Sunday, July 14, 2013

Flying wasn't really involved!

Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane and Fly Away
Do you appreciate and prefer writing that includes detailed vivid characterization and interpersonal relationships among those characters? 
Then I believe you will truly enjoy these two books by Kristin Hannah!
I received a free copy of Fly Away by Kristin Hannah in exchange for an honest review, however, upon researching that book more thoroughly, I discovered it to be a sequel to Firefly Lane and wanted to read that book first. I ordered a copy from Robots & Rogues, my favorite used bookstore in Lafayette, Indiana, and waited a couple of weeks until I had time to devote to these two books. I am glad I read Firefly Lane first, as it gave me the comprehensive background to better understand Fly Away; I don’t believe I would have appreciated Fly Away nearly as much had I read it as a stand-alone novel. 

I was so enthralled with Firefly Lane I literally stayed up until 4:30AM to complete it after having started reading it the night before! (Fortunately, it was the weekend!) I rarely ever stay up beyond 11PM, but this is now one of my favorite books of all time! What a ride this read was! These characters resonated so strongly with me I cannot adequately describe it in words! Though this book is nearly 500 pages long I never noticed as the words just zipped by! Kate and Tully are so real and flawed, yet with that true blend of good/bad, right/wrong that is reality. 

Hannah captures everything in such vivid detail you are literally carried into their world, an “alternate” universe, if you will! You will recognize yourself in these characters’ actions, behaviors, and thoughts on various occasions as you progress through the story. So many aspects are universal to humanity, especially with regard to female relationships; in so many ways, Kate and Tully created the penultimate accepting and supportive friendship! The text of this picture describes Kate's constant and enduring support of Tully...until...the one unforgivable betrayal. Kate was definitely the glue that seemingly held many people, relationships, and family entities together. I was anxious to see how everyone would cope in Fly Away!

The cover for Fly Away depicts the candles suspended from the tree overhanging the patio at Kate and Johnny’s house. Tully suffers one last heartbreaking betrayal, following on the heels of realization that walking away from her successful career has left no opportunity for re-entry in the future. In the wake of her seemingly suicidal vehicular calamity she is left in a coma. With Johnny unable to deal with his own emotional upheaval, let alone aiding his children in their daily lives, Tully’s condition reignites everyone’s passion for their interconnectedness and motivates them to actively care for each other once again. 

 Central to this revival is Cloud’s rehabilitation and ability to cope with life, and therefore, help to save her daughter’s life in a way she never did as a young mother. While a person’s childhood is never “idyllic,” Cloud’s was beyond hurtful, and there is some understanding and sympathy for her plight as an abused and betrayed child herself. It is heartwarming and poignant to see families finally reunited and functioning in a much more respectful and healthy way. I appreciate the fact that Hannah’s ending is somewhat bittersweet—uplifting overall, but not perfectly “happily ever after.” Hannah's treatment of Kate and Tully's relationship throughout Fly Away is unforgettable and memorable. They are together...forever.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

                          The Firebird
Sourcebooks July Book Club read:

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

This book included many things that interest me, one of which is psychometry--the "divination of facts concerning an object or its owner through contact with or proximity to the object." (Merriam-Webster) I know there are people who have this ability, to varying degrees. I believe that the majority of us humans have not yet begun to tap into many skills and abilities of which our brains are capable, such as psychometry. Nicola and Rob both have this ability: one chooses to ignore and suppress it, while the other uses it to his/her advantage. Not surprisingly, both of their families contain older relatives with this same ability. Following the present-day story and the story line in Empress Catherine's Russia is fascinating.  

While the historical details are compelling, Kearsley's characterization is powerfully vivid; I literally felt as if the characters were in the room with me! The writing flows and you are transported to these different locations. When our book club read  The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, one of the most enjoyable aspects of that book was feeling as if you were really THERE with the characters; and I felt that same way with The Firebird! I didn't want to put the book down until I had finished it, though of course, work, etc., got in the way of that desire! 

I admit the ending was quite "happily ever after," which wouldn't appeal to me all the time, but it worked for this book. One of the most beneficial parts of this book was the "About the Characters" section at the end. It was very informative in describing her research and writing process. Perhaps I was at a point in my life that this was truly pertinent for me, because I felt as if it opened me to some valid writing ideas. And Kearsley was quite gracious and helpful in the Goodreads online discussion!  My goodreads review:

Thank you, Sourcebooks, for the opportunity to communicate directly with the author! That is always a wonderfully personal aspect of reading any book!

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Book 3 of the Literary Wives series

I initially read this book about 3 years ago as a Borders employee, since it was a “make” book. Absolutely nothing about it resonated for me. I rarely even mentioned it to customers, because I could not honestly say I “liked” it. I realized that the story was just way too depressing for me, and I couldn’t find much to appreciate or like about the writing style. I rated it one star on goodreads.

Upon seeing it listed for the Literary Wives discussion, I swore I would NOT reread this, but I broke down Saturday and checked it out from the library…and…reread it. This time I was more aware and took better note of writing devices employed by the author, whether by design or subconsciously I don’t know, but there are many ways in which Goolrick creates and reinforces the bleak, desolate, and hopeless supporting atmosphere for this bleak, desolate, and hopeless story: (1) Frequent repetitions of “Such things happen,” or “Such things happened,” emphasizing the belief that life just happens to us, we have no control, (2) repetitious description of the dark, bleak, desolate, and barren Wisconsin winter landscape, (3) repeated references to the atrocities committed upon themselves and each other by members of the community (suicide, beatings, murders, etc.). I’m sure there are many more…and now I understand a bit better my reaction upon my first read that the story felt so repetitive to me, it was! However, these repetitions do much to make this one of the most depressing stories I’ve ever read; please understand that I try to reject truly depressing reads because I’ve found daily life can present many depressing factors with which I must deal and I really do not want to read about others’ unless it is uplifting, and frankly, I found very little to nothing uplifting about this book. I can only hope this was the author’s intention, or perhaps it is just my specific interpretation and reaction…

The second time around I did detect just a bit of redemption at the very end in each of the main characters. For Catherine, I guess it was better late than never, and she did seem to be truly “rehabilitated” to a genuinely kind and caring human being, following one of the most bizarre stories of human destruction I’ve ever read… And Ralph did appear to truly regret the abuse he had heaped upon “his” son, however, his main goal in obtaining forgiveness was simply to ease his own mind and make him feel better about himself, “redeemed.” Once a narcissist always a narcissist, I guess?!?

Interestingly, having just reread The Great Gatsby several months ago, I discovered some similarities between these two books: amassing wealth to do nothing more than advance your own standing/prestige, to the exclusion of any truly personal/spiritual  development, exploiting people for your own gain. Most of Truitt’s 2,000 inhabitants worked directly for Ralph Truitt; “He underpaid them, though he grew richer by the hour.” (page 9) However, Goolrick does include the helplessness and seeming hopelessness of abject poverty born of parental abandonment (e.g. death) and/or abuse/neglect. This is particularly devastating to females who have no real economic/financial recourse in 1908 to truly “make a living,” other than the “oldest profession”? Catherine states she “…would not, could not, live without love or money.” (page 20) 

Neither of them cared about nor knew how to “love,” sex was just motion that others enjoyed, though I believe at the end they may have each discovered some love in their hearts, but what a long and painful journey! I could appreciate Catherine’s recognition that having enough money to live well as Ralph’s wife was part of the reason she could become more caring, life was just easier…I believe Catherine had known true love for her younger sister, Alice, and although she had worked very hard to provide her with a life much better than her own, Alice, too, turned to prostitution, though she was seduced at age 12 by Catherine’s “sugar daddy” at the time. And I did feel true compassion for Catherine as she watched Alice dying, much as I was able to feel for Antonio as he died. 

A theme from this book to which I could relate is just how difficult, and many times impossible, it is to overcome the injustices played out in our childhoods: Ralph for a truly uncaring, cold-hearted, abusive mother who refused to hold him as a baby, etc.; Catherine for being orphaned at such a young age and forced to “make it on her own”; and Antonio for his father’s physical and emotional abuse, and mother’s abandonment of him. I did increase my goodreads rating to 2 of 5 stars.

If you're interested in the Literary Wives online discussion, four bloggers are hosting this: AngelaAriel, Audra, and EmilyRead the book and join in!

There are 4 books chosen: (1) May: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, (2) June: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, (3) July: A Reliable Wife by Richard Goolrick, (4) August: The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin. Everyone who wishes to read these books and join the discussion is invited to do so. 

The questions to consider:
Question 1: What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?
Question 2: In what way does this woman define "wife" -- or in what way is she defined by "wife"?

#1 Perhaps most obvious for me, literally anyone can be a wife, at least hold the title, etc. This was evidenced by the fact that Ralph just advertised for a “wife” and got one! Little did he know this woman was his son’s lover and they hatched a plan to kill him and live well with his money to keep them. Wives can be faithful in some ways and unfaithful in others: marrying only to benefit their own family’s finances (Emilia), sexually promiscuous with other men (Emilia and Catherine), plotting their husband’s death (Catherine), slowly poisoning their husband (Catherine), etc. Alice (American Wife) definitely held the title of wife, but loved Charlie, and was faithful and loyal, perhaps to a fault in some ways… Hadley (The Paris Wife) definitely married Ernest for love and was faithful, though she eventually set limits and dissolved the marriage.

#2 Catherine defines “wife” by treating this role as a complete sham initially, but eventually, after nearly killing Ralph, beginning to truly love him…I think! (And hope.) She is defined by her role as “wife” in acting as if she is an unaccomplished lover at first, and learning to present herself as a mannered “lady” (while in St. Louis), however, she was also sleeping with her husband’s son at the time! Such hypocrisy! But I believe she does eventually become Ralph’s true “wife,” at least according to my standards! Alice (American Wife) became totally defined by her role as “wife” in many ways, though she did stand up for her own individual beliefs eventually in some ways. Hadley (The Paris Wife) was in my opinion a truly faithful, loyal, and understanding “wife” until faced with a polygamous relationship, and then she removed herself from that role.