I just finished reading "The Texicans" by Nina Vida, great Historical Fiction
Monday, July 27, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
"Last Light Over Carolina" by Mary Alice Monroe is a wonderful family saga. This family saga takes place in South Carolina in a coastal town named McClellan. Carolina is Bud's wife. Bud is a shrimper. Carolina and Bud love one another very much. To show it Bud named his second boat Carolina. I had the chance to meet the whole family: There is Lizzy, their daughter. Their son-in-law, Josh, and grandchild, Will. To make their world complete they have a set of friends. I also met the patriarch of the family, Oz.
While watching from the dock, I thought about how perfect there life must seem to those who didn't live with the couple behind closed doors. First of all, shrimping for a living is not romantic. It is very hard work. Hard work which does not always pay well or leave the mind centered and at peace by the time the man does get home. Bud is always in conflict with himself and where to get the time to give his family who desperately need and miss him.
I liked "Last Light Over Carolina" because it didn't glorify life on the water. So often I romanticize the life of people who do not live in the city and beat the rat race everyday. I also loved reading about Bud's passion for the ocean. No matter what he faced Bud loved shrimping, patching a net or just feeling the wet wind on his face. For six years, Carolina went out on the boat with him. This is the time when their love seemed the strongest.
I also loved the part of the story where friends remembered Hurricane Hugo. After a hurricane, I think of all the people who lived and died as heroes. In "Last Light Over Carolina," I discovered hurricanes, although death threatening, do not make every person brave.
"Last Light Over Carolina" by Mary Alice Monroe takes us back and forth in time. I always love flashbacks. If flashbacks are used, I figure the people have done a heap of living. This is true in "Last Light Over Carolina." I hated to leave these strong minded individuals. At the end of the book, I sighed. I flipped through the pages again hoping a new chapter had arrived by magic. There was no such luck.
Monday, July 13, 2009
While reading "The Castaways" by Elin Hilderbrand, I couldn't help but think of the title more than one time. "The Castaways" is about a tight group of friends living on Nantucket. There are eight friends, four couples. Each character feels castaway, lost, due to the same or different circumstances. In one particular way all, Addison, Ed, Jeffrey, Phoebe, Delilah and Andrea are enduring the pain of loss, grief for one couple of the eight.
I love the way Elin Hilderbrand allowed her characters to live out days of insurmountable grief. It reinforced my feeling that grieving is tough stuff.There is so much to know about losing people we love. There isn't an exact time when the pain will end. Each person processes grief in a different way. Also, there is the single truth of not denying the fact that no one knows when or whether we will see the person we love again. On which day will these tragic circumstances happen? In which season, year? Are we ever prepared?
"Castaways" is so powerful, so real on the subject of grief. My focus became Tess and Greg's twins, Colin and Finn. In their way, they seemed to know how to make the process of loving and losing less destructive. To me, the twins seemed able to put grief, new relationships and play neatly back in compartments until needed a look at again. While the adults seemed to make everything so messy, flung together, topsy-turvey which made their suffering seem extreme and insurmountable. In some way, the adults had to be the way they were. Their lives gave me the right to cry, to lose what fork in the road to take and to show me it's never to late to recover.
I especially loved the thread of mystery running through the novel. For me, islands seem just the place for suspense and tragedy. The ocean is there. A mystery is as deep and wide as the sea. We can hear the thunder of waves and blowing of wind. It's very hard to hear the voices of those who are taken by the sea. Are they trying to tell us something? I thought of the seashell shaped like a spiral many times as I read the novel.
Like a spiral seashell, "Castaways" has many twists and turns and themes. It's about more than grief. It's about love, secrets, mistakes and friendship. There is a wide hammock in this story where anyone can find a place to rest and share the troubles of the Islanders for awhile. Hmmmm, I just thought of April Peck once again. This is a grand novel. Take it with you to the beach or on the porch and let yourself go.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Throughout "A Thirst for Rain" by Roslyn Carrington runs a river. The river is named the Savannah. I quickly had to place my feet on solid ground. I had traveled to the Savannah in Trinidad. When I began the book, I didn't realize it would make me think about the characters day and night. I pondered deeply what choices each character would make while living out their days in Northern Foothills of Trinidad. Near the end of the book I had become thirsty for rain along with the characters. I realized myself and all the characters had definitely been living through a symbolic drought season. I also realized rain does not always sprinkle us lightly. It can drench us. It can drown us.
Roslyn Carrington writes in many layers. Reading "A Thirst for Rain" is like walking through a gallery of dreams asking questions, trying not to point. What does this mean? Where is this person? Why does he or she need to act this way and not that way? Sebastian, Jacob, Rory, Myra, Odile and Slim are flawed, thank goodness. This is what makes the characters seem so real. I especially had trouble understanding Myra. You might understand her very well. The book is very basic. It is so beautiful.
Nature plays such a big part in this novel. There is of course, rain, the Tamarind Tree and Gracie, a chicken. Building the wall of a house becomes a young boy's saving power for awhile. So, even what is manmade in our "universe" is a part of our epic, our novel, our play.
Reading this book I realized no matter how far across the sea we travel, no matter our language, all people face the same kind of issues. This thirstiness is what makes a kinship between us. We come to an understanding of one another by enjoying The Arts.
"When at last she fell asleep, she dreamed of music boxes with arms that churned round and round."
Pam Cope and Aimee Molloy are the authors of "Jantsen's Gift." This wonderful book is about a family dealing with the death of a son and brother. Jantsen is fifteen years old when he dies unexpectedly. His mother walks us through her most painful moments. Then, we feel the strength of a healing heart as she walks out of grief and into a place of peace. Throughout the book, we never lose touch with Jantsen. I often looked at the title letting it remind me that Jantsen led his mother out of a narrow passage into a wider place. Also, at the beginning of each chapter her journal entries written in the form of a letter to Jantsen from his mother, Pam. These notes are also a reminder that Jantsen's light still shines in his mother's heart and around the world to people he never had the chance to meet.
Pam's new beginning starts with a trip to Vietnam with friends. It took thirty hours and four airplane changes to reach Vietnam. As I traveled along with Pam and the others going with her, I realized how little I know about Vietnam. I didn't know about the trafficking of children for prostitution. In many ways, Vietnam is still at war. This time with themselves while struggling with poverty and the ugly reminders of war wrecked country.
Pam with family and/or friends would travel to Haiti, Ghana and Vietnam to save the lives of children. She wanted to give children a better life, a life without hunger, without working as slaves and the chance to get an education. I will always remember her vigor, her determination and her compassion. It would turn Pam's heart inside out to see children working on fishing boats while hungry, chilled to the bone and empty of a child's spirit.
One letter begins "Dear Jantsen, I can't believe I am in the middle of nowhere, Africa."
The change in Pam's life wasn't like a genie waved a magic wand over her. She struggled many times in many ways. After all, she still had her family at home. Pam Cope tells about "Jerry Springer" moments in her family's life. Her tough personal situations really hit me emotionally. One fact I will remember is that people grieve at different times in different ways. A wife and husband won't necessarily cry their hearts out at the same time. In Pam Cope's life her husband, Randy, remained strong while she collapsed. Then his time had to come to make peace with the pain of losing Jantsen. Her life became one long roller coaster ride. At some points, the ride seemed unendurable. At other dips, she found herself wanting to get back on the ride again. Finally, she stays on the swaying, dipping ride knowing this wild ride is saving many, many children of the world. Thank you Pam Cope and all of your friends and family. You are saving the world.
Posted by Tea at 12:17 PM
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
Like many of you, I have been a tourist in different places. Jamaica Kincaid begins her book by describing how a tourist looks at the new place he or she has discovered. Jamaica Kincaid seems so right about tourists. I tend to wear ear stoppers and rose colored glasses. This is to keep myself from sights that might make my heart bleed and my eyes to cry. When I am a tourist, I don't want to think about the cleanliness of the water in the swimming pool or ocean. I don't want to think about the life of the waiter or waitress after they serve me and go home. Is their home a cardboard box? What is their health like? Do they receive proper health care? Do their children go to school? No, I don't want to know. This is my moment in the sun. God forbid if anybody drives a cab somewhere to show me real life.
In "A Small Place," Jamaica kincaid writes about the 1974 earthquake that smashed and destroyed parts of Antigua. For example, the public library was badly destroyed. After twelve years there was still a sign on the library. On the sign these words are written the library is going to be repaired. The repairs are pending. Twelve years later the library remained unoccupied and remained in the same shape.
I applaud Jamaica Kincaid for honesty. She doesn't strive to make Antigua, her birthplace, a place like a fantasyland. She seems to be saying the tourists don't know the "real" people or the "real" island when they visit for their vacations.
After she writes from the viewpoint of a tourist, Jamaica Kincaid writes on a personal level. She can tell us the truth about Antigua because this place is her home. She talks about what it was like living under British rule. she talks about corrupt politicians.
Also, she talks about the beauty of the island. "Antigua is too beautiful. Sometimes the beauty of it seems unreal....for no real sunset could look like that; no real seawater could strike that many shades of blue at once; making everything seem thick and deep and bottomless." About one place, Antigua, Jamaica Kincaid snapped my heart back and forth like rubber.