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The Passage: A Novel ~Michael Hurley

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Give a middle aged American Irishman a bar fight, put him on his sailboat headed to Ireland to find the true taste of Guinness and an amazing story emerges from Hurley’s imagination.   I could not put this book down, I was possessed by the story and the frame and range of the surface right to the depth the heart can reach.

I am so very happy Mr. Hurley asked me if I wanted to read it and that he sent me a PDF copy.  WOW.  Lucky ME!

I even read THE PASSAGE on two 4-hour car rides.  I could totally identify with the main character’s life – “Fitz” was just right and complete and steadfast and I just wanted to know how he was fairing on his path to salvation, redemption and his progress to shore up his self-worth.  The tragedies and mistakes were sublime and the droplets of humor and descriptions just tickled and delighted my imagination – holding my attention steadfastly.

Several years ago I reviewed another of Hurley’s books – THE VINEYARD.  The story was interesting and well written, but I could not identify with any of the 3 women characters.  None of them became real.  The book went on to win awards and I just thought “Oh well, we all have different tastes in reading.”

The twists and turns in the writing of this novel, were remarkably paced and just slid into this readers psyche with sometimes a sigh, a laugh or a didn’t see that coming.  It is so like life – no matter the taste of Guinness – no matter where.

“Do you believe in everlasting Love?”

My favorite quote came at PDF page 146: “Genre fiction uses plot to tell you a story about someone else’s life.  Classic fiction uses characterizations to tell you a story about yourself.”

What is holding onto you?  What is making you define yourself incorrectly?  How do you care and like yourself?  What pieces/peaces are you missing in your own journey?  What are the meanings you hold dear? And are those things, which you value – programed at age 10 true or false?

Life is definitely a journey and a process and so many of us have a middle-aged change of heart and endeavor.  It would be hard not to relate to this character and his story.  Irish magic just short of leprechauns and fairies adds just the right leverage to this tale.  I am passing this on to several friends for sure.

A remarkable read and I would give it a “10” and hope that it might reach the award phase and become a best seller.

About the Author (from book cover)

“Michael Hurley is the author of three novels and several works of nonfiction.  His debut novel, THE PRODIGAL, won the Chanticleer Reviews Grand Prize for Book of the Year in 2013.  This second novel, THE VINEYARD, won the 2015 Eric Hoffer Award for General Fiction.  A memoir, ONCE UPON A GYPSY MOM, was published in 2013 by Hachette Book Group.  His essay collection, LETTERS FROM THE WOODS, was shortlisted for Book of the Year in 2005 by ForeWard Reviews.  Between 1995 and 2003, he published a quarterly literary journal on wilderness canoeing, now collected in single hardcover volume entitled HURLEY’S JOURNAL.  He wrote THE PASSAGE while living in England and Wales.  He keeps a journal and stays in touch with readers on his website, www.mchurley.com

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LIAR: A Memoir ~Rob Roberge

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Very happy to be asked by Net Galley to read this memoir, which pulled no punches about the read being dark and humorous at the same time.  It was just that, as the author is Bipolar (Manic Depression), suffers with alcoholism, and has been a junkie for most of his 43 years.

Hindsight is so 20/20.  It was amazing that Roberge could write, finish school, sing and teach as he worked his way through self-medication and mental health workers offering up loads of mediations and lock-up stints.

Roberge has recently discovered that he has a concussion illness and he will slowly loose his mind. After 15 years of being sober and not doing drugs he had a relapse with this new diagnosis and is motivated to write the memoir and tell his side of the story.  I want to go see the movie Concussion, which has just been released in the theaters because of reading this book.   As a counselor by training, the book touched me deeply to understand the process of mental illness from the inside and the experience.  I was upset that his supportive parents would never talk or explore with him about his mental illness and what he could do to find relief in more positive ways.

The book is due to be released on February 9th 2016, and Roberge must have a good following as the pre-orders are growing steadily.

We truly need to work on remedying our mental health coverage and understanding in this country and hopefully this read will be popular enough to bring about more action and understanding in our communities and our states.  It is a hard read and a good read and I am very pleased to have been asked to review it. LIAR is an important communication to our world.

“A darkly funny, intense memoir about mental illness, memory and storytelling, from an acclaimed novelist.” (Amazon page)

The writing is quite good and does not leave the reader wanting; it pulls one into the story and the sadness that accompanies the confusing and difficult circumstances, which are part of this life story.  The words move at a fast paced with a clarity that many of us do not see.   It is a 40 year old interpreting what he experienced when he was young; looking for resolutions still for what may not yet have answers for those who wish to understand and know.

“Rob Roberge is the author of four books of fiction, most recently The Cost of Living. He teaches creative writing, and his work has been widely anthologized. He also plays guitar and sings with the Los Angeles –based band the Urinals.” (From Book)

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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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LANGUAGE ARTS: A Novel ~Stephanie Kallos

Monday, October 12th, 2015

LANGUAGE ARTS was what English and Spelling and Writing was called when I was in elementary school.   It involved The Palmer Method of learning to write cursive and when I was in 4th grade I won a prize for my beautiful penmanship.  It was one of the only prizes I won during my school years, and I have always been proud of my lovely lettering ability until now when my hand shakes so dramatically and it is hard to hold a pen or pencil; typing is easier and dictating even better.   This is a story about the Palmer Method and a teacher who teaches LANGUAGE ARTS in Seattle, Washington.  The author captures a great deal of what it was like in my elementary school and how it has changed currently.

This is not Kallos’ latest book, but I have had it on my Kindle for a while, well, until my book group decided to read it this autumn and I delightedly opened it up.  This book touched me in so many ways, I am sure and certain that I will read it several more times and I am delighted to refer you to this read.

One of the members of my book group described the book at weird; maybe I would use that word also in the beginning of the read.  The writing just drew me in and the compelling nature of the story and the similarity to my own experience just wrapped the story into me and I was part of the tale and part of the life of Charles, the boy doing the Palmer Method and winning the prize and the man teaching students now and doing the best that he is able to do.  Did I tell you how much I appreciated the writing and the play full words and sentences in this story?

Yes, the story is a bit confusing but isn’t that how love is when it is real?  Are we not all searching for love, acceptance and appreciation?  How did you recognize love when it came your way?  Was it obvious and over the moon?  Did you need to contemplate and have a glass of wine?  Were you just born into the feeling?

This is the story of the disintegration of a family when they are caring for a special needs child.  I know the exhaustion in my very bones and the constant search for feelings of appreciation and affirmation.  I know how and why it destroys families and pits one against another.   I liked that the story was in Seattle, Washington and that the rain was real and the schools were like/are like that, and that family dynamics are what they are.  The disintegration process has a chaos stage that is well articulated in this finely written story.  LANGUAGE ARTS really is a love story.

And as the confusion flattens out into the linear events of the current ebb and flow of the present tense, I cried and was touched very deeply.  The story distilled into its own truth; the loneliness of my own story made loops around me and I wondered what I would do next as the words amazed me and filled me up.  I was content with my own story and my own love.

“Stephanie Kallos is the author of the national bestseller BROKEN FOR YOU, which was selected by Sue Monk Kidd for the TODAY book club, and SING THEM HOME one of Entertainment Weekly’s ten best novels of the year.  She lives in Seattle with her family.”  (from the book)

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