This novel has good reviews and has been recommended as ‘ambitious’ and ‘absorbing’ but I must be an outlier on this, because I was disappointed. Even though I usually like sinking into family sagas, I found the drama bland and the characters two-dimensional. The author didn’t make me care about the characters or their dilemmas at all.
The story line is roughly this: three sisters and a brother are single-parented by a mother who is not coping. For three years the mother is emotionally and physically absent, clinically depressed, and rarely emerges from her bedroom.This is referred to in the book as The Pause. The children are pretty much left to fend for themselves during this time, and these parts were actually some of the best scenes in the book with their trips to the pond and their antics with friends. But when The Pause becomes pivotal and defining for the siblings as adults later on, it all fell apart for me and got really boring. It reminded me of the The Nest, which was also one I was in the minority by not liking.
Even though I am a thrower and live in a comfortably but not excessively cluttered house, I enjoyed listening to this book and came away with some good ideas. Marie Kondo’s book Spark Joy has been very popular of late, and I have always liked her advice which goes something like, “Keep only that which you regularly use or really love.” Kondo’s method includes sifting through stuff and deciding to keep only that which “sparks joy.” But what if there is too much joy (and therefore still too much stuff)? What if all that decision-making feels exhausting? What if it’s all too emotional? What if it’s paralysing because it all takes too long and keeps getting interrupted?
Dana White has some far more quick-and-easy, highly practical strategies in this book for every room in the house, and indeed, for the house itself, that solve the problem of loving too much or seeing too much ‘possibility’ in things we just might need ‘one day.’ She offers less emotional and more objective solutions. I especially liked her “container concept” and her “procrasi-clutter phenonenon.” It’s about living with space limitations and making things fit into the spaces you have, rather than adding more spaces for the things you want to keep.
Her simple strategies really make sense. Her principles are easy to understand, remember, and transfer to any and all situations. Following her method will improve the enjoyment of the spaces you live in, assist in keeping things clean, and help you find things that you need more quickly. She also includes chapters on how to help children, spouses, and downsizing parents with their decluttering, without being bossy or naggy. Highly recommend!
From the author of The Nightingale, comes a spellbinding novel set in Alaska, inspired by the author’s own experiences.
Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. Thirteen-year-old Leni, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.
A compulsively readable, powerful novel of survival, love, beauty, brokenness, and redemption. The pace of this novel is unrelenting, with multiple twists and turns, and much of the time you feel you can cut the tension with a knife. The harshly unforgiving yet breathtaking beauty of Alaska are cinematic, and the exploration of human frailty and resilience are riveting. I’d be surprised if this isn’t made into a movie.
Tiggy’s story takes place in the Scottish Highlands as well as the hills and caves of Granada, Spain. Tiggy has a gift for working with animals and has inherited a sixth sense from her ancestors. If you are already following the Seven Sisters Series, this is the last one in the series that is available for now. The sixth instalment is still being written and is due to be released in the fall of 2019. It will focus on Electra, the famous yet troubled sister.
If you are new to the series, it is recommended to read them in order. Pa Salt, a mysterious wealthy man, adopts 6 daughters from various corners of the globe and names them after a star constellation. Upon his death/disappearance, the girls are given clues about their origins and each one embarks on a journey of discovery. Each book focuses on one sister, and the books just keep getting better and better. In this one there are a few more clues about what will be coming in the final book which has been top secret all along. However, there is a mystery building about the 7th sister called Merope, who is mentioned but was never found, and about Pa Salt’s disappearance. Is he really dead?
For a complete list of the books in the series, visit Lucinda Riley’s website. I also found an article about her personal life which reads like a page-turner in itself: click here.
“Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.” Wendell Berry
Another great book by Anne Lamott, although not everyone enjoys her meandering style. I listened to the audio book available on Overdrive from the library. She narrates it herself; I find her voice very down-to-earth and soothing.
Her thoughts on life and love and God are refreshing, funny, ecumenical, and universal. She is honest about her personal struggles and has a realistic view of self-help: she says simply “be kind to yourself and try to do a little bit better everyday.” It’s a crazy world and putting unrealistic pressure on yourself to improve, isn’t going to help. Her message of hope is wise, accessible, approachable, and helpful without being bossy. She may not deliver many answers in her message, but for me she has the power to gently coax me out of some dark thoughts and into the light, in other words, to find some hope.
Here Anne answers questions from fans while she signs books with her fiancé Neil. It’s a delightful impromptu interview: