Book Review | The Only Story by Julian Barnes

the only story cover.jpgAt home on summer leave from university, Paul joins the tennis club where he is paired with Susan for a mixed doubles tournament. Despite her being married and his mother’s age, the two hit it off and before long are involved in an affair. Recounted by Paul, the memories provided are pieces of their love story, which spans more than a few years. Of course, as many love relations do, this one has its thorns.

The Only Story is a great read. Paul’s tone is intimate and direct, drawing the reader in from the first page. The story flows quickly, delving into his relationship with Susan. Barnes’s choice to use the second person narrative style works well and serves to engage the reader mentally. Readers with a failed love story of their own should be able to relate to the text on multiple levels. This piece will be especially of interest to those whose partners have had addiction issues. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of The Only Story, may enjoy Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016).

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Book Review | To Lose the Madness : Field Notes on Trauma, Loss and Radical Authenticity by L.M. Browning

to lose the madness cover.jpgIncorporating beautiful photographs from her travels to the Southwest, Browning’s mini-memoir focuses on her experience with post traumatic stress disorder. To Lose the Madness reveals events that led up to Browning’s breaking point and discusses ways she tried to work through her trauma, ultimately explaining what it all meant to her. Without asking for sympathy, this account lays undergone hardships bare for the reader in a manner the author terms “radical authenticity”.

More of an essay, this memoir reveals a very personal struggle. It conveys the idea that not all trauma can be worked through or simply left behind. Browning stresses the importance of being able to carry one’s trauma with grace. Readers who have experienced similar losses or attempted to overcome their own mental health issues will certainly be able to relate to many of the passages in this text. It is a well-written, thought-provoking, quick read. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik

shelter in place coverA man in the Pacific Northwest falls in love with a woman. Over the years, they live in a hotel in Cannon Beach, OR, a rental house in White Pine, WA, an apartment in Seattle and a house they build in the country. Joey works in bars and deals with bipolar disorder, which he suspects his mother also has. Tess works with Joey and becomes passionate about taking a stand against violence directed at women. Sometimes Joey and Tess spend a few years apart, but they are together when he receives word that his mother has beaten a man to death with a hammer. Before too long, Tess and Joey have joined his father, in moving to the prison town where Mom is serving her sentence. Shelter in Place is a beautiful story of love and family.

I chose this book after having enjoyed Maksik’s previous novel, A Marker to Measure the Drift, and I found it even better. The characters are very realistic and the writing style is beautiful. Though the story is not told in a completely linear manner, I found the narrative choices enhancing and easily understandable. Maksik renders a touching story of love and life. Certainly one of my favorite reads this year. This novel would appeal to fans of epic love stories, those with bipolar disorder, or those hoping to better understand bipolar loved ones. Short chapters make the book fairly quick to read. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Shelter in Place, may be interested in Oola by Brittany Newell (2017).

Book Review | A Fortune Foretold by Agneta Pleijel

fortune foretold coverA Fortune Foretold is an autobiographical novel that relays a story of Neta growing up in Sweden, mostly during the 1950’s. She and her two younger sisters progress through grade and high school as their parents strained relationship is tested and matters at home are a struggle. Family members also enter in various off-shoots over the course of the story.

The book begins in a challenging manner as the protagonist refers to herself mostly in the third person. Fragments of memories are revealed transporting the reader through the years of feelings and interactions Neta has with her family and friends. The second half of the novel is easier to follow than the first and the level of emotional involvement increases considerably. Not recommended for those looking for a pick-me-up novel, this would be more enjoyable for those interested in tumultuous family affairs, depression or coming of age timepiece novels. Overall, the text is well written and thought provoking. Check it out from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Fortune Foretold, you may be interested in A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe (2017).

Book Review | The Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz

mountains of parnassus.jpegPublished in Polish in 2012, The Mountains of Parnassus was completed by Nobel Prize winner Milosz in the early 1970’s. Though the novel is classified as science fiction, it is dystopian fiction and currently quite applicable. The book is broken into seven sections and introduces the reader to four distinct characters: an astronaut, a cardinal, an exiled man and a struggling man. Each character has a very different story, which allows for wider reader appeal.

The quality of the writing in this book is excellent. Milosz has set some feelings in words in a very touching way. Some of the characters were easier to relate to than others, and their stories combined well to form the novel. It is a quick read, more of a novella that can be read in a few hours. The text is thought provoking and considering when it was originally written, brings to mind the foresight seen in the writing of Ira Levin. This English translation is expected to be published on January 10, 2017.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the translator/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Imagine Me Gone : A novel by Adam Haslett

imagine-me-gone-book-coverThe critically acclaimed new novel by Haslett, Imagine Me Gone, certainly lives up to standards. The story focuses on a family of five who move between the east coast and England as the children grow from small to adult. The father and eldest son are affected by depression, which at times renders them unable to function in traditional roles. The novel traces their struggle, as well as the reactions and effects on the lives of the mother and siblings.

Told using alternating narration from each family member’s point of view, the book spans decades and provides a unique perspective in examining a familial struggle. Each character narrator has a distinct voice and thought process that has been well developed. Some passages were thought provoking and reflective, really allowing for the quality of writing to shine through. A few sections were a bit long in their details, but as a whole, well done. This book will appeal to those dealing with a depressed family member or partner, those interested in social work or psychology and fans of literature revolving around family issues. Check it out from a library near you!

I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Sunless : A novel by Gerard Donovan

Sunless was recommended to me by someone with similar reading interests. It takes place in the near future in Salt Lake City, Utah and centers on a struggling family and their interaction with a nearby pharmaceutical company in Park City. Self-named Sunless, the narrator and protagonist, begins the story when he is about five years old. His parents are excitedly expecting their second child, his brother, but the baby never makes it home from the hospital. Mother plummets into depression, taking pills and father develops cancer. As Sunless grows up and things at home just get worse, he turns to his mother’s pills.

I was told that I should read this book with someone close nearby in case it made me sad. I was slightly disappointed when I found this book a bit flat. I wasn’t very interested in the main character and was unable to empathize. The story flowed alright and made for easy reading, but without appealing characters. The presence of pharmaceutical companies in day to day life was surprising and led me to think more about the current state of prescription drug use in the United States. It could be a quick airplane read, but I suggest approaching it without high hopes. Check out Sunless from a library near you.