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Concepción and the Baby Brokers and Other Stories Out of Guatemala by Deborah Clearman

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 236 pgs.
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Concepción and the Baby Brokers and Other Stories Out of Guatemala by Deborah Clearman is fraught with gangs, poverty, and class struggle. In Todos Santos, these families barely scrape by to make a living, but even as they fail to see eye-to-eye sometimes, each strives for the dream of a comfortable life — whether that means a husband who stays home with his wife rather than his mistress or a young man seeking his fortune in North America.

Clearman’s strongest stories are the series about Concepción and the baby brokers that provides not only the perspective of a woman who sells a child, but the perspective of the broker who buys children, the parents who search for their lost child, and the parents from North America who are desperate to have a family. This series is so emotionally charged and convoluted, but it’s easy to see that there is always more than one side to a story, even if the selling of babies is abhorrent.

“‘The race is long and hard, like life,’ his grandfather had told him. ‘There is no winner. The purpose is to bear up, to survive.'” (pg. 109 from “The Race”)

Clearman breathes life into Todos Santos and its people, demonstrating that like the United States, class is an obstacle many wish to overcome to reach prosperity. While their circumstances may be reduced compared to those in the United States, their dreams are similar in terms of material wealth and familial wealth. Like many races in the United States, the the Mayan descendants are discriminated against, with the children whipped at school until they speak proper Spanish, etc.

Drawing on folklore and mythology, Clearman pays homage to a culture that is hidden in the jungles and cities of Central America. But she also follows some of these residents as they chase their dreams in America. The different walks of life represented her was interesting and engaging, though in some cases, it is hard to emotionally connect with the characters, like they are not as fleshed out as those in the first half of the stories. Concepción and the Baby Brokers and Other Stories Out of Guatemala by Deborah Clearman provides a new look at a culture often overlooked or hidden in literature.

RATING: Tercet

Photo credit Douglas Chadwick

About the Author:

Deborah Clearman is the author of a novel Todos Santos, from Black Lawrence Press. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. She is the former Program Director for NY Writers Coalition, and she teaches creative writing in such nontraditional venues as senior centers, public housing projects, and the jail for women on Rikers Island. She lives in New York City and Guatemala.

The Scheme of Things by Hilde Weisert

Source: the author
Paperback, 118 pgs.
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The Scheme of Things by Hilde Weisert calls to mind how things are connected or organized in our lives. Some of these things are not experienced directly by the narrator of the poems, but tangentially. The pasts of our fathers and mothers can affect our lives even without us realizing it, but our own connections also can call back those moments missed or even moments we’ve forgotten. These poems are a maze of memory, experience, and so much more. Weisert’s verse unwinds this maze and finds the hidden connections.

From "The Scheme of Things" (pg. 11)

So: One morning, from nowhere, an unselected self: A gait
that unrhythms you, a gasp that fills your fist
with nameless stuff. Your skull a holy dome -- A new weight!
But on this plain, the claw-and-hunch will coexist
with you for ages.  All aching appetite, her jaws will snap
flesh, and your fine teeth close. ...

Readers will love how she plays with musicality in her poems, weaving the songs of Gershwin around the encounters with the narrator’s lover or the rhythm of words she and her mother used to create a language only they could understand. Weisert’s fluid vision permeates each poem, packing it full of gems like “Voice is our other body, how we move in the dark.” from “The Dark” (pg. 24). Readers will move with her narrator through the past and the present, looking at the two cities left to her by her absent father or the ravages of war that should not be forgotten and never shall.

The Scheme of Things by Hilde Weisert is not heavy in its musicality, almost creating a dreamlike trance for the reader to easily flow in and out of these connections and, yet, continue to feel the deep emotion, the scars, and awe without plummeting down.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Hilde Weisert‘s collection The Scheme of Things was published in 2015 by David Robert Books. Her poem, “The Pity of It,” was winner of the 2016 Tiferet Poetry Award, and she’s had poems in such magazines as Ms, Prairie Schooner, The Cortland Review, Calyx, and several anthologies. She lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Sandisfield, Mass.

The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 98 pgs.
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The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky, the winner of the 2016 National Book Award in Poetry, is a performance piece written in verse that uses disturbing imagery and rhetoric to examine the boundaries of humanity within the kaleidoscope of immigration, capitalism, and increasing globalization.  Readers will hear and envision a young man on stage speaking truths and satire, picking apart capitalism and so much more in modern society. The collection begins with the poem, “Let Light Shine Out of Darkness,” in which the narrator says, “I live in a body that does not have enough light in it.”  It’s clear that the narrator has been told that he is, or at least he has felt, inadequate.

Borzutzky is exploring humanity from its most vulnerable — a refugee, an outsider — but also how that human must perform in order to find acceptance and not be the subject of violence.  The performance of this book is brutal in its honesty and the reader is forced into frantic reading, almost as one rubbernecks on the road opposite a car wreck.  But in this way, his poems are more powerful because they are “a bedtime story for the end of the world.” (“The Performance of Becoming Human,” pg.15).

So much of the modern world is artifice and natural beauty is shunned or destroyed.  The poet is drawing from current news, from the communities around him, and from the current state of the state. Should the people who live under a regime or a plantation own be asked what they need in order to work or should they merely be expected to work and receive what they are given with gratefulness? Should they expect more for the hard work and the fruits of their labor or should they merely beat down the man next to him on the same social level to receive more?  How does one survive in oppressive circumstances and how do they reconcile the choices they make or don’t make in order to succeed and live?

“The best dictators don’t kill their subjects rather they make their subjects kill each other.”

The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky is all artifice and all reality. There is a duality being an immigrant and a citizen and there is a balance that must be struck in survival. But this collection lifts the veil to show you a dark underbelly. There are no solutions, just a light shone on the whole.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Daniel Borzutzky is a Chicago-based poet and translator. His collection The Performance of Becoming Human won the 2016 National Book Award.

Interrobang by Jessica Piazza

Source: AWP Purchase
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Interrobang by Jessica Piazza is mostly a collection of sonnets that explore a series of phobias and obsessions that often cause us to go over the edge or come very close to our own destruction. This inner turmoil is rarely seen by outsiders or if it is, it is ignored. Piazza brings these obsessions and fears into the light to share with us just how constraining they can be, but there is also an undercurrent of letting loose and a rolling with the punches as they come.

From "Lilapsophobia" (pg. 24)

... But flood's not much
compared with these cyclonic days. No way
to gauge you: wrath or pleasure, unfixed track
away or toward. Untoward, you leave no wake.

Imagine that sleep is the quiet that soothes your fears, imagine to that the light is not hope but something that is jarring and humbling. This is how Piazza’s poems pack their punches, lulling the reader into a known world only to shake them awake with a new world view — one that is a little disturbing. “Antephilia” (Love of Ruin) is one of the most phenomenal poems in the collection, exploring the wreck of a dysfunctional relationship with graveyard imagery and more. Piazza has taken the mess and created a love that leaves a lasting impression in its dysfunction without delving too far into the melodrama of these lives.

Meanwhile, “Pediophilia” (Love of Dolls) almost becomes an ode to loss and the filling up of the emptiness where a daughter once was, only to find it full of creepy dolls in an orphanage devoid of joy and life. Piazza’s imagery is haunting and devastating, and readers will have to force themselves to take it all in, rather than turn away. These poems want you to take notice of the darkness, of the mess, of the emptiness so that you can be ready for the collection’s conclusion and it’s minor note of hope and change.

Jessica Piazza is a talented wordsmith who can weave pictures that will sear into readers’ minds. Her poems in Interrobang are going to force you to look into the darkness so long that the bright light is almost to blinding to see.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Obliterations

About the Poet:

Jessica Piazza is the author of three poetry collections: “Interrobang” (Red Hen Press), “This is not a sky” (Black Lawrence Press) and, with Heather Aimee O’Neill, “Obliterations” (Red Hen Press, forthcoming). Originally from Brooklyn, NY, she holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Southern California, an M.A. in English Literature /Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University. She is co-founder of Gold Line Press and Bat City Review, and curates the Poetry Has Value blog (a must read), which explores the intersections of poetry, money and worth.

Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 88 pgs.
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Dear Almost: A Poem by Matthew Thorburn, which toured with Poetic Book Tours, is a book length poem exploring a year-long tangle with grief after a miscarriage.  Broken into the four seasons, the poem rises and falls with the ebb and flow of melancholy. It attempts to illustrate the loss of what could have been or what almost was or even what you wanted to be.  It’s the loss of potential … the loss of discovery of that being.

From "Once in Early Spring" (pg. 3)

"So that her flight is
flighty, a hop and flap
flutter skip from
branch to branch to
lower branch -- here-ing
and there-ing -- then
the branch dips"

Thorburn relies not only on the natural world to demonstrate fleeting life or the sudden drop off that catches us off-guard emotionally, but also the wider urban world he notices walking with his wife or when he is alone on the streets. Despite the emptiness the narrator feels at the lost one-ounce life he’d imagined taking flight, there are moments of creative imagining, a filling in of what could have been or might have been had things turned out differently. What’s absolutely stunning is how true it all is, particularly:

From "Once in Early Spring" (pg. 11)

"My own words fall

away now, sound weird,
off, odd jangle-clang
in the ear like when
we say something again
and again until
it slips loose of its mooring,
its meaning, so that
we wind up staring"

Grief often paralyzes us, makes us sound unlike ourselves and unable to articulate what is happening to us emotionally. It is even harder for us to connect with others who reach out to us to help us through that pain, and many times we choose to withdraw, to forget, to hold that grief unto ourselves because we don’t know how to express it, how to share it, or how to process and let it go.

From "Three Deer Beneath the Autumn Moon" (pg. 44)

"this hurt is like a burr
hooked in the haunch
of a deer: I carry it with me
all day.  I think of you still,

so still, not there anymore"

Dear Almost: A Poem by Matthew Thorburn is beautiful in its attempt to articulate that which we cannot explain or even deal with.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn is the author of six collections of poetry, including the book-length poem Dear Almost (Louisiana State University Press, 2016) and the chapbook A Green River in Spring (Autumn House Press, 2015), winner of the Coal Hill Review chapbook competition. His previous collections include This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, 2013), Every Possible Blue (CW Books, 2012), Subject to Change, and an earlier chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City Press, 2009). His work has been recognized with a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His interviews with writers appear on the Ploughshares blog as a monthly feature. He lives in New York City, where he works in corporate communications.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, is a delightful story of a young girl bubbling over with so many questions and problems to solve. She reminds me so much of my daughter and her endless questions about why things are and how they became. Many kids inquire, but like Ada, they need to be encouraged to explore, to experiment, to create, and to discover. Ada is a strong girl who is not afraid of failure, with each mishap she begins again, returning to her same questions and moving forward with each new piece of information she learns.

Her parents and teachers have no idea what to do with her inquiring mind, and even when they put her in the “thinking” chair, it’s hard for Ada to stop her exploring and wondering. My daughter and I are just beginning her exploring from rock discovery kits to scientific explosions and creating slime. It’s wonderful to share with her the knowledge I learned and to see how she uncovers the connections and has fun doing so.

The poetry in Beaty’s book is fantastic, if a little awkward in some places. But overall, children will get the bug — the discovery bug — and want to find out for themselves how the world operates and what is going on around them. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, is delightful, and my daughter and I cannot wait to check out the other kids books she has about kids dreaming big, doing great things, and having fun too.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Andrea Beaty was raised in southern Illinois in a town so small she knew everybody and their pets. And they all knew her. She was one of six kids and spent our summer days traipsing through the fields and forests hunting for adventure. She was a big reader as a kid and LOVED Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon Mysteries. Then Andrea moved on to Agatha Christie books and then the classics. She attended Southern Illinois University and studied Biology and Computer Science. After that, she worked for a computer software company. Now, she lives in Chicago with her family. Visit her website. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Also, check out David Roberts’ illustrations online.

Wildly Into the Dark: Typewriter Poems and the Rattlings of a Curious Mind by Tyler Knott Gregson

Source: publisher
Hardcover, 144 pgs.
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Wildly Into the Dark: Typewriter Poems and the Rattlings of a Curious Mind by Tyler Knott Gregson is an exploration of the unknown, whether that is a physical or emotional place. “There are words that others know … single words that speak paragraphs of meaning,” he says. Poetry is very much like that, using few words to describe complex emotions and situations in a way that is concise but pregnant. Gregson’s poems are often just written on scraps of typewriter paper or are accompanied by photographs, and on the surface they appear simple, but this is deceiving. There is a deeper sense of searching and reaching beneath his lines — a wanderlust for more.

The search we all embark upon is different, but in many ways it is the same. We seek to live, to experience, to love, and how we find those passions is different but the emotional journey is often the same. There are ups and downs, but there are not right or wrong answers to how the journey should be taken, and this is what Gregson chooses to remind us of in his poems.

“I do not know how deep I would have gone
if you did not know how to pronounce my name.
Do I thank you now, drop to my knees
in the shallow waters and kiss the salt on your shoes?”

Readers will love his honesty. These poems are honest in their ramblings and emotions, and they will touch readers deeply. The collection, his third, includes previously published poems, but also new material and breath-taking photos. See the vivid world in Wildly Into the Dark: Typewriter Poems and the Rattlings of a Curious Mind by Tyler Knott Gregson.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Tyler Knott Gregson is a poet, author, professional photographer, and artist who lives in the mountains of Helena, Montana. When he is not writing, he operates his photography company, Treehouse Photography, with his talented partner, Sarah Linden.  Visit him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Check out his Website.

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander and Joe Sartore

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
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Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, photos by Joel Sartore, is a gorgeous book for kids — a photographic ark with poems. The images bring forth the magic of Alexander’s poetry from the silly game playing primates to the large rumbling feet of elephants. These short haiku eek out elements of each animal, helping kids identify some of their behaviors and qualities, while engaging their eyes in a play of color.

In “Chorus of Creatures” near the center of the book, Alexander draws parallels between the animals in this ark and humans, calling on all of us to show respect for the world around us, or we might just share its end. At the end of the book is a key with all of the animals listed that appeared in earlier pages, and near the bottom is a key where readers can find out which animals in this ark are critically endangered, vulnerable, and more.

Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, photos by Joel Sartore, is an ark you need in your home to teach children and adults about the animals on our planet and how we are connected to them.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 24 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. Some of his other works include THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE; the picture books, ANIMAL ARK, OUT OF WONDER and SURF’S UP; and novels BOOKED, HE SAID SHE SAID, and the forthcoming SOLO.

About the Photographer:

Joel Sartore has produced more than 30 stories from around the world as a freelance photographer for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine. He is an author, speaker and teacher who captivates audiences with his funny and inspiring adventures.

Caroline by Sue Barr

Source: the author
Ebook, 204 pgs.
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Caroline by Sue Barr, view her guest post, explores Caroline Bingley from a different perspective, following Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet.  What if all we thought we knew about Jane Austen’s foil to Elizabeth wasn’t completely true? What if there was more to her than we thought?

Caroline has been in love with Mr. Darcy, or at least his society position and estate, for a very long time, and when she discovers he is lost to her forever, she is devastated.  She falls to an emotional low, and while turning to music and listening to her sister’s advice, she strives to make improvements — albeit slowly.  But her relationship with her siblings is not as close as it could be, especially when she makes her feelings known to Charles.

“Caroline eyed the half-chewed sticky mass on the floor and with great determination kept a steady gaze on Louisa’s face.  Not for the first time she wished her sister would not speak with her mouth full.  In front of the wrong person, she could be mistaken for an uncouth gentlewoman, on par with Mrs. Bennet.”

In walks, Lord Nathan Kerr, Mr. Darcy’s new vicar, and he is almost immediately besotted, but like Mr. Knightley, he takes Caroline to task for her past transgressions, even some she didn’t make.  Barr creatively intertwines scripture and is never heavy handed, and she shows the gradual evolution of Caroline from social-climber to a woman who is looking for companionship, respect, and love.  She has a harsh temper, which she must learn to curb, and eventually listening to the advice of her grandmother from long ago, she’s able to seek solace and learn to quiet her frustrations and anxieties enough to see the potential before her without lamenting what can never be.

The only drawback was the convenient ending, which took away some of the redemptive qualities of the novel.  But, overall, Caroline by Sue Barr is a wonderful story about a woman in need of new direction and finds it by looking at the opportunities before her that she might have spurned not too long ago.  This fiery redhead learns a lot about herself and society perceptions along the way, leaving her little choice but to reform herself and become more open to love.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Sue Barr resides in beautiful Southwestern Ontario with her retired Air Force hubby, two sons and their families. She’s also an indentured servant to three cats and has been known to rescue a kitten or two, or three … in an attempt to keep her ‘cat-lady- in-training’ status current. Although, she has deviated from appointed path and rescued a few dogs as well.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and their affiliate chapter, Love, Hope and Faith as well as American Christian Fiction Writers. For more information about her other books, visit her website, her blog, and on Pinterest, Facebook, GoodReads, and Twitter.

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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 56 pgs.
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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan is a Newbery Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, and the author notes that he was inspired to write about the 11 slaves listed as property for the Fairchilds estate in 1828. The slave-related document only listed the slaves as “woman” and “boy”, etc., and no ages were given.  Bryan ascribed ages and names to these slaves and gave them jobs on the estate, and the stories he tells in a free-verse poetry format are telling.  My daughter and I read this together in February for Black History Month, but it is a book that has lessons that should be taught to kids everyday.

Bryan’s illustrations aim to breathe life into the dreams of these slaves, those who are bound to an estate with little hope of freedom, except in their minds.  They have skills praised by their owners, and any money they earn from the neighboring plantations enriches their owners.  It’s hard to see how this life could not make the slaves feel hopeless, but Bryan’s free verse poems recall the inner freedom their skills and accomplishments can bring — they have dreams of something more, if not for themselves, for others who they teach and mentor along the way.  From musicians to architects and doctors, these slaves had dreams that out shined their current situations.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan demonstrates the harsh realities of slavery, while still providing children with a glimmer of hope and joy.  It speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit, as well as the darker drive to control others and deem them less worthy for arbitrary reasons.  The illustrations are bright and dreamlike, and kids will be drawn in.  My only complaint is that the free-verse is very narrative, and less rhythmic than expected.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ashley Bryan grew up to the sound of his mother singing from morning to night, and he has shared the joy of song with children ever since. A beloved illustrator, he has been the recipient of the Coretta Scott King—Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award; he has also been a May Hill Arbuthnot lecturer, a Coretta Scott King Award winner, and the recipient of countless other awards and recognitions. His books include Sail Away; Beautiful Blackbird; Beat the Story-Drum, Pum Pum; Let It Shine; Ashley Bryan’s Book of Puppets; and What a Wonderful World. He lives in Islesford, one of the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Maine.

Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty & Giveaway

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 358 pgs.
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Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty is set during what some call the golden age of tennis during the late 1970s when John McEnroe was an up-and-coming star and Jimmy Connors was at the top of his game. Patricia Curren is a beautiful woman who looks as though she’s stepped off of a magazine cover and in a way, she did after her husband discovered her and used her in a rebranding campaign when she was younger. A man bent on building his business and maintaining the perfect facade through intimidation, Jack Curren will stop at nothing to get what he wants while expecting loyalty and acquiescence from those closest to him. It’s clear that his relationship with his wife is far from blissful, and something is about to break.

“This isn’t my story. It’s Patricia and Terry’s. But in the summer of 1978, their lives were wound around mine like strands of twine around a spool. Twine. Rope. Barbed wire by August.” (pg. 1)

The Curren’s take a trip to Kiawah, S.C., to their beach house, and when her husband returns to New York for work, she stays behind. She’s looking to change to become stronger, to break out of her melancholy and aloofness, and to be more like Jack’s assistant Lynn.  Here Patricia transforms into Tricia with the help of Terry, a summer camp teacher who wants to be a professional tennis player on the circuit.  Both are broken and both find that they can repair themselves through the uncomplicated love they have for one another, but the secrets they hold threaten to break apart everything.

Fogarty has created a set of deeply flawed, broken characters who must make peace with their own pasts in order to move forward.  The tennis matches mirror the volleying between Tricia and Jack, Tricia and Lynn, Jack and Lynn, and the volleys between Tricia and Terry, Terry and Baze (his friend), and Terry and Nona (a woman interested in sponsoring his pro career). Told from Lynn’s point of view, readers are pulled into the mystery of these relationships, and the tangled webs they’ve all created until they nearly strangle one another.  Each has to decide when the tipping point is and when to take a chance and go to the net for match point.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Judy Fogarty lives, writes, reads, and runs on the historic Isle of Hope, in her native Savannah, Georgia. She holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois and has served as Director of Marketing for private golf and tennis communities in the Savannah/Hilton Head area, including The Landings on Skidaway Island, Berkeley Hall, and Callawassie Island. She is a devoted (even rowdy) tennis fan as anyone who has ever had the pleasure (or displeasure) of watching a match with her will attest. Breaking and Holding is her debut novel. She is happily at work on her second, and as always, enjoys the invaluable support of her husband, Mike, and children, Colin and Sara Jane. Visit her Website, Facebook, or Twitter.

To Enter for 1 copy (US/Canada addresses only; age 18+): Leave a comment about who your favorite tennis player is and an email. Enter by March 22, 2017, at 11:59 PM EST.

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A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

Source: Berkley
Paperback, 384 pgs.
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A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner pivots on the life of the Queen Mary, a luxury liner that crossed the ocean to entertain the wealthy and was later converted to carry troops across the Atlantic and war brides back to America after WWII.  Katrine Sawyer, Phoebe Rogers, and Simone Robinson are war brides hoping to return to the arms of their American husbands, and they share a stateroom together and exchange camaraderie until one woman’s secrets come to the surface threatening to upend all of her plans for a new future in America.  In the present, Brette Caslake is a reluctant medium who visits the old ship to help an old friend from her past, as she deals with her own decisions about whether she wants to start a family.

Meissner’s historical fiction elements are vibrant and and emotional.  Simone struggles to flee her home in Paris after the Gestapo raids her father’s shoe repair shop, while Phoebe is just eager to return to the arms of her husband and introduce him to his son.  However, Katrine has fled Germany and a secret past that she will have a hard time escaping.  The stories set during WWII are the strongest, and while Phoebe is a war bride on the ship and seems to take a central role as Katrine’s friend, her backstory is a little lost to the reader.  Meanwhile, the present day story is developed slowly throughout the novel until the end where it seemed a bit rushed.

There are a few magical elements that have to be taken at face value, but overall the novel is enjoyable.  It also raises questions about how one can come to forgive someone who comes from a land where you bore so many losses and traumas?  A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner is about the future happiness just out of reach and what it takes to get there, especially when everything is stacked against you.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.  Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.

She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.