Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive, Again

I was thrilled to see a new novel from Elizabeth Strout.  She’s decided to share with us what’s going on in Olive Kitteridge’s life since the end of the first Pulitzer Prize winning novel, OLIVE KITTERIDGE.

I dove into this novel head first anxious to find out what’s going on in the small seaside town of Crosby Maine since last we left it. Small towns are notorious for goings on. And since several of these characters are already known to us it  brought back memories both good and bad.

OLIVE, AGAIN, is written in interlocking stories just as OLIVE KITTERIDGE was more than ten  years ago. That format was new then, but now we know Strout practically invented it and it’s ubiquitous nowadays. I love it.

Olive is now a widow at the age of almost eighty as her husband, Henry, died two years earlier. She’s lonely.  But she’s not the only lonely soul in town.  Even though Jack Kennison who is also recently widowed doesn’t understand why he likes Olive, he does. And soon they decide to tie the knot and not be so lonely.  It’s not that they’re madly in love, they are feeling the effects of the loss of their loved ones. So they cleave to one another.

Has Olive’s personality softened at all? Possibly.  We can see she is at least trying. Trying to be nice. Trying to not be so darned brash. We get a glimpse of a side of her we had not seen before. It’s refreshing.

Olive comes in contact with people who are suffering, or grieving, or being abused, or dying. So many issues.

E. Strout

Strout is brilliant at character study in all its complicated messiness. This novel made me think. Made me look aging right in the face. Let’s face it, we’re all going to get older, face challenges, and possibly deal with loneliness. How we manage it will tell the tale of our future. Happiness or despair.

There are disturbing scenes that might make you look away from the page. It is not candy-coated. Strout writes with honesty and great depth. I loved this novel.

The ending of OLIVE, AGAIN will stick with me forever. It’s so honest that it’s painful.

Come to OLIVE, AGAIN, for the rest of the story, and stay for the brilliant writing. Bound for greatness! Do not miss OLIVE, AGAIN by Elizabeth Strout.

My review copy arrived from Random House. It is superb.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We’ll have copies of OLIVE, AGAIN for sale at Copperfish Books. On sale at 20% off. Come on in to pick up your copy of the novel. Then stay to browse our brand new gift items. We’re gearing up for the holidays and our season is starting to ramp up. Lovely!

On The Plain Of Snakes by Paul Theroux

On The Plain of Snakes

Along comes Paul Theroux with  a heart-pounding epic journey along the border between Mexico and U.S. It’s not a novel. It’s a tell-all travel documentary written in Theroux’s signature voice. I got so involved that I whipped out a big atlas of Mexico and the border and began to voraciously follow along….sharpie in hand.

Map Mexico-U.S. Border

This book could not be more timely. Surely, I can’t be the only person who’s been wondering about the border, lately. My mind  has pictured areas of crossing both legal and illegal. Immigrants so desperate they are swimming across the Rio Grande sometimes hanging onto the back of another.   Yes, this actually happens daily. And I have spoken to a woman who did just this.

As Theroux drives his personal car across the harsh desert and dangerous roads of Mexico ( and they’re all dangerous) we begin to understand the  potential for disaster around every curve. At one point he was told if  he had chosen to drive a truck it would most certainly have  been stolen. He’s stopped by corrupt government police and officials on every leg of his journey.  Each one extracts  payment for some ridiculous infringement they have cooked up. Non payment is not an option here.  One incident comes to mind where he  encounters a policeman on a motorcycle as he reaches Mexico City.  The policeman  pulled up next to his car and indicated with the fat finger of a leather-gloved hand that he must follow him.  He was lead through heavy traffic  and down a side road, then through a series of slummy streets and finally to the end of a dead-end street.  The policeman approached his car shouting at the top of his voice.  Theroux indicated that his Spanish was poor and asked that the cop speak slowly.  More shouting. The policeman wants to see the papers for the car saying he can take it. It’s illegal to drive this car in Mexico. On and on. Theroux tries to explain that he has the proper permits etc.  By now Theroux is actually afraid. And rightly so. And he writes: ” I have written elsewhere about how I have been frightened in travel, nearly always by someone with a gun–a boy in Malawi, a shifta bandit in the north Kenya desert, and three boys with rusty spears had accosted me in a logoon in the Trocriand Islands, threatening to stab me to death.” Finally, he asked the policeman ,”What do you want?” and that became the game-changer. Money, of course.  Not long after this first encounter, Theroux was again accosted by police for driving down a one-way street. Money was again extracted for the offense. And on and on again and again throughout the  entire adventure. This is a corrupt country.

Theroux gives you a birds-eye view of all that’s hellacious about this often gorgeous but harsh land.  When he teaches a writing class in Mexico City he introduces us to the delicious and unique foods specific to this area.  I enjoyed meeting the intelligent writers in his class. As he walks the streets and uses public transport you feel as if you’re there traveling with him and making new friends as you learn more about the culture and the quirks.

Theroux travels by bus, car, and plane, through the wild wild west of Mexico. Has it always been this way?  Is it more dangerous now than twenty years ago? He even goes so far as to  post about the new four-tier advisory system for travelers to the country.

  • Level 1, Exercise Normal Precautions ( much of Mexico )
  • Level 2, Exercise Increased Caution ( Cancun, Cozumel, Mexico City)
  • Level 3, Reconsider Travel ( Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco )
  • Level 4, DO NOT TRAVEL, ( Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Taxco )

Theroux goes on to say he knew nothing about this new travel alert until after he returned from his trip. He had been warned repeatedly  to avoid driving in Guerrero state and not to visit Acapulco, warnings he heeded.

Paul Theroux

Reading through these above warnings is daunting. Some of you may remember that I’ve been writing about an upcoming novel called, AMERICAN DIRT, by Jeanine Cummins. It begins in that fine Mexican city of Acapulco. Yes, stay away, my friends!!

I will be talking about ON THE PLAIN OF SNAKES all season long and far into the future.  Get out your atlas and get ready for a wild ride that you will never forget. You need this book.

My review copy was provided by the generous publishing people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review.  Absolutely on the top of my list this year!!! Loved it.

Akin by Emma Donoghue

Akin

AKIN by Emma Donoghue, begins with Noah, 79,  packing for a long-awaited vacation to visit the place of his birth, Nice, France.  He’s now a recently retired chemistry professor and is taking a small collection of old photographs and memorabilia along in hopes of unfolding some secrets concerning his mom’s years in Europe. Secrets from the war. Oh, I almost forgot, he’s a widow.

But there’s always something….One call from social services puts a kink in his plans. When he’s asked to become the caretaker for his eleven-year-old great-nephew named Michael, he feels ambushed. The kid has no one else. But Noah’s never met this kid. A distant relation at best. What can you do? Michael was being looked after by his grandmother who died suddenly. His mother is incarcerated. His father suffered an untimely death. Noah is “IT.” So off they go together to Nice. A totally unlikely twosome.

Michael and Noah’s grand adventure has a rocky beginning. But the kid is whip-smart with a smart mouth to go along. This kid needs a break. He’s not a bad kid, but he needs a lot of love.  It’s just for a couple of weeks. That’s what Noah reminds himself each time there is an incident….

Those of  you who know the ups and downs of living with a preteen will appreciate the candor and wit Donoghue  adds to the dialog. I honestly found myself laughing out loud more than once. But it’s not all fun and games.  The two bond over photography. Michael ends up being a huge help  to Noah in finding the locations seen in the old photos.  A story that begins with  total opposites begins to blossom into a poignant relationship.

author AKIN

Emma Donoghue has written many books, but she’s probably best known for her Internationally best-selling novel, ROOM.  She is a force.

I decided to read this novel because of the setting in Nice. I stayed for the story which is just wonderful. Noah and Michael may just be my two new favorite characters.

I borrowed AKIN from the library and so am not indebted to the publisher, Little Brown, in any way. But I can tell you this. I loved this novel. Great for book club. And great for pleasure reading. Cheers!

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

The World That We Knew

I fell immediately in love with this cover. I wish you could see the shimmery silver of the heron. I also fell in love with the heron. He’s actually a wonderfully dynamic and loving character in this amazing new novel by Alice Hoffman.

Alice Hoffman

Hoffman is no stranger at tilting a bit into magical realism in her novels.  But that is what she usually does; just dips her typing finger in. This time she jumps in with both feet and  stomps up and down.  It’s a wonderful story filled with Jewish mysticism and a wealth of  very deep emotional feelings. It’s a novel way to bring yet one more slant to the history of WW11. But it’s so unique. You need this book!

In this  lyrical tale a young German Jewish girl , Lea, is under the protection of a golem-a magical creature of Jewish myth made of mud and water.  Ava, the golem, comes into being in Berlin in 1941.  A Rabbi’s young daughter brings her seemingly to life after seeing her dad create a golem.  Ettie, the daughter, has not been given permission to do this monstrous thing…

This story takes place between 1941 and 1944. It’s about survival at any cost. What would you do to keep your child alive?

The main human characters are working with the French resistance. The golem and the heron and Azriel, The  Angel of Death, are supposedly not human. But the question is raised: What does it really mean to be human?

My favorite characters quickly became Ava and the talking heron.  Their  love story is moving and heartbreaking.  I will never forget them.  And neither will you.

I haven’t read about Jewish mysticism before. I found it both intriguing and troubling. It works in this novel.

There is a large cast of characters. They each have devastating stories to tell. Some of these stories might sound familiar, but you’ve never heard them told like this before. Hoffman brings us this stunning and beautiful tale that tells of the horrors of the Holocaust like never before.

Readers will be discussing this superb novel long into the future.

My review copy of THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW by Alice Hoffman arrived from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review! I knew it would be good, but honestly, I have to say it’s GREAT!

Copperfish Books will be offering THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW at 20% off. The pub date is officially today. We have them in stock ready to sell. Come on in to see us. This book is simply gorgeous!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

 

The Last Train To London by Meg Waite Clayton

The Last Train To London

This novel is so important! I know there are those of you who find the sheer number of WW11 novels out this year are feeling as if you have exhausted your limit. However, I am asking you to please take a good look at this new one by Meg Waite Clayton. I, too, have been feeling the pinch of more Holocaust stories than I can possibly read. I almost missed this one. I am thankful I did not. Plus, it’s really pre-WW11.

Most of THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON takes place before WW11 actually  started.  It was 1936 and the Nazi’s had not yet become transformed into the monstrous force that we know  they will become. But, still, we can feel it coming.

This sophisticated novel takes its history from the Kindertransports that saved over 10,000 children by moving them out of Nazi-occupied Europe and into countries that would receive them.  One woman, Truus Wijsmuller, risked her life time after time after time, smuggling these Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Europe.  The tempo of this story begins to beat loudly like the beating heart of Edgar Allen Poe as the trips become increasingly more and more difficult and most of the borders begin slamming shut to the refugees once the Anschluss ( Hitler’s annexation of Austria ) occurs.

The story begins in 1936 where we meet the Neuman family, a wealthy Jewish  family with a thriving upscale chocolate- making business. They live in Vienna and life is mostly good.  Stephan is fifteen and dreams of becoming a playwright.  His little brother Walter who he affectionately calls Wallman hangs on his every word all the while toting his stuffed Peter Rabbit along everywhere.  Their mother suffers from a bone disease that is slowly taking her life.

Stephan spends his days with his Christian friend Zofie-Helene. They love hanging out in the underground tunnels that are filled with adventure.  Of course they are not supposed to be there and that makes it all that more exciting.  But Zofie-Helene’s mother  edits a progressive , anti-Nazi newspaper. So there’s that…. They are innocents before the Nazi’s come stomping in and changing history.

Clayton manages to validate this time in history and brings us a real sense of urgency and  peril.  Just watching the embedded YouTube video made my heart skip a beat.  Honestly, reading the last one hundred pages of this novel made me feel as if I were truly riding a runaway train with my hair on fire!

So much of this story is actually true. Clayton has done her homework.  She’s visited these places. You can visit websites and see what is true. Her character, Truus, was a woman who actually made this Kindertransport happen. She was a member of the Dutch  resistance.  It is amazing.  She was amazing.  You’re going to want to know more about this event.

Do NOT miss the acknowledgments in the back of this novel.  Clayton tells about how this book was inspired by and meant to honor Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer and the children she rescued, as well as the many people who made the Kindertransports possible.  I loved reading her path to writing this novel.. I think you will  too.

I was a huge fan of THE ORPHAN TRAIN.  This is your European orphan train and then some.

Moving and oh-so deep, THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON should be on every reader’s radar. Every book club will be reading it. So much to discuss.

Meg Waite Clayton

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, most recently BEAUTIFUL EXILES.

My review copy arrived from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.  It is honestly one of the best books ever written about WW11. I loved it.

Copperfish Books will have copies of THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON on sale at 20% off as of tomorrow.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Dominicana By Angie Cruz

Dominicana

I picked up this new novel by Angie Cruz because a little bird told me that Jeanine Cummins recommended it. That was enough for me. After all, Jeanine is the author of AMERICAN DIRT which pubs in January. I am a huge fan!!

Angie Cruz

 

 

 

 

DOMINICANA begins in The Dominican Republic in the 1960’s when fifteen-year-old Ana Canción  marries Juan Ruiz who is thirty-two. Really, how can this happen? Well, she is doing it to get her family out of the Dominican Republic  and into a safer life with opportunity.  It’s truly a sacrifice.

Once Ana is installed in a cold sixth-floor walk-up in Washington Heights in NYC she begins her new life which is full of chores, loneliness and sexual advances from her now abusive husband.  Ana’s life in America sucks. She feels so desperately unhappy and begins plans to escape back to her old life in The Dominican Republic.

The only light that shines is that Juan’s brother, Cesar, has arrived on the scene.  He is the opposite of Juan, thank God.  He’s lighthearted and begins to give Ana hope for a better life. He persuades her to stay and try to make it work.  When Juan has to return to the Dominican on business he leaves Cesar in charge of Ana. And everything changes, for the best. The reins have loosened and Ana takes classes to learn English, goes dancing, to the movies, and discovers that she has feelings for Cesar. Of course she would. He’s kind and fun-loving and young and  handsome.

As we struggle with immigration issues right this moment throughout this country and the world,  this is what immigration looked like in the sixties.  The loneliness Ana experiences in NYC is palpable.  She is doing what she had to for her family. That is the story of so many immigrants. It’s about family matters.

A lot of politics were deeply in play during this time period. The Vietnam War was raging and there were so many demonstrations against it. And, in Dominican Republic, the Dictator, Rafael Trujillo was assassinated causing rioting and unrest throughout the country.  This all fuels the fires.

As Ana begins making her own money the story carefully turns. She becomes more confident and actually begins to settle into her new environment. I love the strong woman Ana becomes. One of the best characters to come down the pike in a long time.  And I was very happy with the ending.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We will have copies of DOMINICANA at Copperfish Books. They are discounted 20%. Cathy and I loved this story and we are going to be thrilled to hand-sell it!

My review copy of DOMINICANA by Angie Cruz was provided by Flatiron Books through Copperfish Books. What a pleasant surprise! I loved it.

 

The Women Of The Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell

The Women of the Copper Country

THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY by Mary Doria Russell, is simply not to be missed!  This is book club fodder in a big way.

This novel is doused with history. Filled with wonderfully strong women. Seasoned with truth and  brought to life through tireless research. I love to learn through reading a great novel. That is what this is: a great novel.

I kept thinking of my friend Linda while I read as this novel takes place in her home state of Michigan. Russell takes us back to a time when the copper mines were alive and filled with immigrants who arrived on our shores ripe for work and filled with hope for a better future.

It’s 1913 in Calumet, Michigan. Life is very good for those at the top of the chain. However, most are far from the top and struggle to make enough money to feed their families let alone get ahead in this harsh world of mining.  The miners work underground from dark to dark, hardly ever seeing the light of day. The working conditions in the mine are deplorable. Most miners do not live long lives. And even those few that do are riddled with arthritis and deformed from the working conditions. The women of the Copper Country lead torturous existences. Their work is both backbreaking and filled with mental anguish.

Calumet Copper Mind

Big Annie Clements

Annie Clements is twenty-five-years-old when the novel opens. She’s spent her life in Calumet watching the miners work themselves to death. Annie is based on a real woman who marched for change. All Annie wanted was to make sure the miners and their families got an honest wage for honest work. So she got involved with the union.

There are scenes in this novel that will take  your breath away. For those of you who already know this history, you may know what is coming. I did not. I feared this novel might read too much like a history book. Fear not. It’s just wonderful. The writing is smooth and will keep the pages moving because you become so involved with the lives of the characters. I had to keep reminding myself that most of this actually happened. OMG. How much can a human endure?

The general manager of the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company is James MacNaughton.  A more convincing villain does not exist. I hated him right off the bat.  He truly believes that Europe is gleefully exporting its wretched refuse to America.  When a tragedy occurs involving some of the miners, he turns his head.

Meanwhile, Annie is relentless and has amassed an army of women who are just as determined as she is to make their lives better.  Challenging times. Trying to organize a union in the Copper Country is all but impossible…

Eva Savicki starts out as a love-sick teenager mooning over young Jack Kivisito who is also just a teen. He, at first, tries to avoid her. She is relentless. But by the time the story evolves everything has changed.

Come for the story, but you’ll stay for the wonderful reading experience that Russell provides. You might just learn a lot.

Mary Doria Russell

Mary Doria Russell is not new to novel writing. She’s graced the reading public with six novels, and now this new one. If you haven’t read her before, this is a great way to start!

We will have copies of this amazing new novel at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida. Pub date is August 6. They will be discounted 20% off.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

My beautiful finished hard cover of THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY arrived via the generous publishing house of Atria in exchange for an honest review. This novel is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Cheers!