As Mallie’s marriage crumbles, she searches for her identity through religion. She falls in love with an unscrupulous priest counseling her, but bounces back and continues her journey of self-discovery. Her friend Jenny introduces her to spiritual retreats and workshops. The story nearly becomes a Christian self-help book multiple times, as it spends much time expounding upon the wisdom of the retreats and workshops. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent portrayal of a woman set loose from what she considered a solid foundation as a wife and mother in the late 70s. Having come unmoored, she must find a way to anchor herself without a partner to lean on and no job skills. The ending is credible, hopeful, and maybe a bit feminist. Gorman does a great job of showing Mallie’s emotions ricocheting around in her head, and how hard she tries to connect with the world around her. Though a bit insular, based on the Christian themes, this book tells a story of women who buy into the Mrs. degree, and how one breaks free after a crash and burn, definitely a worthwhile read. I was fortunate to receive this e-book from She Writes Press through NetGalley.
Lyla Volpe doesn’t expect her life to change after her crush takes a drunken, semi-naked photo of her at a party, because she doesn’t want to do anything about it. Tom, her working-class, single father, astonished by her complacency, cannot let it go. The boy’s mother, Nina, is sick over the incident and also cannot let it go, though her wealthy husband attempts to cover it up. The story whips back and forth on who exactly the culprit may be, but eventually the truth comes out, and Nina finally releases her insidious secret in order to save herself, her son, and his victim. The ending wrapped up quickly in a summarized chapter, disappointing readers who expected more about how the boy redeemed himself.
This novel demonstrates how well women are indoctrinated to be polite and quiet, even in the face of pernicious behavior of men they trust, how women justify such behavior as not so bad, not something they would call rape, or even harassment, certainly not a sex crime. Wealth is no protection, as the boy’s ex-girlfriend proves with her self-destructive actions. Giffin created credible characters who interacted as expected from the reader’s perspective, privy to information and emotional accouterments before it’s shared with other characters, showing the truth in fiction.
Fans of Liane Moriarty and Kate Moretti and Celeste Ng will appreciate Giffin’s style, ability to present complex relationships, and subject matter. I was fortunate to receive a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
After a glimpse into her future as a leader of her people, this family saga opens with the childhood of the great Obeah, Meme Abeje, who lives to see the official end of slavery in her homeland of Martinque, and her niece Hetty’s migration to Canada, where she becomes an abolitionist with husband Dax Rougeaux. After a quick (and confusing) foray into the future of the Rougeaux family in the mid-1940s, Hetty’s granddaughter Eleanor brings the story full circle, when she visits Martinique to honor her Obeah great-great aunt at the end of the 19th century.
Jaeckel explores the far-reaching tentacles of slavery affecting the progeny of a slave under a softer yoke of oppression: blame placed on a woman raped, children given away in their best interest, and lack of freedom as free blacks. With a strong sense of family, the Rougeaux are tested with secrets against social mores and pass, as sexual orientation is accepted, as a child is accepted, as his mother is accepted. All are loved, a testament to family ties and sense of self that goes back to Abeje’s mother Iya, who kept her children’s African names even as French masters christened them with western ones that meant nothing to her. Abeje and Eleanor’s stories bookend the novel and stand out from the others in their similarities, a free black just as enslaved by society as her ancestor.
I was fortunate to receive this wonderful book through a Goodreads giveaway.
Anna “Bencke” Grieve’s life changed after Tsar Alexander II’s assassination. In fear for their lives as Jews, her mother, a privileged servant, asked her employers Count and Countess Chernovski to take Bencke and her older sister Esther with them to Canada. The Chernovski’s later adopt them, believing their parents to be dead. Bencke does her best to care for Esther, who suffers episodes from traumatic memories that incapacitate her at times, as she herself tries to fit her eccentric personality into Countess Chernovski’s picture perfect household. Decades later, Anna receives a phone call from the Winnipeg police informing her that her sister has committed suicide by stepping in front of a train. She heads to Canada seeking the truth. The story alternates between this investigation and a backstory of a life fully lived, from Anna’s forced relocation to NYC, to circumstances causing her to be deported to Russia during WWI. In the investigation, Anna learns her sister’s secrets and must live with them now.
Chisvin brings history to life in Anna’s story, as dear reader sees her torn from her family as a child after her country’s leader is killed and Jews are blamed, and as an activist for women’s rights alongside Margaret Sanger. She becomes a part of the melting pot that is NYC, falls into the fear of Americans who deport her in the war, and witnesses the disorder of Russia as essentially an outsider. Chisvin brings closure to Anna in her mixed emotions of finally being free of her sister as it breaks her heart. The last line of the book is brilliant in its imagery of this closure.
I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this beautiful story from the publisher through NetGalley.
Rupi Kaur divided her poetry collection into five sections. Wilting begins…on the last day of love…my heart cracked inside my body…and continues this part of the story throughout the following poems. Falling exposes the self in an introspection of negativity, moving from grief to the numbness of sudden aloneness. Rooting reaches the stage of connecting with community, recognizing pain and fear, power and strength on a larger scale. Rising expands and contract the self, bringing the strength inward…i will welcome…a partner…who is my equal…celebrating the self and being proud of ancestry. Blooming shares the fruits of the labors of those who have gone before…i am the first woman in my lineage with freedom of choice…praising her parents’ decision to immigrate and allow daughters to fully become themselves. Kaur’s poetry has been derided for being so accessible to the masses, which is a shame, because what then is the point of exclusivity of art…
This is a beautiful collection of poetry on many ideas, including love, family, immigration, and feminism. Kaur’s work is succinct and deep, thought-provoking, and conversation-inducing.
Patricia sacrifices her social life and romance to care for her mother, whom everyone assumes is going through “the change.” Patty knows better, but doesn’t know how to help her mother find herself after accommodating her husband their entire marriage. As she and her siblings come of age, they move on and away from their parents, becoming distinctly different individuals who come together in the end for Patty’s wedding. Told in short story form, going back generations, the women in Patty’s ancestry lay a foundation of accommodation and depression that she is determined to escape. The women in these stories are strong, but historical convention keeps them in check, and they don’t have the tools to continually fight social mores of gender expectations. The writing flows so well that the stories lead right into each other, though they can, and have (and won prizes), stand alone. Together, they show the pattern repeated by each generation of women in choosing partners to “save” them from their families, judging poorly based on immediate escape. That they stay with their ill choices is more a matter of their time in history, as shown by Patty’s mother being unable to get a driver’s license without her husband’s or father’s permission.
The tales in this book depict would-be heroines succumbing the constraints of patriarchal society, straining to be free. That Patty’s father has a “heart attack” when her mother announces that she is leaving him will be familiar to many women. Thus she stays out of obligation, a heart-rending decision.
Chloe finds lots of trouble when she visits her fellow curator Claudia in Mineral Springs, where the historical site that her friend works for is at risk of closing due to monies being directed toward Chloe’s worksite Old World Wisconsin. While Chloe researches the mystery of the ancient skeleton found in another friend’s basement, she nearly succumbs to contemporary murderers. The house with the potential murder victim was built by the Pascoe family, whom we follow in a parallel tale on their immigration from Cornwall, England to mineral mining pioneering in Wisconsin.
I’m delighted to discover that this book is part of a series. Unfortunately, I’ve just read the latest, which is actually fine, because it’s self-contained. The author is an excellent storyteller. She takes the reader through the past and present tales, linking them through artifacts, ancestry, and setting. I’m frustrated that clues for Chloe’s epiphanies are not always revealed to the reader, but secrets are released in a timely manner. My questions as I read were all answered by the end, not necessarily where I would have placed them, but satisfying, nonetheless. The history woven throughout made me want to visit the historical sites. She even included photographs and a glossary of Cornish terms.
Readers who love a good mystery and / or well-wrought historical fiction will like this series. I received an ARC through NetGalley.com and the launch date is October 8.