SING THEM HOME by Stephanie Kallos

Book Quote:

“The living are like spinning tops, powered by a need for atonement, or revenge, or by avoidance, guilt, shame, fear, anger, regret, insecurity, jealousy, whatever, it doesn’t matter because it all derives from the same pop-psyche alphabet soup and oh Lord here comes another best-selling book on the self-help shelf when really if they could just smash all the time-keeping devices excepting sundials, do a crossword puzzle, study the backs of their hands, notice their breath going in and out, drink their food and chew their water, RELAX, it would be a great step forward in the evolution of В the species and the dead would be so grateful.”

Book Review:

Review by Betsey Van Horn В (MAR 27, 2011)

This is a saga, a sweeping family story that lodges in your marrow, the kind of story that makes you smile, laugh, weep, snort, chortle, sing, spread your arms wide and lay your heart wide open.

With flavors tender, ribald, ironical, farcical, tragic, magical, and wondrous, Sing Them Home narrates an epic story of a family emotionally disrupted by the disappearance of their mother (and wife), Hope, in a Nebraska tornado of 1978. Hope was swept up, along with her Singer sewing machine and a Steinway piano, but she never came down. Due to the absence of her remains, all that stands in the graveyard is her cenotaph.

Twenty-five years later, the three grown-up children are still trying to cope with their grief. None ever married. Larkin, an art history professor (whose work is symbolic with her loss and grief) hides behind food and refuses to “leave the ground.” Gaelan is a weatherman (ah! the irony) who has only superficial, sexual relationships with women, and the youngest, Bonnie, is a virgin and garbologist. She roams after storms to look for “archival” remains of things that flew away in the tornado with their mother. And she talks to the dead at the cemetery.

There is also a beloved but inscrutable stepmother, Viney, (although she never legally married their dad); a large supporting cast of unforgettable characters; ancestral Welsh traditions; and the Nebraska weather and topography, a salient ingredient in pulling the story together.

The prose is beautiful and evocative as the story moves along non-linearly, but with grace. Past events are revealed gradually and build momentum as it catches up to the present. You will experience an intimate relationship with these radiant, unconventional characters and their extraordinary story.

There are some themes similar to The Lovely Bones–loss, unresolved grief, isolation, the meaning of memories and the idea of home. However, Kallos’ novel is richer, more sprawling and textured. John Irving comes to mind, with veins of Philip Roth, Margot Livesy, and Ann Tyler. She is an original, though–she leaves her own memorable imprint.

This is no garden-variety redemption story. It exhilarates with an elixir of spiritual, metaphysical and deeply human voices, of things said, unsaid, unuttered, and forever sung.

For a taste of the author’s wit, poise, sensibility, and charm, read her bio on her website.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 78 readers
PUBLISHER: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1ST edition (January 6, 2009)
REVIEWER: Betsey Van Horn
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Stephanie Kallos
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Another book that involves a child found in a tree:

The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis


March 27, 2011 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  В· Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters, Literary, Reading Guide, US Midwest

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