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GYPSY MOTH SUMMER: A Novel ~Julia Fierro

Monday, June 26th, 2017

GYPSY MOTH SUMMER is being praised as the must read of the summer of 2017.  I have seen lots of promotional material for the book and was looking forward to having an opportunity to read and review this book as presented by TLC Book Tours . The Huffington Post was truly wrapping lots of energy around this highly anticipated book.

I jumped right into the read and it compelled me to stick with the book from cover to cover.  I just knew that somehow this story was not going to end well, and then again maybe I was hoping that it was not going to end well for the people on Avalon Island – the wealthy and the poor.  The story is a tragedy.

I knew many of these character types and I lived through this period of time with great awareness and a budding interest in ecological studies.  I was beginning to understand pollution and how cycles of problems exist and I lived through several Tent Caterpillar infestations and could hear the squish, crackle of walking on the creatures under my feet and know the sticky goo that stuck to everything; really creepy was the critters falling onto your hair and body.

I need to back up here and outline the story of the island people and their sordid, limited view of the world.  Many characters were introduced and before and after each chapter there was information about the Gypsy Moth’s life cycle and years of infestation.  How they marked the world in a very disgusting and filthy pattern.  Because the island was experiencing an infestation throughout the story, which paralleled the slimy behaviors of the community, I did not enjoy the read as much as I thought I would.

About THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER:

“The summer the Gypsy Moths descended, an even more toxic pest was spreading its way through the people of Avalon. East Avalon is the upper crust, built with generations of military engineers who had exchanged their Navy whites and blues for suits and offices, while West Avalon families hailed from generations of factory workers.

In the summer of 1992, Maddie LaRosa tries to figure out how to survive high school and its queen bee, Bitsy, and worries about maintaining her East Avalon persona and picture-perfect family life. Meanwhile, Leslie Day Marshall, daughter of Avalon Island’s most established wasp-y monarch, has just moved back home with her husband, Jules, who is black, and their kids. Their move from a one bedroom apartment in “the City” to “The Castle” isn’t as big as the change from the melting pot of New York City to the homogeneity of East Avalon. Jules and Leslie’s presence triggers tensions, romances, and unusual alliances that simmer all summer and lead to violence that leaves the community atomized forever.

Diving deep into research on gypsy moths, Fierro was inspired by her own childhood on Long Island, and the tensions that exist in a community where there are two economically different sides of town. Also included in her acute observations are the political tensions of 1992 during a different Clinton campaign and the rise in cancer rates due to the community’s water pollution. Grounded in real events, Fierro’s writes an intense and engrossing story that will stick with you long after the tragic ending.”    (From the promotional materials)

The teenagers in the story were the same unhappy, drunken, drugging, sniffing, nasty behavior laden kids I knew back then and tried to stay away.  They felt so entitled and are still acting entitled as they move into the Medicare years.  They still deny climate problems and toxic waste sites.  They feel they can just purchase their way out of everything.  Fierro wrote about them with brilliance and they were awful in the story as they were in person.  The sad thing is that they have been trying to lead the world now and be the leaders because they are “rich” and they are just as awful to encounter today as they were.  I still attempt to stay away but they keep trying to damage health care, public schools, and destroy social programs – they want to make money from schools and prisons and they truly do not care about human beings.

The story is very bright and capable and does keenly capture a segment of our community and wrap them in Moth slime tying them up smartly in a bow.  It was my pleasure to finish reading the book and be done with it.  GYPSY MOTH SUMMER left me wondering how to help people change and want to live by kindness.  There was no attempt to illuminate the future in GYPSY MOTH SUMMER.

“Fierro doesn’t just observe, she knows. Like all great novelists, she gives us the world.” – Amy Bloom, bestselling author of Away and Lucky Us

About the Author:

“JULIA FIERRO is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a creative home to more than 4,000 writers in New York City, Los Angeles and online. Her first novel CUTTING TEETH, was praised by The Boston Globe (“at once modern and timeless”) and The New Yorker (“a comically energetic début”).

Related:
Natchez Burning
The Secrets of Worry Dolls
A Tale for the Time Being

POINT OF NO RETURN: A WWII Novel ~Martha Gellhorn

Monday, February 27th, 2017

THE POINT OF NO RETURN had an amazing history when first printed and then in 1989 it was retitled from THE WINE OF ASTONISHMENT to THE POINT OF NO RETURN and Gellhorn wrote a new forward and re-released the novel.  It has been a best seller for years.

“Originally published in 1948, this powerful novel follows a U.S. Army infantry battalion in Europe through the last months of the Second World War—through the Battle of the Bulge, the Allied sweep across Germany, and the discovery of the Nazi death camps. Jacob Levy, a young soldier from St. Louis, has never given much thought to politics, world affairs, or his own Jewish heritage, but after the liberation of Dachau, he confronts the horror of the Holocaust and takes his own violent revenge. Jolted into a new understanding of humanity’s connectedness, he comes to terms with his own Jewish identity and grapples with questions of individual moral responsibility that are still contemporary fifty years later.

“In her afterword, Martha Gellhorn traces the roots of the novel in her own experience as a war correspondent who first heard of the Nazi concentration camps during the Spanish Civil War and herself got to Dachau a week after American soldiers discovered the camp at the end of a village street.” (From Amazon’s page)

Ms. Shull  sent me an e-copy of this book for review.  It took me quite a while to squeeze it onto the schedule and it was well worth the read.  I was right there in the rain and snow, cold to the bone as the American troops worked through the woods in the Battle of the Bulge and took their rest in Luxemburg City.    Powerful read.  Emotional read.

“Martha Gellhorn was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1908.  She dropped out of Bryn Mawr to pursue a career in journalism.  Gellhorn spent time living in Paris; documented the Great Depression for the Federal emergency Relief Administration; traveled with her future husband, Ernest Hemingway, to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War; and journeyed to Western Europe to cover World War II.  Her reporting career was distinguished and lengthy, as she also covered the Vietnam War and conflicts in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama. An author of both fiction and nonfiction her works include the memoir TRAVELS WITH MYSELF AND ANOTHER and the novels POINT OF NO RETURN, WHAT MAD PURSUIT, and THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN. She died in 1998.” (Book Cover)

Related:
Gone To Soldiers
Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger’s Life
A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena

THE FIFTH PETAL: A Novel ~Brunonia Barry

Monday, February 20th, 2017

THE FIFTH PETAL takes place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, 1989, and 2014.  In 1692, a number of women were hung from an oak tree and then their bodies were dumped into a mass grave.   In 1989, 3 young women had their throats cut while they were blessing their ancestors with one survivor and one 4-year-old daughter left.  In 2014, a young ancestor teenager dies at the same spot and the one previous survivor believes she became a Banshee and killed the boy.  The young girl from the 1989 kills is searching for just who she is and returns to Salem in her discovery journey.

The stage has been set for a revealing tale that is nearly impossible to put down.  Lots of secrets emerge through out the story and we travel the sights of the area and hear the poetry that was written about historic events.  We have bootlegging and pirates and smuggling stories that hold the story on a time line while the Police Detective and several current witches assist with solving the puzzle of the deaths.

Oh! And no witches were killed in 1692 though it was widely thought that that was what started it all as the first victims were all declared to be witches.

One would be wrong if they thought the story was just about witch trials and victims or if one thought it would turn into a Zombie tale – after all the new killer struck on Halloween.    The story is also about the history of the area and the Puritan standards being promoted.  The prejudicial thoughts of the tiny rules being imposed and which underline current understandings.  It is also a story about politics and mystery and even a bit of magic.  There are some thrilling moments and some amazing disguises being promoted, for the tourists and to keep the town sharing their bad feelings and perpetuating the myths.

The story too is about the mental health of the survivor and her beliefs, and a great deal about Domestic Violence and how women were cared for, hidden, and found new lives free from the violence they had experienced.  What violence is happening to women today in small towns of rumor, gossip, and old stories?  How do we change those perceptions and change the story.

TLC Book Tours  sent me an uncorrected proof for review and I was delighted to have the opportunity to read THE FIFTH PETAL

The writing was very good and captivating.  It had good police drama, investigation and resolution.  Having the focus on the women of the city and their actions and thoughts was quite wonderful and the counselor was very good at her role in the story. How does one find themselves when they have been disappeared to protect them from the “bad vibes” of a city that is suspicious of you at age four?  How in a city (a country) that distrusts women?

About the Author:

“Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She was the first American author to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival’s Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists’ Colony’s Strnad Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction and Amazon’s Best of the Month. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in The London Times and The Washington Post. Brunonia co-chairs the Salem Athenaeum’s Writers’ Committee. She lives in Salem with her husband Gary Ward and their dog, Angel. Her new novel, The Fifth Petal will be released in January 2017.”

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Related:
Equal Rites
Strings and Bones
Sing Them Home

NOW EVERYONE WILL KNOW: A Memoir ~Maggie Kneip

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

“The Perfect Husband, His Shattering Secret; My Rediscovered Life”

McKinney PR, LLC (Larissa Ackerman | Claire McKinney PR, 41 Main Street Suite B, Chester, NJ 07930) sent me a copy of this book for review and it is quite the read about holding on to a secret for 20 years, denying a segment of a life and keeping a mythology alive.

“This is a book I just inhaled, I could not put it down… It will resonate with every woman who has something to hide – and that is most of us, myself included.” (Magee Hickey, News Reporter, WPIX-TV New York, cover)

Maggie Kneip was married to her dream husband and was the mother of 2 very young children when her husband collapsed and spent several years getting every cold that came along; having just one medical problem after the other. They finally got a diagnosis – AIDS.  When Kneip’s partner, before he was her partner, he had worked in Los Angeles and had explored the Gay lifestyle.  Now he was an editor at the Wall Street Journal and very highly respected and funny; giftedly bright.  He had tumors in his brain and an AIDS dementia, swollen legs, and a list of other problems.  Their son was less than a year old, and their 3-year-old daughter just could not understand.  He was dying and Maggie had to find a job and support her two children.

AIDS was a fairly unknown disease and the general population was very frightened, Maggie and the children were not carriers and did not have the disease, but they were discriminated against just the same because of the fear and the stigma.  The daughter shared about her Father at school and the other parents banded together to get her removed.  A conspiracy of silence began to keep the children safe from these attacks.  This silence left a big hole in the family until the family began sharing their story and Kneip began participating in creating awareness and support for other women on the AIDS journey. 20 years of silence.

It is a commanding read and quite an educational tool for informing and lessening the fear factor for others.

“Maggie Kneip was one of this country’s hidden women…who kept her husband’s deadly secret for more than two decades…Now she opens up for the first time in this stunning, beautifully written, and important book.”  (Joanne Lipman, journalist, editor, and co-author of Strings Attached – cover)

About the Author:

“Maggie Kneip is a veteran of the publishing industry, with more than two decades in publicity and marketing at Bertelsmann, Scholastic Inc., and Abrams Books.  She has performed as a singer at such Manhattan clubs as the Laurie Beechman Theatre and the Metropolitan Room.  Learn more about her at www.maggiekneip.com

Related:
Hidden Inheritance
Whistling Women
The Long Goodbye
The Bounce