I am someone who works and advocates with immigrants and refugees and who strongly believes that all people deserve a home, a place where they feel safe. Perhaps that is why I was so intrigued and pulled into Khaled Hosseini’s “And the Mountains Echoed” appealed to me so. Khaled Hosseini himself came as a political refugee from Afghanistan to America and all of his books have focused on Afghanistan. “And the Mountains Echoed” is no different. It focuses on the heart-breaking story of a family, and then descends and transcends though many different countries, time periods and characters. ALL of them fascinated me. I thought they Hosseini does an excellent job of moving back and forth between time and characters, all the while being so damn fascinating. It is the kind of book that grabbed a hold of me tightly and did not let go. It has sadness, realness, hope and love. It has everything, and a sort of magic that goes through it all. I loved the connection that exists between brother and sisters, servant and boss, mother and adopted daughter. Not all relationships are created equal. The story starts off with Abdullah and Pari’s father telling them a story, a treasure that happened few and far between, but he could be a story teller when he wanted. A magical story teller. This idea of stories and truth and reality is a theme throughout the novel. I don’t want to say much more, because I don’t want to spoil the story. I want you to read it. I want everyone to read it. It is a powerful story, a big story, a rip your heart open story.
Watch How We Walk- Jennifer LoveGrove- ECW Press- 315 pages- 2014
Emily is often consumed by guilt, it eats her, it keeps her awake, it haunts her in her small apartment, and I can understand her. As someone who was raised in a religious family herself (to some extent) I often joke about the old “Catholic guilt” that can come rushing up, pounding you in the head, forcing you to sit down for dizziness.
But Emily had it much worse than me.
Watch How We Walk is about sisters Emily and Lenora, growing up in a Jehovah’s Witness family. The isolation, the rules, the not talking, the unknowing. The story takes us through the change of Lenora as she lives her life as a teenager and begins to break away from the Jehovah’s community and become “wordly”. A lot of the book is told from 10 year old Emily’s eyes and her not understanding what is happening all around her. This is a subject that I often ponder myself, children, believing in something that they are told, not understanding choices or implications of what their parents tell them to believe and then eventually gaining the consciousness to question it. I was glad to see LoveGrove explore this. It is an inside look at the community of Jehovah’s witnesses, at least in this particular time and place, although a disturbing one.
The books goes back and forth between Emily’s memories of this time as a child and her life as a young adult alone in the city. Both voices are sad and persistent and aching with loneliness.
I thought the book was beautifully written and very fast-paced. I read it quickly and I really enjoyed the story. I have always been interested in religion and seeing inside communities that we might not get to know much about otherwise. I thought the characters of Emily and Lenora were eerie, wonderful and painstakingly real. They are stuck with me.
Emily’s thoughts kept me awake and came to me in a dream.
I liked the book and would recommend it. I just wish we could have heard a little more about Emily as an adult, how she become so separated from her parents. I wanted to know more about how she got to where she was and if she would ever see them again. What happened to Uncle Tyler?
I suppose with any good book, you are left wanting more.
I recently decided to review my first children’s book, Come Back Dear Sun by Geena Bean, Illustrated by Cheri Webber and I think I chose a good one to start with!
Come Back Dear Sun is a delight, a good lesson for children and has wonderful illustrations. I don’t have children of my own, but I already have a list of children I know that would love to read it, whom I will pass it on to.
The sun is sad because children are not paying much attention to her, staying inside with their video games and TV shows. The sun figures if she is not appreciated, she might as well move on.
But she has some friends that miss her and Kaylee, Mattie, Lilly and Fran have a plan and they ask their friend the moon to help them.
You’ll have to wait and see if the sun gets their message.
I recommend anyone to check out this book for the kids. It is a lesson well read.
Ever since I was a young girl and I read about the Underground Railroad, I have been interested in the history of slavery. It has dictated a lot of my reading and studying. It pains my soul, hurts to read and makes breathing difficult. But it happened. And it is something that we owe the people who had to bear the pain to learn about.
I was grateful that a co-worker lent me this book, one that I had known nothing about and that had not been on my radar. It is an excellent novel, full of immense history about slavery and women’s rights. It is complex, deep and difficult.
The novel goes back and forth between Sarah, a rich Southern belle who has never wanted to life she has been given adn Hetty, a slave her own age who was given to her for her eleven birthday. Sarah never wanted a slave, but she has no right to not have her. In her own way she rebels against her family by teaching Hetty to read. The novel spans back and forth between the lives of these two women, both struggling against their positions in life.
Sarah and her sister Angelina, are real women, women who are among the first women abolitionists, as well as the first women to speak out in public forums and struggle for women’s rights.
Sue Monk Kidd has researched and imagined a wonderful, rich, heartbreaking novel for them to live in and it is well worth the read.
Playing with Matches is written by Suri Rosen, published by ECW Press, September 2014, 248 pages
In Playing with Matches I expected to find a typical YA novel. What I received was so much more; a novel deep in mystery, humour, kindness and mysticism. Based in Toronto, via way of New York, Raina Resnick is a 16-year-old who has fallen off her own personal path. Something every teenager can relate to in some way or another. But Rain has a lot of other things going on too. Her parents are in Hong Kong, so she has been sent to live with her strict aunt in Toronto. Her older sister Leah ends up in Toronto too, as her wedding was recently cancelled by the groom. Yet Leah blames a lot of her problems on Raina and is not speaking to her. And if that is not enough, Raina was kicked out of her previous school and is finding it not so easy to forget about her earlier misdeeds.
Playing with Matches has many layers and always kept me guessing throughout the entire story. It is real yet hopeful, cute yet quirky and light yet meaningful. I also learned a lot about the Orthodox Jewish Community, which is something that I honestly did not know that much about. I always find it very interesting to step deep into another culture and learn about something you might not have known about before. Reading something like this opens your mind a little. I learned that the Orthodox Jewish Community still uses matchmakers to set up fulfilling life long marriages and Raina accidentally finds herself in this role. And it might just be the first thing she is good at in a long time! Can she keep it secret and make more successful matches? And most importantly can she make Leah a good match and allow her sister be happy again?
This novel has a wide range of interesting characters, from Bubby, the getting into trouble grandmother, to the kind-hearted professor lonely for companionship. Raina learns about herself and explores these people with kindness. The lesson might be everyone deserves to be happy.
I am surprised to learn that this is Rosen’s first novel, as the depth of the characters is intense and the story is fast moving. I was laughing out loud and I had a hard time putting the book down. I would recommend the book to anyone, young or old, it is a fun paced romp with a lot of heart.
I lecture the students,
about having discipline.
How important it is.
Making a schedule and treating your body like
place of worship.
I am good for a few days,
before I fall off the dock of sainthood,
wondering how I even stayed on it so long.
But I will slam my fist against the table, saying disipline is an important thing to have in life.
Discipline. The two faced-creature.
Interference is published by ECW Press in Canada. 277 pages, $18.95
This is the kind of book that me me sad when the book ended, I wanted to know more about the characters, more about their messed up little, lonely lives. The writing gripped me and fascinated me the whole way through.
But I suppose that is the way the world works, we catch a glimpse into someone’s life, and then we lose them. We forgot to make the call, we let things slip by and then you catch yourself wondering just how they might be doing, but far too much time has gone by to do anything about it.
Interference is like taking a glimpse into the underbelly of one particular neighbourhood in Ontario, which could very well be any neighbourhood in the suburbs, in Canada. Characters and stories intermingle and we get a telescopic view into mindsets of these people. Berry does a good job of moving between characters but not losing the story.
Interference has got something for everyone; the quiet teenager angry at life and his moms’ cancer, the runaway from a bad marriage with her young daughter in tow, the scar faced man who has never felt understood and the ladies trying to learn to skate for the ladies hockey league. All silently moving through life and seasons. All intermingling and inter-crossing in amazing yet lonely ways. Lonely in that they never really connect the way you want them to. You want to push the character and tell them to tell the others how they are feeling, how things really are going. Because then perhaps they would not be so damn lonely.
One of the unusual features is handwritten letters, typed emails and notes from the principle peppered through the novel. I liked that, it makes everything seem so real.
I love the pointed, conversational way that it is written and how the characters are so real and understandable. I immediately connected to Tom and Claire and Becky, the self-doubt, mind-racing thoughts constantly rolling through their head. The way that you can see into the characters’ heads in this very unique way is my favourite thing about Berry’s writing. You feel like you actually get to take a look into an odd suburb, a neighbourhood that you always drive by has the windows and doors wide open.
Excellent book 4.5/5 stars