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The prose is better than most books written today.

Celestial Bodies - Jokha Alharthi

Celestial Bodies, Jokha Alharthi (Author), Marilyn Booth - translator(Author), Laurence Bouvard (Narrator), In a world that is dominated by the needs of men, a world where women are totally subservient and duty bound to serve them, what will happen when modernity interferes with that way of life? This book examines the changes in an Omani family, over about a century of time, as world events, education and enlightenment put their fingerprints on the lives of three generations of men and women. Will cousin still marry cousin, will the marriages be arranged, will women be allowed out of the home, will they be allowed education, will they ever drive or choose their spouse and career? If they obtain more freedom and more rights, will the individuals be prepared to handle them? As they go from some living in tents in the desert, to others living in luxury, how do their needs and lifestyles change? From the men who expect to be catered to in every way to the women who believe it is their duty to cater to them, how will their lives change if customs and traditions are altered and one gender is no longer totally subservient to the another? Although it is confusing at times, with so many characters popping up and a timeline that is often not linear, it is written with a prose that is far and above most books today. Filthy language and overt sex scenes to titillate the reader are nowhere to be found as they are in most of the mass produced fiction of today. Rather, the story stands on its own merit. The novel follows a family from Oman. It takes the reader through the changes in culture, choices, and individual freedoms, especially regarding women’s rights in the Arab world and it travels through world events as these changes occur, illustrating its effects on the family members and servants. It examines the thoughts of several individuals, with insight, as their desires develop and/or change. With additional freedom comes responsibility. Are any of the characters ready to handle it? Do they even understand what is expected of them since women, especially, are unaware of what goes on in the world around them, are largely uneducated and are ruled by superstition. They are dominated by the rules and wishes of the men around them and have very little freedom of choice. Men are reared to have all their desires and needs attended to by women. Supposedly they only have to show their wives respect, provide for their needs and the needs of the children, in order to keep them happy. Women are raised to believe that it is their duty to serve men, disregarding their own needs and desires. They are kept largely ignorant of the ways of the world, the workings of the body, and opportunities available to others. When the flood gates open, will women disregard all rules and throw caution to the wind? Will men simply acquiesce to the needs and rights of women? Does the world really change or does morality? How does freedom change the world and the people? Three sisters with different personalities are followed through their lives, with the preceding and succeeding generation’s fingerprints upon their lives. From wife beating to respecting wives, from subservient women to educated women, from secrets to lies, from change to change, the reader witnesses the growth of a people as it morphs from one entity to another. Rather than the world revolving around the celestial bodies, it begins to revolve around the needs of individual people. As this change takes place there is a rise in decadence and disobedience, so is the change and enlightenment beneficial? The book will make one wonder if it was better before or after the people gained more knowledge, more freedom and obtained greater individual choice. One will wonder what freedom really is.; does it eventually entrap you? The world was filled with the hypocrisy of rules that kept one sex subservient to the other. There were slaves in the society who actually believed it was their duty to be slaves. When those oppressed were granted rights and greater freedoms, how did that work out for them? As the sheltered women demanded more rights, they were not always prepared to handle them. Did some succeed while others failed? Was the result of modernity beneficial to society or the individual? What was seen was not always what was real. Although someone was perceived in one way, it may not have been the true face or personality of that person. It was how they were taught to behave and present themselves to the world. The customs around marriage changed and with the changes there were positive and negative results. When a marriage was arranged, it most often lasted. When the young were free to choose their own mates, the choices often failed and rather than men asking for divorce, women soon did, as well. A car was something that occupied a place of honor and symbolized material wealth and success. It had the power of life and death in some parts of the world where it was difficult to travel. Getting to a doctor was tedious and time consuming. Only the wealthy and educated were aware of what tools were available to them. The wealthy were in charge and often were heartless. Even the furniture in the home which once stood for honor and respect in a family, soon evolved into more modern pieces with no ties to ancestry or antiquity. So, in summary, over about a century of time, as the Omani culture is brought into modernity, the changes bring some positive and some negative effects. Was life better or worse in the end? Depression and divorce were some negative byproducts. What will the reader think was positive and/or negative? It makes for good discussion. This book is narrated beautifully by the reader. All the characters are appropriately portrayed and his interpretation does not get in the way of the novel’s intent.

Perfect for Progressives

The Tenth Muse - Catherine Chung


The Tenth Muse, Catherine Chung, author; Cassanda Campbell, narrator

This book is a fairly good representation of the books today that are being presented as literature when really they are treatises on liberal policies. Authors are chosen because of diversity and books are chosen for the progressive issues they put forth and support. American readers are slowly being brainwashed, I fear, to believe that everyone is oppressed for one reason or another.

In this book, a woman likens herself to the Tenth Muse of Greek Mythology. There were thought to be only nine, but the Tenth Muse disappeared from history because she did not want to be the inspiration for man, but rather wanted to be herself, her own inspiration, her own successful individual. She left her world to join the real world, and in every generation, there is a woman just like her, achieving and fighting for her rightful place.

In this book, Katherine, similarly named to the author although with a different first letter, is also of similar descent. Katherine is biracial. Her mother was Chinese, she believes. However, that myth is put to rest at the end of the book. Of course she is not only brilliant, she is magnificent looking and admired as she passes, although she believes she is being ogled and ridiculed, most often, for her different appearance and heritage.

This is not a man’s book. It is definitely geared to women who feel that life has cheated them in some way, that men have cheated them in some way.

The most interesting parts of the book are the pieces of history, the development of math theories (although many were way over my head like the Reimann hypothesis and the Hilbert’s eighth problem, the ferry riddle intrigued me), the Greek history of famous women like Hypatia whom I had never heard of, although her story ended badly, beaten to a pulp by an angry Christian mob. This fits in perfectly with today’s liberal effort to downplay religious fervor. The coverage of the Holocaust was used once again to show the positive side of women, the bravery of women, and other challenging moments illustrating the lack of women’s rights because of abusive males.

For the most part, however, this novel felt contrived to me. All the women who were exceptional were either “genderless” in the way they behaved and dressed or absolutely the top of the class and could pass for models. The novel did not feel as if it was representing the need for equality, but rather it was representing the need for superiority because women were, in most cases the brightest bulbs in the box presented. The men were weak and dishonest. The men used the women to get ahead at the expense of the women they pretended to inspire, love or appreciate.

Are the superlative reviews due to what seems like a progressive agenda expressed on every page? Katherine was not likable. She was arrogant and filled with an unjustified hubris. She did not seem to understand the meaning of humility and constantly expected to be praised and to be the smartest one in the class or lecture or whatever venue in which she appeared. Although she complained about lack of rights, she rose to the top without much effort. Life seemed to smile upon her. She seemed to take her own rude and cruel behavior very lightly while she slammed others for theirs. She was also portrayed as this naïve young girl, when someone who was so bright and so immersed in education could not have logically been that ignorant to the ways of the world around her. The reader is expected to sympathize with her plight because she is a woman and comes from a family of immigrants and she is of a different race.

Throughout the book, Katherine lamented her place in the world. She suffered. Men had it all. She showed no gratitude for any gifts that came her way, seemed unable to truly care about anyone above her own needs. At the very end, she seemed to begin to understand the definition of humility but for me, it came too late. She got where she did because of the good graces of many people, and fair or unfair, she showed no appreciation for her good fortune and did not seem to help others to achieve the same goal. She always blamed others for her own behavior and naivete. Yet we are supposed to believe she is very innocent as she sleeps with her advisors and professors who, of course, take advantage of her purity. In the end, she even wants to put her own needs before her best friend’s needs and loses her friendship too. She feels safer in Germany, in spite of what they did, than she did in America. This fits right in with the current progressive view that America is not on the side of good, but rather is evil.

The book covers racial discord, civil rights, anti-semitism immigration issues, homosexuality, gender issues, (even her female best friend has a name representing our modern definitions of sexual identity, she calls herself Henry which is not a feminine name).

The novel seems to pit the myth of Guan Yin vs the myth of The Tenth Muse. The Buddhist is selfless and genderless, wishes to serve others, a symbol of emptiness filled with compassion, and the unknown Greek Muse is self interested and independent, definitely female and definitely demanding her rightful place in the universe. The reader will have to decide which side of the coin they prefer or perhaps they will see that one way alone, is not the right way. There has to be some sort of compromise for fulfillment in life.

Perhaps my negative feelings about the book arose from the narrator’s reading which emphasized certain attributes of the character in ways I found disturbing. Still, rather than a literary endeavor, I thought the book descended into a romantic novel which fit into the category of Chick Lit. The story revolved around Katherine’s love life and feelings about men.

Quick read that does not match the first, The Handmaid's Tale, in creativity and development.

The Testaments - Margaret Atwood

The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, author; Derek Jacobi, Mae Whitman, Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Tantoo Cardinal, and Margaret Atwood, narrators

This sequel to The Handmaiden’s Tale fell short of my expectations. Of course, in the three and a half decades since the first installment was published, my perspective on literature may have changed as a result of experience, but the book seemed a bit silly in its plot and seemed more for a YA audience than the general public to which the original book appealed.

In a world in which females are second class, there are undercurrents of stress fractures. Gilead may no longer be as viable as was once believed. There are some who are secretly rebelling against the powers that be. Underground resistance organizations have begun to spring up in Gilead and in Canada, which is depicted as the safe haven for those who have escaped and found a place to hide, men and women alike. (It may remind the reader of the days of the draft dodgers who fled to Canada.)

As the story plays out, three women are witnesses telling their stories about the part they played to bring about change and reform to Gilead. One woman is the powerful Aunt Lydia who is in charge of all the Aunts. Behind the scenes, she manipulates others, rewarding or meting out punishments as she sees fit. She seems to be the only female with any ability to hold sway over the powerful Commanders, the men. She has a cadre of women called the Pearl Girls who spy on people in Canada and attempt to proselytize, and practically kidnap unhappy, weak females by promising them safety and nirvana in Gilead.

Then there are two young aunt novices, Agnes and Daisy/Jade who were the offspring of handmaidens. Since handmaidens (women forced to be surrogate mothers) are not held in high esteem, neither are their progeny, and sometimes these children, depending on the status of their adoptive parents, are not able to make exceptional marriage matches. When a match is made, there is one way out for a young girl who is unhappy with the choice. Since Aunts never marry, if they can prove that they want to join them because they find marriage untenable, they may be taken into the fold. They must, however, pass the screenings of the other Aunts. In this way, they avoid marriage to men they do not choose, to men who are chosen for them because of their power and status, because of the status the marriage will confer upon the their family, as well. These two girls will play a pivotal role in the ultimate conclusion of the novel.

The story never quite develops into one that transcends fantasy. Unlike The Handmaiden’s Tale which one could imagine as real, if not surreal, at times, this book seems like pure science fiction. At times, it even seemed a bit silly as when an injured sick young girl with one usable arm, and a girl who had no physical prowess or experience rowing, are suddenly abandoned in a small boat in the middle of the Bay of Fundy under treacherous conditions, and are forced to row to safety. Suspending disbelief did not work for this reader.

If you want a quick read and have been waiting for the sequel, have at it, but don’t expect the level of imagination and creativity that was exhibited in the first novel.

More of a romance than a mystery. Good for the beach.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant - Beatriz Williams

The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Beatriz Williams, author; Kathleen McInerny, narrator

Vivian Schuyler, a young Manhattan socialite, is a working girl, albeit against the wishes of her family. Although she wants to be more than a gopher at the magazine where she works, she will have to work her way up from the bottom. Women did not have much opportunity in the mid 1960’s, when the book begins. Mostly, they were employed as teachers or secretaries or assistants of some kind.

When Vivian receives a notice about a package waiting for her at the post office, she rushes over just before closing time. The line moves very slowly and as she nears the counter, the post office closes. Fortuitously, a handsome young man offers to help her, He tells the clerk that he made a mistake; she was ahead of him on line. He gives her his place, but not before Vivian makes a bit of a scene demanding service.

When she gets her package, he finds himself drawn to her and he helps her lug it home. It is heavy and bulky since it is a suitcase. She could not have done it alone. Vivian has no idea who has sent this suitcase to her, and she finds there is no key to open it. When the young man suggests she break into it, she refuses. When they examine it, they see that the name on it has been crossed out and her name has been added. She and the young man decide that it was intended for Violet Schuyler, the name that was scratched out, and not Vivian.

This young man enchants Vivian. She discovers that he is a doctor and is exhausted. He promptly falls asleep in her apartment, and she happily lets him remain there. They find they are drawn to each other, and they spend the next day together as compatibly as if they had known each other for years as they are comfortable bantering back and forth with each other. However, she will soon find out that, like the suitcase, this budding doctor has many secrets.

When Vivian tells her parents about the suitcase and asks if they know anyone named Violet Schuyler, they react with shock and dismay. Her mother forbids her to look into Violet’s life because it would embarrass them. She learns that there was once an Aunt named Violet who had moved to Europe to study science and had been banished by the family when she married her professor and remained there. She had also been accused of murdering her husband. No one had heard from her for decades, and no one knew much about her or cared to find out anything about what had happened to her. Vivian decided, unlike them, she wanted to find out about all of Violet’s secrets, regardless of her mother’s wishes.   

Thus begins a novel that is very amusing and easy to read in some ways, but difficult in others because it is filled with crude language and overt descriptions of sexual encounters which often feel contrived as the story dwells on many romantic relationships centered around the explicit sex. Still, as the mystery takes the reader to Europe as it descends into World War I, it gets more interesting. The ending, if not quite believable, is an unexpected surprise as all the secrets are exposed and most of the threads are knitted together.

The story goes off on too many tangents, and often the dialogue requires the suspension of disbelief as it begins to feel like a fairytale with some silly themes as Vivian goes from a strict sense of morality when it comes to friendship to stretching the envelope when it comes to romantic relationships. Instead of being about the secret life of Violet, it seemed to be about the sexual escapades of the various characters. Vivian seemed to go from being flighty to being resolute, depending on the moment, and I never quite figured out what kind of a person she really was and never did like her very much.

A well researched book based on a terrible travesty of justice during a terrible time of history.

The Jump Artist - Austin Ratner

The Jump Artist, Austin Ratner
This is the story of Phillip Halsmann, a Latvian Jew who, in 1929, was condemned falsely for the murder of his father while on a hiking trip in the Tyrolean Alps, in Western Austria. Convicted by a Kangaroo Court of liars and anti-Semites, not once, but twice, when they presented false evidence and hid pertinent facts, he was finally pardoned and released after two years in prison, at the behest of several influential, famous personages, Jews who had some influence and knew, like the Dreyfus Affair, the Halsmann Affair was another example of injustice spawned by ignorance and hatred of the Jews. It was a harbinger of the horrors to soon come, however, as Germany would soon attempt to conquer Europe and create an Aryan Nation under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.
Before prison, Phillip was a student studying to be an engineer. He was falling in love and his life was before him. After his staged trials and his treatment in prison, he was often angry and unable to love properly. Although he tried to return to school to study engineering, he soon left. He abandoned his girlfriend Ruth who had loved and stood by him. He began to sink into a depression. He would admire strange women and imagine them naked. Filled with guilt, he pleasured himself, repenting by visiting various images of The Pieta.
Soon, Phillip was allowing those who hated him to define him with all sorts of heinous descriptions. Eventually, in an effort to ignore his Latvian heritage and become more French, he changed his name to Phillipe Halsman. Soon, he found love again. Quickly, though, he learned that he would always be a Latvian Jew under Hitler’s regime.
When he and his family finally escaped to America, he truly began to define himself and regain his self respect. Although he became a successful photographer, rather than the lawyer or doctor his father had hoped he would become, his family was proud of what he had achieved. Soon, he also earned the respect of many famous people who sought his services like, Marilyn Monroe, Andre Gide, Albert Einstein and others. However, his early career was defined by photos of barely dressed females he found in his travels. He wanted to photograph beautiful women whom he posed in various stages of undress. He was able to capture them in their best possible vantage point. Somehow his keen eye knew how to adjust light and position to capture the person’s true self. He was helped by his mother and sister who had remained devoted and loyal to him throughout his ordeal, and they had weathered the changes he made in his life alongside him, helping him as they were able.
This book is an intuitive description of the degradation and disintegration of what once was a normal man, full of hope, devoted to his family, with a bright future ahead of him. Because of the false conviction of the terrible crime of patricide, the corrupt system almost destroyed him. If nothing else, this book should be a lesson to all those who are so quick to judge the current President of the United States without allowing him the right to defend himself bolstered by a press that constantly maligns him, often falsely.

Very humorous, but a bit contrived, mystery about a missing relative once accused of murder.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant - Beatriz Williams

The Jump Artist, Austin Ratner This is the story of Phillip Halsmann, a Latvian Jew who, in 1929, was condemned falsely for the murder of his father while on a hiking trip in the Tyrolean Alps, in Western Austria. Convicted by a Kangaroo Court of liars and anti-Semites, not once, but twice, when they presented false evidence and hid pertinent facts, he was finally pardoned and released after two years in prison, at the behest of several influential, famous personages, Jews who had some influence and knew, like the Dreyfus Affair, the Halsmann Affair was another example of injustice spawned by ignorance and hatred of the Jews. It was a harbinger of the horrors to soon come, however, as Germany would soon attempt to conquer Europe and create an Aryan Nation under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Before prison, Phillip was a student studying to be an engineer. He was falling in love and his life was before him. After his staged trials and his treatment in prison, he was often angry and unable to love properly. Although he tried to return to school to study engineering, he soon left. He abandoned his girlfriend Ruth who had loved and stood by him. He began to sink into a depression. He would admire strange women and imagine them naked. Filled with guilt, he pleasured himself, repenting by visiting various images of The Pieta. Soon, Phillip was allowing those who hated him to define him with all sorts of heinous descriptions. Eventually, in an effort to ignore his Latvian heritage and become more French, he changed his name to Phillipe Halsman. Soon, he found love again. Quickly, though, he learned that he would always be a Latvian Jew under Hitler’s regime. When he and his family finally escaped to America, he truly began to define himself and regain his self respect. Although he became a successful photographer, rather than the lawyer or doctor his father had hoped he would become, his family was proud of what he had achieved. Soon, he also earned the respect of many famous people who sought his services like, Marilyn Monroe, Andre Gide, Albert Einstein and others. However, his early career was defined by photos of barely dressed females he found in his travels. He wanted to photograph beautiful women whom he posed in various stages of undress. He was able to capture them in their best possible vantage point. Somehow his keen eye knew how to adjust light and position to capture the person’s true self. He was helped by his mother and sister who had remained devoted and loyal to him throughout his ordeal, and they had weathered the changes he made in his life alongside him, helping him as they were able. This book is an intuitive description of the degradation and disintegration of what once was a normal man, full of hope, devoted to his family, with a bright future ahead of him. Because of the false conviction of the terrible crime of patricide, the corrupt system almost destroyed him. If nothing else, this book should be a lesson to all those who are so quick to judge the current President of the United States without allowing him the right to defend himself bolstered by a press that constantly maligns him, often falsely.

Beautifully written and imaginative allegory about World War II

The World That We Knew - Alice Hoffman

The World That We Knew, Alice Hoffman, author; Judith Light, narrator Although one might think that because the book concerns itself largely with magical realism, that it is a book that is light and airy, one would be very wrong. In this beautifully crafted and creative allegory, using the stuff of myths and legends, Hoffman has crafted a very creative piece of historic fiction about a time that will live in infamy, the time of the Holocaust. It is 1941 and World War II is raging in Europe. Jews have lost their rights as citizens and are being rounded up to be tortured in inhumane conditions and/or murdered systematically. Although they believed the war would end and the people would come to their senses, that had not happened and things had gotten far worse than anyone would have imagined. Those who had no means to save themselves, struggled with ideas of how to save their children. Parents who witnessed the abuse of their children thought of nothing else when they realized how hopeless things had gotten. Some were sent to convents, some were sent out of the country to strangers, and some were simply abandoned when their parents were rounded up and sent away to die. After Hanni Kohn’s daughter was attacked by a Nazi soldier, resulting in his murder, she knew that she had to do something to protect her in the future. Hanni could not escape because her mother was bedridden, and she would not leave her behind. She sought the help of a friend. Ruth believed in magic. She told Hanni of a creature that her own father had told her about, a creature that had saved Jews since the beginning of time. The creature was a golem. A golem is a mythical creature that could speak the language of fish and birds, and had great strength and powers that humans did not possess. It could see into the future, foretell the time of death, see and speak to angels. It also had limitations. If it was more than a certain distance from the ground, it lost its power. It was made from clay using spiritual, secret incantations to give it life. It should only live for a short period of time or it would begin to think for itself making it dangerous and less inclined to obey its master. It was considered an abomination since it had no soul and was not human. It could not feel. Ruth gave Hanni the address of a Rabbi who could create such a creature for her. This creature would protect her daughter and take her to relatives in France who lived in a part of France which was supposed to remain a free zone, a place called Vichy. Hanni believed that Lea would be safer there. Ruth told her to implore the Rabbi’s wife to help her, since the Rabbi probably would refuse to see her. Hanni decided to take a chanhce and made the dangerous trip to the Rabbi’s home. There, his daughter let her in, to the chagrin of her mother. When she told the Rabbi’s wife what she wished, she berated Hanni for asking for such a thing and refused to help her. As she was leaving, the Rabbi’s daughter pulled her aside and whispered that she would help her. She said she had perfect recall and had seen her father’s failed attempt to raise a golem and knew the mistake he had made. She would not make the same mistake. She wanted to escape from Germany into France also. She needed the money to purchase papers and tickets for herself and her sister Marta. An agreement was struck between them. All three females were present when the procedure began and the pure clay to make the creature was collected. As they worked together, Hanni revealed some of her requirements. She wanted the golem to protect her daughter at all costs, like a mother, and she wanted it to be female with the power of speech. Since she was already breaking G-d’s laws, Ettie said she would try to fulfill her wishes. Hanni hoped that this creature would serve as Lea’s companion and guardian and love her like she did. When the creature breathed, she was beautiful and named Ava. She put on the dress that Hanni had made for her, and except for her very large feet, requiring the rabbi’s boots, she looked fine. Lea and Ava, Ettie and her sister Marta, all attempted to escape to France at the same time, on the same train. Just before they reached the border, guards came aboard their train. Ava told Etti to stay there and she would protect her too, but she refused. The golem was created to protect Lea, only. She leapt from the train with her sister. From this point, the lives of Ettie and Lea took different directions, but they were destined to reunite in the future. Ava bedazzled the German guard so he left them alone, and they were safe. They made it to the home of the Levi’s, Lea’s relatives. They stayed there with them and their two sons, Victor and Julien for some time, until Hitler reneged on the agreement of the free zone and began rounding up Jews. The Levi’s thought they would be safe, but they were just Jews, like any other. The leadership supported Hitler and they were rounded up. How they and other victims fared is fraught with tension and bravery. How they fared is fraught with the helplessness of the day. How they fared is fraught with the prejudice and hate supported by those who followed the Nazis or who feared them and didn’t resist in order to save themselves, although they knew what was going on behind the scenes and were aware of the deportations and cold-blooded murders. As the story is told, there are many revelations about the war and its heinous history. There are tales of the resistance and those who took part in it. The hate and the brutality leap off the page in an emotional and spiritual nature, making it real and unforgettable for the reader. It forces the reader to experience the hopelessness, helplessness, fear and confusion of the victims. It opens their eyes to the courage and valor, perseverance and self sacrifice of those who tried to save the innocent victims and who fought back when they knew they would be tortured and murdered if caught. The reader is eased into and out of the horror because of the use of magical realism which makes it seem like a fable, even though the pertinent parts of the story are based on facts. The angel of death, however, was always hovering nearby. It was not easily defeated, but sometimes could be tricked. There are some miraculous moments in the tale which will cheer the reader and give the reader hope for a brighter future, but not before the future goes dark. As each hero and heroine is portrayed, the reader will suffer with them and feel their conflicts and final moments and decisions. They will feel their losses and their victories. These are some questions that the book raises. Is a Jew always a Jew no matter what? Does evil exist? Do the differences between people matter? When people are separated from their loved ones, will they recover? Is it like the immigration crisis of today? Lea’s grandmother tells her to be a wolf, wolves survive, would Jews? Is there hope for a peaceful future today? Are we more separate and different or more united and the same? Will love make it possible to always find a way to hope?

A well researched book about a WWII heroine.

Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler - Lynne Olson

Apparently, this is the season or year of the war heroine.  Several books have appeared about largely unsung and underappreciated female World War II resistance fighters. Suddenly, there are several lauding the accomplishments of brave and courageous women who worked at, created, or ran active resistance efforts in France. The books I have read have been filled with accurate historic events and major moments of the war, in which the women were influential in helping to turn the tide in the favor of the Allies and, possibly, even to shorten the length of the war, thereby saving thousands of lives. However, in their efforts, thousands were also recruited, betrayed and sacrificed for their valiant efforts. No good deed goes unpunished.

The current books, and this one is no exception, largely make out the women they portray to be the lord and master of the resistance movement. One would almost think that none were run by men. However, it is true that women were the least suspected to be doing such work and often got away with their clandestine behavior because of their sex. In this book and another I read, “A Woman of No Importance”, by Sonia Purnell, the women featured organized groups and recruited the necessary agents to wage battles for the resistance effort. Virginia Hall, of the United States, worked for the British SOE and in this one, Marie Madeleine Fourcade, a Frenchwoman, organized them for MI6. Her network seemed to have a greater scope than Hall’s. However, both organizations were under the British umbrella and when SOE collapsed, I was sad to learn that the members of MI6 cheered their demise. It seemed a foolhardy thing to do, to be happy that resistance fighters working to end the war had been murdered or compromised, necessitating the end of the organization.

Having read many books about the experiences of men in war, I was surprised to learn of how involved and courageous some women were, without gaining any true acclaim for their actions. The men of the day believed they were better suited to housekeeping. I also found that the author explained many of the events and circumstances described, emotionally, rather than militarily or intellectually. I believe that the women should have been described as most men were, as steady and sure footed, emotionally very stable. In the end, both books seemed to portray their male survivors as weaker than the women. They were described as having been devastated by their experiences and never returning to their former selves or stature. I found it distracting to read about how the women had to hold back their tears or had to control their rage or were haunted by guilt wondering if men would take orders from them. I did not believe that the emotional aspect was pertinent to the overall presentation of their valiant efforts. I couldn’t quite pair the reactions described with what I expected from the kinds of women who could organize and participate in such dangerous programs for the resistance, like arranging escapes, supplies, sabotage of all kinds, gathering weapons, cash, arranging message transfers, radio transmissions, and more, while also donning disguises and false identities to glean information.

Madame Fourcade was very brave and made many sacrifices, quite virtuously, even abandoning her family for years for the cause of French freedom. She supported the effort of the allies and communicated with and followed the directions of well known generals, like Eisenhower. However, in the author’s description, or perhaps from the narrator’s reading, I got the impression that some of the decisions Fourcade made seemed based on emotion rather than careful thought and almost caused her own capture and quite possibly the capture, torture and deaths of others. In total, however, more of her decisions saved lives, than took them. Marie Madeleine Fourcade set up resistance groups, organized agents and recruited resisters. Fourcade was the head of a program called Alliance, the forerunner of which was the Crusade. It is believed that the men and women she worked with shortened the length of the war. She worked largely in the free French zone which was controlled by the Vichy government. Soon, however, it came under the complete control of the Germans and Hitler. Her job grew evermore dangerous.  She was running the largest network of spies.

I did learn several facts from the book. I had not realized that the United States supported the Vichy government and tried to get Marshall Petain to switch sides and support the Allies before D Day. He refused. I also, unrealistically, did not realize that spy organizations and resistance groups competed with each other, although I suppose it was a natural consequence of the shortage of, and yet need for, necessary supplies, recognition and information.

I found the narrator, a good reader, but inappropriate for this audio. She was over involved in its presentation. She over emoted and practically became a character instead of the reader. She was distracting and her interpretation was cloying at times and water boiled faster than she read. She actually turned me off the book, and if I did not want to read it for a group in which I participate, I would have given it up. I have listened to other books with this reader and she does well. Perhaps she should stick to fiction. Non fiction lends itself to less of an interpretation and more of a straightforward presentation. She overshadowed the story by trying to create too much feeling and interest. The subject matter in non fiction should be interesting enough.

There were many similarities in the books I read about with female heroines of WWII. Like Virginia Hall, Fourcade had a disability which would preclude her from certain branches of the service although it might not prevent her from performing admirably. Fourcade had a congenital hip disability and Hall had a false leg. Both were in their thirties and had no visible husband when they joined the service. Both organized resistance efforts. Both understood the necessity of the resistance effort to help the allies and both have been praised for their effort which has been attributed to shortening the war. However, Hall was more private and preferred to remain unsung, wishing her fellow fighters to be given awards, while Fourcade seemed to appreciate the medals she accrued. Both worked to thwart the efforts of Marshall Petain in Vichy and stop Hitler’s march across Europe. Both believed that women were not afforded enough recognition and actively worked to gain their recognition. Often they were unsuccessful. It was a time when women were believed to be better off in the kitchen and needed to know their place. Both books points out the uphill battle women faced for equal rights.

A book about a woman of valor!

A Woman of No Importance - Sonia Purnell

A Woman of No Importance, Sonia Purnell, author; Juliet Stevenson narrator

Virginia Hall was a woman with a singular goal. As a United States citizen, when World War II started, she was determined to do her part to defeat Germany in its effort to obtain world domination. However, a few years before, while hunting, she forgot to set the safety on her weapon, and she accidentally shot herself, resulting in the amputation of her leg. Although she was fitted with a wooden leg which she handled very well, when she attempted to work with the Armed Forces, they did not want her help, nor did they believe that she could successfully accomplish anything in the war effort with her disability. In addition, she was a woman and work in the field was generally designated for men. Women were thought to be suited for different kinds of work and she was offered administrative jobs, but nothing to excite or challenge her. She wanted to do paramilitary work, organizing and working with guerillas and the resistance. Rejected by the United States, she sought work in England. When, at first, they rejected her also, she went to France and became an ambulance driver in the war zone. Eventually, however, she went to work for the British, SOE, the Special Operations Executive. She eventually proved herself very valuable, but as a woman, she never truly achieved the honor or glory to which she aspired or which she deserved. She was often passed over for missions that were given to men to execute, after she planned them. Still, she never really did seek recognition or glory. She only sought to organize the resistance movement to successfully aid in shortening the war and eventually prevent Hitler’s success.

Virginia worked in France with several identities and disguises. She organized bands of resisters, often losing many of them when they were discovered and often being tricked by those who betrayed them. Each loss was felt like a personal blow to her. Still, for the most part, she successfully impeded Germany’s efforts and helped to liberate Paris. Most of her effort was expended in the area under the control of Marshall Petain who ruled the Vichy government, an area that was promised complete freedom, but eventually was under the complete control of Hitler.

Virginia, known as Diane, La Madone, and other names, assumed various identities and disguises, always successfully disguising her disability, age and beauty. She distributed money, food and weapons, organzed guerilla groups and their efforts at sabotage, and organized unbelievably dangerous and difficult rescues of prisoners. Her own rescue from prison was daring as well. She was unafraid of danger and actually seemed to relish it. She risked her own life hiding and operating a radio that she used to pass coded information which was invaluable to the Allies.

Virginia arranged false papers, false identities, safe houses and dangerous escape routes. Often seeming superhuman in her efforts, once even hiking out of snow covered mountains with her artificial leg that she called Cuthbert, Virginia was a largely unsung heroine. However, though she herself, preferred not to be publicly lauded or given awards, she never did receive the honor or promotions she truly deserved. She did eventually achieve a Captain’s rank and a leadership role that enabled her to lead the resistance groups and their efforts more effectively. In addition to working for the SOE, she also worked for the State Department and the CIA in America. She was eventually awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by President Truman for her work with the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services which was the forerunner of the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency. Late in life, she found love with Paul Goillot, a fellow resistance worker from Britain. Although smaller in stature than Virginia, and less educated, they were very compatible and eventually married.

The book contained too many names to keep straight without some kind of format to keep track of them, however the narrator did such an excellent job in her reading of it, that the possible tedious nature of the book as it described similar situations again and again was mitigated. Still it felt very long with its main theme concentrating on the lack of women’s rights in the armed forces, and in general. She was a woman scorned by the system, not because she was unqualified, but because of her gender. Her indomitable spirit won out each time as she constantly battled and persevered to accomplish her ultimate ambitious efforts. She was incredibly brave and far heartier than most men and women that were her equals. She was an asset to the war effort.

A truly accurate description of the terrible AIDS outbreak in the 1980's

The Great Believers - Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai, author; Michael Crouch, narrator

This novel alternates between the past in the 1980’s and pretty much the present, in 2015. In the traumatic early 80’s, there was a large scale outbreak of AIDS in the gay community. AIDS was already surging in Africa. Now it was decimating a once thriving small neighborhood in Chicago. The backlash against those infected was huge. Their behavior was blamed as fear swept the country and they were not considered worthy of saving. They were left mostly to their own devices as they suffered and died in cities all over the United States. As it spread into the larger community of straight men and women, who were considered less expendable, it became a more urgent concern to find a cure or a treatment. Makkai puts the reader in Chicago’s Boystown, where the gay community lived, loved, played, suffered, and died.

In the 1980’s, Yale lived with his partner, Charlie. They had both tested virus free, but their friend Niko was now infected and dying. His young, teenage sister Fiona was his main support after he was thrown out of his home. Yale and Fiona were very close friends. Together, they illuminate the tragedy of AIDS as their anxieties and experiences are illustrated with emotional and intellectual authenticity.

When Fiona’s Great Aunt Nora wanted to donate art work to a museum where it would be displayed, Fiona suggested Yale to her. He was fundraising for a gallery he had started in conjunction with Northwestern University. Cecily was the woman involved with planned giving at Northwestern University. Together she and Yale visited Nora to learn about her art collection. Cecily had a young son, an 11 year old, named Kurt.

When the novel goes some three decades into the future, to 2015, the reader finds an older Fiona in Paris, crashing at her friend Richard’s house. He is an artist who happily lives with his partner Serge. The times have changed, and they have become more open to gay relationships and marriages. Fiona had grown up. She had a daughter, named Claire who had not contacted her for three years. She had gone to Paris to hire a private detective to search for Claire. She believed she was in Paris. Fiona had recently learned that Claire might have had a child of her own. Was Fiona a grandmother? Claire had never told her. Several years prior, Claire had run away and married Cecily’s son, Kurt, who was much older than she was. Together, they had joined a cult. Shortly after she makes contact with Claire, there is a terrorist attack in Paris, near the area where Claire lived.

Meanwhile, back in the 1980’s, Yale is exploring the art collection of Fiona’s Great Aunt to see if it is of any value. When he decides to accept the donation to the museum and Nora’s terms, the reader learns of Nora’s past. Nora’s relationship with famous artists and her description of her experiences during the war years enhances the book. There will be a common theme of trauma during the war years that parallels both the trauma of the Aids epidemic and the trauma of the terrorism in Paris. Another common theme is the study of the word attack. AIDS victims suffer attacks of illness. Soldiers suffer attacks during the war. Terrorists attack innocent people in Paris. All of the victims are to one degree or another unfairly marked! Another common theme is art. Yale is fundraising for an art gallery. Nora wants to donate her art collection. Richard is soon to have a reception in his honor at the Pompidou.

The author truly captured the atmosphere of the times and the way of life that was shared by those who contracted and suffered from this dreaded disease. She illustrated the feelings and concerns of those who became caregivers to those infected with the virus. She accurately presented the shared concerns of those who were related to, or who were friends of victims or soon-to-be victims. Some, in the gay community refused to be tested to see if they carried the virus. They were on tenterhooks. It was a death sentence, and they did not want to know until they had symptoms. Still, that meant they might spread it to others, since it was spread through bodily fluids. Drug addicts who shared needles, bisexual married men, and surgical procedures in hospitals, all placed others at risk as they might be carriers or spreaders of the disease.

The author has captured the souls of the men who were vulnerable and shared their varied attitudes toward life and the disease. She has gently written of their love and their plight in a way that is not offensive, but rather, it exposes the brutal way that they were treated, before and after the epidemic. There was little compassion for their fear, pain and loneliness as they were spurned by almost everyone who feared the spread of the infection to themselves. Makkai described the public’s reaction to the disease and the thoughts of those afflicted, with perfection.

I lived through that time with friends who were stricken, and I know that they were avoided like the plague, as were those who visited with them. The parents of those infected, suffered in many ways. It was at that time, that there was not only the shame borne by the gay child, but there was shame of having a gay child. It was thought that the parent must have done something to cause the alternate sexual preference. Then, coupled with that pain, they had the further, far worse pain of watching their child suffer the awful indignities of the disease which was torturing and killing them. The public was unkind. The disease was unknown. It was a death sentence and it created widespread, and often, irrational fear. Watching those involved with the cleaning of apartments after victims died, watching first aid workers helping victims of accidents and cleaning up the scene, watching hospital employees, doctors and nurses in hazmat suits, did not create a vision of safety or confidence. Aids began in a community that was shunned because of its sexual practices. It took years for the public and the government to intervene and provide the funds for the research into a treatment and/or cure for it. It had hit a marginal, largely unaccepted community of men and women, first. It was on the bottom of the list of priorities. The victims often lost their jobs and their health insurance. It was a terrible time, and the author has described the emotions and fears of those affected, as well as those who feared infection.

The book is about devastating loss, remorse, deceit, and suffering, as well as loyalty, compassion and devotion. It is about the long term effect of trauma. Fiona feared that if she loved someone openly, they would die, because everyone around her that she loved seemed to be dying. Yale becomes aware of all the little things he would miss doing or the things he could never do again. Still, when an old friend, Julian, thought to have died of the disease, suddenly makes an appearance near the end, the reader realizes that it is no longer a death sentence, there is hope. There is a recipe of drugs that holds the virus down and does not let it develop. Today, the victims survive.

I was a bit put off by author’s political statement as she attacks the need for health care as a right and has the characters loudly condemn the Republicans and President Reagan for not doing enough to stop the crisis created by the dreaded disease. She writes about protests that, in fact, did take place, and finally brought about some change. So perhaps, the remarks were necessary. I also found the timeline confusing at times as it took me awhile to realize that the Kurt in the 1980’s, was the same Kurt that grew up and then married his friend Fiona’s young daughter, Claire. In the end, all of the pieces of the story were knitted together in perfect order! I highly recommend it, even though it is dark at times.

A wonderful reimagined life for the minor goddess, Circe

Circe - Madeline Miller

Circe, Marilyn Miller, author; Perdita Weeks, narrator

In this re-imagined story of the Greek goddess Circe, Marilyn Miller has done a wonderful job of bringing her to life. The narrator is superb, as she uses different voices and stress points to make each character unique. I studied Greek mythology in College, many years ago, and her presentation evoked many pleasant memories for me. I really enjoyed listening to it and remembering the history it portrayed of Troy and Sparta, the Titans and the Olympians. I remembered and re-imagined with her, all of the heroes, heroines, and villains, that I had once loved reading about. Although she was considered a minor goddess, Circe’s interactions with Odysseus, Athena, Daedalus, Prometheus, Hermes, Zeus, the Cyclops, Trident, Helios, Scylla, Penelope, the Sirens, and many more, were fascinating.

The relationship between the gods, goddesses and mortals was very creative, as was her handling of mysterious events during that time. Her interpretation of their bitterness and vengeful behavior was illuminating. People in modern times are sometimes as arrogant and petty, vindictive and unforgiving toward each other. The pride and arrogance sometimes resulted in remorse but in most cases the behavior simply proved how unrewarding and detrimental it could be. It was difficult to trust mortals or the gods.

The gods had no interest in mortals other than to use them as playthings, to be toyed with and then disposed of, but in some rare cases, some of the gods were kinder. To most, humans held no real value, though. The lesser gods, had less power and they had to be more clever or use magic and witchcraft to better their superiors who even chose to punish them. Imagine a punishment that lasted into eternity…the torture, the torment, the hopelessness. gods and goddesses were immortal and simply existed to please themselves. Any who defied or broke the rules paid dearly.

If you loved the Greek classics, you will love Miller’s reinterpretation of Circe.

The unfair, brutal history of reform schools comes to life.

The Nickel Boys - Colson Whitehead

Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead, author; Bahni Turpin, narrator

Nickel Boys is based on a reform school, Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, which truly existed in Florida. So, although this is a novel, a work of fiction, the terribly brutal behavior was common practice, the racism and the inequity, and the cruelty was real, and it leaps off the page.

The novel covers about 6 decades in the life of one of the characters, Elwood Curtis, who in the book is black, but in real life, the book is based on a white boy named Jerry Cooper who was running away from home. He was sent to the reform school in 1961, when he was just 16, because although he did not know it, he had hitchhiked in a car that the AWOL driver had stolen. The author has given Elwood, the main character of the novel, his experiences. Elwood was supposed to be on his way to college when he made the mistake of hitchhiking. He was arrested when the police pulled over the car and discovered it was stolen. He was sent to reform school, although he had no knowledge of the theft or the driver.

The effect of societal changes, including the integration of schools, barely influenced Nickel Academy. What went on at that school, knowing now that it went on in reality, will shock most readers. It should encourage them to explore the true story behind this novel. It is hard to believe that such a place with such practices could have existed without the outside world knowing or objecting. It is hard to believe that a justice system could mete out such injustice, without objection, but what happened to Elwood was a symptom of society’s illness. In the book it is a gross miscarriage of justice, made more critical because it was the same in the world of non-fiction. It is a story that cries out to be told in any form. The violence, torture and murder was obviously real as is evidenced by the presence of the bones in the graves of the former “students” that were unearthed there.

While the book is occasionally disjointed with a time line and locale that becomes confused, and with a surprise ending that was unexpected, the overall message is so important, it screams for it to be revealed in the light of day. There are some, possibly still alive, that were complicit because they had to have had knowledge of the existence of such heinous activity. One can only wonder how the evil that drove these men who participated in the grotesque behavior went undiscovered.

Because the message is so important, the quality of the writing, which has been criticized by some, and the lack of enough editing which has also been a concern, pales in importance when compared to the message, rarely aired, about this corrupt and evil school, just one of many that once existed. The history of such places is a scar on the history of the states in which they operated and American society.

If just a portion of what is written on these pages is true, it would be a monumental blight on the history of civil rights.


The prose makes up for any shortcomings.

Inland - Téa Obreht

Inland, Téa Obreht, author, Anna Chulmsky, Edoardo Ballerini, Narrators Inland is written very beautifully, and makes the modern books of today pale in comparison, but it also has an abundance of tangential details that sometimes makes following it confusing. It begins as the 19th century nears its end. Lawlessness reigns in the Western Territories of the United States, Indians threaten, the idea of statehood is becoming an issue, and water in its absence or abundance is an important theme. The lives of two characters, quite disparate, are covered alternately, and the reader is hard pressed to figure out how their stories will eventually merge, but merge they do. The description of their experiences and their surroundings is penned so clearly and in such detail, that the landscapes described grow alive in the mind of the reader and the characters seem very real, at times. There are similarities that exist between both of the characters. One is the influence of water in both of their lives. Nora Lark is suffering terribly from the drought in the Territories, and is always thirsty. The absence of water in her life looms over her constantly. Lurie Mattie was in the Camel Corps, a little known experimental adjunct to the military, and camels were known, not to need water, but were able to hold and carry large amounts of it. Both Nora and Lurie speak to spirits. Nora engages in conversations with her dead daughter, Evelyn, who often advises her, and Lurie engages in conversations with his dead friend Hobbs who influences his “wants” in life. Each of them has a “confidant”, as well. Nora’s is Josie, a young psychic she has taken in to care for. They speak of connecting with the spirits of the dead. Lurie speaks to Burke, his camel, endowing the camel with human characteristics. Lurie originally arrived in Canada, from the Eastern Mediterranean with his father. When his father grew ill and died, Lurie was sold, eventually winding up in a workhouse where he met two friends Hobbs and Donovan. Soon he was a member of their gang, and then he became a wanted man. Now he is an outlaw in the Arizona Territory, with his friend, the camel. Both he and Nora are trapped by circumstances they cannot control. Nora’s husband, Emmett, a newspaperman, has gone on a trip and has not returned. The sheriff has not found any evidence of his whereabouts. Something odd is underfoot. Nora refuses to believe he is dead but suspicions arise. At this same time, her son Toby, 6 years old, has recently claimed to have seen a monster. Then, Nora’s other two sons go missing, either in search of their father or in search of revenge. Secrets, mistakes, lies, choices, betrayal and deception are part of both Lurie and Nora’s life. The story is imbued with magical realism, anthropomorphism, ghosts and the natural threats and trials of life. It was hard to get drawn into the story and follow its thread and time line, at times, but the lyrical prose was its saving grace. I won this book from librarything.com but never received it. I listened to an audiobook from the library.

Good book to listen to while driving, a bit overly dramatic, though.

Tom Clancy Enemy Contact - Mike Maden

Enemy Contact, Tom Clancy, Mike Madden, authors; Scott Brick, narrator

Like in all the books about Jack Ryan Jr., who is the son of the President of the United States, there are many confusing ideas introduced which will converge in the final chapter to reveal and explain all of the mind-boggling and conflicting themes that arise. When the story begins, there is a violent, failed military event in Argentina involving Hezbollah, a terrorist organization intending to stage an attack on Jews who are planning a large gathering there. At this same time, Jack Ryan Jr. visits an old friend he has not seen in many years. His dying friend asks him to fulfill a promise he had made to his father, but was never able to carry out. Jack agrees to do this but is then prevented from fulfilling the task when he is sent to Poland by his employer to check out some unrelated and nefarious goings on over there that possibly concern cyber security. As the story develops, it goes in several different directions involving many countries like China, Argentina, Angola, Poland, Russia, Iran, the Middle East, and the Czech Republic. Soon the bodies are piling up and the mysteries widen. There are so many themes, and they all seem unrelated until the very end, as per usual.

There appears to be an effort not only to compromise the cyber security of the United States but there are also tangents concerning drugs, mining, human trafficking, spying, money-laundering and the cloud. There is so much misdirection in this novel, and there are so many underlying conspiracies which send the reader in different directions, that until the very end, the entire raison d’etre of the novel remains a mystery.

Jack Ryan, however, as usual, gets into many mishaps that defy the imagination for which he suffers unbearable guilt, and yet is extricated from each harrowing experience in ways that sometimes require the suspension of disbelief. This novel sometimes got  tiresome as the reader is forced to deal with Jack’s constant soul searching and brow beating as a result of his often thoughtless and witless choices for which he survives but most often, others do not.

Still, there is tension and excitement that the author builds to keep the reader coming back over and over in order to find out just how all of the many threads will knit together in the end.

Original collection of short stories without the political correctness that invades everything today.

How to Breathe Underwater - Julie Orringer

How to Breathe Underwater, Julie Orringer This, the first book written by Orringer, is an excellent collection of original short stories, concentrating mostly on the young and the difficulties they have coming of age as teens or young adults. The problems they face are unique and the way that they approach them determines an outcome that will probably haunt them in some way throughout the rest of their lives. The author seems to have entered the heads of her characters and their stories seem more real than fiction. Every story is rewarding, in some way. It is so refreshing today, to read a story that might contain sex, but is not about sex, that might have a foul word or two, but only if the words are there for a purpose rather than shock value. It is heartening to read about subjects that are not really political or biased or trapped in the PC culture of our modern times. Because it was written just over a decade and a half ago, there is no gender bias or confusion, little racism, and no hate for law enforcement. There is no call for resistance to the powers that be. There is racism, and there is cruelty, but it is managed well and with morality. It is not offensive. Best of all, politics does not invade every story with the author’s personal view. Each piece that the author has written imparts a value lesson which is largely absent in today’s literature and in today’s daily life with the proliferation of social media and the need for so many to have fifteen minutes of fame and to learn all in a sound bite. This book was written in a more peaceful, or perhaps a more stable time, yet the subject matter covered would not be described as peaceful. Most of the stories are dark, and some are depressing, but they all end with a bit of a hopeful outlook since they move on into a future that is somewhat successful. Problems are resolved either positively or negatively, but they are resolved in a palatable way. The readers are left with the task of thoughtfully ending each story for themselves. The unwed mother raises her child, the conflicted teen figures out the right thing to do to help a friend, courage overcomes weakness, the missing child turns up, devastating loss is coped with in ways that carry the characters forward, few actually die during the story (that largely occurs before or in our imaginations later on), but the idea of death is front and center in some stories, religious confusion and intolerance are worked through discretely, without causing resentment, really poor decisions are recognized and acted upon correctly before they go completely awry. The intuitive approach of the author is detailed and authentic. She knows her characters and their problems intimately. Her insight makes them feel like they are real and not made up out of whole cloth. Even the most bizarre or reckless of the stories has plausibility. They do not seem to be fiction, but rather more like mini memoirs. As the author touches children’s innate cruelty, people’s innate bigotry, teens innate jealousy, loss, illness, jealousy, anger, divorce, cruelty, kindness, and so much more in just a handful of stories, she analyzes the stuff of real life, the pain, the pleasure, the loss, the gain, the heartache, the frustration and the helplessness we all sometimes feel. Yet, in each story, there is a resolution that prevents catastrophe. In each story, no one is painted into a corner without an escape route, and most often, the escape route is chosen well. This book is well worth the read. Put it in on the nightstand and read one or two a night!

Heartbreaking story about Native American Indians.

There There - Tommy Orange

There, There, Tommy Orange, author; Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Alma Ceurvo, Kyla Garcia, narrators

This is a good novel, but it is very heavy, so readers beware, be prepared. It is not a feel good book. It will take you places you might not want to go. The Native American Indian experience is explored with intuition and insight in such a way as to make the reader feel their pain, frustration, needs, loss, and hopes. The Indians suffer from the alcoholism, racism, unemployment and other ills that society brought to them.

There, There is about where there means. Where is there for them. For the Indian, the land was everywhere. The land was theirs. There were no boundaries; they lived where they found food and could provide shelter for themselves. The Indians love their heritage and try to preserve it with powwows held regularly. In this book, the powwow goes awry with a terrible and tragic event. The book leaves the reader with many thoughts that are unfulfilled. There are no solutions and no firm conclusions. Everything is up in the air as the reasons that poor choices were made are revealed and the consequences are explored.

Each of the characters had a flaw that changed their lives, each also suffered from deprivation of some kind, mistreatment of some kind, confusion and a knowledge that there were secrets in their lives that if revealed might hurt them even if they also set them free. The Native Americans were influenced by superstition, folk lore and the painful memories of what they had once had and lost when they were driven from their land. The book seemed to be about hopelessness, but then hope would appear on the horizon, only to be followed by despair and inevitable failure. There were some wasted lives, forgotten dreams, and nightmares that became real when circumstances merged to bring about catastrophe. Although they tried to rise above their problems, they were often driven back down by circumstances beyond their control.

The novel is well written, but it is hard to read because of its intensity. It is deep and dark. There are so many characters, it is often hard to follow and remember which one was experiencing the current trauma, but the overall effect of the story certainly makes the reader think about the plight of the Native American Indian and the injustices they were forced to endure. Death and disaster have unfairly followed them.

What does there, there mean in this novel? It is used in several instances with different meanings. I wondered what was really there, in the end, was there hope or hopelessness? Was there the place to which they wished they could return? Was it a nameless vast expanse where they could settle once again to practice their tribal customs and dance without the encroachments of modern society or did they wish to join the technological world we live in today?

Because this is the kind of book that a reader might want to reread or review certain parts, I believe a print book is better than the audio.