
 
 


DAHANU ROAD (ANOSH IRANI)

 
Story Description: 
 
Doubleday Canada|December 19, 2011|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-385-66699-2 
 
“The only statement of revolt the poor could make was to put an end to their own misery.  It happened all the time – men lay themselves on train tracks, hanged themselves from trees, consumed rat poison, and women set their kerosene-soaked bodies alight in front of their husbands.  These were blazing ends to insignificant journeys.  But in all this, there was always one man who, in that final gush of blood, in that final breaking of neck and bone, set things in motion.” 
 
Zairos Irani, a young man of inherited leisure, is meandering through his family’s lush chickoo orchards near Mumbai when he comes across a distressing sight:  Hanging from one of the fruit trees is the lifeless body of Ganpat, a worker from the indigenous Warli tribe.  Ganpat’s ancestors once owned the land, before his father’s alcohol debts caused the deed to be transferred to Zairos’s grandfather, Shapur.  The two family destinies have been entwined ever since ancient grudges once again awoke by Ganpat’s final desperate act. 
 
Zairos feels obliged to notify Ganpat’s family before the authorities come to ask needless questions and extract bribes.  A tractor bearing Ganpat’s sister and anguished daughter, Kusum soon trundles into the orchard, and when Kusum alights, Zairos’s curiosity is piqued.  As a landowner, he knows that he is well above her station, and yet her dignity and beauty lead him to cast aside taboos and risk the wagging tongues of neighbourhood gossips.  Though wary at first, the grieving Kusum comes to return his affection, asking only that he assist her in achieving what her dead father could not – by putting an end to the violence she has endured at the hands of a drunken husband. 
 
Zairos cannot get advice from his father, Aspi, whose clownishness masks thinly-veiled nihilism.  Nor can he confide in his beloved grandfather, Shapur, whose massive hands planted the chickoo trees that he adores as much as his own sons.  Shapur built the family empire from a desperate start as an orphaned refugee, and any act that might threaten the delicate legacy spawned by his sacrifices would only provoke rage in the old man, who increasingly dwells in memories.  So Zairos whiles away his time at Anna’s, the local haunt for the male leisure class, dreaming of a future with Kusum.  There, with the support of some equally underemployed sidekicks, Zairos hatches a scheme to scare Kusum’s husband into releasing her, while keeping his own moral integrity intact.  But alas, Zairos’s scheme will not unfold as planned, and along the way he will unwittingly expose family secrets that may well be better left buried… 
 
With brilliant gusto, Irani has built his Dahanu Road upon the pathways forged by authors of tragicomic romance spanning centuries and continents, from the Persian classic Layla and Majnun, to Romeo and Juliet or Wuthering Heights.  Dahanu Road is a suspense-filled family saga, sprawling romantic epic in which the delineations between the oppressor and the oppressed, or between love and hate, are demonstrated to be maddeningly deceptive. 
 
My Review: 
 
Try as I might on three separate occasions, I just couldn’t get into this book at all.  Perhaps the synopsis above will entice some of you to give it a try.
 




THE WATCH (JOYDEEP ROY-BHATTACHARYA)

 
Story Description: 
 
Knopf Canada|June 5, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-307-40223-3 
 
In this powerful novel set in contemporary Kandahar, an Afghan woman approaches an American military base to demand the return of her brother’s body. 
 
At a stark outpost in the Kandahar mountain range, a team of American soldiers watches a young Afghan woman approach.  She has come to beg for the return of her brother’s body.  The camp’s tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil as the men argue about what to do next.  Taking its cue from the Antigone myth, this significant, eloquent novel re-creates the chaos, intensity, and immediacy of war, and conveys the inevitable repercussions felt by the soldiers and their families – especially one sister. 
 
My Review: 
 
A woman who has lost both of her legs in an air attack on her village wheels herself on a little cart many, many miles to an American Army base in Kandahar.  She stops outside and begins to communicate with the soldiers inside by yelling back and forth.  She tells them that she has come to claim the body of her brother so she can give him a proper burial that she feels he so rightly deserves.  The soldiers on the army base don’t trust her and think she may be harbouring a bomb in her small cart.  At night, under cover of darkness, they turn on spot lights to keep an eye on her.  Is retrieving her brother’s body the real reason she has come? 
 
The story weaves in other stories of the soldiers on the base with a realistic depiction of the language and behaviour of the soldiers.  All of the soldiers are trying to decide what this woman’s real intent is. 
 
The Watch gives us non-military folk first-hand experience about what war zones are really like.  I now have a better understanding why a lot of these soldiers return home changed people.  Overall, this was an excellent and eye-opening read. 
 
 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS (KATHERINE BOO)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Random House Publishing Group|February 7, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4000-6755-8 
 
From the Pulitzer Prize-winner, Katherine Book, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities. 
 
In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human. 
 
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope.  Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, see “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away.  Aha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption.  With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter – Annawadi’s “most everything girl” – will soon become its first female college graduate.  And even the poorest Annawadians like, Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.” 
 
But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal.  As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed.  And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people.   
 
With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget. 
 
My Review: 
 
Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a work of nonfiction that is hard to believe.  Realizing that the people in this story are real, the incidents that took place are real, and the fact that such a horrible slum as this even exists in Mumbai is hard to swallow.  What a sad and depressing way to be forced to live. 
 
I was utterly astonished and truly affected upon the realization that entire families live, literally, in ‘cardboard’ huts.  There is no real protection from the elements or the rats that chew on the children’s faces as they sleep.  As a mother, it would pain me deeply to be forced to raise my children under such dire circumstances.   When the storms come, the huts are flooded with raw sewage and the smell is overpowering.  Sickness is prevalent and the medical care is atrocious as the hospitals are filthy dirty.  The condition and health of the women and girls was especially distressing to me.  These poor souls live in a very harsh and unforgiving environment and one of the poorest of the poor. 
 
There is no escape for these people, no upward mobility, and no way to advance to get themselves out of living in this horrible tragic life.  The extreme level of poverty is truly sickening and I’ve been so affected by this story that it has propelled me into looking at a donation of some sort to an organization that might be able to help these people. 
 
Katherine Boo has written a remarkable, thoroughly researched, engaging, insightful, educational, and informative ethnography of slum life on the outskirts of Mumbai in Annwadi.  Boo’s ability to capture the devastating toll this type of living has on its inhabitants is truly phenomenal. 
 
Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a must read in order to fully understand the degrading and indignant conditions in which some of our fellow human beings are forced to live.  It has been quite a while where I have personally been so affected by a piece of writing.  As I finish this review my shock factor is still at its height.
 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

HOME FRONT (KRISTIN HANNAH)

 
 
Story Description:
 
St. Martin’s Press|January 31, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9 
 
In her bestselling novels Kristin Hannah has plumbed the depths of friendship, the loyalty of sisters, and the secrets mothers keep.  Now, in her most emotionally powerful story yet, she explores the intimate landscape of a troubled marriage with this provocative and timely portrait of a husband and wife, in love and at war. 
 
All marriages have a breaking point.  All families have wounds.  All wars have a cost… 
 
Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life – children, careers, bills, chores – even as their twelve-year-old marriage is falling apart.  Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls.  As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a soldier she has always understood the true meaning of duty.  In her letters home, she paints a rose-coloured version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth.  But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have forseen.  When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own – for everything that matters to his family. 
 
At once a profoundly honest look at modern marriage and a dramatic exploration of the toll war takes on an ordinary American family.  Home Front is a story of love, loss, heroism, honour, and ultimately, hope. 
 
My Review: 
 
Jolene Larsen lives with her parents who are constantly drunk and fighting.  It’s the same situation time and time again – her parents drinking, then the arguing, then her father staggering out the door, and her mother crying saying how much she loves him and what is she going to do without him.  Then comes the make-up period where they hug and kiss, say they’re sorry until the next time.  Only this last time disaster strikes. 
 
Fast forward twenty-three years to present day where Jolene is now forty-one-years-old and married to Michael Zarkades, a criminal defense attorney with his own firm.  They have two daughters, twelve-year-old, Betsy and four-year-old, Lucy.  Jolene is a Blackhawk pilot with the National Guard.  The Zarkades’s live in a beautiful home along the shores of Liberty Bay in Poulsbo, Washington. 
 
Jolene’s love for Michael is solid and runs deep, although they haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together lately as Michael never seems to make it home on time for dinner or to Betsy’s events at school but Jolene is proud of his work ethic and commitment to his job.  Then one night, eleven-months after the death of his father, Michael tells Jolene that he no longer loves her.  Jolene is devastated and deeply hurt. 
 
A few days later, Jolene and best-friend, Tami who lives next-door with her husband, Carl and their son, Seth are called to deploy to Iraq.  Michael isn’t at all happy about having to become Mr. Mom for the next year and keep up his gruelling work schedule.  Plus, he has never supported Jolene’s decision to become a Blackhawk pilot and has never attended any events related to Jolene’s job. 
 
Naturally her daughters, Betsy and Lucy are devastated at the news of their mother leaving them for an entire year.  Betsy especially is affected being a pre-teen and needing her mother more than ever. 
 
The day of deployment arrives and Jolene heads off into war with the parting words: “I don’t love you anymore” crushing her heart and her spirit.  When a disaster strikes, can Michael swallow his pride, step up to the plate and tell Jolene how he truly feels before it is too late? 
 
The underlying sub-plot in this story revolves around PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that many of the soldiers return from war with.  Many of these war heroes come home as complete strangers to their families and even to themselves. 
 
Home Front  is a hard book to read but reminds us how thankful we need to be to any and all soldiers/members of the military and recognize that they are putting their lives on the line for us.  I don’t know that those of us who are non-military families can truly appreciate what those families go through.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine having to wait at home every single day waiting for word from my husband, son, daughter, cousin or other family member.  After reading Home Front I will be sure to say ‘thank you’ from now on when I cross paths with a service person.  Excellent read that I’ll be highly recommending.
 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ABOVE ALL THINGS (TANIS RIDEOUT)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
McClelland & Stewart Inc.|June 19, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-7710-7635-0 
 
The Paris Wife meets Into Thin Air in this breathtaking debut novel of obsession and divided loyalties, which brilliantly weaves together the harrowing story of George Mallory’s ill-fated 1924 attempt to be the first man to conquer Mount Everest, with that of a single day in the life of his wife as she waits at home in England for news of his return. 
 
A captivating blend of historical fact and imaginative fiction, Above All Things moves seamlessly back and forth between the epic story of Mallory’s legendary final expedition and a heartbreaking account of a day in the life of Ruth Mallory.  Through George’s perspective, and that of the newest member of the climbing team, Sandy Irvine, we get an astonishing picture of the terrible risks taken by the men on the treacherous terrain of the Himalaya.  But it is through Ruth’s eyes that a complex portrait of a marriage emerges, one forged on the eve of the First World War, shadowed by its losses, and haunted by the ever-present possibility that George might not come home.  
 
Drawing on years of research, this powerful and beautifully written novel is a timeless story of desire, redemption, and the lengths we are willing to go for honour, glory, and love. 
 
My Review: 
 
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!  The alternating chapters between different days of George’s legendary climb and only one day in Ruth’s life was a brilliant concept on Ms. Rideout’s part.  The exhilaration, suspense, and gripping writing is amazing.  The vivid descriptions of the bone-chilling cold, the cutting wind, and the glaring ice made you feel as if you were there climbing with the group. 
 
I felt a special affinity for Ruth who waited at home in England to hear word from George, a man she loved very deeply.  Ruth did not want George to go on this expedition but knew deep in her heart that it was something George just had to do.  The call of Everest was just too much for him to resist. 
 
Above All Things would make for an interesting discussion among book club members or just between two friends.  There is so much to review in this phenomenal story.  I’ll be highly recommending it for sure.