Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore (2020) 5 Star *****

This is one of those books that will stay with you for the rest of your life. A police procedural and depressing family saga rolled into a compelling story of love, neglect, abandonment, betrayal, drug addiction, hopelessness, personal weakness, suspicions, and lack of trust, leads us to our main character, Philadelphia Police Officer Michaela (Mickey) Fitzpatrick, emotionally bereft, overwhelmed by responsibility and fears, grappling to find a safe place to call home for herself and her young son. Having virtually never felt reciprocal love while growing up, Mickey finds it difficult to maintain relationships. Mickey and her drug addicted sister were raised by their cold, aloof, hyper-critical, neglectful grandmother after the drug death of their mother and abandonment by their father. Always hungry and cold, inappropriately dressed and most often left to fend for themselves, these sisters struggle through life in what becomes a tug-of-war between adherence to rules and laws and the mean streets of drug ravaged Northeast Philadelphia. Unfortunately, both girls become victims to the predators of the community and streets. Often trusting the wrong people and dismissing the right ones, it’s hard to identify the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Mickey becomes obsessed by the search for her missing sister. Is she the latest, but maybe yet not found, victim of a serial killer targeting drug-addicted young girls of the street?  Her attempts to solve these crimes and capture the perp, lead Mickey down a path of police cover-up, suspicious behavior, and mistrust of commanding officers, as well as those she once considered friends. This lack of trust irreparably damages Mickey’s relationships. The community does not know what to believe. As these things go, the top brass turns the tables on Mickey so that she is now under investigation by Internal Affairs.

The book is well-written with simple sentences and language, with chapters alternating between past and present. Instead of using quotation marks ( ” ” ) around dialogue, the author uses a dash ( – ) before each line where the character speaks, but does not use punctuation to separate ideas within these lines. It’s a simple technique for the author, but perhaps confusing for the reader.

The author makes a point to show how there is often honor among the down-and-out population of the streets. They can be believed. They know the truth, but can be reluctant to express it for fear of personal safety. Many desperately want to stop their downward spiral, but the pull of the drugs and the pain of withdrawal require great strength with a strong and constant support system. Many of the victims of the street lost the love and encouragement of their family and friends years ago.

Significance of title: The long bright river is where the spirits of these victims of the street congregate en masse with bright shining faces begging not to be forgotten.

Happy ending? Many misconceptions, hidden agendas, lies, and manipulations come to light. Relationships are examined, but not trusted. Truth is revealed, but not accepted. Explanations are given, but not believed. The truth is when kids are emotionally abused, they grow up hating themselves, not their abusers. We cannot shed the negative messages of our childhood. They rear their ugly heads when we least expect it—always the reminder of what we fear is the real us that we try to keep hidden from the world.

Things are resolved, but no happy ending here.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore (2020) 5 Star *****

This is one of those books that will stay with you for the rest of your life. A police procedural and depressing family saga rolled into a compelling story of love, neglect, abandonment, betrayal, drug addiction, hopelessness, personal weakness, suspicions, and lack of trust, leads us to our main character, Philadelphia Police Officer Michaela (Mickey) Fitzpatrick, emotionally bereft, overwhelmed by responsibility and fears, grappling to find a safe place to call home for herself and her young son. Having virtually never felt reciprocal love while growing up, Mickey finds it difficult to maintain relationships. Mickey and her drug addicted sister were raised by their cold, aloof, hyper-critical, neglectful grandmother after the drug death of their mother and abandonment by their father. Always hungry and cold, inappropriately dressed and most often left to fend for themselves, these sisters struggle through life in what becomes a tug-of-war between adherence to rules and laws and the mean streets of drug ravaged Northeast Philadelphia. Unfortunately, both girls become victims to the predators of the community and streets. Often trusting the wrong people and dismissing the right ones, it’s hard to identify the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Mickey becomes obsessed by the search for her missing sister. Is she the latest, but maybe yet not found, victim of a serial killer targeting drug-addicted young girls of the street?  Her attempts to solve these crimes and capture the perp, lead Mickey down a path of police cover-up, suspicious behavior, and mistrust of commanding officers, as well as those she once considered friends. This lack of trust irreparably damages Mickey’s relationships. The community does not know what to believe. As these things go, the top brass turns the tables on Mickey so that she is now under investigation by Internal Affairs.

The book is well-written with simple sentences and language, with chapters alternating between past and present. Instead of using quotation marks ( ” ” ) around dialogue, the author uses a dash ( – ) before each line where the character speaks, but does not use punctuation to separate ideas within these lines. It’s a simple technique for the author, but perhaps confusing for the reader.

The author makes a point to show how there is often honor among the down-and-out population of the streets. They can be believed. They know the truth, but can be reluctant to express it for fear of personal safety. Many desperately want to stop their downward spiral, but the pull of the drugs and the pain of withdrawal require great strength with a strong and constant support system. Many of the victims of the street lost the love and encouragement of their family and friends years ago.

Significance of title: The long bright river is where the spirits of these victims of the street congregate en masse with bright shining faces begging not to be forgotten.

Happy ending? Many misconceptions, hidden agendas, lies, and manipulations come to light. Relationships are examined, but not trusted. Truth is revealed, but not accepted. Explanations are given, but not believed. The truth is when kids are emotionally abused, they grow up hating themselves, not their abusers. We cannot shed the negative messages of our childhood. They rear their ugly heads when we least expect it—always the reminder of what we fear is the real us that we try to keep hidden from the world.

Things are resolved, but no happy ending here.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie 4 Stars **** (1993, 2005, Prologue 2013) (Adult and mature Young Adult)

It’s impossible not to hear the underlying plaintive cries of this book that presents itself as a work of fiction when it captures the very essence of people who have lost their once proud cultural identity and are hardpressed to find something to replace it. This book is a collection of inter-connected short stories that won the PEN/Hemingway Award. The award winning movie Smoke Signals, released in 1998, is based on the short story “What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” from this book.

Set in the late 20th century on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington, we meet a group of people beset by poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, racism, and isolationism from the society outside their reservation. Further complicated by limited education, unstable and absent parenting and home life, a lack of positive role models, and a fear of the unknown outside world, the characters go in circles with the nothingness of their lives. Ambition and challenge are short-lived with characters reverting to their comfort zone of doing nothing and going nowhere. The reader has a sense of time standing still. Nothing changes—it only has the appearance of change.

Victor is one of the main characters of the stories. The significance of the title may revolve around him and his message. The Lone Ranger represents the white man and Tonto represents the Indians. Victor, who is a Spokane Indian, and his girlfriend, who is white, attempt to coexist and love each other but fight constantly in a doomed relationship. As with The Lone Ranger and Tonto, there is respect and appreciation for each other but the two worlds rarely overlap with their different cultures, expectations, and coping mechanisms. Neither side wants to be like the other. Add this to personal weaknesses, and in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

The beginning chapters of this book contain some of the most beautiful, imagistic, evocative writing I’ve ever encountered with a command of language that is exceptional. As the reader approaches the end, the writing becomes inconsistent as if the author stopped trying or caring and just put anything down on paper to fill space. Is this a metaphor for the lives and human condition about which the author writes?

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

Book Review: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Book Review: Educated : A Memoir by Tara Westover (2018) 5 Stars *****

Told from a heart broken by wretched memories, the story begins with seven year old Tara and takes us through adulthood. Born and raised in the remote mountains of Idaho in an extreme Mormon fundamentalist/survivalist family, Tara learns to hate herself as she and her family wait for the End of Days. Even after all of her successes, it takes her many years until she can accept herself as deserving of the opportunities and accomplishments afforded her. Carrying emotional and physical scars throughout her life, we see once again that when a child is abused by a loved one, they do not grow up to hate that person, they grown up to hate themselves. The truth is: We never truly escape our upbringing, no matter how far or how fast we run.

The family does not believe in birth certificates, hospitals, doctors, insurance, public education, western medicines, supermarkets, cleaning, organizing, or questioning patriarchal authority. The children are primarily home-schooled to a point, but the education stops before they are reading, writing and doing basic math problems at a level of literacy. Tara is seventeen years old until she attends a school full time. The siblings are divided in their desire to be educated. Three of them, including Tara, desire higher education and life’s work outside of their parents’ closed world. Tara’s father is more accepting of this decision for his sons, but believes Tara’s aspirations are the work of the devil and an abomination against the Mormon religion. Tara is called a whore by her father whenever she expresses a desire to attend school. He does not understand or accept her desire for more than marriage and motherhood.

Tara and her six siblings are expected to work in the family businesses. Living under the thumb and in the shadow of their father’s junkyard/scrap metal and gasoline siphoning businesses occupies their existence. The main problem with Tara’s father? He is bi-polar and unconcerned about the unsafe conditions under which he forces even his young children to work. He refuses to allow protective helmets, heavy gloves, proven-safe equipment, or methodical procedures. He forces them to work with flammables as he unconcernedly uses acetylene torches and other igniters nearby. He even forces ten year old Tara to ride on top of a pile of junk as he dumps it and Tara into a container, impaling her leg with a metal spike. As a result, his children suffer broken bones, burned bodies, brain damage, scarred and disfigured faces and body parts, and loss of limbs and fingers. Name calling destroys self-esteem. Threats of physical violence, not only from Tara’s father but also from one of her bi-polar further brain- damaged- from- accidents brothers, destroys aspirations.

Tara’s father’s stubborn decisions resulted in two serious car accidents while returning to Idaho from a family visit to Arizona. He decided twice to make the long journey by driving through the night. Tara’s father forced one of his sons to drive despite protestations of fatigue. Tara’s mother was seriously brain damaged during this first accident. Even after the tragic events of this first time decision, Tara’s father demanded the same departure from their second trip even though they would be driving into dangerous white-out blizzard conditions. Their car went off the road and the family received serious injuries once again. His reaction? Not his fault. Not a bad decision at all. Things happen.

The main problem with Tara’s mother? Tara’s mother is a celebrated mid-wife and herbalist/healer which serves to bring in most of the family income. Self-centered. No backbone. Untrustworthy. Manipulative. Although she sees the cruel exploitation her husband imposes on her children, she does little to stop him. To add insult to injury, she has a different story for each person she speaks with. She promises her children to back them up, then recants and plays a bait and switch and presents the opposite of the truth to extended family members. She backs up her husband, no matter what.

Somehow, Tara works her way to success by part-time jobs, independent study, self-teaching, attending classes and schools of higher education. Tara receives a lot of help from college professors—guidance, advice, scholarships, grants, and other financial aid, opportunities to study abroad and eventually is graduated from Cambridge in England as a brilliant scholar, and goes on to Harvard for a PH.D. Tara also has an exceptionally beautiful singing voice which she recognizes as a gift. You would think a highly acclaimed scholar with an angelic singing voice would be able to shed her past for a sense of pride. and happiness. But, no. On paper, Tara notes her accomplishments and talents, but this intellectual assessment never makes it to her heart.

Tara is a loner and does not make friends easily. She is unsophisticated in social graces. She wears black pants and a black blouse at a black tie dinner at Cambridge, having no idea how a woman should dress for such an occasion. For many years, she bathed once or twice a week, never using soap. She became a pariah for openly not washing her hands after using the restroom. She never cleaned up after herself, threw out rotted food, washed her dishes, wore anything other than men’s oversized jeans and shirts. She smelled bad. Her home smelled bad. Although Tara knew she did not fit in, she hardly asked for guidance and persisted in being herself, believing that it was her prerogative.

Despite the emotional pain and physical threats she endures during her visits, Tara continues to visit her family periodically, attending funerals and family holiday dinners. Her parents sometimes visit her at school but it always ends badly. She often gives up hope and vacillates between achieving her goals and giving in to her father’s demands of mediocrity and conformity within his extreme belief system. Eventually, Tara walks away and does not look back until she has achieved her highest honors. The price she pays is high. She gains herself but loses her family. In time, Tara reconnects with her two education-minded brothers and an aunt. Her parents have spread the rumor that Tara is demonically possessed and that they fear for their safety. Many of the relatives accept this, so she is permanently ostracized from that group.

This is an amazing story. Hard to imagine that someone in this situation can accomplish so much. It demonstrates how outside help from powerful, well-placed people can turn a person’s life around and put them on a path to success and accomplishment. The sad thing is that Tara tells her story as a robot, lacking emotional connection to her diary entries. It reads like a newspaper account, devoid of feelings. The words are there, but the pain is buried so deep, that Tara must disassociate herself from the events. Although Tara is aware of her amazing accomplishments, she is not happy inside. The book ends as it begins with facts, not feelings. What of Tara’s personal life? It would seem she does not have one.

What was the result of Tara’s education? She now knows that discovery and knowledge do not lead to brainwashing. It’s possible to read and learn, then analyze and dismiss. Exposure does not mean acceptance. This is something Tara wishes her father could accept.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

Book Review: Ghost by Jason Reynolds (Middle Grade)

Book Review: Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2016) (Middle Grade) 5 Stars *****

Finally! A kids book award finalist that truly deserves serious consideration. A book that excels in its story, messages, characterizations, relatable experiences, and … ta da…is well-written! Seventh-grader Castle Cranshaw, has nicknamed himself Ghost because of his now you see him, now you don’t ability to run away from danger. With a school file folder filled with examples of Ghost’s bad behavior, we have a perfect example of a kid gone wrong who has no idea how to fix himself. Two local, upstanding men serve as role models when they  literally and figuratively, save Ghost’s life.

Raised in poor, rundown Glass Manor by a loving, striving mother, lonely, troubled Ghost suffers from the memory of his now imprisoned drug-addicted father shooting at him and his terrified mother three years earlier.  Seeking refuge at the local convenience store owned by elderly, hard of hearing Mr. Charles, Ghost and his mother are hidden in the back storeroom while Mr. Charles calls the police. Ever since that horrific day, Ghost stops in daily to see Mr. Charles and to buy a small bag of his favorite sunflower seeds.

Ghost tricks the school track coach into allowing him to do a test run even though try-outs had passed. True to his name, Ghost impresses the coach with his run and, with his mother’s permission, is invited to join the track team. Mrs. Cranshaw is skeptical at first, but acquiesces after Coach Brody promises to kick Ghost off the team at the first sign of trouble in school or if his grades are negatively impacted. The daily structure and strict rules of conduct imposed on the team members turn Ghost’s life around.

This improvement in behavior comes slowly since Ghost does not know how to ignore a fight. The victim of constant teasing because of his ill-fitting clothing, cheap sneakers, bad haircut (done by his well-meaning, broke mom), lack of friends, cringe-worthy butt of jokes neighborhood, jailed attempted murderer of wife and child imprisoned druggie father, Ghost has to deal with more than he can bear. He loves his mother and knows she’s doing all she can. As a matter of fact, this hospital cafeteria lady is studying to become a nurse with online courses. This makes Ghost very proud.

Let’s get back to Ghost and his poor choices. Immediately after being allowed on the track team, Ghost manages to stay out of trouble for seventeen hours and two minutes. Ghost knows there’s a lot at stake but he can’t seem to help himself. Knowing Ghost’s background, the school principal cuts him some slack involving an altercation between Ghost and a school bully who pushes all of ghost’s buttons by reciting a list of Ghost’s most embarrassing family secrets and throwing a piece of greasy chicken at him during lunch. Coach Brody also decides to go easy on Ghost after hearing the details.

Ghost’s sneakers are old, ill-fitting and an improper choice for running track. Ghost’s shoelaces become untied during a race, causing him to trip and fall. He can barely contain his embarrassment and decides to cut down his high-tops with scissors to make it easier to run. Needless to say, this plan backfires since running is not easier and the insults and teasings come in by the truckload. In Ghost’s desperate, misguided way of thinking, now the only solution is to steal a pair of beautiful running sneakers. He manages to leave the store unaccosted, but no one is buying the story about the gift from his mother explanation.

When Coach Brody goes to the local sporting goods store to purchase new team uniforms, he is shocked to see a still photo shot from the store surveillance camera on a bulletin board showing Ghost escaping with his stolen merchandise. The coach confronts Ghost and takes him back to the store in shame and pays for the sneakers with his own credit card, a string of warnings, and much-needed lectures.

Ghost, who has not had too many people to count on in his life, begins to trust the adult males around him and to seek their counsel. He has friends, belongs to a team, and is admired by his classmates. His attitude and expectations have changed.

At the end, Ghost proudly runs a race in his new uniform and new sneakers, with his mother, aunt and cousin cheering him on from the bleachers. Who wins? No one knows. The author does not tell us. I believe the goal is to improve Ghost’s self-esteem to a point where it doesn’t matter whether or not he wins this time, because he can win in the future. Ghost is an all-around winner and we can only hope he will now follow that path through life.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019) 4 Stars ****

You’ll need patience to delve into this psychological mystery. The most important plot points unfold slowly while hints are given as to the surprise ending. Pay attention to the musings and confessions of the main character, Theo Faber, a forensic psychotherapist, and the admonishments (perceptions?) of Professor Diomedes,  director of the Grove, a psychiatric facility in England. Theo applies for and is given a position as a psychotherapist at this facility. He is obsessed with making the silent patient, Alicia Berenson, talk after six years of self-imposed silence after brutally murdering her beloved husband. Theo tells us, “There was no time to waste: Alicia was lost. She was missing. And I intended to find her.”

Relationships intertwine. All characters have secrets. Spouses, psychiatrists ( also psychotherapists), patients, aides, and neighbors are not as they appear. They all have complicated histories with Alicia Berenson. Each one offers up a piece of the puzzle as Theo Faber breaks rules and traditions, employing unconventional methods to get to the bottom of things. An excellent question: What truly motivates him in this seemingly impossible goal?

Alicia refuses to talk, but this formerly acclaimed artist, who has become even more popular after her scandalous act, has painted a self-portrait, entitled Alcestis, which is her non-verbal explanation for her state of mind at the time of her out of character violent episode. Looking for cluesTheo reads Alcestis, a Greek myth. “Alcestis is the heroine of a Greek myth. A love story of the saddest kind. Alcestis willingly sacrifices her life for that of her husband, Admetus, dying in his place when no one else will. An unsettling myth of self-sacrifice, it was unclear how it related to Alicia’s situation. The true meaning of the allusion remained unknown to me. Until one day, the truth came to light—”

Theo is perceived as a person with his act together. Professor Diomedes repeatedly warns him against becoming entangled with his patients so much that the barriers between them fade, and the therapist and patient become one. Theo is convinced that he is above any such danger. He is in control of all things and has no fear of any weaknesses—other than loving his wife way too much. He is obsessed with her, their relationship, her impact on his life. Hmmm.

“What?” is what you will say out loud at the ending which is quite a surprise for most readers, unless you’ve been tracking the opaque clues. This adds a pop to this book and increases its esteem. Otherwise, it might be perceived as tedious reading for some. I believe the ending makes it all worthwhile. Be patient. It’s labeled a psychological mystery for a reason.

Any fan of psychology and psychotherapy will enjoy this book. The mind often creates its own reality. Can we truly let go of our pasts and the incidents and people from our childhoods? Or do these memories stay with us, waiting for the right moment for revenge?  Hmmm.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2019) 5 Stars *****

Delia Owens, a wildlife scientist in Africa, has astounded the world with her first novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Set in the Outer Banks marshes of North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s, we meet six year old Kya, who has been abandoned one by one as her mother and siblings escape a drunken, abusive, irresponsible, neglectful father and literally leave her to fend for herself, each deciding to heal their emotional turmoil and physical pain in some other place, leaving the baby of the family as someone else’s responsibility.

By the time she is ten years old, Kya’s father also just walks away without explanation, leaving Kya without money, resources or hope. An outcast living in isolation and shame, Kya draws on her inner strength to find ways to generate income so she can eat and buy gasoline for her little boat that is her lifeline to the rest of the world. The Marsh Girl, as she is derisively called, grows up to be a beautiful, self-educated woman, loved and abandoned by two very different men, leaving emotional scars never to be healed, and embroiling her in scandal that haunts her for a lifetime. The ending of this book might surprise you, but then again, maybe not. Any reader understanding Kya’s innate intelligence and inner turmoil would never expect anything different from her.

Being an industrious, resourceful child, Kya generates income by selling mussels and smoked fish which enables her to subsist mostly on grits and whatever root vegetables she can grow in her marshy garden. Tate, a kind neighbor boy, teaches Kya to read, brings her books, and quietly looks after her from afar as they grow into adulthood. Kya is also befriended by Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel, an African-American couple in the rural south, who unobtrusively help and protect the proud and independent Kya. Kya’s accomplishments surpass all expectations. Living in the modern world is not an option. Kya’s beloved marsh offers a place of comfort and safety and a pathway to critical acclaim.

This book is filled with beautiful sensory images, metaphors, and similes.
Some examples:
*A floating mat of duckweed colored the water as green as the leafy ceiling, creating an emerald tunnel.
*Suddenly the ocean’s face—gray, stern, pulsing—frowned at her.
*Egrets took flight, a line of white flags against the mounting gray clouds.
*…Kya eased alone through the sea toward the village, the sky in a frumpy sweater of gray clouds.
*As evening fell, she took her blanket and slept in the marsh, close to a gully full of moon and mussels, and had two tow bags filled by dawn. Gas money.

Where do the crawdads sing? “Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.” The author emphasizes the differences between marsh and swamp. Its symbolism extends to Kia’s life journey. Keep this in mind while you enjoy the book.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (2015) 5 Stars *****(Book 4 of The Neapolitan Novels)

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Lenu, our narrator, and her closest friend, Lila, are in their forties through sixties in this book. Their relationship still has its ups and down: interdependence/ abandonment, admiration/resentment, tenderness/anger, understanding/frustration. Lenu reinvents herself as a speaker realizing, “I had a natural ability to transform small private events into public reflection” as she becomes more and more honest and open about her herself and family and friends. Lila keeps her successes hidden from Lenu, leaving Lenu to discover Lila’s accomplishments almost by accident and as incidental comments from mutual friends.

Lenu and Lila continue separately to assert their independence from traditional domestic life, leaving human debris in their wake: hurt, accusations, insults, guilt, broken familial relationships, neglect. ‘Round and around and around they go as people from the past keep popping up, causing them to reflect on the effect of their neighborhood upbringing on their fabric as a person. Lenu tells us we never can truly shed who and where we come from. Our childhood shapes us for a lifetime and we either become trapped by it, or struggle to leave it behind.

Both women need love but often feel trapped by its obligations. Lenu demonstrates her strength as she continuously sets goals and works step by step to achieve them, still enjoying positive relationships with all those from her past. Lila, on the other hand, suffers from emotional and mental problems as she goes through life full of anger and thoughts of revenge, as she vacillates from being a tower of strength and kindness to becoming unglued, neglectful, and distracted. Negativity is her constant companion. Not only does it follow her, but she creates it and magnifies it.

I do not want to spoil the story by telling you specifically about the lost child. This terrible event remains a mystery. Blame and culpability cannot be assigned. Maybe an innocent photograph led to what happened, maybe not. Interactions by Lenu and Lila conspired to create the outcome—ironic shades of childhood—collateral damage? if you will. Still heartbreaking no matter how you slice it.

I love this series and did not want it to end.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full-time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  My Brilliant Friend has already aired on HBO. Although I do not know the time frame, books two and three are scheduled to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story. Hopefully, the fourth book will be added to this HBO series.

The review for Frantumaglia-A Writer’s Journey, also by Elena Ferrante, will be published on January 19, 2019.

Ciao bella!

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

 

Book Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Book Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan 4 Stars ****

It’s such a pleasure to read a book written on an adult level with sophisticated vocabulary, complex ideas, and memorable phrases. I loved it and was captivated by the story and the writing.

The book starts out in the 1930’s with eleven year old Anna Kerrigan who lives in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York with her mother, father, and developmentally and physically disabled sister, Lydia.  Anna’s mother is obsessed with caring for Lydia. Anna and her father, Eddie have an unusually strong bond, so much so that he often brings his daughter with him when he acts as a bagman for local gangsters and dock and union workers.

He teaches her to be strong, to hide the truth, and keep her mouth shut. Anna brings these qualities into adulthood as she works for a defense plant during WWII. She decides she wants to become the first woman diver to aid the war effort despite the push-back she encounters during training and missions. She excels and becomes well-respected. Anna lives independently and with purpose but the reader is not privy to Anna’s heart and head to really understand how she comes to choose this job over others that might be equally as helpful to society and challenging.

It’s hard not to do Spoiler Alerts when discussing the plot. Let’s just say there are many twists and turns in the story, but yet they are expected. The story is told by a narrator but the action alternates with Anna, her father, and gentleman gangster Dexter Stiles. Lots of back stories on these three. Why? Maybe the author is trying to highlight the complexity of character and how even “bad” people have redeeming qualities in parts of their lives and are capable of great intelligence in specific areas? Maybe a little too much?

The reader sees a lot of street smarts and heroism on the part of characters whose lives are less than admirable. Too much tell and not enough show. I believe the author could have devoted the time to developing Anna’s character with transitions, conversations and diary entries rather than using the narrator to fill in motivations for decisions rather than filling the pages with extraneous details about lesser characters.

The ending? Not really a surprise, but then again….I wanted to hear Eddie’s rationale about some poor choices he made. Why did Dexter Stiles make a sloppy decision that endangered his position? If the author did not want to complete these characterizations, she should not have included the events that led to these questions.

There are also some unrealistic events.  For example, Eddie’s escape, Anna’s strength despite weighing a little over one hundred pounds, Lydia being carried up and down six flights of stairs by one person, near drowning victims not struggling while being saved by Eddie who is not a large man but still demonstrates the strength of a superhero.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

 

Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA) 4 Stars ****

Set in 1986 Omaha, Nebraska, sixteen-year-olds Eleanor and Park initially meet each other on the school bus. Eleanor, being the new kid— unattractive, ill-at-ease, poorly dressed, defensive— finds herself the butt of many jokes from the bus and school bullies. Park comes to her defense and soon develops a crush on Eleanor. Eleanor returns the feelings.

The story is told in alternating short narratives which reinforces how different these two characters are from each other. Eleanor is Caucasian, sloppily dressed, wild red curly hair, from a highly dysfunctional, poor family with four siblings and her mother’s drunken husband spreading fear on a daily basis. Eleanor’s mother tries passively to protect her children. Eleanor receives very little encouragement and often bears the brunt of her step-father’s anger which we later learn comes from sexual tension on the stepfather’s part.

Park is a handsome Caucasian-Asian, trendy, well-liked, popular, from a middle class functional family with one brother and two parents who love and respect each other. Park’s mother works as a hairdresser from her home and shares the parental power in the household. Park is guided, encouraged, and treated fairly.

What do they have in common? They both are in some Honors classes together and they share their love of music and poetry. Eleanor loves Park’s steadfast loyalty and Park loves Eleanor’s quiet strength in her difficult situation.

This is a sweet, realistic story of tentative romance demonstrating how sometimes painfully opposites attract. Chapter One starts off with a whole lot of cursing—”It so fucking does!”—”You’re full of shit.”—”Jesus-fuck…”—to name a few. Thankfully, this is not repeated in the rest of the book. The sex scenes are not explicit—mostly very tender undressing, touching, kissing—without intercourse or oral stimulation.

The reader learns that what appears to be may not actually tell the story. Secret, negative actions were attributed to the wrong people. Sometimes people don’t have choices in their lives. For example, if someone dresses “funny” it may mean that’s all they have from donations in clothing boxes, hand-me-downs, clearance merchandise. Not wearing make-up? Some parents do not allow it, so it’s not always a personal choice. You get the idea. Unless we walk a mile in someone’s shoes…

The ending, although realistic in many ways, is not satisfactory. Eleanor is sheltered but she closes herself off to contact with Park. It all hurts too much and she cannot seem to find the words except on the last page when her postcard message “just three words long.” What three words? The reader must surmise. Also, Eleanor does not share any information about her new circumstances at her uncle’s home other than she is enrolled in school to finish the last month before summer vacation. I wanted to hear more from Eleanor, but it seems she is just not capable of sharing her life. The separation from Park and her siblings is just too much to bear.

We believe Eleanor’s siblings and mother may also have been extricated from the horror they lived. For me, it’s unconscionable to show examples of neglect, abuse, and hopelessness and not give explicit information as to how these characters are given a helping hand. After all, this is a story of fiction, not real life, so I do not want to continue to unnecessarily feel the heartache for these characters when the story is finished.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

June 2020
M T W T F S S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  
%d bloggers like this: