SING THEM HOME by Stephanie Kallos

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.

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

THE TARTARUS HOUSE ON CRAB by George Szanto

Jack Tartarus comes to his family house on Crab bent on destruction. What follows instead is a reconstruction of his life on this small island near Vancouver, a reuniting of family and neighbors, a closer understanding of those who have died, and the forging of new bonds.

March 16, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Canada, Contemporary, Drift-of-Life, Family Matters

THE TIGER’S WIFE by Tea Obreht

This spectacular debut novel by the talented Téa Obreht, is narrated mostly through the voice of young Natalia Stefanovi. Shortly after the novel opens, we learn that Natalia has followed in her grandfather’s footsteps and studied medicine. Just recently done with medical school, she has taken on a volunteer assignment to inoculate children in an orphanage in a small seaside village called Brejevina. The book is set in a war-ravaged country in the Balkans, quite possibly Obreht’s native Croatia. Brejevina, Natalia explains, “is forty kilometers east of the new border.”

March 10, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Allegory/Fable, Balkans, Debut Novel

A WIDOW’S STORY by Joyce Carol Oates

This is perhaps the bravest book I’ve ever read. It is searingly personal, raw and and stark. It portrays its creator, the author, in a relief, almost without exception, that is equally painful and tragic. There is no turning away, no place the writer hides–and consequently little relief afforded the reader. There she is, the new widow, Joyce Carol Smith–the persona behind the writer Joyce Carol Oates–struggling to stay alive amidst blinding grief, as revealed in a journey the destination of which is unsure.

February 15, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Non-fiction, y Award Winning Author

THE MEMORY OF LOVE by Aminatta Forna

Incalculable grief cleaves to profound love in this elaborate, helical tapestry of a besieged people in postwar Freetown, Sierra Leone. Interlacing two primary periods of violent upheaval, author Aminatta Forna renders a scarred nation of people with astonishing grace and poise–an unforgettable portrait of open wounds and closed mouths, of broken hearts and fractured spirits, woven into a stunning evocation of recurrence and redemption, loss and tender reconciliation. Forna mines a filament of hope from resigned fatalism, from the devastation of a civil war that claimed 50,000 lives and displaced 2.5 million people. Those that survived felt hollowed out, living with an uneasy peace.

February 14, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Africa, Commonwealth Prize, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

THE ILLUMINATION by Kevin Brockmeier

Many believe that in today’s tortured times, humanity is mortally wounded. What if our pain manifested itself as visible light, and what if that pain was the most beautiful thing about us? What if the pain would cease and the light would radiate from us all?

In Kevin Brockmeier’s incandescent novel, his characters struggle to adapt to a new way of experiencing pain and loss and indeed, life itself. The author employs overlapping, fable-like narratives starting with Carol Ann whole life “seemed like one long litany of wounds.” Carol Ann had “known days of happiness and beauty, rate moments of motionless wonder, but trying to relive them was like looking out the window at night from a partially lit room.”

February 3, 2011 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags:  · Posted in: Allegory/Fable, Contemporary, Reading Guide, Speculative (Beyond Reality)