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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)

Related:
When Women Were Birds
The Signature of All Things
Animal Dreams