MAKEDA is the title character of Randall Robinson’s astounding, thought provoking, and highly engaging novel. A blind retired “laundress,” Makeda’s life is anchored in her tiny, often sun-filled, parlour in Richmond, Virginia. Her modest circumstances, after a life of hardship, stand in stark contrast to her appearance and demeanor: at home, at church and in the market, she is usually clad in richly embroidered beautiful African gowns and she radiates wisdom and emotional strength, instilling respect wherever she goes. Some unknown visitors leave gifts for her, or speak to her as if she were somebody elseâ€¦
Saint Cecilia is listed in the Catholic Mass’ Commemoration of the Dead. Her feast day is easy to remember because it is the same day President Kennedy was assassinated: November 22. She is the patron saint of musicians and Church music because she is said to have sung as she was dying. According to hagiography, she was a Roman noble woman who converted to Christianity toward the end of the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.). An only child, she married a man, Valerian, who along with his brother preceded her in martyrdom for their mutually-held religion. Cecilia survived several attempted executions, but finally after lingering a few days, she, still young, passed into Church history. The verifiable information about Saint Cecilia’s life is quite sparse, and so a novelist has plenty of elbow room for embellishment. Linda Ferri’s CECILIA takes apt advantage of this opportunity for invention in the name of rounding out characters, time, and place.
If you are at all familiar with any of Anne Lamott’s books, IMPERFECT BIRDS will have a very familiar ring to it. It tackles the themes of addiction, spirituality, 12- step programs and enabling.
In DEVOTION, Dani Shapiro describes her quest to come to terms with the traditional Judaism of her father (which she abandoned), her late mother’s legacy of bitterness and anger, her fear that her only son might be damaged by his early battle with infantile spasms (a seizure disorder), and her inability to relax and enjoy the present, unfettered by neurotic worrying. She was deeply traumatized at the age of twenty-three when her father, who was only sixty-four, collapsed and died while driving his car.