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PURITY: A Political Novel ~Jonathan Franzen

Monday, July 10th, 2017

PURITY is a marvelous story by Jonathan Franzen and it was on my holiday wish list in 2015.  It had already been out for a while, but with my reading schedule it was the first time I could clear a space to savor this read.   I like Franzen’s entire writing list and have read them even before one became an Oprah selection.  They are dense reads with great detail and the development of the characters is outstanding; one is certain that they know the individuals.  When you mix in the personal look at history that the characters share with the reader, the books become a truth to build perspective upon and enjoy.

PURITY was not an exception to the writer’s rule and it took me a full 18 hours to get from cover to cover and I had to put it aside several times to find enough time to truly understand the story and the lessons about life and political reality.  The story line is such amazing separate pieces that resolve into an integration of the character’s lives and a remarkable conclusion.   There was an incredible amount of sexual tension to the story as if sexuality was the subtext of the wholeness of the story.

Pip is the first focus and she wanders through the maze of other’s lives until she connects all the folks into a reunion that shines the love through the timeline and allows for it to manifest in a healthy manner.  She is a computer expert in a demeaning job saddled with $130,000 of education loans.  Her mother is “weird” and lives in a cabin in rural California and works as a grocery store checker.  Pip is learning about people, work, and how to get along with others – maybe?    She is also the focus of political intrigue and lessons, which match up with her self-protection, sarcasm, and ability to discern what is real. Pip does not know who she is or her roots.

Andreas is the political operative and the founder of an organization that is similar to WikiLeaks – ‘The Sunlight Project’.  He grew up with his parents a part of the Communist regime in East Berlin and yet for most of his youth he led a life of privilege and wealth.  He is well detailed and he starts his own revolution by speaking out at University and working against the grain.  He is there for the falling of the ‘Wall’ and he continually tries to ‘help’ people, particularly teenage girls, as a counselor at the mission church where he lives and hides.  He ends up developing a secret community of hackers and ‘truth tellers’ in a remote location in Bolivia.

The reader is pulled into the extraordinary wealth of a family in the Midwest of the USA.  The daughter is rebelling and trying to escape the life of the rich and yet her mental health is not so stable.  She is rebellious and a ‘hippie’ protestor/artist in her youth and she also becomes an exile as she hides from her family and takes on the role of being poverty.

Each section of the book, I had to read without putting the book down it was so compelling and detailed and fascinating.  One needs to wonder what the rebellion of youth will bring us and how we will live out our values within the confines of the life we are living.  How do we escape the political ramifications of our circumstances and be in touch with our values?  What do we reveal about ourselves and how is it that we learn to achieve our destiny to arrive at our own home; find the love we need?     Whew!  PURITY is the perfect length and yet still can take our breath away.

As always Franzen does not disappoint making the mind work with good story telling skill and focus.    A noteworthy read- PURITY

Author:

Jonathan Franzen is the author of four other novels, most recently FREEDOM and THE CORRECTIONS, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including FARTHER AWAY and THE KRAUS PROJECT, all published by FSG.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie de Kunste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

“Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has imagined a world of vividly original characters–Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers–and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Purity is the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.”(Cover)

Jonathan Franzen Facebook

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EVERYTHING WE KEEP: A Novel ~Kerry Lonsdale

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

It is Aimee’s wedding day but instead of celebrating the family is attending the groom’s memorial service.  The reader is right into the first plot twist and the mystery of this romantic love story.  A mystery woman tells the tearful bride that James is still alive at the reception!

The first part of EVERYTHING WE KEEP is about Aimee’s loss and her sadness and her resolve to hang on to the possibility that James just might be still alive. They have truly been a couple since they were young children and have been committed to each other for nearly their whole lives.   Aimee’s parents own an Irish Pub and James’ family is very wealthy and own an Import/Export company.  The groom’s family has very high expectations for their sons and are demanding with their rules and enforcement.  Aimee’s family is more relaxed and easy going and they offer James a haven where he can explore other options for his life.

Aimee has wonderful supportive friends and she begins exploring her own life options and opens a gourmet café and coffee shop.  She loves to bake and the foods the author shares are quite delicious.  She also meets someone who thinks she is pretty special too.  The new fellow is very respectful of her feelings and they become good friends.

Part II of the story is the unraveling of the mystery and the return of the mystery woman.  It is very interesting to figure out how the story unravels and the points of trauma, which produced this outcome.

The writing is very good and the story moves at a nice pace; not just escape reading but some interesting thoughts and developments.  I could have enjoyed this book on vacation or on a rainy weekend.  There was enough about beautiful clothes and hair to even keep younger readers interested.

TLC Book Tours sent me an e-copy of this book to read and review.   This book already has over 2,200 4.5 star reviews on Amazon.  It is free for folks who have Kindle Unlimited.

About Kerry Lonsdale

Kerry Lonsdale believes life is more exciting with twists and turns, which may be why she enjoys dropping her characters into unexpected scenarios and foreign settings. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is a founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, an online community of authors located across the globe. She resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an aging golden retriever who’s convinced she’s still a puppy. Everything We Keep is Kerry’s first novel.

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WRONG HIGHWAY: A Novel ~by Wendy Gordon

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Wrong Highway finds the reader at West Meadow, Long Island in New York about 1986 and we are thrust into a tale about two sisters; one a high energy mother of four who is very free spirited and the older sister a perfectionist mother of one who does everything just as responsibly as she is able.  We begin at the New York World’s Fair years before when Debbie is watching Erica enjoy the fair and dancing in a fountain scooping up coins.

Erica is not working outside her home, as her boys are 9 years, 5-year-old twins, and a new baby girl.  Her financial analyst husband is traveling all the time for his company and making a huge salary.  The family wants for nothing.  Erica is curious and busy driving the kids in Vance Volvo to their huge list of activities.  She plays with her children and enjoys them so very much.  She has a great deal of time on her own and fills it with exercise classes and beautiful clothes.

Debbie, a hairdresser, is worried about her son Jared, who is becoming a hyperactive and interestingly negative teen, who is experimenting with drugs.  Jared’s activities are counseling sessions, and doctor’s appointments and listening to music.  He wanders and cuts school a great deal and has stopped participating in sports.

Erica calls upon Debbie to rescue her when she has car trouble or needs emergency childcare.  Debbie calls upon Erica to befriend her son and help him through these troubled years.  Erica and Jared explore the friendship idea through smoking weed and heavy metal music.   Jared begins to open up about his strict parents and reveals a family secret, which Erica has been guessing about for years.  We travel through a world of Bah Mitzvahs and Sabbath dinners at their parents home.   It is quite a year; hold onto your hat and turn up the volume on the 80s hits you so enjoyed.

The author has found a new home for herself in Portland, Oregon as I think growing up on the East Coast was not her comfort zone.  She has captured the society and culture very well of the Eastern seaboard and all the programs and routines being practiced during this time period.  I think the story would be very different and yet similar if we were looking at the West Coast or the Midwest or South.  I think “weed” was being practiced in all those areas and fitness and teens were acting out after Vietnam too, but not so much “meanness” in the West.  We can witness the breakdown between the “haves” and the “have nots” beginning as it is captured in this small family paradigm.

I was in the early parenting stages during this time and the parents around me were beginning to struggle and making schools perfect for their child was just as important as having a garden and growing organic veggies.  Our kids were not being shipped off to so many activities, childcare, and camps but rather the parents were going to camps with their children and they wanted fun things to do that the parents enjoyed participating in as much as the children.  Family secrets were highly privatized to shield imperfections and the downward mobility financially.

Wendy Gordon has truly shared an interesting time period with quite a fascinating fictional story, which allows a look back and makes one want to turn up the volume and explore your old record collection.  What were we doing?  What were our secrets?  A very revealing read about family secrets and the effects of war on a society.

TLC Book Tours sent this book to Patricia’s Wisdom requesting a review.

From the Cover:
Wendy Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and lived in Boston, Chicago, and New York before finding her true home on the West Coast.  She received a B.S. in Nutrition from Simmons College and an M.S. in clinical Nutrition from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.  She has been a journalist for over twenty-five years, publishing in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet.  She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and children.  This is her first book.

Wendy Gordon Blog
Wendy Gordon Facebook

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MISTRESS OF THE COURT: Historic Fiction ~Laura Purcell

Monday, October 5th, 2015

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of  MISTRESS OF THE COURT for review. It is quite an interesting historic study and the author has done a great deal of research before adding her fictional parts.  I quite enjoyed this good read.

“The second in Laura Purcell’s captivating and acclaimed series of novels chronicling the lives and loves of the consorts and mistresses of Britain’s rash, reckless and ebullient Hanoverian kings.

Her first novel, Queen of Bedlam, was published by Myrmidon in the summer of 2014.” (TLC Book Tours page)

About the Author from the TLC Book Tours site:

“Laura Purcell is a former Waterstones bookseller who lives in Colchester. She is a member of the Society for Court Studies and Historic Royal Palaces and featured on a recent PBS documentary, talking about Queen Caroline’s life at Hampton Court. She maintains a history blog at laurapurcell.com.”

Henrietta is an orphan who marries very young to a man who is extremely abusive.  His blows of anger deafen her and she is forced to flee his rages in order to feed her son.  She heads off to the House of Hanover in hopes of finding employment for herself and her husband as Princess Caroline and Prince George wait their turn as the royal family in England.  George’s father, George Ludwig becomes the first King and he handles the court with an iron hand and unbounded cruelty towards his family.

Henrietta becomes an attendant to Caroline and they develop a friendship; well one of tentative trust and power inequality.  They both loose their sons to fathers and control issues.  Caroline offers some protection to Henrietta and some relief from her husband and the abuse.

There is a considerable amount of true story to this book and the story weaves in conversations, which could truly have happened.  Purcell is an accomplished storyteller and historian of this royal family tree.   She has studied the family and is now working on a series of stories about the Hanover Court.  I have always enjoyed reading these historic fiction pieces and have been a great fan of Philippa Gregory’s work over the years.   My mother in her childhood had to memorize the English Kings and Queens and study them in school and I read a number of these stories to her in her later years.  She much more enjoyed US historic fiction and thought it was wise to only have President’s for eight years not so many royals.

I had some confusion at the beginning of the book and needed pencil and paper to keep things straight and then I found a rhythm that made the book more enjoyable.  I put aside an hour to wander the Internet to read more about this Court and their times as a general history lesson and to bring me more in line with what I was reading.   I do like this genre and think I would have devoured this story when I was in high school.  This read did not dwell so much on beheadings and torture, it was more about the family experience and the role of waiting for your turn.

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