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.