A Book After My Own Ancestors….

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the premise on which it was written. The author admits it was written and based on a family member that disappeared. She took bits and pieces of the story she knew and mixed them with factual historical details to create a moving, heartbreaking story.  This is something I have personally always wanted to do. In the early 1930’s, my great grandmother, Opal Raider Fulks walked out of her home and never came back. She left behind my very young grandmother, her husband, and her two other daughters.  We have very, very little information as to where or why she disappeared.  In many of my dreams, especially lately, I see her…in fact I AM her…and wonder if the scenes I dream actually occurred. I have considered writing a novel based on what we know and what I’ve seen in my dreams. When I saw the description of The Buried Book, I knew I had to read it. In fact, I reached out to the author on Goodreads, and she was kind enough to answer my question.

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The novel takes place in rural Michigan and begins with a young boy being left by his mother. She takes him to his aunt and uncle’s farm and disappears for a few years. The remainder of the story is of Jasper, the young boy, attempting to find where she went, and if she is even alive. While his father makes the occasional appearance, it only adds to the heartbreak and abject sadness of the entire situation. The only reason I wasn’t awestruck by this novel was that there were parts that were a bit fantastic. A tornado, a sprint alone through Detroit, a lone bus ride, a house fire and a barn fire….at every turn there was something dramatic happening to Jasper, and these made it seem just a little too unbelievable. Otherwise, you could read this book and believe this was a true history of D.M. Pulley’s ancestors.

The novel covers topics of poverty, poor working conditions, misogyny, rape and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, murder, farm life and the mistreatment of Native Americans. Without being overly descriptive about these subjects, the author has created a fairly believable tale of what may have happened to her family member, and how the events of her teenage years affected family members for decades afterwards.

Thank you NetGalley, and always, Lake Union, for providing this novel in exchange for my review. Keep up the fantastic prints.

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The H.G. Wells Prophecy

I’m not a fan of H.G. Wells, mostly because his stuff scares the crap out of me. War of the Worlds is a movie I can’t NOT watch, but gives me nightmares every time I watch it. I dare not read it.

So I thought I’d try this one- seemed a little tamer.
Still terrifying.

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He travels to the year 802701 and meets some beautiful waif-like creatures called Eloi who seem fairly blissfully unaware of most dangers. Their days are spent mostly in repose. One, Weena, nearly drowns and the time traveler is the only one who rushes to save her. So begins a platonic, non-romantic relationship. In arriving in this year, his time machine is lost, so he must find it to get home. In doing so, he comes upon the Morlocks, whom are quite the opposite of the Eloi. The Time Traveler is his retelling of this trip to his friends and colleagues, most are are disbelieving in his tale.

Knowing that this book was written by Wells in 1895 just blows my mind. He touches on topics of class, race, global warming, and environmentalism- in a time when these topics didn’t exist or were taboo or ignored. Quite prophetic. Here are a few examples:

“There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.”

“He, I know- for the question had been discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made- thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and aw in the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end.”

PS, for some context, this review is being written the day before Election Day, 2016- Trump vs. Clinton.

Not Your Typical Atwood

How excited was I to received this Advanced Reader’s Copy from Bookstr?!

Margaret Atwood is up there with Joyce Carol Oates as one of my favorite writers of all times. It really just fluctuates between whomever I’ve read most recently, though I do have to say, Ms. Atwood’s stories tend to stick in my head much longer than JCO’s do.

That being said, this is a bit of a departure from her most recent books. Most know Atwood as a writer of dystopic novels, though that wasn’t always the case. This is definitely NOT a dystopic novel, as it is part of Crown Publishing’s Hogarth Shakespeare project. Hag-Seed is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, another one of his plays I had zero familiarity with prior to this novel.

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First, let me say, that the feel of this book in my hands is splendid. For a paperback of under 300 pages, it feels hefty- due mostly to the thickness of the paper it is published on. I absolutely love this- when I’m reading it, there is no denying it is THERE, in my hot little hands.

Now, I typically read Atwood’s novels quickly- in a matter of days- but this one took a few weeks. Mostly because I felt lost most of the time. Perhaps it is because of my unfamiliarity with The Tempest, but once the play was being performed at the prison, I couldn’t follow what was happening very well. I tried to read this novel as just that, a story, regardless of the fact it was a modern spin on an old tale, and I just wasn’t getting it. There were definite moments where the book held me- in the beginning when Felix is cast out of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, when he is meeting with Estelle, his contact at the prison, and any time Anne-Marie had a presence. But the purpose of putting on The Tempest as a cover for his revenge just didn’t add up to me, as it seemed too far fetched and disjointed. And then, just like that, the whole purpose of this novel, the revenge, was over and never really mentioned again.

The other thing that I didn’t quite get was his relationship with his daughter Miranda. Sure, he had named her after the character in The Tempest, but when he kept seeing her, despite her death years earlier, and was having conversations with her, I questioned how that helped in the story. Because he is clearly delusional? So delusional as to see and talk to his dead daughter? And to be so delusional as to create this revenge play in a prison? Perhaps.

As a stand alone novel, it was a solid meh. I suppose if you were a big fan of The Tempest, this would make more since and be sensational. Luckily Atwood provided a five page synopsis of the original play at the end, which helped some. I also suppose you could call this story quite meta, as it is the retelling of The Tempest, where the main character is living his own Tempest while producing The Tempest in prison. Yes. Clever and meta, it is.

Of the Hogarth Shakespeare’s books, this is the third I’ve read after Vinegar Girl and The Gap of Time. So far, The Gap of Time has been my favorite, but I can’t wait to check out more of them as they are released.