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A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS: A Novel ~Ashley Hay

Monday, December 4th, 2017

A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS is set in Brisbane, Australia and it is a combination of words that are at once poetic, descriptive, psychological and commanding and they draw the reader into a wonderful story, which holds the mind and demands attention – softly.  The main character truly is a house and it tells the tale of the two women who have lived there and their lives.

Elsie Gormley was the first resident of the little house with the huge backyard that touched a swamp and a park.  She was newly married and was delighted with her house and her husband.  She was the mother of Don and Elaine, twins.  Elsie loved her role as a mother and took it very seriously not without some worry and stress but she felt called and safe in that task.  She also had quite a relationship with the birds that came to her feeder and felt they were omens of good.  Her partner was a good man and took care of the yard, the house, and wallpapered every room with a different paper.

Lucy Kiss, her toddler Tom and her husband Ben have just purchased their first house after travelling for years.  For Ben it is coming home and he remembers being with his single mother in Brisbane and how hard it must have been for her and how terrific she was as a “mum”.  As he travels he worries about Lucy and her beautiful parenting and then her irritations.  Lucy is new here and has no friends yet and is isolated in her new house.  She is comfortable with being a mother and yet she is trying to hold on to her “self” in this new circumstance and situation.  She has mother worries and sometimes does not feel safe.  She thinks about Elsie a great deal.

Elsie has had a stroke and is confused so her children pack her up and move her to an apartment in assisted living.  Her story is the most complete as it weaves through Lucy’s in the house.   Lucy and Ben are busy planting trees in her backyard, lots of trees; Clem would not have liked this at all.

Birds and water play the game of connective tissue in this well written story.  If you have the opportunity to curl up and just savor and enjoy this read, I would put it very high up on your reading list.  A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS is a top of the line read.

Ashley Hay uses her “lyrical prose, poetic dialogue, and stunning imagery” (RT magazine) to weave an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human. (TLC Book Tours)

About Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

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Related:
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The Moon Sisters

HIDDEN INHERITANCE: Family Secrets, Memory, and Faith ~Heidi B. Neumark

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

I was drawn into this story on the very first page of reading.  I agreed with Lillian Daniel, who wrote on the cover of the book, “This is a family tree worth climbing.”

Part Memoir and part detective novel this book is full of beautiful words and exegesis work, which is then perfectly meshed into current social justice issues which confront our daily lives.   There is an element where the book is also a great sermon playing out in one life and the extended family system; the examples are all personal stories of discovery and secrets explored.  How and why Neumark was called to become a pastor and work on human and justice issues within the confines of her family structures and shared experiences, was it just her environment or her genetics that allowed her to hear the call?

Neumark is called late at night by her daughter who is working on a graduate school project and discovers that her family is Jewish and is referenced on Wikipedia.  Neumark’s life had been centered on being a German Lutheran and not a Jew.  She knew her father was emigrated from Germany and now discovers that her Grandfather died in a Concentration Camp and that her Grandmother did not.  There were some of her family members still Jewish and still alive and that her Father had kept his secret even from her Mother and held on in silence to the whole story.

The book is Pastor Neumark’s journey to discover the truth and integrate the why and how her father became Lutheran and how that saved his life and his sisters lives also.  The beauty of scripture and poetry and theological concepts are penned into the story as she goes to the various sites of her family’s life in Germany and the layers of family are revealed and exposed – the silent conspiracy is broken and spoken into the pages with depth and caring.

“Hidden Inheritance will appeal to a wide gamut of readers; Christians with an interest in social justice, Jews and others interested in stories of the Shoah and its ongoing impact, those interested in issues of Jewish/Christian identity and dual identities, the impact of trauma and secrecy, readers of memoirs, and anyone interested in pursuing family genealogy. “ (From Media release)

The Meryl Zegarek PR firm sent me a copy of this book for review and I give it high marks for intelligent writing and interesting story and history.  History is well integrated into social justice and human needs and is explored on a personal level and as a well -researched understanding.

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Twitter @MZPR
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I have mentioned this book to nearly everyone I have encountered and now I share it with you.  It was a pleasure to read and contemplate.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (From book cover)

“Heidi B. Neumark is a speaker and Lutheran pastor in New York City.  She is the author of the highly acclaimed book BREATHING SPACE: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx, has published numerous chapters and sermons in other books, and is a regular contributor to THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY and other journals.”

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Life From Scratch
When Women Were Birds
Wild
My Stroke of Insight

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS: A NOVEL ~M.L.STEDMAN

Monday, September 16th, 2013


THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is a delicate, beautifully written love story and very difficult to imagine that it is M.L. Stedman’s debut novel.   This story is a fine tuned piece of literature.  It has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for an extended period of time and is one of the big books on Oprah’s book club schedule.

I am sharing this book from a recent book group discussion, because our group just enjoyed this book from start to finish even though there was a great deal of sadness in the telling of the tale.  The premise of the story is unusual and after reaching the last page the book lingers with one for a number of days and comes back to mind often.  All 12 participants thought the book a marvelous read, even with all the different thoughts about it; there was really no correct answer to the dilemma.

The author “poses an impossible dilemma and makes us question the judgments of all involved.” Lianne Koliren: Daily Express (UK)

The location of the story is significant and it takes place out on a rocky island which has a light house and a keeper who are stationed there for a year at a time.  The light is in an area of heavy currents between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific and is 100 miles from the point of land that is home base.  The men are coming home from France and the war, attempting to adjust to their lives and find work.  There are rough passages to navigate all round.

The member of our group who chose this book had journeyed to Tasmania and while there had visited a lighthouse and saw a tiny grave for a baby on the bluff beside the light. She was curious.  She set her search on finding a book or story about just such an experience listing Australia, baby, and lighthouse as her search words and that is how she found this story for us to read.

As one begins reading and then is taken through the back stories of the characters, it is amazing how fragile this group is and how they found each other.  They all had such hopes and yet had to proceed in new directions; maybe one could say they needed to recover from their individual hopes in order to find themselves – live forward.

How can we right the wrongs of father’s sins and mother’s silence?  How can we protect those we love and make amends for those who were lost in war?  What is the right choice or the moral choice?  How does the context of a life change its progression?  We are all searching for love, are we able to find it?

The writing is not frenzied or hurried, it is a waltz surrounded in our own arms and thoughts. The brassy, glass housing lights the beyond and not the below, it is for others and not for the self no matter the storm or wind.

This is a book from my own collection because I have just read three other books for review and I do not wish to tell you about any of them.  THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is a good read and I agree that it is worthwhile literature.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site link, I will receive a few blossoms in my bouquet.  I can purchase more books to review! Donations also welcomed

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