Hag:A Novel Kathleen Kaufman

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You will see the places where time touches other paths; you will see all the what-ifs and possibilities. You will know things that others do not, and they might fear you for it.

Hag tells the story of a bloodline of women that hail from a Cailleach (a divine Hag of Scottish roots). Many generations come to pass, some in hiding from their abilities, others with the power to heal or harm. The common thread is the fear others feel, damning them for their powers, haunted by superstitions, marking them as evil. It spans the old world, and America as each daughter is meant to learn the old ways, as the Cailleach is a watcher of sorts from her cave, waiting for another to take her place.  Some daughters throughout the story embrace their inheritance, while others run from it, but there is no corner of the world far enough.

The women are timeless, and much wiser than the people, regardless of the era their story takes place.  The novel begins with  six-year-old Alice, playing in the Glasgow rain in her red rain boots. Already she has the gift of foresight, and understands there are paths in life that change the outcome of the future. Maybe she won’t grow up to run the shop, selling herbal tinctures, as her mother did before the war. These red rain boots have other plans for her, and her future is waiting in Colorado, the United States. So opens her path. As she comes of age, with the gift of knowing, she lives a life of desire and passion for a while, knowing it can’t last, finding herself caught up with a dangerous man, Tiburon in Venezuela, another story, another path she has to close. Then there is Paul, deceptions and his family blaming her for everything, as seems to be the way for all the women of her bloodline. There are many examples of just how intuitive and wise she is, from her days as a teacher to her love for Tiburon.

Throughout the chapters about Alice, there are the stories of her many ancestors and their gifts. I particularly enjoyed Catriona’s tale during the Spiritualists movement, how mesmerized she is by ‘the Russian Woman’ during a time when so much chicanery was taking place, and much of high society itself was bamboozled. It’s an authentic part of the novel, considering all the theater the fraudulent clairvoyants took great lengths to create. She should have heeded her mother’s warning. But there are other great powerful women in the line, weaved into the story, just as interesting. Muriel for instance,  who learns upon the heath that her moods  are tied to manifestations, that with her mind emptied she can control nature, to an extent. Gifted with herbal knowledge, she too has her patrons in neighbors, who come to her when in desperate need but also whisper about her. As people are want to do, they may appeal to the women in the line when it suits them, and yet turn on them with suspicion, mistrust and hatred dependant on any event that demands a target for their woes. Rather than your typical witches in the mainstream these days, Kaufman paints old world witchery that comes off as much more genuine.  While there is love, Hag isn’t a romance novel where one’s gifts lead to happy endings with suitors. It is more often that the blood flowing through each character dooms them, in a sense.

Time doesn’t really flow in a straight line, it is more circuitous as is evident in this tale. There is a child, Coira and soon a long-awaited homecoming.

Perfect if you enjoy folklore and witches.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Turner

 

 

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Malva by Hagar Peeters, Vivien Glass (translated by)

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The moral of the story is that my parents’ mismatch was the result of their individual miseries, and out of this misguided union came an even greater mistake: a misfit, namely me.

It took me some time to flow with the narration. Malva, Pablo Neruda’s abandoned daughter born with hydrocephalus, was his only child, born from his first marriage to María Antonia Hagenaar. In this fictional novel, Malva (named after a pretty flower the malva or mallow) speaks to the reader from the afterlife. She has for company other discarded children of the famous, with stories just as gut wrenching. Having died at only eight years old, this isn’t a happy story by any means. Having recently finished a novel about Albert Einstein, whose youngest son struggled with schizophrenia and was greatly ignored by his father, I was surprised to hear mention of him in this stroy, to see Neruda sharing similar behavior towards his own child with needs. It’s disheartening to know so many great man have ‘excised’ children that didn’t fit the trajectory of their purposeful lives. Like Albert, Pablo Neruda felt passionately about justice and humanitarian rights, his own writing itself became political as he was anti-fascist, particularly after the assassination of his friend and fellow poet Lorca. The man doesn’t need any puffing up from me, there is plenty written about him. What I hadn’t known was his cold indifference to his only child and the cruelty towards her mother. Upon Malva’s death, he didn’t even bother to respond. Her tomb as forgotten in later years. War isn’t an excuse, really, for not once did he do anything to help with Malva’s care. Can his feelings towards her mother really excuse erasing his own (and only) child from his life? It’s hard to reconcile in my mind that a man of great romantic passions, beautiful flowery writing, could have so little room in his heart for his own fragile daughter. “I was named after the mallow. And I turned out as ugly as that flower is beautiful.” Is it really all about a lack of beauty?  Would little Malva have been easier for him to accept if she were a pretty, rosy cheeked doll of a baby? He certainly isn’t the first to cower from the demands of caring for a child with difficulities, be them physical or mental. I am trying to be fair, not everyone has the strength to take on the selfless mantle of caregiver, maybe it was easier for him to re-write his reality, as a form of self-preservation but I am not a psychiatrist, I am just a mother who is appalled.

I don’t imagine fans of Neruda, and I count myself a fan of his writing, would readily wish to embrace this story. It is interesting that people forgive their idols all sorts of heinous behaviors, things the common man could never get away with so freely. I suppose so long as you make your mark, so to speak,your dirty deeds can be erased. My heart really went out to Malva’s mother, Maryka (or Maruca as Neruda called her) who was constant in Malva’s life as much as Pablo was an absence. The doting father at first, then banishing them both with a handy excuse,  as fate would have it the civil war had him ‘packing my mother and me on a train to Barcelona.’ This freed him to be with his lover, Delia. It seems he blamed, in some strange ways, his wife for the happenstance of Malva’s condition. I’ve read other articles about things Neruda has said, done. It doesn’t exactly paint the portrait of a hero. No longer burdened by their presence (it sickens me to think of Malva begging for help, for money that would never come), Neruda was now free.  She took it upon herself with the help of a family who were Christian Scientists to  care for her child Malva until her death at age 8. Malva goes on, within this fictional tale, to tell of the sad life her mother lived after and to follow her father’s political and personal life. Malva is often jealous of the attention he lavishes freely on his two women while she, his pretty little flower,  was left to wilt and die without so much as a mention in his memoirs and books. He is known as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He was a Nobel laureate, a diplomat and a member of the Communist party. He took his duties for his country Chile seriously, why not then passion for his helpless child? I guess she was too much of an anchor for a man who traveled the world and was occupied with fights for others. He discarded Delia much in the same way he did Malva’s mother, thrown over eventually for another. Who knows what was in his heart when it came to Malva, he was too busy hiding her. It’s just interesting that a man who wrote so prolifically was silent about his only child. Poor Maryka, because she too deserves her story to be told. That there was a time when Neruda seemed her chance for happiness, with her father and brothers dead, it is heartbreaking that a life so full of promise was instead one of neglect and abuse. Dismissal, banishment, poverty. She worked hard and gave all the money she could for her child’s care, living in a limbo of never knowing for how long her child would remain of this earth, with no family to turn to, no one to support her in her living grief. I can’t even imagine the hardship, the pain. It is my hope that  Hendrik Julsing and Gerdina Sierks (with children of their own) the foster family who took on the care of Malva, were able to be a shoulder now and then.

It’s hard to erase what you learn about someone whose own actions are so contradictory with their public face. This book gives Malva a voice, her father Pablo had his words, a plethora of them, his entire life. In a sense, this is her turn to be heard but mind you, it is fictional. The style isn’t for every reader. I felt like I was one with Malva’s spirit, a shadow over her great father. There are light moments, I was absolutely warmed to my toes to read about  what Roald Dahl (the famed author) helped invent for his own son Theo (a four-month old infant at the time) suffering from hydrocephalus, caused after a taxi cab in New York hit the carriage he was in, while crossing the street. Look it up, not all great man are absent or cruel fathers.

A very heavy, surrealist novel that broke my heart. If only those without voices could have their say in the afterlife.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Doppelhouse Press

 

Wait, Blink A Perfect Picture of Inner Life: A Novel by Gunnhild Øyehaug

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What a typical situation that she should try to understand and understand and that everything should have meaning and more meaning, but that the only understand she could get was from a pair of eyes on the back of a book, or the stars over the mountains at night- it strikes her as she sits there with a book in front of her,  and the walls suddenly feel like walls and the ceiling feels like a ceiling, as sometimes happens when the magic of the moment when you feel there is hope disappears and all that remains is this: walls, and ceilings, and walls and ceilings. 

A story of intersections, this first English-language translation of award-winning Norwegian author Gunnhild Øyehaug has  gorgeous writing, the challenge may lie for some readers in how the novel flits from one character to the next. There is no denying the insights into each life, emotional states, longings, hopes, and regrets. The narration was difficult to transcend for me, which is a shame because the depths the author goes to in exploring what is happening in the hearts and head space of her characters is flawless. Take Sigrid, there is much amusement in her thoughts about the vulnerability of women in film and literature, and I’ll be damned if the whole oversized male t-shirt tidbit isn’t, in fact, true. The most important musings are really about her feelings for the author’s photo on a book and the fact that later in the novel they meet. Film director Linnea struggles with the frustration of what she wants to express in her films, the impossibility of it all, as with many of her wishes in life, as if met only by an insurmountable wall. As she longs for Göran, he too, asleep beside his wife, wishes he were in Copenhagen . Then we cut to Trine, the performance artist, regretting the aggression of her latest ‘artistic expression’. Why has she allowed herself to love someone? How will motherhood affect her art?

Then we flash back ten years ago to Viggo, crashing on his bicycle. Falling in love, trying to ‘unwind out of himself’, and then a loss all the while pondering on Dante. The novel does a lot of hopping around, which can lose some readers. There is a lot of thoughts about films, and the female’s role in them throughout, certainly something to chew on. A ‘quarrel’ between the characters Käre and Wanda about the relationship between the Bride (Uma Thurman) and Bill, a movie that has a lot of arse-kicking women, and how ‘conventional’ her admiration of Bill seems to be. But why is she, really, so bothered by this scene, why does it birth fears for her own relationship with Käre? Jealousy eats at her, though she is a sort of superwoman, strong-minded, like any other human being she has her weaknesses.

This book is steeped in self-reflection, Linnea longing over a past affair, when her mind should be on her film, Trine struggling with her art, now a mother, self-doubt overwhelming her, a sort of love triangle between Käre, Wanda and Sigrid. Käre isn’t sure of his own heart, but when he is, there is nothing for it, sometimes you have to break hearts for happiness. Then there is Viggo, lots of trembling for our Viggo, a character I enjoyed, and just who is this Elida, the fishmongers’ daughter dreaming of being in Viggo’s strong arms, treasuring his lost tooth ten years later? Maybe there are some happy endings here within, ” And one would wish that everything was like that, always. But then things always slide, out and out!” I wonder if there are other novels by Gunnhild Øyehaug that aren’t as populated, that doesn’t move too fast when you just begin to dive into the telling, begin to cozy up with the characters because her writing really is provocative. It’s simply a matter of feeling overwhelmed and dizzy with not being still long enough, and the narrator, thinking much of the time what is up with the narrator? Aw, it all makes sense at the end, but still… I’m not sure every reader will have the patience, I don’t know if something was lost in translation, or if it’s the style that makes it difficult to flow with. I enjoyed it, but keeping up was a chore at times. I would like to read another novel by the author because she clearly has a lot to say about love, the female role in life, and the general struggles we all face, how we are often in our own way.

Available now

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Inlaws and Outlaws by Kate Fulford

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I often lie to make my life easier, but that doesn’t mean I condone lying in others.

Eve has reluctantly fallen for Gideon, things are going so well that it’s time for her to meet Mother. Marjorie can do no wrong in the eyes of her loyal son, upon first meeting it’s definitely she who rules the family. Is Marjorie really that bad, or is it Eve’s lack of a big family having grown up with her Aunt Audrey that causes her to misunderstand the dynamics in Gideon’s own. One thing is certain, Marjorie is an overbearing manipulator but it takes one to know one, this time she has a worthy opponent.

In all honesty, Gideon didn’t seem worth this much fuss but maybe it’s the challenge that makes the relationship seem that much more worth keeping. No way is Eve going to let Marjorie win, because history proves she has driven other potential love interests away from her adoring son. With histrionics and deception, she knows how to pull the strings in her family of puppets, though not all fall into step. Gideon’s sister keeps her distance with her husband and children preferring peace to her mother’s cold ways and there is a twin sister that has her own dirt on the matriarch, unless she really is as mad as a hatter, as the family tells it. Malcom, why does Gideon’s father cower to her demands? Why does no one see her for what she truly is?

Eve’s younger brother Dominic has a gift for pulling her into his family drama, he’s come calling again with the hopes of rallying support against his ex, hoping to win custody of his daughter. The problem is, she is sure his daughter Pixie is better off with her mother Sophie. As if that isn’t enough, his conspiracy theories are exasperating, and a bit troubling. She doesn’t have time for this, on top of sparring with Marjorie and trying to maintain her relationship with Gideon.

Then there is Claire, “I really don’t know how Claire and I have maintained our friendship for so long as she disapproves of almost everything I say and do.” Claire is a psychologist and tries to be the voice of reason in Eve’s life. Listening to Eve complain about her woes with Marjorie, Claire attempts to prod Eve in a more sensible direction, and away from assuming Gideon’s mother has ‘sinister intentions.’ But Claire could be wrong about Marjorie, couldn’t she?

Eve isn’t about to let the witch win, no way! She finds support in unusual places, uncovering Marjorie’s biggest deceptions and betrayals, one even against her own children.But is Eve herself squeaky clean? Does Eve have a few things to hide from Gideon? Either way, it’s definitely game on!

The novel changes from a common story about the struggle of trying to make things work with one’s partner’s family, doing everything in their power to make you feel unwelcome and drive a wedge between the two of you, to a far more devious tale. Marjorie isn’t the only one willing to ‘go to great lengths’ to come out the winner. I didn’t expect deception to be a character itself, but it is in so many ways to the very conclusion. Maybe honesty isn’t always the best policy here. She has met her match in Eve, who isn’t always likable either. The similarities between them begs the question, what the heck happened in Marjorie’s life to make her so calculated? Will we ever know? For both of these women, the truth is something to be molded to fit the narrative of their lives. A strange story indeed.

Available Now

Thistle Publishing

Forthcoming Titles From Two Dollar Radio and One Available Now

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As I spend a lot of time searching for books to feed my reading addiction, I am always tickled by interesting titles. I reached out to Two Dollar Radio for an arc of The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish by Katya Apenik but not just for the title alone, though what a title! The synopsis is as follows, as can be found here, at their website: https://twodollarradio.com/products/deeper-the-water
It’s 16-year-old Edie who finds their mother Marianne dangling in the living room from an old jump rope, puddle of urine on the floor, barely alive. Upstairs, 14-year-old Mae had fallen into one of her trances, often a result of feeling too closely attuned to her mother’s dark moods. After Marianne is unwillingly admitted to a mental hospital, Edie and Mae are forced to move from their childhood home in Louisiana to New York to live with their estranged father, Dennis, a former civil rights activist and literary figure on the other side of success.

The girls, grieving and homesick, are at first wary of their father’s affection, but soon Mae and Edie’s close relationship begins to fall apart—Edie remains fiercely loyal to Marianne, convinced that Dennis is responsible for her mother’s downfall, while Mae, suffocated by her striking resemblances to her mother, feels pulled toward their father. The girls move in increasingly opposing and destructive directions as they struggle to cope with outsized pain, and as the history of Dennis and Marianne’s romantic past clicks into focus, the family fractures further.

Moving through a selection of first-person accounts and written with a sinister sense of humor, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish powerfully captures the quiet torment of two sisters craving the attention of a parent they can’t, and shouldn’t, have to themselves. In this captivating debut, Katya Apekina disquietingly crooks the lines between fact and fantasy, between escape and freedom, and between love and obsession.

I’ve already devoured the copy I was sent and in a few weeks intend to share my review, it won’t be available until September 18, 2018 but it’s one to add to your TBR list. Kata Apekina is a fantastic writer, one I look forward to reading more of.

Imagine my surprise that included in the package was a copy of two other books I’ve got on my reading list. The Blurry Years by Eleanor Kriseman and The Underneath by Melanie Finn. Finn’s review I will share this week, as it’s available now. The Blurry Years I am digging into tonight. More on that title below shared from their website, found here: https://twodollarradio.com/products/blurry-years

The Blurry Years is a powerful and unorthodox coming-of-age story from an assured new literary voice, featuring a stirringly twisted mother-daughter relationship, set against the sleazy, vividly-drawn backdrop of late-seventies and early-eighties Florida.

Callie—who ages from six to eighteen over the course of the book—leads a scattered childhood, moving from cars to strangers’ houses to the sand-dusted apartments of the tourist towns that litter the Florida coastline.

Callie’s is a story about what it’s like to grow up too fast and absorb too much, to watch adults behaving badly; what it’s like to be simultaneously in thrall to and terrified of the mother who is the only family you’ve ever known, who moves you from town to town to leave her own mistakes behind.

With precision and poetry, Kriseman’s moving tale of a young girl struggling to find her way in the world is potent, and, ultimately, triumphant.

Naturally, I am drawn to coming of age stories of struggle and triumphant, that Callie stays in Florida tourist towns makes it that much more appealing having grown up there.  The Blurry Years will be out July 10, 2018.

The Underneath is available now.  From two dollar radio  https://twodollarradio.com/products/underneath

With the assurance and grace of her acclaimed novel The Gloaming—which earned her comparisons to Patricia Highsmith—Melanie Finn returns with a precisely layered and tense new literary thriller.

The Underneath follows Kay Ward, a former journalist struggling with the constraints of motherhood. Along with her husband and two children, she rents a quaint Vermont farmhouse for the summer. The idea is to disconnect from their work-based lifestyle—that had her doggedly pursuing a genocidal leader of child soldiers known as General Christmas, even through Kay’s pregnancy and the birth of their second child—in an effort to repair their shaky marriage.

It isn’t long before Kay’s husband is called away and she discovers a mysterious crawlspace in the rental with unsettling writing etched into the wall. Alongside some of the house’s other curiosities and local sleuthing, Kay is led to believe that something terrible may have happened to the home’s owners.

Kay’s investigation leads her to a local logger, Ben Comeau, a man beset with his own complicated and violent past. A product of the foster system and life-long resident of the Northeast Kingdom, Ben struggles to overcome his situation, and to help an abused child whose addict mother is too incapacitated to care about the boy’s plight.

The Underneath is an intelligent and considerate exploration of violence—both personal and social—and whether violence may ever be justified.

I finished this novel last night, I will be sharing my review soon, available now!

Watch this space for reviews of all three novels.

The Dream Daughter: A Novel by Diane Chamberlain

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“But what are they?” I asked, beginning to panic. “Your findings, what did you see?”

Scary words when you’re pregnant and the news isn’t good, “Your findings, what did you see?”. Caroline has already lost the father of her child, to learn that her unborn baby has a heart defect is horrifying. The time is 1970, and all hope seems lost until her brother-in-law, a man with his own mysterious past, a physicist, confides a deeply shocking secret, one that may change her entire future and that of her unborn baby. At first, it seems as if he has lost his mind or is playing a joke. Can playing with time be the answer? This ‘leap’ she must take, if Hunter is to be believed, will save her baby’s life but if it’s all madness, it could cost Caroline her own.

It is to Caroline Hunter Poole owes his own happiness, once just a strange guy with broken bones and deep depression stuck in a wheel chair none of the other physical therapists wanted to work with. Hunter chose her, the only PT he was he was willing to have take him on, feeling she reminded him of someone he once knew. It isn’t long before she feels he’d be perfect for her sister Patti. Patti and Hunter marry, he feels tight as brothers to Caroline’s husband Joe before his tragic death. How could he stand by and watch Caroline lose the one thing, her baby, that gave her any happiness, any hope after such loss? It will expose his secret to confide in her a path to save the baby and explain the mysterious incident that landed him in the hospital to begin with.

This story hits the heart of a mother, because the truth is for most women a child is loved the moment we carry them. It is many a pregnant woman’s fear that something could go wrong for her unborn baby. In Caroline’s case, it’s true. What mother wouldn’t consider the absolute impossible if it meant salvation for her child? Wouldn’t cling to even another’s ‘fantastical story’ if it could be true? This tale turned my thoughts to medical breakthroughs, while miraculous for some came too late for others. Time, in that instance, can feel like it plays favorites much kinder to future generations. But that’s a game we can all play, some of our simple illnesses today, in bygone times, snuffed out many lives.

Caroline will be displaced, and trapped by the windows of time may still lose everything she holds dear. How much do we sacrifice for love? What if the one chance your child has means letting go forever?

This is a unique story about time travel and  how happy endings aren’t always destined to play out the way we planned. A unique twist as usually time travel novels are about love between a man and woman this instead is a mother and child love story. Wonderful.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

St. Martin’s Press

 

The Caregiver: A Novel by Samuel Park

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In America, there  were no metaphors. If a woman trusted her partner she didn’t say that she would set her hand on fire. When a woman had all the power, she didn’t say she had a knife and a piece of cheese in her hands. When she didn’t like an offer, she didn’t tell it to go back to the sea. 

It isn’t lost on me that I read this novel while going through my own health scare, mine is intestinal. Books find us when we need them, without a doubt. It deeply saddens me to learn the author passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 41, more so after reading at the end of the book what he wrote in 2017 for the New York Times Sunday Review. “I had a 9 Percent Chance, Plus Hope.” It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.

Samuel Park surprises me with how perfectly he could write from the perspective of female characters. Getting into the female mind is no easy feat my friends. Mara Alencar adores her mother beyond life itself, Ana is her gravity and is willing to do anything to put food in her daughter’s belly and a roof over their heads. Life is hard, but she never shows the exhaustion and sadness her single mother status puts on her shoulders. Working as a voice-over actress, a beauty herself, it’s not nearly enough to keep them afloat and this is just one of the many reasons Ana finds herself entangled in a dangerous scheme. With bravery, or stupidity, she becomes involved with young rebels out to take down the corrupt Police Chief, holding captive their friends in Rio De Janeiro. No one is a better actress than Ana, a talent that they sorely need to distract the Chief. Chaos ensues when their plan takes a dangerous turn, and nothing will be the same for Ana and Mara. The child sees more than her young mind can process.

Mara doesn’t know who her father is, but has always lived a happy life in the light of her mother’s love. Lately, her mother has changed and paranoia overtakes her, the threat of the Police Chief a shadow over their future. As Mara comes of age, she becomes as impulsive as her mother, and it is in her forceful nature that she falls in love for the first time. The boy of her chosing a dangerous pick. Mara acts out in desperation to save her mother, and through terrible loss learns that what she thought she knew about her mother may all have been lies.

Mara escapes to America and works as a caregiver in Bel Air for Kathyrn, a woman dying of stomach cancer. Living as an immigrant who works for a wealthy woman is an eye-opening experience, considering her apartment is a shared one in the ‘not-so-nice part of Hollywood.” Ten years after first moving to America, Mara still finds herself surprised by her new country. The vast wealth, in comparison to Brazil, never fails to amaze her where even those who are poor, ‘look expensive’. There is a certain charm in all the little things Mara notices that we Americans take for granted.

It’s at heart both an immigrant experience and a tender, moving story about a mother who just wants to give her child a good life and prospects for a better future. It is how the country we inhabit shapes our destiny, for better or worse. Yes read it, and don’t pass over “I Had a 9 Percent Chance , Plus Hope” at the end. The world is heavier with the loss of Samuel Park.

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Simon & Schuster