Tag Archives: familial bonds

Review: Blue Diary

Blue Diary, by Alice Hoffman, takes on several moral questions within the pages. Lies are the foundation of the story, and they set off a chain reaction of events.

Ethan and Jorie have been married for fifteen years. They have a son, named Collie. Their marriage appears to be stable, loving and filled with joy. Everyone in their small town feels the same way, whenever they see the two together.

Enter Kat, a young girl who happens to be watching a TV show that shows Ethan’s photograph, and depicts him as a murderer of a fifteen-year old girl. Her best friend, Collie, is the son of a supposed murderer. She is in shock.

That shock turns to a moral question, and one she fulfills by telephoning the police from a telephone booth, in order to have him investigated.

Ethan is arrested and brought to jail. Jorie is in total shock and denial, as is her son. She can’t imagine how the man she married could possibly be a murderer. Herein lies a question: Do we ever truly know the person we are married to? Know in the sense of their moralistic and ethical standards.

Ethan has depicted himself to be upstanding, a hero who has saved the lives of a few people, a volunteer in the fire department. He is a man who is esteemed by the majority of the citizens residing in the town. They have nothing but respect and admiration for Ethan, who in fact, is actually Byron Bell, a murderer.

Superficiality and deceit, denial and truth, are at the heart of this novel. Hoffman depicts the family’s reactions, as well as the town’s reactions quite vividly, leaving nothing to the imagination. We visualize everything, and we are privy to Jorie’s innermost thoughts, as well as Kat’s thoughts, and the thoughts of others of importance in the story.

I didn’t really like the characters in the book, not even Kat, who wrestles with seeing the outcome of her decision to turn Ethan in. I didn’t like the fact that the e-book I borrowed was poorly edited with many errors, quite liberally. I am glad I didn’t pay for the book.

The truth comes back in a haunting fashion, evoking moral questioning within the pages. Can one who has murdered an innocent teenager redeem himself over the course of fifteen years? Has he paid for his crime, by being an upstanding citizen? Do his decent deeds warrant forgiveness and a legal pardon, or were they part of his personal quest for respect in case his past was revealed? Does he truly love his wife, or is his selfishness still a vital part of his soul?

So many questions, but this reader answered them all, to herself.
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Excuse the update, I forgot to link the book.

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The Flood

The Flood, by Emile Zola was a gripping story for me, and one I could not put down until I had read the last word.  The 72-page novella/short story had me in its clenches, and I found myself holding my breath, at times.

It concerns a man named Louis Roubien, the patriarch of a large family who all live together on his large farm.  They all live in peace, and lead an extremely happy life together, each one working towards the goal of production of the land for not only selling produce, etc., but also for their daily existence.  The farm is a fruitful one, and they live in wealth with nothing to lack for.

All of their needs are met, until the event of the disastrous flood, a flood beyond all floods, which Zola describes with extreme intensity and amazing word imagery.  Every minute detail that this reader could think of is depicted within the stages of the flood’s beginning until its ending.

I had flashbacks to Hurricane Katrina and the extreme flooding, and the images on the TV.  I flashed back to the horrendous earthquake on March 11, 2011, in Japan, with the accompanying tsunami and the floods that stormed the landscape, and how I remember not being able to fathom what I was seeing on the news reports.  And, I recently watched the TV describing the terrible floods in Thailand, consuming lives and land.

Zola’s brilliant in depicting moods, fear, torment, tragedy, individual reactions, and all-consuming moments of horror. The story line is not one that readers can easily erase from their mind.

I was in awe of Zola’s masterful writing. The Flood, by Emile Zola, although written in 1880, could be a story told regarding floods that have occurred within the past ten years, and written by modern journalists.

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Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler, is a novel, that is often humorous, but one that touches on extremely serious issues.

To delve into the heart of the story would be to give it away. And, if by chance, you have not heard about the book and what it depicts, then I, for one, am not willing to give the entire story away.

Suffice it to say that it is a novel that portrays familial bonds, in more ways than one. From secrets to anger, jealousy to love, empathy to apathy, social harmony and disharmony, Fowler, in my opinion, writes with minute details, which enhance the word-imagery. The family consists of Rosemary, Fern, and their older brother-the brother who has run away. He is a significant force within the pages, especially the last part of the book. In the beginning the reader is not really certain why he left, but as the pages are woven, the answer is clear.

Rosemary has grown up under the shadow of Fern, more or less. And, at a young age is separated from her, not knowing the true reason why. As an adult, she is still trying to cope with the loss of Fern, and with her unique and very unconventional childhood. Her childhood imprints have taken hold in many forms and have given her the status of a social misfit of sorts. She has difficulty coping in what we conceive as normal environments.

Throughout the pages, the reader is faced with Rosemary’s journey towards separation from her sister, her journey towards SELF, and her journey to learn who she is in the scheme of family, society and social standards.

The book is not only an exploration of what it means to be a family unit, but also an exploration into humanity, humaneness, and perception of humans and their place within the entire spectrum.

Karen Joy Fowler has done her research, and has given us a glimpse of a situation that has long-lasting ramifications for the familial bonds developed from infancy. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is humorous, yet intense, filled with moments that make the reader think about what they have read, and how it applies to them.

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Book Diva Review: Simon’s Family

Simon’s Family, by Marianne Fredriksson leaves us to ponder what defines family.

This was a well-written novel on the aspects of what it means to be a family. Families come in many forms, such as, biological, extended family, imaginative families, and those we choose to be part of our family. Extended families play an important role in Simon’s life.

Simon Larsson and Isak Lentov are eleven years old friends. Isak is Jewish, and from a wealthy home, and when Simon visits Isak, he begins to see the differences in their life styles. When Isak visits Simon, he finds a family surrounded with love and caring. Each one comes to discover their differences, their similarities, and their uniqueness, within familial confines.

The story takes place during the pre-World War II period continuing through the war. This exceptionally insightful story deals with mothers and sons, three generations of women, and how they affect their sons, both emotionally and physically. T he book also sends a strong message on how we assimilate into society, the way we choose to fit in.

Issues of stability and fear are detailed, as if we are within the bodies feelings the emotions of the book’s characters. The word-imagery is vivid. The book grapples with how fear plays a major factor in some lives, and how it can imprison us, if we let it.

Familial roles are played out, by relatives, friends and others…with the children always at the end of the rope, as a tug-of-war progresses and continues. The novel is a metaphor for the relationships between mothers and sons, and is exquisitely written, with beautiful depictions.

I would recommend Simon’s Family, by Marianne Fredriksson to everyone who is interested in societal structure and cultural boundaries, and those interested in the difference and sameness, within all of us. It is a Jewel of a book!

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Book Diva Review: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

the impossible The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer is an interesting take on life and how it is lived throughout the realms of time.

Although the novel has the appearance of reincarnation or alternate lives, for me, it wasn’t the case, as the main character, Greta Wells, went back and forth in time, beginning in 1985. Time travel is prevalent within the pages. The current year of 1985 plays a significant role, as Greta is suffering from deep bouts of depression. She wants to fix her present life in order to make it more meaningful. Everything has been tried on her to correct the extreme depression situation. The last resort is electroshock therapy, which is to be given twice a week in several sessions.

These sessions find her waking up in two other eras in time…1918 and 1941. In each time frame she is given electroshock therapy, due to her depression. That factor does not disappear in each realm. Her depression is a way of life for her in every level of life.

When she awakes from her first round of the therapy she is in the same room as she was in 1985. But, all of the details have been changed to suit the era of 1918. All the important people in her life are still in her early 20th century life. Some of their circumstances have changed, but in reality, their emotional and physical context remains the same. Her twin brother, Felix, who died from AIDS in 1985, is engaged to be married in 1918. Engaged, yes, but still there are underlying feelings of homosexuality. Her lover, Nathan, from 1985, is her husband, and off to war. She realizes she no longer wants to be married.

When she wakes up to find herself in 1941, she is married with a child. She is a devoted mother, a mother who soon learns her husband is having an affair. Her brother, Felix is still dealing with issues of homosexuality. The time period does not accept this type of relationship, and so she tries to help him through it.

And, so it goes, on and on. Each moment in time is infused with the difficulties of daily living. Difficulties that are the norm for that age. There is no way to change those situations. There doesn’t seem to be a way to change her life from one lifetime to the next.

Within each era there is either a war, or a life-threatening disease to contend with. That hold true in today’s world, also. When Greta travels back in time, she does not do so in order to change the world, even though she knows what will occur in the future. She ends up time traveling for the sake of it, and to experience the variations of time.

Through that mode of thinking, she will be confronted with a major decision. Should she complete her therapy, begun in 1985, and return to that time period, or should she stay in another era.

Life isn’t always what we want out of it, and we often find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control. If we had the opportunity to change one fraction of those circumstances, would we? Would we opt to live in another realm, believing we could find happiness there (not knowing the final outcome of our decision)? And, what about acceptance, would we be as accepting in one world as we are in the present world? Would we be accepted in a different world?

Love and war, forgiveness and identity, are well articulated within the pages. Scenarios of daily life from the previous eras are well depicted, and the historical aspects are well- defined. If one attempted to change their personal position or circumstances, it would not change the world as a whole, or even their own perception of Self and identity. In the end, Greer illuminates that not much has changed from one era to the next as far as social mores and stigmas.

If you like to read about time travel, and if you like to suspend your belief in reality, then The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells is a book you might enjoy.

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Review: Visible City

visible city Visible City, by Tova Mirvis, is a predictable story in many aspects, but I still am glad that I read it. I found the almost “voyeur” aspect to be interesting, and the thoughts that are dreamed up while one person stares out of their window, with their own set of passions, desires and loyalties.

Nina is that person, and stare she does, at every given opportunity. If it is during the night, she turns off the lights so as not to attract attention. What she sees happening in an apartment across the way, enhances her imagination, and her perception of what the individuals are like. As the reader reads on, they realize that not everything is as it appears to be. In fact, the couple who live in the apartment are not so different from Nina and her family, in the sense that their married life seems to be complacent. Nina desires more in life, yet doesn’t have the ambition to seek it.

The novel gives a wonderful overview of New York City, its brilliant architecture, some modern, some old and abandoned. We are given snippets of the exteriors and interiors of the abandoned buildings, as some of the characters skulk through them out of a passionate desire to learn about them. We are also taken into the world of stained-glass art and all of its illuminations. Through this examination, we are seen how the passions, desires and loyalties flare up from the deep-set goals that some of the characters hold.

Six individuals meet in various places where they normally go to spend some time away from their homes. Some of them end up living on the edge, merging their connections into areas better left undone.

Passionate moments are strong within the pages, and by that I mean passionate in every sense, including one’s drives, dreams and life accomplishments. What one views as important and a driving force is not necessarily so for another person. In relationships each person should accept the other for their own goals, whether it is their goal or not. They should offer encouragement, and not discouragement.

I liked the urban aspect and how Mirvis’ word-images are depicted so vividly. This reader could envision everything she painted with her prose. All of my senses were filled as my own imagination took hold.

I enjoyed how each character was somewhat flawed, as we all are, in reality. I enjoyed the city tour through their eyes, and enjoyed the human perspectives, and how we see people. We are not the sum of what others see in us, or think about us. In fact, most of us are usually much different than how a stranger might view us. This was quite true in Visible City. What Nina saw, is not the actual person, but a person who she encapsulated from a distance, from a view out of a window.

The emotional aspect was a major underlying issue, as most of the characters found it difficult to relate to their family members on a deep level. They also portrayed superficiality when in the presence of others, outside of their familial and friendship realm. Even within those realms, feelings were not always touched upon.

I did not like all the characters, but that is okay. In reality, do we all like everyone we encounter? I did like how life, seen through various city windows, was depicted, and liked how the characters were eventually connected. Mirvis was masterful in her depictions and her prose. I felt as if I was given a personal tour of various aspects of New York City and its urban character. It almost felt as if I were looking out of a window into the lives of others. Maybe that was one of Tova Mirvis’ intentions.

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Book Diva Review: The Island Within

theislandwithin The Island Within, by Ludwig Lewisohn is a saga, a novel that depicts three generations of a Jewish family as their lives lead them from Vilna, Lithuania to America. The book deals with Jewish life, its traditions, religion, and with assimilation in Eastern Europe and in America.

The story line evolves through decades of the family generations, through political turmoil, and shows how each generation leaves religion and family traditions behind in order to fit into new cultural structures, and how they try assimilate.

Deep within their assimilation questions of religion and Judaism lie lurking. Each generation’s feeling of contentment, and discontentment flows through the veins of familial lines. Each family member feels the pull of Jewishness within them, and some deny their Jewishness, while others are demonstrative in their Jewishness.

One family member, the young Arthur Levey, a psychoanalyst, begins to feel the ebb and flow of his life begin to spiritually decline, to falter, more so when his son his born. He questions his existence and lack of spiritual strength, and begins a journey to find the meaning of religion and the role it should play in his life.

The ending is poignant and lovely. We are left to ponder the issues of inter-marriage, issues of assimilation, political issues, the role of religion in modern society and the ancestral ties that bind us to our religious traditions and religious culture.

Ludwig Lewisohn writes eloquently, and with precise details, in an almost poetic fashion at times, bringing us a family saga, and excellent novel, which has something in it for everyone, Jewish or otherwise. The Island Within is a masterful saga, and its pages hold familial perception and illumination.

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