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Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 190 pgs.
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Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a series of connected stories that read like a novel. Four generations of a Jewish family are touched by the secrets held as one generation copes with the Nazi occupation and, ultimately, flees France to safety. What are the heirlooms this family carries into their new lives? Is it a baby carriage? A beloved wedding band? Or is it simply the memories that flood their minds when they refuse to speak of the past?

From “The War Ends Many Times” (pg. 53)
“Of course, one second-guesses, grasps at the many missed opportunities for escape–that lovely word, that flowing cape of an idea! Why did they not attach themselves to it when it flapped and hovered close? Why?”

Beyond loyalty and duty, each generation is tethered by the ghosts of the past — a father who dies a revolutionary at the hands of Nazis and a mother dying in bed calling for her mother even as her own baby waits in the next room. Peeling back each layer, readers peer into the lives of the Latour family, seeing echoes of the past and reverberations into the future. Even the smallest decision of a stranger desperate for a child she can never have is felt through the generations, forcing one member to make a decision that affects many more and another to accept responsibility for a casual moment.

From “En Voyage” (pg. 89)
“When Jean takes the film to be developed, he is given doubles of this roll. He puts one set of the photos in an album, labels them carefully. He can’t bear to throw the extras away, though there is no one to whom he can safely send them. This makes him feel as if that time is lost, irretrievable, though he knows certainly he does, that time is like that, moving only forward despite our wishes.”

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a deeply moving collection of stories about survivors of WWII and how they coped with their own survival. Fears and protecting their children were forever at the top of their mind, making them hide the past. Despite their efforts, the past can re-emerge in the most unpredictable ways — the effect of heat-stroke leaving you exposed to those you sought to keep from prying too much, from getting too close.

RATING: Quatrain

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

About the Author:

Rachel Hall’s collection of linked stories, Heirlooms, was awarded the BkMk Press 2015 G.S. Sharat Chandra prize, selected by Marge Piercy.

Hall’s stories and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gettysburg Review, Lilith, New Letters, and Water~Stone. In addition, she has received awards and honors from publications such as Lilith and Glimmer Train, and New Letters and from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, as well as Ragdale and the Ox-Bow School of the Arts where portions of Heirlooms were written.

She holds an MFA from Indiana University where she was the Hemingway Fellow in Fiction. Currently, Hall is Professor of English at the State University of New York-Geneseo. She teaches creative writing and literature and holds two Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence—one for teaching and one for her creative work.

United States of Books: Drown by Junot Díaz

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 208 pgs.
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Drown by Junot Díaz, which Entertainment Weekly selected to represent New York, is not set in New York.  It is set in New Jersey.  In most cases, the neighborhoods in New Jersey can be transposed over those in New York City.  However, given that the young boy views a trip across the bridge as a trip to another world, these New Jersey neighborhoods are unique in terms of how many residents are Dominican and how those residents interact with other minorities.  EW said that the “book of stories stands out for its depiction of immigrants striving for their own versions of the American dream,” which is an accurate description.

There are 10 stories in this collection, and Díaz never shies away from the darkness that can envelop an immigrant’s life, especially when jobs and money are scarce and discrimination is around many corners.  A young immigrant boy must come to terms with his new life in the United States, after spending his early years feeling abandoned by his father.  Living an impoverished life with his mother and brother in the Dominican Republic, waiting for money from their father or even word from him, was somewhat easier because of its familiarity.  In the United States, these children must learn to live with a father they barely know, and it is a jarring experience.

“The uniforms Mami could do nothing about but with the mascotas she improvised, sewing together sheets of loose paper she had collected from her friends.  We each had one pencil and if we lost that pencil, like I once did, we had to stay home from school until Mami could borrow another one for us.” (pg. 71, “Aguantando”)

The immigrants in these stories are from the Dominican Republic, but even that does not summarize the power of these tales.  A family is fractured by a man with big dreams, but even those dreams are not enough to keep his focus most of the time.  One day after pledging his devotion to his wife and children, he takes his family’s money and flies to the United States, leaving his wife and two sons behind.  They live a squalid life to say the least, and while they make the best of it with the girls and the friends they have on the dirty streets, they know that there is something missing, and in some cases even blame themselves for the empty space.

Drown by Junot Díaz is gritty.  There are dark alleys, drug deals, fights, and sexual promiscuity, but there also is a desolation as these immigrants find that they are without an anchor in American but unable to return comfortably to their former lives.  Immigration can provide opportunity, but it also can provide paths that are unsavory and dark, leading to loss and hardship, similar to those left behind in their home countries.  These stories seek to shed light on the darker side of immigration and the breakup of families in search of an American dream.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

NewYorkUUofBooks

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig is a collection of short stories set during World War I, the Great War. Love is at the crux of each story, whether its a lost love or the love of a child lost to war, and these men and women are tested by the ravages of combat.  These writers have a firm grasp of the subject and readers will never question their knowledge of WWI or the human condition.  From a childless widow of German heritage living in France in “Hour of the Bells” by Heather Webb to a young wife left in Paris alone and estranged from her husband’s family in “After You’ve Gone” by Evangeline Holland, people are torn apart by war in many ways and those who are left behind to pick up the pieces are weary and forlorn.  They must pick up their skirts or what remains of their lives and move on, despite the pull of the past, the future that will never be, or the emptiness of their homes.

“But the trick was not to care too much.  To care just enough.” (from “An American Airman in Paris” by Beatriz Williams, pg. 244 ARC)

“Sixty years gone like a song, like a record on a gramophone, with the needle left to bump against the edge, around and around, the music gone.” (from “The Record Set Straight” by Lauren Willig, pg. 44 ARC)

These characters care, they care a lot, and even after the war is long over, the past still haunts them, at least until they are able to make amends or at least set the record straight.  How do you get past the loss of loved ones, do you wallow? do you seek revenge? how do you hold on to hope? Sometimes the war doesn’t leave a physical reminder, but a mental and emotional one — scars that are harder to trace and heal.  These stories are packed full of emotion and characters who will leave readers weeping and praising the hope they find.

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig takes readers on a journey through and over the trenches and to the many sides in a war — crossing both national and familial borders.

Rating: Cinquain

Connect with the Authors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m counting this as my Fiction Book Set During WWI.

 

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman is a fanciful collection of short stories in a variety of forms, including those that use letters, poetry, and stories within stories. In the introduction, Gaiman explains what he means by trigger warnings and subsequently explains the seeds that began the stories and the thought processes behind them.  Readers who like surprises may want to skip the explanations and head right into the stories, because on their own, you can see how trigger warnings might be necessary for some readers.

“I’m thinking rather about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. … And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead.” (pg. XV)

Stories in the collection are twisted, have dark shadows that play at the edges, and will have readers contemplating what on earth they’ve just read.  “A Calendar of Tales” was a fun experiment conducted with the help of Twitter in which statements from strangers spawned ideas for stories, and these tales are spontaneous and captivating with images that references the months of the tales.  Readers will love the tone used by Gaiman, who builds little mysteries one word at a time.  Gaiman has chosen his formats and language very carefully — sucking readers in quickly and astonishing them by the end.  However, one story — The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, previously reviewed here — that makes an appearance in this collection may be better read in its illustrated format — it’s so much richer.  But one of the creepiest and unsettling stories in the collection is “Click-Clack Rattlebag” in which a young boy asks for a scary, but not too scary story before bed from his babysitter.  The story that’s told is not what the babysitter or the reader expects, and it will have readers looking very closely about the shadows at the edges of the room.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman was a satisfactory collection and while the theme seems to be the inescapable past, many of these fanciful stories also seek answers to what happens when you begin forgetting or when the future you expected does not come to pass.

Other Reviews:

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

About the Author:

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, and is the recipient of numerous literary honors. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on Facebook, tumblr, and his blog.

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War illustrated by Jim Kay

 

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 304 pgs
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The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War illustrated by Jim Kay is an engaging way for young readers (age 10+) to learn about World War I through the touchstones and artifacts left behind by soldiers, their families, and the war itself.  From a writing case to a toy soldier, these stories draw inspiration from these objects, building a world in the past that could be as real today as it was then.  There are stories from Michael Morpurgo and Tracy Chevalier, and like many short story collections some stories shine brighter than others, with “Captain Rosalie” being bitter sweet and “Our Jacko” inspiring.  These stories will evoke deep emotions in readers, as they learn not only about the realities of war and loss, but also the connections we have to objects that come from our ancestors.

“I keep the compass shined up and the safety catch on so the little needle doesn’t swing and break.  When I hold it and let it go and hunt out north, it bobs around like anything, like something on water, and it’s hard to tell where you are or what it’s saying.  That’s because I can’t keep my hands still enough.  But my dad could.  He kept his hands steady all the way, and he found home.” (“Another Kind of Missing,” pg 27)

“For in order for a story to work, it has to have a purpose, a structure, a journey, and a resolution.  And in reality, war has none of these things.  War is simply a near-random sequence of horrors, and so to make a story out of war is to lie.”  (“Don’t Call It Glory,” pg 65)

“But for music, I might have just stayed there,
keeping time with the
swoosh, swoosh, swoosh
of my push broom
for always.

Maybe making something of yourself is about
not
just keeping time
but doing something of substance,
something risky,
something you couldn’t fathom having the
skill
guts
nuts
to do until
you
do it. (“A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” pg. 153)

Beyond the short stories told in this collection, there is one, long narrative poem, “A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” which mirrored the rhythm and blues played by the main character.  But it also highlights the desire to seize the moment when it comes, rather than wait until its gone to desire it.

“So I won’t waste it:
War can break a man.
Slam him down on his back in the
dark.” (“A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” pg. 166)

Each of these pieces brings forth some of the hidden feelings of those left behind by soldiers and those who are less than eager to fight, but they also illustrate the complexity of war and its allure.  Kay’s illustrations are in black and white and give the collection just the right amount of gruesome horror, but these are accompanied by facts about the war from women entering the workforce and the types of jobs they assumed to the conditions of the trenches.

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War illustrated by Jim Kay would be a great addition to any classroom willing and able to go beyond the traditional teachings of just WWII and other wars.  WWI was an important part of history that should not be forgotten, as it illustrates not only the brutality of ambitious people, but also the realities of bravery and cowardice, particularly through the eyes of children who are left behind.

 

 

 

 

Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem

Source: Random House
Hardcover, 157 pgs
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Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem is an eclectic collection of short stories that range from the experimental to the surreal and traditional, but many of these stories lack the final punch readers make expect from short stories. While characters in these stories may experience smaller revelations, they often fall a little flat in the telling as the prose tends to be overly flowery or down-right boring. Of the collections that should be engaging to the reader given the title alone, they often lack the glitter readers will expect, such as “The Porn Critic.” And even these stories with catchy titles are some of the best in the collection, despite their flaws.

The first story, “Lucky Alan,” chronicles a neighbor who is obsessed with a reclusive Alan in his building and upon his marriage and later his growing family, the neighbor feels less important and pushed aside. In reality, he learns that this friend he tried so hard to win, was not who he thought him to be at all. And after the entire building sides with Alan, it is hard for him to continue living in a place that is unaware of Alan’s true nature. There are more nuances in the story, but they often get lost in the strange dialogue between friends and the situations that seem outlandish even in a large city of eclectic people.

In “The King of Sentences,” Lethem takes a look at the other side of fame, not so much the emphasis on the crazed fan, though there are some here, but on the perceptions we have of these famous people and how they may be very far from reality. In fact, the reality presented here is very scary for those of us who wish to meet those famous stars and writers we love. Meanwhile, “Their Back Pages,” seemed to be riffing off of Survivor and Lord of the Flies, but there are some pieces within the story that worked better than others, which made the overall effect of the story muted and confused.

Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem was a collection of stories with a lot to recommend it, but unfortunately, I can’t. I was disappointed with the individual stories and those that worked for the most part just didn’t wow me. Others might have a different view, but when reading short stories, I shouldn’t be falling asleep.

About the Author:

Jonathan Allen Lethem is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994. It was followed by three more science fiction novels. In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel that achieved mainstream success. In 2003, he published The Fortress of Solitude, which became a New York Times Best Seller. In 2005, he received a MacArthur Fellowship.

Short Story Friday: Christmas Canapes & Sabotage by Janel Gradowski

In a renewal, I’ve been reading some short stories in collections, and I really love Janel Gradowski‘s writing.  Her cozy mysteries are always full of food and fun.  One of her latest stories was published in the Cozy Christmas Capers: Holiday Short Story Collection.  I wanted to share a little bit about why I am enjoying these cozy mysteries from Janel and why we as a community should support more writers like her.

Christmas Canapes & Sabotage by Janel Gradowski is part of the culinary competition mystery series of books — her new one is coming out this month, Chicken Soup & Homicide — that find an amateur cook embroiled in a deadly mystery at local food competitions.  Amy is a winner when it comes to these amateur cooking competitions, but she is always humble about her skills, even if she is as inventive in the kitchen as some professional chefs.  Why do I gravitate to these books?  1. food 2. humor.

“‘Old Man Winter can ease up any time now.  It isn’t even Christmas, and I’m tired of the deep freeze.  I think the girl who handed my my registration packet had blue fingernails, and the color wasn’t from nail polish.'”

“‘You’re like a foodie super hero, saving the masses with a pot of tea.'”

Janel is the queen of the instant one-liners, and she’s a book blogger who has made her writing dreams a reality.  She started with flash fiction pieces published in online journals, and from there dove into more challenging, longer projects.  I love her spunk in tackling larger projects that challenged her, and I think that she’s found a great niche.

Have you found other book bloggers who’ve entered the world of authorship?  Have you read their books?  I’d love to hear about it.

To enter Janel’s party giveaway, go here.

Island Fog by John Vanderslice

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 288 pgs
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Island Fog by John Vanderslice is a collection of short stories placed in chronological order beginning in 1795 on Nantucket, Mass., through 2005.  These stories are dark and oppressive, and one of the most harrowing is “Taste,” which is likely to have some readers’ stomachs churning.

“Physical assault is a vaporous threat that gravitates around his being like the afternoon fog infecting the harbor.  A threat that, unlike the fog, never actually takes body.” (from “Guilty Look”, pg. 18)

“More than that, William said he could not live trapped in a nuthouse anymore.  ‘This island,’ he said to you, and you were not to take this personally, ‘feels like some mad doctor’s lab experiment.'”  (from “How Long Will You Tarry?”, pg 124)

Vanderslice weaves in the economic and social history of Nantucket to demonstrate the insular nature of an island and how dynamic it can be, despite that isolation.  The tension between Congregationalists and Quakers in colonial times is vibrant and engaging, as are the struggles of a young wife whose husband is lost at sea, but the overall collection is a mixed bag.  While the author strives to depict the disappointing pasts of characters on the island and their desires and hopes, the overall feel of the collection is one of a harsh island life that sometimes can feel like a prison to those who are native to the land and those who are merely visitors.

Island Fog by John Vanderslice is about peeling back the shroud of our neighbors lives and engaging with their personal lives in ways that many of us never expect.  The secret desires we harbor and the past transgressions we hide from even ourselves are revealed in these short stories, but beneath the fog is the desire to hope, the need to reach for something better than we have — even if in the end it is disappointing.  The collection would generate lively discussions in a book club.

About the Author:

John Vanderslice teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas, where he also serves as associate editor of Toad Suck Review magazine. His fiction, poetry, essays, and one-act plays have appeared in Seattle ReviewLaurel Review, Sou’wester, CrazyhorseSouthern Humanities Review1966, Exquisite Corpse, and dozens of other journals. He has also published short stories in several fiction anthologies, including Appalachian Voice, Redacted StoryChick for a DayThe Best of the First Line: Editors Picks 2002-2006, and Tartts: Incisive Fiction from Emerging Writers.  His new book of short stories, Island Fog, published by Lavender Ink, is a linked collection, with every story set on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.

Countdown by Mira Grant

Source: Amazon Kindle
ebook, 82 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Countdown (A Newsflesh Novella) by Mira Grant is a great addition to the trilogy, chronicling the emergence of Kellis-Amberlee from its aucpicious beginnings as separate cures for the common cold and cancer.  There is the saying that there can be too much of a good thing, and in this case, these good things combined to create one of the most destructive things imaginable for the human race.  Dr. Alexander Kellis is working on a way to cure the common cold, but his testing is still in animal trials, while Dr. Daniel Wells is working on the Marburg Amberlee cure for cancer and is testing on humans with some success.

“‘This guy thinks he can eat textbooks and shit miracles,’ was the pitch.”

“Freed from its secure lab environment, Alpha-RC007 floated serene and unaware on the air currents of the stratosphere.  It did not enjoy freedom; it did not abhor freedom; it did not feel anything, not even the cool breezes holding it aloft.  In the absence of a living host, the hybrid virus was inert, waiting for something to come along and shock it into a semblance of life.”

“There is nothing so patient, in this world or any other, as a virus searching for a host.”

While these scientists are working on separate cures, there are forces outside of their labs that threaten their progress.  The Mayday Army, once a pot-head group of kids, is bent on “sticking it to The Man.”  They see an opportunity and take it.  Meanwhile, the unsuspecting people throughout the country, including the Masons from the trilogy itself, are left to deal with the wide-ranging consequences.  Through a series of blog entries, these tales unfold in rapid succession, ramping up the tension toward the ultimate conclusion before the start of the official trilogy.

Countdown (A Newsflesh Novella) by Mira Grant is not a necessary addition to the series, but certainly one that will be appreciated by those that love the novels and want more about how the outbreak that ended modern civilization occurred.  Readers will enjoy how Grant mixes scientific jargon into a thriller.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.

Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.

Extractions by Melissa M. Firman

Source: Purchased
E-short story
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Extractions by Melissa M. Firman is an e-short story in which something is not quite right with Kari and her family.  While they have that suburban home, there are some financial issues lurking in the background, but that could just be the tip of the iceberg.  This family is racking up the debt with no end in sight and her impending dental work is only going to exacerbate that situation.  Firman has packed a lot of detail into the first couple of pages of this short story, which according to the Kindle estimate is just seven pages in total.

Whether Kari’s drinking has to do with their financial problems or the fact that she’s cyber-stalking an ex-boyfriend on Facebook, it doesn’t matter.  Something has got to change for this family.  They are in a very precarious situation and something is going to push them over the brink.  Kari is dissatisfied, and she’s searching for something outside herself to make herself content.  An unexpected act of vandalism, however, will have her questioning her own actions.   Extractions by Melissa M. Firman is well done, but will likely leaving readers wanting more.

About the Author:

Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pa., Melissa Firman was convinced she would be a world-famous author before she was 18. When that didn’t quite happen, she earned a B.A. in English/Communications from Cabrini College and worked with various nonprofits. Melissa currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband of 20 years and their two children.

“Extractions” is Melissa’s first short story published on Amazon. She recently edited young adult author Melissa Luznicky Garrett’s much-anticipated novels “The Prophecy” and “Blood Draw.”

Melissa Firman is currently in the process of writing her first novel and is a freelance book reviewer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Connect with Melissa on her website and blog at MelissaFirman.com or on Facebook at Melissa Firman, writer – www.facebook.com/TheFirmanGroup.

80th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff

Source: NetGalley/Kindle
ebook, 21 pages
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The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff is a complementary story to her new novel, The Winter Guest (my review), in which Maria finds herself married and estranged from her father in rural Biekowice, Poland, during WWII.  Maria, who is married to Piotr, finds that she is an outsider at her in-laws home, and is unable to share even her sense of loss with them after he was conscripted by the Germans.  She fills her days avoiding the scrutiny of her mother-in-law, and dreaming about what life will be like when her husband returns.  She feels alone now that she’s severed herself from her father, whom she caught selling information to the Nazis.  However, her father’s betrayal is the least of the secrets she will uncover.

“War had nipped at the edges of their tiny village, Biekowice, changing little things first, like the requirement of registration cards.  Later had come the food requisitioning that left the market so bare.  Piotr’s family had not been affected as badly as most — the farm produced enough simple fare to keep their stomachs full.”

While she lives in relative comfort, Maria must remain strong for herself and a young Jewish girls she discovers hiding in the family barn.  Maria is a young wife who is still finding her place in her new family, while at the same time trying to make sense of the families around her who turn in their neighbors or make other deals with the Nazis to survive.  When she is faced with the dilemma of a little Jewish girl, it is clear that her father’s betrayal propels her to take a different action.  The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff expounds upon a minor character in her novel, The Winter Guest, giving readers a glimpse into how much the paranoia and fear had begun to permeate even the smallest villages as Nazis traipsed through the city squares and fought through the countryside.  It’s too bad that this story is so short; it would make a good novel.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.  Visit her Website and Facebook page.

22nd book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Poland)

 

 

 

32nd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

27th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers

Source: Author and Book Junkie Promotions
Paperback, 190 pages
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A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers is a quiet collection of short stories about the Brazilian backlands that examine faith and perseverance among people who were downtrodden and beaten down by their richer brethren off and on between 1964 and the early 1990s.  In this crucible, men and women are either made stronger or they are broken by the land, the people, and the government.  Powers uses sparse language and thrusts the reader in the middle of situations, but there is enough background given so that the reader understand each character’s position in the towns they visit — from the Brother sent to help an older priest live out his final years before the parish is closed and finds himself becoming a people’s hero to the young wife and mother who dreams of escaping her life as a wife for a passionate love affair.

“She turned and walked inside.  She would miss this house.  The house where she had grown up had been made of wattle — mud and sticks — plastered over in parts where the plaster hadn’t worn through.  Its floor had been dirt, pressed hard enough so that you could sweep it almost clean, but turning muddy when rain leaked through the old tile roof.  In this house, when water leaked through the tiles in the hard rains, it could be swept off the floor.  And here there was a pump in the kitchen; she didn’t have to walk to the river for water.”  (from “The Moving”, page 96)

While Powers begins his collection with a note about the political and social environment during the time in which these stories are set; it is hardly necessary because it is clear that those factors influenced the lives of his characters.  At the heart of these stories are families trying to make their way in the world and keep what little they have, but there are the missionaries who come from the outside world to help them and there are the wealthy landowners and their gangs who try to take it all.  Powers’ style is reminiscent of the stories told by the fire before televisions were prevalent in homes, and these stories will transport readers outside of their own lives into the lives of these Brazilian farmers and ranchers.  As they struggle, readers will feel the tension grown, and when they fall, they will cheer them onward.

A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers is a powerful look at a less affluent society that is no less worthy of prosperity and happiness than the next.  Hearts will break, families will falter, but in the end faith and love hold them together through the toughest parts of their lives.  Powers has crafted harrowing stories that dig at the root of all human societies when they are beginning anew.

About the Author:

Arthur Powers went to Brazil in 1969 and lived most his adult life there. From 1985 to 1997, he and his wife served with the Franciscan Friars in the Amazon, doing pastoral work and organizing subsistence farmers and rural workers’ unions in a region of violent land conflicts. The Powers currently live in Raleigh North Carolina.

Arthur received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, three annual awards for short fiction from the Catholic Press Association, and 2nd place in the 2008 Tom Howard Fiction Contest. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in many magazines & anthologies. He is the author of A Hero For The People: Stories From The Brazilian Backlands (Press 53, 2013) and The Book of Jotham (Tuscany Press, 2013).

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heroforpeople

 

 

 

55th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

28th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.