Wow. Loved this book. Gobbled it up on the weekend and am heading for the library to pick up the next episodes in the season,….oops, I mean books in the series; there are five all together, this is the first, but they are quick reads. This is not hugely literary fiction, but very relaxing reading…like watching a TV series on Netflix. My plan is to “binge read” through the upcoming camping trip!
I love unsentimental pilgrimage adventures. It’s such a brilliantly simple premise for a novel and always so full of promise. If you liked Rachel Joyce’s Harold Fry or Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, or anything by Bill Bryson, you’ll love this one.
Alan Christoffersen has just lost the love of his life, his wife McKale. As if that weren’t enough, he also has lost his ad agency, his business partner, his house, his cars…everything really. On a whim (and as an alternative to swallowing two bottles of his wife’s left over pills) he decides the thing to do is to walk to Key West, Florida which is the furthest possible point from where he lives in Seattle, Washington. He packs up and sets off. This book has short snappy chapters. It is inspirational, humorous, and uplifting, despite the serious reasons for the journey. Feel free to walk along!
Series Book List
21,000 Japanese-Canadians were rounded up and placed in internment camps during World War 2. This work of historical fiction reads like a memoir. Themes of loss and grief in one man are woven together seamlessly with stories of those who suffered unjustly at the hands of government forces. I remember reading about similar American history in Snow Falling on Cedars, and was myself unaware that this had happened in Canada as well. Probably the most famous novel about this history was written by Joy Kagawa in a novel called Obasan.
This is a quiet novel, evocative, lyrical and beautifully written. Though there is not much plot, there is movement as Bin Okuma, after losing his wife and struggling with his art work, travels across the country with his beloved dog Basil, hunting down ghosts of his childhood. He travels to meet his First Father to uncover some mysteries of the past. The book is a historical account of the tremendous injustices of this shameful racism, but it is not without redemptive themes of love and art and hope. It is a story well told and very readable. Although I found it a bit plodding and slow at times, I also found parts of it fascinating and I am glad that I stuck with it. It will be a book that is not easily forgotten and is a good choice for book clubs.
Just as I finished this novel I ran into a quote on Facebook which couldn’t have been more well timed and appropriate. The topic of the quote refers to an ancient Japanese practice called kintsugi. “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.” (Billie Mobayed) There is a crack in everything. As Leonard Cohen says, that’s how the light gets in. Shattered pieces can learn to mend; brokenness creates a unique history that can become beautiful when it becomes strong again.
There are a lot of music references in this novel. For your convenience, here is a handy playlist.
Itani’s novel is this year’s choice for One Book, One Mississauga. It’s a city-wide library program where residents are encouraged to read one book over the summer, and then participate in events in the fall where the book will be discussed in more detail. It will be the biggest book club in the city!
Note: Itani’s husband lived the history in this novel. Here is an article about him.
“Once upon a time, a man from Delhi and a man from Yukon fell in love, and so did a woman from Jamaica and a Mohawk woman. The two couples became best friends and had a baby together. When they won the lottery, they gave up their jobs and found a big old house where their family could learn and grow…and grow some more.
Now Sumac Lottery (age nine) is the fifth of seven kids, all named after trees. With their four parents and five pets, they fit perfectly in the Toronto home they call Camelottery.
But one thing in life that never changes…is that sooner or later things change.”
Emma Donoghue has written her first book for children. It is a quirky, romp of a story about diversity and family, with non-preachy life lessons about inclusiveness and unconditional love. This modern-day hippy, environmental, cooperative family home-schools, volunteers, has several ‘rescue-pets’ and gets creative about just about everything. But how accommodating can this otherwise amazingly flexible family be when their grandfather moves in? He’s the one from the Yukon who they’ve never met and seems so grumpy. Sumac, the narrator of the story, is horrified to learn that he’ll be taking her room on the first floor and he has something called dementia.
Every family has “inside jokes” in the form of silly words or nicknames, and Donoghue goes all out with that kind of wordplay in this book. The Dads are PapaDum and PopCorn, the Moms are CardaMum and MaxiMum, family meeting are ‘Fleetings’…you get the picture. There are WAY too many wordplays which at times interrupted the flow and made me stumble in the reading. I feel really conflicted about this book because I love the idea of it but found it hard to read.
Undoubtedly there is an amazing message to young readers…people and families come in all shapes and sizes and colours and types and this definitely is something to be celebrated and normalized, but the author packed in WAY too much which really bogged the story down. In contrast, her portrayal of a five year old boy in Room was so much more simply authentic and well fleshed out–these characters just felt like silly caricatures, which then kinda defeats the purpose. I think unfortunately, she had more fun writing it than anyone will have reading it–a book with a great premise but a lost opportunity in the end.
Note: Royalties from this project go to Room to Read, a nonprofit working in literacy and girls’ education across communities in Asia and Africa.
Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska and are met at the airport by a policeman instead of her husband. The police are convinced that Matt has died in a tragic fire but Yasmin refuses to believe this. Within hours she and her young daughter are driving across the frozen wilderness where nothing grows, and tears can freeze in an instant. In round the clock dark they search for Ruby’s father and as they travel ever deeper over a silent land and into an approaching storm they become aware that they are being followed.
This stylish and unique literary thriller has it all: not only is it beautifully written and gives the reader a meaningful glimpse into what it is to be deaf, it has edge-of-your seat suspense, memorable characters, current and relevant issues, multiple twists in the plot, and some glorious and terrifying descriptions of the Arctic landscape in all its beauty and deadly darkness. It contains not only an exploration of an extraordinary Arctic land, but also the interior landscape of a profoundly deaf child.
The author makes you experience the biting cold, the sting of grief, the drive to survive, the weight of responsibility, the love of family, the mustering of courage, the agony of defeat, and the triumph of overcoming. Atmospheric and gripping, this is the kind of gem I look for where literary excellence and commercial readability meet.
A tragic accident. A past you can’t escape. Wow, what a cracking good read, an addictive twist-filled page-turner. Summer readers, pay attention to this author! I loved her book I See You, also a suspense thriller, but I liked this one even more. The title has multiple meanings at various points in the novel. Loved the clever plotting, characters I really cared about, compassionately portrayed dark issues, an authentic police investigation, pertinent side stories about the detective’s home life, and the unpredictability for the most part, except for the classic “look out, you should have seen this coming and protected yourself better” moment, when the haunted inevitably becomes the hunted, but every true thriller needs one of those right?
With this book it’s best to go in with as little information as possible to enhance the thrill of discovery, so here’s the goodreads synopsis to set up the storyline just enough…
“In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…”
An interesting BBC interview with the author, containing no spoilers:
(Queen’s Thief series #1) First in the series, this multiple award winning young adult fantasy novel has an interesting premise and a tongue in cheek quality that tickled my funny bone. Gen is a thief who has actually been stolen himself from prison and embarks with his captors on a quest. They need him to steal a treasure from another land and he has no choice but to comply, although this plucky hero makes it abundantly clear that he has no intention of complying easily and has some tricks up his own sleeve–there is more to Gen than meets the eye, so keep an eye out for clues and double meanings. Along the way of the journey, stories are told which set the scene of this fantasy world that will continue in sequels, the next being The Queen of Attolia, which many reviewers have said is far better than this first instalment. There are three more after that: The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings, and Thick as Thieves.
To be honest, the beginning of the book felt as slow and plodding as the journey of the quest itself (and perhaps that is the point), but the pace picked up in the middle when the big theft gets underway. There are some good twists and turns and though I’m not a big fantasy fan, it is definitely one of those ‘cross-over’ young adult novels that appeals to adults as well as to teens.
Two books I read by this author were fabulous (Midwives and The Double Bind) and since reading those, I have been trying to find others of his that are just as good. Alas, this one wasn’t, and neither was The Guest Room, although both are intriguing beach reads, just not as good as the other two. The ending of this one was completely unpredictable which is always fun (this novel is chock-a-block full of red herrings). Bohjalian is a good writer and can craft a compelling enough story, his novels covering a wide range of topics–you never quite know what you are going to get with this author.
The topic of this novel is sleepwalking, which was interesting to delve into. Sleepwalking is more common in childhood than in adulthood (17% of children sleepwalk in their early years–I did twice) but very few continue to do so as adults. The author focuses mostly on ‘sexsomnia’ a disturbing ‘arousal disorder’ (pun intended) where the adult sleepwalker engages in sexual encounters without waking up–a rather rare occurrence I would think, but interestingly has been used in criminal defence of rape.
When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Their mother has done bizarre things in the night before. As oldest daughter Lianna peels back the layers of the mystery she asks herself: Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her husband was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where is the body? Why does the detective on the case know so much about her mother and why is he now interested in her? Why does her sister have jet-black hair when everyone else in the family is blonde?