Today Rachelle Ayala stops by to announce the release of her new romance Played by Love.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn surprised me. I thought it was simply a novel about a disintegrating marriage. There is nothing “simply” about this story. Since my review is the 19,852nd of Gone Girl, others must have some strong feelings about the novel as well.
I really don’t know how I feel about it. Is it well written? Absolutely. Is it suspenseful? Without a doubt. Is it surprising? There’s nothing mundane and ordinary about this plot or its characters. For those reasons, the novel deserves somewhere around ten stars instead of the standard five stars. The score balances out in the creepy department. Gone Girl thoroughly creeped me out and made me thankful that the significant relationships in my life thus far resemble a television series similar to Leave it to Beaver.
The author changes point of view in each chapter. Just when I thought the husband Nick was the bad guy, the wife Amy jumps in with her story, and the pendulum swings. It’s interesting that the person narrating in any particular chapter doesn’t always come off as the good guy. Nick represents himself as shallow, sneaky, and uncaring. Amy can show a side that’s, well, just plain creepy. No other word for it. Then when it’s almost unbearable, Amy becomes the victim once again.
Because every single chapter is its own little mystery verse, I can’t say much else without giving a spoiler. If you can stand folks who are usually unlikable; if you like a unique storytelling technique; if you like to explore the nether regions of the human psyche; and if you “simply” want a read where you are reluctant to put the book down, then read Gone Girl. It’s worth any stain of creepdom left on your brain.
In an Author Wednesday interview with author Carol Brodensteiner, I asked her the best thing someone could say about her novel Go Away Home. She said, “I think the best thing someone could tell me is that they were touched by the characters and the story. That would mean they felt the story was well told, which was my goal in the first place. The second best thing is that they came away from the book knowing more about life in the early twentieth century.”
Go Away Home, Ms. Brodensteiner’s first novel, scores on both counts. The story touched me, and I learned a few things in the process.
The main character, Liddie, yearns for a life outside of her family’s Iowa farm as the novel opens in 1914. She’s sixteen and has yet to deal with life’s harsh realities. The novel’s coming of age theme isn’t old-fashioned despite its historical setting. The same universal characteristics apply whether a novel is set in the 1900s or 2000s. Liddie must come to terms with the world, not as black and white, but as shades of gray. It’s the same for everyone. Those who adapt can enjoy fulfilling lives no matter the circumstances.
I particularly enjoyed one of the messages in Go Away Home. If offers the encouragement to keep doing something no matter how dire life may seem. We can sit and do nothing, but if we do there’s no hope for anything miraculous to occur. Liddie must keep moving and doing things even when the most precious things in life have been taken from her. If she sits and does nothing, that’s exactly what will happen. I loved Liddie and her determination. Yet, Ms. Brodensteiner created a very real character in this woman. In one particular scene, Liddie has made a dire mistake with a lovely dress made for a client of the dress shop where she works. She prays no one will notice, but of course, the owner of the shop does. Liddie’s horror, fear, hope, and embarrassment are the emotions we all share in the same type of circumstances. It’s a brilliant piece of writing and characterization.
The novel’s setting of eastern rural Iowa during the years 1914 – 1919 sets the tone for Go Away Home. First, the farming life creates a tableau of innocence and simple pleasures. Fresh baked bread, gooey chocolate cake, cows bearing calves, and shirts sewn with fanciful embroidery seem romantic to us living in the twenty-first century. However, to Liddie and her family those were the everyday occurrences on the farm. The world of wars and suffragists intrudes into the drum beat of everyday living. Letter writing brings news of family far away, but with great gaps in time. This simple way of life confines Liddie—or so she thinks—until she goes out into the world and discovers that life in the city isn’t as satisfying as she thought. The sister who must leave home in shame when she becomes pregnant without the benefit of wedlock affects the entire family. It seems so silly now, but then it was considered the worst thing that could happen—until the worst thing does happen and then priorities must be rearranged.
Liddie hopes that women’s suffrage will bring freedom for her to choose how she wants to live her life. The draft at the beginning of the United States’ entry into World War I creates fear among the family, although no one close to them is drafted. Automobiles are beginning to appear, even on the farm. And the telephone is a novelty, but one that soon proves to be invaluable.
We believe that technologies are changing at a rapid speed now. Imagine what it must have been like to suddenly go from horse-powered transportation to a machine filled with gasoline. Or what it meant to suddenly be connected to someone living hours away through the black device on the wall. We have no idea what it must have been like in those days of discovery and invention. However, through novels such as Go Away Home, we learn about those times and how it must have been for our ancestors.
The research is impeccable in this novel. Ms. Brodensteiner has proven herself as an exceptional storyteller in her first novel. If you enjoy rich characters and historical fiction, you won’t be disappointed in Go Away Home.
Disclosure: I was provided with an Advanced Review copy of Go Away Home in exchange for an honest review.
Imprisoned for murders he
didn’t commit, Max Kensington is exonerated after eight years when a new
witness steps forward. He returns to his hometown and no one’s happy to see him,
least of all his ex-fiancée, Rosemary Spelling.
I’m used to being transported to another era when I read a novel by Christoph Fischer. Set in England, his latest offering, Time to Let Go, transports the reader, not through the years, but into the lives of one family dealing with the splintered effects of Alzheimers.
I’ve lost several relatives and friends to this devastating disease. I’m familiar with the stages for the patient and the ramifications on the care givers. And so is Christoph Fischer in his portrayal of Biddy Korhonen and her family members dealing with her descent into Alzheimers.
Mr. Fischer shows the various ways individuals deal with the illness. There’s the husband Walter who depends upon the routine and regimen of a scheduled life to keep his wife from falling into a deeper stage. He can keep control of the situation to a certain extent, only as far as Biddy’s mind will allow it. Nothing can bring her back to the loving wife she’d always been. When he can’t control his wife’s failings, he absorbs himself in creating a book of family memories. He can control what is remembered and how much is revealed about the individuals who make up the Finnish branch of the Korhonen family.
Daughter Hanna uses the mother’s illness as a chance to come home and hide out from the realities of her life as an airline stewardess when things go horribly wrong on her last flight. Her casual attitude toward schedules and regimens clashes with her father’s grip on his life with Biddy. Hanna runs into problems with this casualness, yet there are times when Biddy seems so happy with the change.
It’s all here in this novel, and it’s done in such a way that the reader is caught up in the lives of the Krohonen’s and rooting for the family to finally communicate with one another before it’s too late. I found myself agreeing with both sides in the debate on how to handle Biddy’s situation. Since I’ve seen the terrific toll Alzhemiers takes, I understand the complicated feelings and situations that arise. Mr. Fischer handles it deftly and with sympathy for both Hanna and Walter and Biddy. No one is right, and no one is wrong.
As he does with his historical novels set in the first half of the twentieth century in eastern Europe, Mr. Fischer manages to bring in the prejudices of a generation raised with biases toward people of different religions, races, and ideologies. It’s not an indictment of older generations, but it is a reality best met with honesty and acceptance.
Thank you, Christoph Fischer, for once again bringing us a work of fiction that asks us to examine our beliefs and open our minds to honest communication with those we love the most.
To purchase Time to Let Go, click on the cover below.
Disclosure: I was given an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.