Friday, December 30, 2011

SISTERS by Nancy Jensen

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I heard so much great buzz about Nancy Jensen's THE SISTERS that I was really excited to read it!  Bertie and Mabel Fischer are as close as two sisters can be.  In 1920s Kentucky, they cling to one another as they struggle without their mother who passed away and left them with a difficult and menacing stepfather.  Bertie is excited about graduating from 8th grade in front of the people she loves the best---her sister and her sweetheart.  When neither one shows up for her graduation, Bertie fears the worst.  Good intentions turn bad and a series of misunderstandings have catastrophic consequences that will affect generations to come. The story follows the paths of the two sisters and their offspring and what happens to each of them.

I love the idea of this book. It is wonderful to see a story that follows a family through several generations of women. It is heartbreaking to see how seemingly small decisions and misunderstandings can have such far-reaching effects.   Although I think Jensen is a very creative storyteller, the book fell flat to me.  I almost wish it had been a bit longer with greater attention and detail paid to each character.  It felt as if there should have been more to the story.

BOTTOM LINE:  A very good tale of love, loss, and family that doesn't quite hit the mark.  It just didn't pack the emotional wallop that I thought it would.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Have Riches in the Form of Books

I was recently looking at a new title in our library called UNPACKING MY LIBRARY: WRITERS AND THEIR BOOKS. It was so fun to page through the photographs of various authors and their home libraries.  It made me think of how much I love my own home library.

I'm not sure how many books I have.  A little over 1000 I think. Hardcover titles. Many of them signed first editions.  My 3-yr-old son has over 100 books in his collection.  It's a start.

I recently moved to a new house and haven't unpacked my books yet. I have all the necessities unpacked but, without my books, it doesn't feel like home. I love unpacking and organizing my books. I smile as I pull them out of boxes and marvel at the different covers.  I love the variety of their sizes and shapes and the feel of the paper. I like seeing them all lined up by subject. (and alphabetized by author within subject, of course!)  Once they are in place, I often find myself wandering into the study just to run my fingers over the spines of the books. I love the smell of old crumbly paper. I  love finding the notes of previous owners of the books inside of them. Books are a multi-sensory experience for me.

I don't get any of this from an ebook.  I do see the value of ebooks and I will probably have an e-readers someday for travel.  But I find ebooks to be cold and lifeless.  I can't take notes in them in my own handwriting.  I can't pass them down to future generations. They have no smell or real tactile sensation.  They are dead things that are only "alive" as long as the reader is turned on.  Or as long as the batteries don't run out!

Many of you know that I am a fan of apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.  What would happen to us if the lights went out?  If we no longer had electricity? At least we could still read our paper books. The written chronicles of our lives and our history.  Pretty amazing, don't you think?

As long as I have my books, I will be rich indeed.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

THE DOVEKEEPERS by Alice Hoffman

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

THE DOVEKEEPERS follows the lives of several women living in the last Zealot stronghold in the Judean desert in 70 C.E.    In the history written by Josephus, two women and five children survived the fall of this stronghold.  Hoffman relates her version of why these individuals survived in THE DOVEKEEPERS.   The story begins with Yael whose mother died in childbirth and whose father and brother are both assassins for the Zealots.  When they must escape into the desert, Yael's life truly begins.  When they reach the Zealot desert stronghold, Yael meets a wonderful assortment of women each of whom have a profound story to relate.

I don't want give away too much by revealing each woman's story.  I won't even share a little bit because part of the beauty of this book is how each woman's tale unfolds.  The characters are so well- drawn and interesting.  These women find unique sources of power and ingenuity not only in the midst of a siege but also within a deeply patriarchal society. Their strength and sisterhood are very powerful.

I loved this book. I thought the story was fascinating and imaginative and I love that Hoffman based it on true historical accounts.  It is a sad book but an incredibly moving one as well.  I think it would make a terrific book club read.

BOTTOM LINE:  A wonderful woman-centered historical tale about an historical event that is not often spoken about.  One of my favorites this year!