Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Another Brooklyn

by Jacqueline Woodson
Nov 20-27, 2016

Family. Friendship. "This is memory." As a child growing up in the 70s, for August, this was everything. Woodson used a very unique writing style to illustrate August's life. As the adult August reflects, her memories come in snippets. Some clear as crystal, some a little hazier. But with jumps and shifts in time and past, the result was magical.

Although the novel is short, I feel like the ultimate reveal (to August) about her mother was a slow burn. The denial was raw and sad and real. It was also a protective barrier for her little brother.
"When my brother cried, I shushed him, telling him not to worry. She’s coming soon, I said, trying to echo her. She’s coming tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow." 
The way the story is told is truly poetic. These short sentences, or memories, must sound lovely when read aloud. The mood is one of pain and sorrow, yet I felt a sense of calm after the last page.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016


by Ann Patchett
Nov 1-20, 2016

Ann Patchett is truly one of my favorite authors. Her first fiction release in five years, Commonwealth did not disappoint. I savored every word. Stories that span decades are the kind I really sink my teeth into. I love being fully invested in the characters, their lives. It's a commitment for 300-plus pages that I crave. And Patchett's words invite you in from page one.

Commonwealth takes chronological leaps from past to present to the near past and back again. Some people complain about this, but for me it's a challenge that I accept. I like to be kept on my toes and pay attention to every word. If every novel was written linearly, what a boring world this would be!

From what I've read, Franny, the main character, is fashioned around Patchett's own life. Write what you know. My favorite scenes were of the six step-siblings getting into all kinds of trouble as children in Virginia. In a way it reminded me of my own childhood in the 70s – the never-ending, hazy days and the mischief. Although I can happily say that my childhood never involved drugs and guns! The scenes that introduce the crux of the novel's title happened rather quickly and could have easily been overlooked. But I think this is part of the author's style; quick glimpses into scenes that will unknowingly change your life forever.
“All the stories go with you, Franny thought, closing her eyes. All the things I didn’t listen to, won’t remember, never got right, wasn’t around for."
I'm in love with this formula.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Tuesday Nights in 1980

by Molly Prentiss
Oct 8-Nov 1, 2016

Art. New York City. The 1980s. Some of my very favorite things. These subjects alone are what drew me to this book. The melodic tone of the author's words were enough to keep me until the end. But the dust jacket describes it as "risk-taking" prose. Um, how? I'd say no, not really.

The first chapter begins with a group of radicals in Buenos Aires, and continues in NYC for the next 80% of the story. By the time the subject of the radicals is brought up again, I nearly forgot about it. I had to go back and reread parts to get back on track. While I found the beginning a little slow, I soon found a rhythm and wanted to see what happened to the painter, the art critic and the muse. What I struggled with most was why the author chose 1980 as the point in time. This is Prentiss's debut novel, released this year, so what significance did 1980 hold, besides the SoHo art scene? She's only 32, so it's definitely not personal experience. I'm not sure why I had such a hard time with this fact – every novel needs a backdrop.

I'm reviewing this book as though I didn't enjoy it...but I did. I just didn't get a "wow" feeling that for some reason I was expecting. The ending was good too – not at all wrapped up in a neat little bow – but I don't think this book will stick with me like some do.

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