28 March 2010
Let me begin this review with thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book. The Lotus Eaters is a beautifully written novel winding through the nightmare that was the Viet Nam War. It takes me back to the summer I graduated from high school. In 1971, the student president visited Paris for Peace Talks and returned in sadness that the war was to continue, even in the strange and different form it had taken.
Soli’s novel is the story of Helen Adams, who is an American photojournalist, trying first to recover what she has lost in Viet Nam – her brother, who was killed. Adams is unprepared for the life she will live in Viet Nam. As she adapts to her new normal, which includes dead women and children as well as suffering on both sides, Helen falls in love with Darrow, a fellow photojournalist who is constantly chasing the next big story. Linh, Darrow’s assistant and a man torn between two countries, becomes Helen’s lover and friend. Soli explores the complex relationship that blossoms between these three people who are experiencing their own inner wars over the span of the novel.
What intrigued me most about this novel is the development of Helen. When she first arrives in Viet Nam, she begs to be embedded with the troops. Her first experience was this:
Her mouth was dry, air scraped the shallows of her lungs, as the reality of where she was took hold. Shivering from the foreign rush of terror, she felt a warm, wet sensation, and burned at the realization that she had peed herself….Nothing had prepared her for the smallness of the moment. The moment to moment boredom. Intellectually, yes, there were people on the enemy side trying to kill them. American men might die, but that was all television stuff. Being on the flat land, pricked by the dying grass, the idea that she herself could be the target of a bullet became real. (p. 92)
Over the years, Helen lost her fear. But of course, the reader wonders what else was lost with the fear. And what was gained. The novel allows for several voices to be heard and Linh’s portrait of both North and South Viet Nam during the war is beautiful and harrowing. In the end, with the war neither won nor lost, Helen wonders as she prepares to leave:
Ten years ago it had seemed the war would never end, and now all she could think, was More time, give us more time. She would continue till the end although she had lost faith in the power of pictures, because the work had become an end in itself, untethered to results or outcomes. (p. 5)
So different from the statement made by Darrow regarding why they were in Viet Nam:
“Sometimes you have to fulfill a promise in order to deserve the love you’re given. Don’t you think it’s a calling to live in danger just to capture the face of those who are suffering? To show their invisible lives to the world?” (p. 89)
Don’t miss this phenomenal book. Reading, Writing and Retirement also has a review of The Lotus Eaters. If you have time, sneak over and read her excellent review. If you are interested in the topic of Viet Nam, I also recommend Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.
TITLE: The Lotus Eaters: A Novel
AUTHOR: Tatjana Soli
RECOMMEND: I highly recommend this book as it is beautifully written and carries a powerful message.
I have a new meme, Sunday Sidelines. Many of us have blogs dedicated to one thing or another. Reading the many posts by different bloggers, we come to know them. Sunday Sidelines is an opportunity to step outside of the normal blog post and share something that is on your sidelines. If you would like to join in, just leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.
Perhaps it is possible
to be gentle no matter what, to seek not restraint
but surrender entirely, to turn
from the snarling reproach not into the keening
dismissal of hope but to whatever bright
fluttering is next, the bright fluttering
of wisteria petals, a felicitous
phrase, fingers touching
a face. ...
- From "Fuschia" by Charlie Smith
I love this single fluttering of wisteria petals on my back fence. It reminds me that spring is coming. Soon the backyard will be filled with people swimming, sunning, and eating...family time will be tripled. I am anxious for this to begin.
Poem: "Fuschia" by Charlie Smith via PoetryFoundation.org From Indistinguishable from the Darkness. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990.
26 March 2010
I would rather not say too much more about Saldana’s story other than the fact that while she is praying in a centuries old monastery, she meets and falls in love with a novice French monk. Away from the monastery, Saldana’s days are spent learning Arabic, studying the Quran, having coffee with Grandfather, and learning how to love herself and her family. The beauty of the book is in her intricate descriptions of places and people that most of us will never encounter. In a post 9/11 world, Saldana navigates the Middle East with some trepidation, but finds that she is as horrified as her new neighbors by the violence that is occurring in Iraq and Lebanon. Visits to the desert monastery are more journeys of the soul than the body and as I read, I longed for the silence of the places she walked – places she met Jesus and Mary. In absolute balance, Saldana met the Jesus and Mary of the Quran as well.
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. Culture and religion and love fill the pages of this memoir and after a bit of time has passed, I might just read this book again.
TITLE: The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith
AUTHOR: Stephanie Saldana
TYPE: non-fiction, memoir
RECOMMEND: A wonderfully peaceful book to read, even in the midst of chaos.
23 March 2010
21 March 2010
HERSHEY’S BETTER BASKET BLOG HOP RULES
- Copy and paste these rules to your blog post.
- Create a blog post giving a virtual Easter Basket to another blogger – you can give as many Virtual Baskets as you want.
- Link back to person who gave you an Easter Basket.
- Let each person you are giving a Virtual Easter Basket know you have given them a Basket.
- Leave your link at BetterBasket.info/BlogHop comment section. You can also find the official rules of this #betterbasket blog hop, and more information about Better Basket with Hershey’s there.
- Hershey’s is donating $10 per each blog participating to the Better Basket Blog Hop to Children’s Miracle Network (up to total of $5,000 by blog posts written by April 4th, 2010).
- Please note that only one blog post by each blog url will count towards the donation.
My daughter, who is now thirty years old, was born in Pensacola, Florida and she was a patient at the Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart Hospital for thirty days. Without their care and love, she would have died and my life would have been only a shadow of what it has been. Because I believe in the Children's Miracle Network, I am sending a Better Basket to the following people in hopes that they will pass it on:
Holly at Pieces of Me
Marie at Boston Bibliophile
Amanda at Stansel Journey
Dawn at She is Too Fond of Books
Wishing you all and everyone who stops by a wonderful Spring and a Happy Easter or Passover.
Side note - a class I took required that we write a 30 page paper on original historical research that was 95% of our grade. All semester, I researched and read. When it came time to write the paper, I could not get that first sentence on the computer (which mind you was a relatively new thing at our house in the early 1990s). I finally got the best sentence written and was delighted with the prospects of creating a beautiful paper. The computer crashed, I lost my sentence, I cried. I finally wrote another one and made sure to hit save almost immediately.
Fist line: The city teetered in a dream state.
This is the cover of the Advance Readers' Edition which I have just finished reading and will review soonish. The back cover tells me that "As the city of Saigon falls, Helen Adams, an American photojournalist, must leave the devastated country she has come to call her own." So knowing these things, the first sentence drew me right into the book.
TITLE: The Survivors Club: The Secret and Science that Could Save Your Life
AUTHOR: Ben Sherwood
COPYRIGHT: February, 2010
RECOMMEND: I certainly want everyone I love to read this book. Once you read it, you will too.
13 March 2010
TITLE: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
AUTHOR: Heidi W. Durrow
TYPE: fiction, based on a true story
RECOMMEND: I loved it.
It was interesting that I received Forest Gate shortly after I completed the book mentioned above. It, too, deals with racial issues, but from a very different perspective. I could not have planned my reading any better and I would like to thank Simon & Schuster Free Press for the opportunity to read and review this first novel by Peter Akinti.
TITLE: Forest Gate
AUTHOR: Peter Akinti
RECOMMEND: I thought this was a very thought provoking and beautifully written book.
The novel takes place in 1979 and is narrated by twelve year old Miranda, who lives with her mother. Miranda experiences the pains of growing up while a mystery surrounds her. Miranda's mother is excited about being on the $20,000 Pyramid, a television game show which was popular in the 1970s. Along with her mother's boyfriend, the family helps the mother practice for the show. This story line might be an unknown for young people today.
Another story line, which is at the heart of the mystery, focuses on Madeline L'Engel's book A Wrinkle in Time and the idea of time travel. Marcus, who becomes a friend to Miranda, has theories on time and space. If one were unfamiliar with L'Engel's book, perhaps this story line might also have some gaps. Of course the simple answer to this problem is to read L'Engel's classic book and start over.
I liked this book. I didn't love it. The writing and tone were good and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mysterious notes. Overall, When You Reach Me should hold broad appeal for the age range Grade 5-8, which is where we have placed the book in our collection at the library.
TITLE: When You Reach Me
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