Home Sweet Home

51ze3bfhtzl._sy400_.jpgAll Over But the Shoutin’ by Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg is a five-star memoir which melted my heart like butter on a warm biscuit.

Raised in poverty in rural Alabama, Rick recalls his life and rise to the pinnacle of his profession. Due in large part to his diligent effort and the influence of a long-suffering mother, the book bears witness to the grace, dignity, and love which fueled his passion for telling stories.

Bragg shares intimate stories about his family and gripping stories based on his impressive journalism career.

This is an inspirational book written in Bragg’s Alabama drawl which triggered memories of a state which I, having traveled there, find beautiful. This is also a story about a single mother who defied the odds by raising three sons on her own with unconditional love, the labor of her hands, and perseverance. It is an excellent story which I loved.

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Politics of War

Killing Patton: The Strange Death516ad-4f1ul._sy400_.jpg of World War II’s Most Audacious General by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard is an interesting book. After leading U.S. forces to many victories, General Patton is put out to pasture before the war is over in Japan. Just prior to his trip back to the States, the car he is riding in is involved in traffic accident leading to injuries which lead to Patton’s eventual death. Continue reading

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O Mio

519ff4bccnl._sy400_.jpgRichard and his mother lived in the second story of a two-flat owned and occupied by his maternal grandparents on the first floor. He had a happy childhood surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived nearby. His mother was a fiercely independent woman who paid her own way and that of her son. It was her influence which led her son out of the declining town in which he was born. The only thing was, much like Charles Lindbergh’s mother, Russo’s follwed him wherever the path of his life led.

Many times, his mother was a difficult burden due to her inexplicable behavior, but Russo never abandoned her. I admire him for it.

This is a beautiful memoir told with honesty and love. As a single parent myself, it touched my heart. I’m of the age now when I am learning to let go of my grown children in order that they might live their own lives separate of mine. Like any other parent, it is difficult at times. Perhaps even more so because I am a single parent. This book reinforced my determination to do my best to forge a new path of my own with the belief that it is best all the way around.

There are many truths in this book which struck a deep chord within me.  I am grateful to have read this memoir.

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Primate Connections

The High Mountains of Portugal51ccbpyxfrl._sy400_.jpg by Yann Martel is an unusual novel. I am unsure what to make of it.

The novel consists of three interrelated stories. I thought the first two stories were quite bizarre, but the final story was a bit more believable. Part one is set in Portugal during the early 1900’s.  In it, a man loses his young wife and child. Fueled by grief, anger, and loss, he begins walking backwards, borrows a car from his uncle, and sets out on a journey to locate a crucifix fashioned by a missionary in Africa centuries earlier which now resides in a remote Portuguese church.

The second story takes place in Portugal as well in 1939. In it, a pathologist experiences an inexplicable New Year’s Eve while working late at the morgue.

The final story is about a member of the Canadian Parliament who recently lost his wife. The way in which he confronts his grief is pretty bizarre. He rescues an ape from a U.S. research facility and takes it to the Portuguese town where the statesman was born.

As in novels of this sort, the stories share a connection. The stories are interesting, thought-provoking, and well-written. Having recently read an Agatha Christie novel, I experienced a deja-vu moment of my own while reading it because her books are discussed at length by one of the characters in the second portion of this book. I think this is a novel which requires slow digestion and deep thinking. I enjoyed it in some ways, but not wholeheartedly. I am curious to hear the thoughts of anyone who has read it. As for me, the jury is out!

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51qfbmwlzl._sy400_.jpg.jpgThe Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan kept me awake for the last two nights. The story immediately grabbed me and even after I finished the novel, my mind wouldn’t let it go! What an amazing tale is told within its pages.

A painting of a long dead Empress is at the heart of the story, but that is almost inconsequential compared to the characters whose lives are effected by it. There is a young woman with a tumultuous past, a wealthy tyrannical art collector, an art gallery owner and his mistress, an up and coming male artist, and the daughter of the deceased Chinese artist who created the painting in question.

The painting, believed to be the only surviving work of the dead artist, appears to have adverse effects on those who come in contact with it.  There are so many secrets, twists, and unpredictable turns that I have decided not to reveal much more of the plot because it might ruin the reading experience for anyone who intends to read the novel.

I think this is an incredible novel. It is well-written, the characters are well-defined, and overall, multi-faceted. I also think a book discussion group would have a field day with it. It is slated for release in September of this year. Mark your calendar and please let me know your reaction if you read it!

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Breaking the Rules

major_cover_image_us.jpgMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is an enjoyable novel about a widower living in a small English village who falls in love with a woman of Pakistani descent who owns and manages the local Quick Mart.  The Major has a grown son who lives his life in pursuit of money, connections, and prestige. Jasmina Ali, the shop owner, has a collection of relations with a myriad of their own problems.  In addition, a pair of valuable old shotguns and the right of their ownership are at play in the story.

This is a story about breaking with tradition and recognizing the importance of the things we value in life. It is well-written and has its suspenseful moments. As in the famous Chekhov quote, if you introduce a gun in the first act, it must go off in the second or third, Simonson uses the antique guns as a literary device throughout the novel with savvy acumen. I liked it and hope you will too!

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Girls In White Dresses

511fjmo8c9l._sy400_.jpgThe Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson begins in England just prior to the First World War and ends after the fighting is over.

There are a number of interesting characters in the novel. The main character is a young woman named Beatrice whose father recently passed away leaving her alone in the world. She takes up residence in a small English town where she plans to teach school, write, read, and never marry. Before long, she becomes acquainted with the locals and adjusted to life in a small town.

The war begins and Beatrice decides to take-in a traumatized female Belgian refuge who has been displaced by the Prussian invaders. At this point, the story gets interesting.

It took me a while to get into this book. However, once I did, I enjoyed it very much. Much of it is about societal changes which were taking place in addition to the war itself. I thought some parts of it were a bit lengthy, but by the end of the book, I was emotionally attached to the characters and reaching for the kleenex.  I recommend this novel. It is a beautifully told story.

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