Category: FG – Fiction General


The Japanese Love by Isabel Allende

December 14th, 2018 — 1:59pm

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

The author provides an in-depth description of the various characters presented in the book. This includes the experience of a Jewish family in Eastern Europe as the Nazis take over, living in a Japanese internment camp in the United States during World War II, as well as the subsequent life of some of the survivors of these events. We also meet a young woman who suffered from tremendous abuse and molestation as a child by her stepfather. However, this writer found this book disjointed as it jumped from one character to the other without any particular theme or purpose. While this approach often allows for the unfolding of the background after we have met a character much as a therapist learns the psychodynamics as the sessions progress, each of these tales did not seem to have coherence. Even the love lives of the various subjects of the book while very interesting did not seem to have relevance to any storyline. It may very well be that the characters were based on real people and this is the nature of their lives. If this is the case, the author gave no such clue in any postscript to the book. Certainly, we are open-minded and appreciate any variations in the love life and relationships that people may have but a novel describing these things becomes more engaging when we can see how they develop or have some insight into any response or struggle to a biological propensity.

The author certainly had empathy for how people might deal with aging as she tried to show how her main characters handled the late stages of life. It is also interesting to try to understand how the author chose the title for her book. The essence of the various stories in my opinion was not simply centered around this particular man or the fact that he was Japanese. Although I had concerns, this book appears to have been well received by the public and is another best seller from Ms. Allende.

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Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney

November 28th, 2018 — 11:18pm

Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney

This is a story about a remarkable woman born at the turn of the 20th century and who died in the mid 1980s. It is a work of fiction by a very talented writer who based this novel on the writings of Margaret Fishback, whose archives she studied in depth. Ms. Fishback was a poet, feminist and a highly paid advertising executive for R. H. Macy, the world renowned department store in New York City.

There is no real plot or storyline for this book. Each charming chapter tells a story of a particular event in the life of this woman. It is told often by flashbacks as she takes a stroll through her beloved Manhattan. It might be how she fell in love at first sight, her marriage, her pregnancy, the birth of her son, having to leave her job because she gave birth to her child, her divorce, a day at work at R.H. Macy, various parties she has attended or one of the many strolls that she did through Manhattan.

What makes this book so engrossing was the ability of the author to hold the reader’s attention with her insight into herself and the people around her. Of course, the credit for the success of this book must go to Ms. Rooney, the author, although we cannot know how much of the compelling nature of it came from the writings of Ms. Fishback, which were discovered and credited by the author. I found this book a page turner and a very good read.

 

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Waking Lions by Ayelet-Gundar-Gosher

October 15th, 2018 — 1:12pm

 Waking Lions  by Ayelet-Gundar-Gosher

 The setting is modern day Israel. A neurosurgeon in the early evening at the end of his shift at the hospital, takes his SUV out on an open road to release some of the tension built-up during the day. After speeding on what he thought was a deserted road, he hears a thud. Upon getting out of the car, he realizes that he has killed black Eritrean man. He uncharacteristically decides to leave the scene of the accident and vows to tell no one what happened. His wife, who is a homicide detective, is assigned the case.

Certainly, this has the makings of a great story, which it is. However, the author is intent on also making it a study of many aspects of human behavior including marital relationships, honesty, fidelity, blackmail, prejudice, discrimination, drugs, conscience and a lot more, perhaps too much. I can see that the author deserves the accolades that she has received for the book, as she has developed many wonderful skillful metaphors worked into the narrative. For me, however, these many deviations or sidetracks directed me away from my interest in the characters and the plot. I found myself reading faster and faster and flicking my finger more quickly on my iPad as I was not inclined to reflect as much as the author wanted me to do. This may have been my shortcoming as the book was very well received and recommended to me from people that I highly respect.

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FM - Fiction Mystery

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

September 3rd, 2018 — 2:35pm

The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

The main theme of this book is well known to every black parent and child who has participated in “The Talk.” A black teenage boy and girl who were like buddies since they were young kids are riding at night in a car. A white policeman pulls them over. The teenage boy who was driving was asked to get out of the car. He wants to know why is he being pulled over and is irritated. Skip a few beats, and the next thing we know there are several gunshots. The boy is dead and the girl is left to tell the story – the whole story.

Although this is a novel, we know every nuance of this painful tale could be true. The details of this girl’s life and the life of her parents, siblings, relatives, friends and the life and death of her childhood friend all feel genuine and real as they jump from the pages of this book or as they light up on your iPad.

Our heroine, on the surface seemed to lead two lives. One is at the private school she attended with her white friends, which her parents hoped would give her the best chance in life. The other was her time with her friends and family in the “hood” where she was comfortable and could speak her mind and talk in her true language. Did I mention that Starr (that was her name) actually was bilingual and much of the book was written in a language that was not my native tongue, but for some reason every word and nuance was crystal clear.

The author found a way to take us on journey into the lives, hearts and emotions of this 16-year-old black girl and also her parents, siblings, uncle, cousins and friends. We came away with insight into how a destructive riot can envelop a community.

However, there is a glimmer of optimism among the painful hate and destruction in this book and that is in the character of a bewildered white young man  who is Starr’s boyfriend. He stands by and closely follow the bright light that is his inspired girlfriend. His journey appears to be one of insight and understanding into the pain and hate that rumbles through the streets. Perhaps this is the author’s metaphor for hope that will eventually emerge in the future.

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Home Fire by Kamila Schamsie

July 23rd, 2018 — 11:27pm

Home Fire

by Kamila Schamsie

This is a well-written novel by an experienced author, although I did find it somewhat drawn out.   The story depicts a British-Muslim family of Pakistani origin living in England who have to deal with the situation when one son (who has a female twin sister) decides to explore his long-deceased father’s roots and become a Jihadist. Not only does this disrupt his family but it also impacts on the British Home Secretary whose son has fallen in love with the would be Jihadist’s twin sister. The story provides insight into some of the contemporary political, social and religious turmoil that exists in the world today. It also examines how such struggles impact on family dynamics. The author has a style, which allows the reader to identify with each of the characters and feel their pain

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A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

May 15th, 2018 — 1:01pm

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

This is an interesting, although somewhat drawn out novel about an era that I have not thought much about. Through the eyes of its main character, Count Rostov, we go through a handful of decades starting in 1922 as the Russian Revolution takes place. Our protagonist is basically sentenced to house arrest in the luxurious Metropol  Hotel in the heart of Moscow. He must change his living quarters to a small room from the prestigious suite he would frequently inhabit before the revolution. He becomes the head waiter in this hotel where he was previously a very honored patron.

Count Rostov befriends a nine-year-old girl who is also living in a hotel and who runs around exploring all the nooks and crannies of this fascinating building and even comes across a pass key for all the rooms. Ultimately, decades later he meets the grown daughter of this young girl. The story is a complicated one, but allows the reader to get a perspective of how life in Russia evolved and impacted many people in different ways. It is also a story about how a mature educated man might be able to live his life if his boundaries were suddenly limited to one building mostly with the same people, although occasionally encountering others who were passing through and even has an opportunity for some romance.

 

 

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An American Marriage : A Novel by Tayari Jones

February 20th, 2018 — 1:34pm

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This is a story of an unusual love triangle. A young married loving couple finds themselves involuntarily separated for five years. When there is an opportunity to reunite, wouldn’t you know if there is a third party on the scene? The story deals not only with love but with morality. The author presents the inner personal thoughts of each protagonist going back and forth between each one. The reader has an opportunity to empathize with each person as there is a building up to a very complicated conclusion.

The main characters are Black and the author is reminding the reader that our society frequently does not play fair with people of color. As the story builds to its crescendo and conclusion, I am on the edge of my seat but I also felt that I was being whipped back and forth by the author, which was very disconcerting. However, whether you feel gratified by the ending or not, it is worth going along for the ride .

1 comment » | FG - Fiction General, FR - Fiction Romance

Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

September 19th, 2017 — 5:11pm

Behold the Dreamers

By: Imbolo Mbue

 

There could not be a more pertinent book to read during the time period that I read this book. The immigration issue, DACA and related subjects are front and center in the current political discussions.

Imbolo Mbue has obviously had some very personal experiences depicted in this book about immigrants struggling to be able to stay in the United States and not be deported. This is the plight of the two main characters, Jende and Neni, a married couple from Cameroon in Africa now living in New York City and having two children. He works as a chauffeur for a wealthy businessman and Neni, his wife, takes care of the children and works, and is studying to be a pharmacist. They have a flimsy story as to why they should be allowed to stay in the United States and they are living from court date to court date with tremendous anxiety whether or not they will be deported.

There is a very engrossing storyline that makes a great drama as well as informing us of the nature of the relationship between these struggling immigrants. We come to understand the legal intrigues as well as the most personal feelings that may be experienced by people going through this situation.

The writing is excellent, although I had one complaint with the author’s style and format. During several points in the story, I was totally engrossed and on the edge of my seat swiping page after page on my iPad when the author adds a chapter that goes back in time in order to help develop the character or provide background information. I personally found that a distraction and wish she could have found another method to achieve her goal of enlightening the reader with more background.

I came away from this book with a new and deeper appreciation of the current immigration crisis. But really, as moving as this story, it is obviously a tale of only one couple and their individual story struggling for the right to stay in the United States. There must be thousands of other scenarios and I feel we have only scratched the surface but nevertheless it was a worthwhile experience.

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, P - Political

How It All Began by Penelope Lively

August 19th, 2017 — 10:55am

How It All Began   by Penelope Lively

I must confess that circumstances led me to read this book over a more prolonged period of time than usual. I believe my appreciation for the story suffered because of this. The premise of this book is that events that occur in one person’s life will influence and even change the course of the life of another person which will impact and change the course of still another individual and so on and so on. The seminal event from the author’s point of view in this story was the mugging of an elderly woman which caused her to have a broken hip which led her to move in with her daughter and son-in-law which caused her daughter to take off from work and then brought about changes in the trajectory of other people. Needless to say there were events which led the woman and her mugger to cross paths which were not explained in this book

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t quite get with the flow of the story but I did appreciate the engaging style of writing of Ms. Lively. The story of each person might very well have been developed into an interesting novel itself. However, from my point of view, the overall experience of this novel was not a satisfying one.

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

June 29th, 2017 — 11:44pm

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This book as the title suggests is about books and people who love them and love each other.

The story takes place mostly on Alice Island, a small island off the coast of New England. In reality there is no such place but it reminds me of Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. On this island there is a book store owned and run by a middle-aged man A.J. Fikry who had suffered the premature death of his wife. He also has had the unusual experience of having a woman who he did not know, leave her two year old in his bookstore before she ended her own life by walking into the ocean. Unexpectedly, he decided to adopt this infant and raise her. There is one more event necessary to set the scene for this novel and that is the appearance of Amelia, the new representative from a publishing company whose job would be to periodically a few times a year take the ferry to Alice Island where she would interact with the owner of the bookstore about new book releases. There is chemistry between A.J. and Amelia but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way for them to blend their lives.

There are other important characters in this book including Ismay, the sister of A.J.’s departed wife and Lambiase, a local police officer who falls under the spell of books and this bookstore.

There is an important concept in psychiatry called psychic determinism, meaning that all things are determined by events that occurred in the past. Our lives are altered by our interactions with various people, places and events. There are obviously an infinite number of examples how the existence of one element might change many lives. In this case we come to appreciate how this one bookstore and many of the people who came through its doors were altered and determined.

While I did enjoy this novel I also felt that I missed a good deal of appreciating the depth of it because there were many references to books that I have not read. In fact, each chapter started off with a reference to a classic story, which I am sure added to the enjoyment by those who read and remembered that book.

Finally, this novel also provided a reminder of how modern technology may be changing the bookstores of the world forever. At one point in the novel, A.J.’s mother appeared with gifts for adults and the child which consisted of E-readers. A.J. understandably didn’t like the idea of such a gift. We read this novel on an E-reader and we are little sad to say that we don’t know if we will find a reason to set foot in a bookstore again. Unlike the situation in this novel where book clubs were held in the bookstore, our own book club takes place in our members’ homes. This novel may very well end up belonging to the category of historical novels.

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