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REBEL SISTERS: Irish History shared through story ~Marita Conlon-McKenna

Monday, June 20th, 2016

I do think learning history through story is such a good idea. This book is about three specific sisters, who truly existed, and were part of the 1916 Freedom Rebellion in Dublin, Ireland.  Two of the sisters were married to leaders of the uprising; one sister was a volunteer with the organization.  There are songs written about this insurgence and about the young women and their husbands, who became martyrs to the cause for generations to come.

The beautiful sisters are just 3 of the six girls in a family of 12 children. They are protestant and are reared in the wealthy, privileged part of Dublin.  Their mother is strong willed and attempts to thwart their efforts to become part of the Citizen Army, and it is reassuring to know that  she does grow to love her kind and loving son-in-law.  Mother Gifford does see to it that each of her daughters receives a university education and has a plan for her life.  A daughter who is a journalist has left the home fires for America and hopes for a bigger career in writing.   It is also the start of WWI, so the Freedom Fighters are feeling that London will be too busy with the Germans and the war to be able to stop the fight for freedom.  REBEL SISTERS is caught up in the energy of the times and yet has found three individual stories to tell with lots of courageous detail making it also a wonderful love story.

TLC Book Tours sent an early e-copy of the book for  review.  Irish love story and rebellion – it is bound to be a hit and a success for the 100 year celebration of this historic event.

“Marita Conlon-McKenna is one of Ireland’s favourite authors.  Her books include the award-winning UNDER THE HAWTHORNE TREE, set during Ireland’s Great Famine, which has been widely translated and published and is now considered an Irish classic.  Her other books include the bestseller THE MAGDALEN.  She is a winner of the International Reading Association Award in the USA.  She is a former chairperson of Irish PEN.  She lives in Dublin with her husband and family of four children.” (From book cover)

Marita Conlon-McKenna Website

Although REBEL SISTERS is about war on many fronts, it is just beautifully written and it is held in high esteem.  The research is extensive and the personal is well included.  The style has been compared to Maeve Binchy’s form and detailed representation.  The sisters had full lives after the rebellion and made a big difference in the lives of their community from setting up a museum history lesson, to art, poetry, and preserving their husband’s legacy and work.  They are included in the history books as brave spirits to the causes of justice, relieving poverty and hunger, and working towards a more Irish educational system.  Their colleagues are a virtual who’s who of Ireland’s history and leaders.

You may just want to make a fresh pot of tea and enjoy warm Irish Soda Bread while you settle in for a fine read.

Irish Soda Bread link

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A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD: A Novel ~Anne Tyler

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Anne Tyler won the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago and I have been a fan of her work since I read SAINT MAYBE .  When I heard that A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD was nominated for a Man Booker Prize I could not wait, I had to purchase a copy and read it right away.

I was not disappointed, it was just a wonderful family story and I cozied into a comfortable chair with a blanket and a big glass of water.   Two whole days of reading, and I hardly moved it was just that good.  Now as I am writing my thoughts about the book, I see that several books of summary and analysis are already on the market to accompany this good read.

We are once again in Baltimore, Maryland and studying the dynamics of an interesting family.  Four children, a mom and dad all within the HOUSE designed and built by paternal grandfather.  Once again it is a story where the house is a focal character and it’s location is important.   It is son Denny who is the original focal point and he is quite a character and concerns his parents mightily.  I have to admit at the start of the story he is worrisome to try and figure out; he is pivotal to the story and reveals the title of the story at the far end.  The back – stories are near the end of the book too and this makes for a grand amount of thinking about each character, how they got into the story and what is the theme that is truly being exposed and expounded upon.   The book group questions included in the book are mostly about this strange order and why it made the reader work harder to figure the family and motivations.  The characters just seemed nicely odd and interesting.

Abby is a retired social worker and the mother of the four children.  She invites lots of needy folks to the family home and feeds them especially for Thanksgiving.  Red is her contractor husband who is patient, kind and gruff who brought them all to live in his father’s incredible house.  The two older girls work at doing the right thing and keeping the family solidly together and try to help Denny remain a part of the family.   Stem is the youngest and he works with Red and will take over the construction business when Dad retires.  Parents are starting to have health scares as they age and support systems make for mirthful occasions and interesting interplay.

I think folks will enjoy this book very much and I think it will make a great holiday gift or a good read to start off a new year.  I give it and Ms. Tyler high marks for this novel novel.

From the book:

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina.  This is her 17th novel.  Her 11th, BREATHING LESSONS, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, she live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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SING THEM HOME: A Wonderful and Restorative Novel ~Stephanie Kallos

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

I have just finished reading LANGUAGE ARTS by Stephanie Kallos and just wanted more of her writing to explore, so I treated myself to an e-copy of her novel SING THEM HOME.   I was not disappointed.  The read was delicious and it is going to challenge me to share just 500 words about it.  I am definitely going to read this book again.

I could approach this book by saying the Jones Family was the main characters of the story and I would be right.  Each member was well described and had enough story to make you feel as though you knew them well.  Dad was defined by the other members of the family and did not have long chapters of his life on his own merit but rather how he related to his family and community.

I could say that the community of Emelyn Springs, Nebraska was the main character of this story.  What is life in a small village, which is suffering from a demise of business supposed to do to prop themselves up and keep going?   It is a community with strong roots and traditions – it is Welsh, and the men all enjoy singing.  The folks spend a week singing the dead “home” and truly celebrate a life.  Music is vital to these people and they start singing as to give voice to problem solving and to call all to come together.

Actually, I think the weather in this part of Nebraska is the primary villain in the story.  Too hot and then again right in a Tornado Alley.  What they must contend with and the ways they must be safe are a tremendous part of the towns experience and it’s crucial to the Jones family and the lives that are shared.  Bonnie and her mother, Hope, are carried away by the storm and this changes the family forever.  The town finds Bonnie is a fallen tree and sings to her until a fire truck can arrive from a neighboring city to rescue her.  They keep her alive and now years later she is obsessed with picking up interesting finds and discoveries, riding her bike everywhere and talking to the dead.  Hope, who has MS completely disappears and is presumed dead.  The house is gone.

“When grounded, the dead mothers feel every footstep of every human being all over the world.”  (page 16)

Dad is the local doctor for the community, Larken is the oldest daughter and teaches Art History at the University, and Gaelan, the son, is now the weatherman at the big city TV station.  What happens to a family when their mother is ill and then gone? How are they changed?  How do they love again and what brings them home?

I could not put the book down, I was so transported into the story and the lives of each character.  I did not want to live in their town or even go for a visit, but I so enjoyed the way they used traditions and song to keep in touch and to sing each person “home”.  There was so much meaning and connection.

The writing weaves the story home and the weird keeps a twinkle in the reader’s eye all the way through until the plot straightens out and one finds restoration of the narrative to complete the picture.  It was just a perfect length and had a great ending and I was able to say; “Now the story is complete.”   It was just right.

Stephanie Kallos lives in Seattle, Washington with her big family and works at her art of storytelling.  BROKEN FOR YOU was her first novel and that was quite the wonderful read also.

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