Broken Soul

Krompinger, Keith. Broken Soul. Archway Publishing, 2023.

Reason read: someone practically threw this at me and dared me to read it.

Very. Dramatic. Language. I dare you to count the number of pages that do NOT include references to violence, sex, drugs, devils or demons. You will lose count because if someone isn’t being tortured or raped, he or she is dying a very violent (and very graphic) death. But, wait. There’s more. The women have lots of crimson hair, they must be undressed and stared at for a little while before they are “sexually raped”, tortured, and finally put out of their misery with a brutal murder. Oh wait. I forgot to mention the cannibalism. People being eaten alive on some strange Caribbean island.
Unfortunately, the violence is laid on so thick there is very little character development. As each person met a horrible fate, I didn’t care. Go ahead. Dress the women in weird outfits before painting their bodies with symbols, raping them and then eating them alive, body part by body part. I shrugged off the rape and torture as if was a breakfast scene with pancakes and eggs. I didn’t know any victim well enough to want them to live. Even when someone had their jugular bitten out, I shrugged with indifference. I couldn’t tell you the plot if I tried other than to say some guy is haunted by his wife’s murder. He is being called to revenge by a demon (or something with red eyes in the mirror) while his teenage daughter has her own coping mechanisms with drugs.

Here are my questions: there is a scene when the “good guys” enter a building with guns ablazing. They kill four people with a double barreled shotgun, but afterwards two people are heard talking upstairs. Are those people deaf? Didn’t they hear the blasts? Wouldn’t they be yelling or running or yelling while running?

Is it normal for someone to rush to a crime scene with enthusiasm? Cops are fueled by adrenaline, yes. But enthusiasm?

Do the women have mirrors in their jungle captivity? Because they all seem to know about the paint marked on their faces.

Poison Heart Death Club. Is that anything like Lonely Hearts Club Band?

I don’t really understand the timeline: 10/12/10 5am, 3:30am, 11:45am. 11/8/05 11:23pm, 2:45pm, 6:24pm. Is this still 11/8/05? The hours ticking by down give me a sense of suspense, but this timeline is all over the place. I lost track.

How often do you hear someone say the word ravished?

What is a Kailua drink?

Why “parts of her heart” in her mouth? Why not her whole heart stuffed in her mouth and only parts could be seen?

The characters do a lot of smirking no matter what the situation.

Confessional: I left Broken Soul in a recycling bin in New York City.

Man Who Was Taller Than God

Adams, Harold. The Man Who Was Taller Than God. New York: Walker and Company, 1992.

Reason read: to “finish” the series started with Hatchet Job in November (in honor of South Dakota becoming a state). Yes, I am reading them backwards.

This won’t take you anytime at all to read. Barely 156 pages it is a quick one. You could read it in one sitting, for sure. Anyway, the plot:
It’s the first murder the town of “hopeless” Hope, South Dakota has ever seen. Felton Edwards, a tall, womanizing, good for nothing and better-off-dead man, is found face down in a gravel pit. Some shot to death this tall drink of water and like Hatchet Job there is no shortage of suspects because everyone had a beef with Mr. Edwards. Never mind the fact he hasn’t been in Hope for the last 15 years. Enter Carl Wilcox, our hero. As a retired police officer he has been called back into service by Hope’s mayor, Christian Frykman. Frykman can’t bear the thought of a murder happening in his little town. Wilcox may have an unorthodox way of solving crimes (he makes more dates with single women than finding clues), but he always gets the job done.

Quotes I liked: “A man who talks as much as he does is bound to strike truth now and then” (said by Christian Frykman on page 20) and “It was enough to make my tired ache” (said by Carl Wilcox on page 136).

Book trivia: …Talller Than God is actually book number nine in the series. The title of the books comes from the fact that the dead man was “long enough to be taller than god”. Whatever that means.

Author fact: the inspiration for the Wilcox series is Adams’s own uncle, Sidney Dickey. I wonder if Mr. Dickey smoked like a chimney, had a sarcastic wit and a way with the ladies?

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Great Plains: Dakotas” (p 106).

Flashman and the Mountain of Light

Fraser, George MacDonald. Flashman and the Mountain of Light. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.

Reason read: Some of you might remember, way back in April I started the Flashman series in honor of Fraser’s April birth month. It seems so long ago…

Harry Flashman is back again! It almost seems like he won’t go away. The year is 1845 and this time Flashy is a spy for Her Majesty’s Secret Service! When we last left Flashy he was in Singapore. I have to admit, the start to Flashman and the Mountain of Light was a little slow this time around. It took me two chapters before I really got into it. If you are looking for Fraser’s trademark sex and violence, Flashman and the Mountain of Light does not disappoint. It just takes a little longer to get to. For the historians out there, Fraser covers the Sutlej Crisis and of course, the Mountain of Light or Koh-i-Noor, one of the largest diamonds in the world.

Confessional: this wasn’t my favorite. In fact, I didn’t even finish it.

Favorite line: “Optimism run mad, if you ask me, but then I’ve never been shipwrecked much, and philosophy in the face of tribulation aint my line” (p 105).

Author fact: According to the back flap of Flashman and the Mountain of Light Fraser helped with the screenplay for Lester’s The Three Musketeers. Sounds about right.

Book trivia: This is the ninth book in the Flashman series. I only have two more after this one.

BookLust Twist: Say it with me: from Book Lust in the chapter called “George MacDonald Fraser: Too Good To Miss” (p 93). You would think I would have this information memorized by now.

Eve Green

Fletcher, Susan. Eve Green. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.

Reason read: This is a stretch, but Dylan Thomas was Welsh. Eve Green takes place in Wales. Thomas died in November. See the connection? Didn’t think so.

I think this was my favorite book of everything I read in November. It spoke to me the way Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams did. Taylor Greer and Evangeline Green were a lot alike and I could hear their voices long after their stories were out of my hands.
Evangeline’s story begins In Birmingham where her mother commits suicide and, at seven years old, she is sent to live with her maternal grandparents in Wales. She has never met her father and her friends consist of one outcast boy from school, a 23 year old farm hand, and a reclusive. seemingly mentally ill man who frequents the woods near her grandparent’s farm. Everyone else represents jealousy and danger. When a blond, blue eyed classmate goes missing Eve’s world is turned upside down. It doesn’t help that she didn’t really like Rosie, nor that her reclusive friend is a suspect.

There were lots and lots of lines I liked in Eve Green. I really like Fletcher’s writing. Here are a couple of lines to remember, “But my point had been made: if someone expects trouble, they usually get it, in the end” (p 45) and “As I hovered by the door all I knew was that men weren’t designed for crying” (p 106). Why this last line hit me so hard – It’s true. I can’t stand to see grown men cry because it feels so unnatural, so wrong. Here are a couple more quotes I liked, “But at fifteen my heart was hungrier than ever” (p 177), and “Life’s a stone not yet carved on, an unwritten page” (p 280).

Author fact: Eve Green is Fletcher’s first novel.

Book trivia: some people feel that Fletcher gave a nod to Lee Harper when she included a misunderstood and potentially mentally ill man as a character in Eve Green.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Wales Welcomes You” (p 248).

Four Seasons in Rome

Doerr, Anthony. Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World. New York: Scribner, 2007.

Reason read: Doerr celebrates a birthday in November, or something like that.

Imagine coming home from the hospital after your wife has just given birth to twins and discovering you have won an award that will send you to Rome for a year, an award you didn’t ask for or even know about. So, six months later you pack up aforementioned wife and boys and off to Rome you go. Doerr spends the next year reading Pliny, exploring the ancient city and marveling at life BT (before twins) and AT (after twins). He is observant and witty on all accounts but by his own admission is too busy staring at Italy to write anything constructive. Until Four Seasons is born. If you are to read just one page of Four Seasons in Rome I strongly recommend reading page 141, starting with “What is Rome”.

Quotes I liked, “Sleep is a horizon: the harder you row toward it, the faster it recedes” (p 26) and “Complexities wane, miracles become unremarkable, and if we are not careful, pretty soon we’re gazing out at our lives as if through a burlap sack ” (p 54). There were many more, but I’ll leave it a that.

Author fact: Doerr has received two O. Henry Prizes and this book was as a result of winning an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, affording him a stipend ($1,300/month) and a writing studio in Rome.

Book trivia: there are no photographs in Four Seasons in Rome. I’m disappointed. There are, however, illustrations by Brian Rea at the beginning of each season.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Roman Holiday” (p 189).

Dark Hills Divide

Carman, Patrick. The Dark Hills Divide. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2005.

Reason read: November is Fantasy Convention month in some places in the world.

I need to preface this with the obvious: Dark Hills Divide is a book for kids. Okay, so onto the plot. Alexa Daley is twelve years old and is spending a month with her father in the town of Bridewell. Bridewell is no ordinary place as it is surrounded by huge walls that are 42′ high and 3′ thick. What Alexa wants to know is what is beyond, in the world she can not see? All her life she has lived behind those thick walls. All she knows is what her mayoral father tells her: that a mysterious man by the name of Thomas Warvold had the walls built by an army of prison convicts. Legend has it, the walls have kept out an unnamed evil.
And so begins the first book of the Land of Elyon series. As with any good fantasy book there is a menacing villain, talking animals and one brave-as-all-get-out kid. Pervis Kotcher, Bridewell’s head of security and resident bully, will stop at nothing to keep Alexa from seeing what is beyond the walls but like any determined kid, Alexa finds a way out. From there, things get weird and Alexa realizes everyone has secrets and the motto is “trust no one”.

As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised to see the traditional poem “Six Men of Indostan” or “The Blind Men and the Elephant” reimagined by John Godfrey Saxe. I know the John Godfrey Saxe version as interpreted by Natalie Merchant on her “Leave Your Sleep” album.

Author fact: I don’t think it would surprise you to learn Carman has his own website here.

Book trivia: Dark Hills Divide doesn’t have illustrations throughout the text, but there is a beautiful drawing of a wolf on the second page and illustrations of Alexa’s chess moves. Another detail, Dark Hills Divide is the first book in a series called “The Land of Elyon.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy for Young and Old” (p 85).

Hatchet Job

Adams, Harold. Hatchet Job. New York: Walker and Company, 1996.

Reason read: South Dakota became a state in November.

Hatchet Job is such a short book (barely over 150 pages) that it can be read in one sitting and because it is so short it ends almost before it really begins. Here are a couple of other things you need to know about Hatchet Job: it’s the thirteenth book in the Carl Wilcox series but you do not need to have read the other twelve before enjoying Hatchet. Also, even though Hatchet Job was published in 1996 it takes place at least fifty years earlier. Details like Wilcox driving a Model T, women wearing or not wearing girdles, and lots of references to the Great War helped set the time frame.
Now for the plot: someone has murdered the town cop of Mustard with four chops with an ax or hatchet. The blows are precise and predictable. No one is shocked Lou Dupree is dead and if the town could cheer about such a demise, they would and loudly. Our hero, Carl Wilcox, is called in to solve the mystery and stand in as Mustard’s law enforcement until they can find a replacement. When Carl isn’t asking a million questions he’s trying seduce all the single ladies, but he has an eye for the married ones as well. It’s just a matter of time before Carl solves the case and gets a date. The real question is, which will happen first?

Author fact: in 1996 Harold Adams was the retired director of the Minnesota Charities Review Council.

Book trivia: Hatchet Job is part of the Carl Wilcox series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Great Plains: the Dakotas” (p 106).

Disorderly Knights

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Disorderly Knights. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dorothy Dunnett’s birth month.

The year is now 1551. Francis Crawford of Lymond, the blond-haired, blue eyed rebel of Edinburgh Scotland has a new mission from the King of France: to come to the aid of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John in Malta as they battle the Turks to defend their island. It begins as a confusing battle, and as with all great stories in history, not everyone is who they first appear to be. There is a traitor among them. Who can it be? It’s up to Francis to figure it out and in doing so discovers his worst enemy. On a personal note, in this installment of the Lymond Chronicles I was pleasantly surprised to see a more personal side to the dashing and devastatingly cruel Francis. This time Dunnett didn’t have him constantly drinking to falling down drunk, and while I wasn’t always agreeing with Lymond’s actions, they shed light on the complexities of his personality.
On another note, I was sad to lose key characters.

Quotes I liked, “Hatred shackled by promises to the dead was the vilest of all” (p 218) and “But that’s just immaturity boggling at the sad face of failure” (p 322).

Author fact: According the back cover of Disorderly Knights Dunnett was, to critics at that time, the “world’s greatest living writer of historical fiction.”

Book trivia: this is the third installment of the Lymond series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through History” (p 79).

Time Traveler

Novacek, Michael. Time Traveler: In Search of Dinosaurs and Ancient Mammals From Montana to Mongolia. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

Reason read: October is Dinosaur Month. I don’t know who came up with that except to say that I read it on the internet.

Michael Novacek begins his book Time Traveler like a memoir, taking us back to a time when high school yearbooks crowned well endowed coeds with titles such as “Miss Sweater Girl” (and it wasn’t considered sexist). Novacek makes it autobiographically personal by including interesting artifacts (pun totally intended) about his own adolescence, like how he was in a rock band that could have gone somewhere, or that he kissed a girl named Diane in the back of a bus. He even includes some humor. Consider this quote, “…our last moment on earth will probably be marked by an image of a dark cab coming at us dead-on, with a flash of gold teeth and a tequila bottle on the dashboard” (p 166). It makes for a very entertaining read. But, that’s not to say he dumbs down paleontology and all things natural history. Just the opposite, in fact, his laid back writing style made the otherwise dry topic (for me anyways) far more interesting. Just wait until you get to the part about whales found in Patagonia and Michael’s harrowing adventures in Chile.

Quote I liked, “Nothing is worse than obligatory fun” (p 241).

Author fact: PBS made a documentary about Novacek’s work. That’s pretty cool. Something to put on the to do list…

Book trivia: I read a review that mentioned grainy photography but I don’t know what they were talking about. I didn’t see photographs. I thought they were all very cool illustrations.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Patagonia” (p 93).

My Confection

Kotin, Lisa. My Confection: Odyssey of a Sugar Addict. Boston: Beacon Press, 2016.

Reason read: Read as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.

There is one thing you need to know about Kotin’s writing style before delving into My Confection: Her voice – she’s sarcastic and funny and dramatic as all hell. From the very beginning I couldn’t tell if certain parts were exaggerations, outright lies, or just the unbelievable truth. Kotin seems to be in constant crisis mode. But by ten pages in, you know what? I couldn’t care less. I was laughing too hard. I liked her style of writing more than what she had to say, if that makes sense.

I’ve never met a sugar “addict” per se; someone who needed a macrobiotic rehabilitation or saw a therapist about tossing a cake in the driveway. However, I certainly know my fair share of self professed “sweet tooth” victims. They usually blame away their weight or complexion on the amount of sugar they simply cannot help but consume. I think humans in general are hardwired to crave sugar no matter the form. My uncle, suffering from severe Alzheimer’s, would sneak out of the house in the dead of night and trek the seven miles (down a winding mountain road with no street lights, shoulder or breakdown lane) into town for a Snickers bar. The store may or may not have been open when he arrived but he felt compelled, driven by some unknown sugar insanity to make the trip just the same. My aunt would predictably jump in the car and go screaming after him, knowing exactly where he went and why. Ironically enough, he choked to death on a contraband Christmas cookie he was in the process of trying to consume as quickly as possible. I kid you not. But, back to Kotin and her book.
The final thing I will say about My Confection is actually another thing you need to know: Kotin grows up right before your eyes. Her voice changes. She becomes a little more serious, a little less sarcastic. By that small change her addiction becomes more believable and you end up rooting for her all the more.

Pawn in Frankincense

Dunnett, Dorothy. Pawn in Frankincense. New York: Random House, 1997.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month. This is book #4.

When we last left Francis Crawford of Lymond in The Disorderly Knights the year was 1552 and Francis had just uncovered and defeated a spy within the ranks of the Knights of St. John of Malta, Graham “Gabriel” Malett. Francis also had fathered a son, Khaireddin. It’s this son, hidden away somewhere within the Ottoman empire, that presents Lymond with his next challenge. For Khaireddin is being held as a political pawn in a very dangerous game. While Francis had defeated his enemy Graham, he also had to reluctantly let him go to ensure the safety of his missing son.
Some of Dunnett’s best characters return for the plot of Pawn but it’s the addition of Marthe that is intriguing. Marthe, a girl much like Francis in attitude and appearance adds sex appeal and a feisty fire to the plot. You later find out later she is his sister. Duh. Could have seen that coming. Another character I liked seeing return is Phillipa. She turns out to be a little spitfire herself.
Of course there are the intricate twists and turns you have come to expect from a Dunnett book. The chase across seas and deserts is pretty intense and as always, Dunnett does a fabulous job describing the people and places. The “live” chess game is intense.

Only quote to grab me, “With children, you have no private life” (p 293). Not very profound, but I liked it.

Book trivia: Pawn in Frankincense is book #4 in the Lymond series. I said that already. The other thing I would like to add is that you can definitely tell the Lymond series was written by a woman. There is so much attention given to clothing: fabric, style and fit.

Author fact: “In 1992, Queen Elizabeth appointed [Dunnett] an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.” I wonder what one gets out of that besides an impressive title?

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through History” (p 90).

Under the Volcano

Lowry, Malcolm. Under the Volcano. Read by John Lee. Blackstone Audio, Inc., 2009.

Reason read: November 2nd is traditionally known as Day of the Dead or All Souls Day in Mexico. For the most part, Under the Volcano takes place in one day on November 2nd, 1939. Confessional: Then She Found Me ended a week early so I started listening to Under the Volcano on October 23rd 2015.

The very first thing you notice about Under the Volcano is the luxurious writing. Lowry’s use of language is like sinking in a deep bed of velvet. You fall in and keep falling until you can’t extract yourself from the words very easily. Listening to this an audio made it a little more difficult because of the various languages spoken and the switching of points of views. I can understand written Spanish much better than the spoken language.
The very first chapter sets the stage for the following eleven chapters. It is November 2nd 1940 in Quauhnahuac, Mexico and two men are reminiscing about the British Consul, Geoffrey Firmin. Chapter two takes us back exactly one year and we follow Firmin’s activities for one short day. Be prepared for a pathetic man’s sad Day in the Life. His ex-wife has just returned to Mexico from an extended stay in America¬† in an effort to reconcile with Firmin but ends up having a better time with his half brother. All the while the Consul is drinking, drinking, drinking. It is tragic how he argues with himself about that one last drink. There are mysterious dogs, runaway horses, bullfighting, and of course, the ever present volcanoes. Warning, but not a real spoiler alert: this doesn’t end well for anyone.

Quotes I liked somewhere within the pages of Under the Volcano: “Genius will look after itself”. True. And, “Vandals in sandals looking at murals”.

Author fact: Under the Volcano seems very autobiographical in nature. Lowry was an alcoholic, lived in Mexico for a time and went through a divorce, all like his main character, Geoffrey.

Book trivia: Under the Volcano was made into a movie and was Lowry’s last novel before he died.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Postcards From Mexico” (p 186). Incidentally, it’s the last book of the chapter and to describe it Pearl calls it “uber viscerally painful” (p 186).

Then She Found Me

Lipman, Elinor. Then She Found Me. Read by Mia Barron. BBC Audiobooks America, 2007.

Reason read: Lipman celebrates a birthday in October. Read in her honor.

In a nutshell: April Epner is a very single high school Latin teacher. All her life she has known she was adopted as a newborn. She had a good relationship with her Holocaust survivor parents and never really questioned her birth parents. What she didn’t know until she was in her 30s is that her biological mother is none other than Bernice Graverman, star of her own over-the-top talk show: Bernice G! When Bernice takes over April’s life by storm with her gaudy jewelry, loud outfits, glitzy lifestyle and overly aggressive matchmaking schemes April barely questions Bernice’s authenticity as her biological mother. I found that really odd. Instead, April allows Bernice to constantly call her at work, butt into her personal life, and wreak havoc – all for the sake of being the mom Bernice says she always knew she could. The entire time I was reading Then She Found Me I wanted to know why April & Bernice didn’t apply for DNA testing. HLA & PCR tests were both available in the 90s. It definitely comes up when April’s biological father comes back into the picture.

As an aside, this was the first time I didn’t care for the audio. I don’t know if it was the narrator (Mia Barron), as she was overly dramatic and made me dislike all female characters, or the possibility the book wasn’t meant to be read aloud because the dialogue was just so…what’s the word?…dramatic? Also, Jack’s New Hampshire (?) accent was terrible! Think exaggerated John F. Kennedy.

Author fact: According to the inside cover of Then She Found Me Lipman lived in western Massachusetts at the time of publication. No wonder she mentioned such places as Northampton & the gates of Smith College with ease. According to her website she mostly lives in New York now.

Book trivia: Then She Found Me was made into a movie starring Bette Midler. I keep saying I haven’t seen it, but I think I actually have…if there is a scene where Bette is being so mean to her daughter that the daughter has no choice but to disconnect (the healthiest thing for both of them). I remember the last scene of the movie is a wedding…same as the book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Elinor Lipman: Too Good To Miss” (p 146).

Flashman and the Dragon

Fraser, George MacDonald. Flashman and the Dragon. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1986.

Reason read: this is the eighth book in the Flashman series. Hard to believe I started this in April in honor of Fraser’s birth month!

To bring all you historians up to speed: So far in the series Flashman has seen action in four military campaigns: the First Afghan War, Crimea, the Indian Mutiny and the Sioux War of 1879. With Flashman and the Dragon Harry gets himself involved in the Taiping Rebellion. Another worthy note: for this particular installment of papers, George MacDonald Fraser himself acts as editor, admitting he confines his corrections to spelling, while “checking the accuracy of Flashman’s narrative and inserting footnotes wherever necessary.”
Fans of Flashman’s sexual conquests will not be disappointed. As usual, Harry works his charms on a number of different women, the most important being the favored Imperial Yi Concubine, Lady Yehonala (who later became Empress Tzu-hsi). She ends up saving his life (much like my favorite tart, Szu-Zhan, from earlier in the story). “Get ’em weeping, and you’re halfway to climbing all over them” (p 11).

A small word of warning for the faint of heart: there is a lot of detailed violence and torture in this Flashman installment. It’s almost as if Fraser was getting bored with Flashman as just a cowardly womanizer. The action needed to be ramped up a little.

Book trivia: The cover to Flashman and the Dragon is interesting. A nearly naked woman holding a fan is cradled in the arms of a gentleman (not Flashy). The man’s face is partially obscured by the woman’s fan.

Author fact: Fraser has also written a series of short stories, The General Danced at Dawn and McAuslan in the Rough.

BookLust Twist: Are you tired of me saying, “from Book Lust in the chapter called “George MacDonald Fraser: Too Good To Miss” (p 93)”? We only have three more after this one.

Crows Over a Wheatfield

Sharp, Paula. Crows Over a Wheatfield. New York: Washington Square Press, 1996.

Reason read: October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month in some states. In Massachusetts we run a 5k to benefit Safe Passage (although in December).

Picture a small town where barely anything of interest disrupts the landscape; no mountains, no oceans, no canyons, nor rivers. Nothing as far as the eye can see except farmland and fields. This is Wisconsin and Crows Over a Wheatfield is the thirty-year story of Melanie Klonecki, first growing up in such a small town, then becoming a judge in New York City and trying to escape memories of an abusive but brilliant criminal defense lawyer of a father (a “diabolical Atticus” as one of his colleagues described him). Told in four parts (Crows Over a Wheatfield, Muskellunge, Custody, & Mirror Universe) we begin Melanie’s recollection in the year 1957 when she was seven years old. Her 41 year old father has just remarried someone 17 years his junior. Ottilie comes to the family with a seven year old child of her own, Matthew. These outsiders are not immune to the abuse handed out by Joel Ratleer either.¬† His abuses come in many forms: subtle as in not being allowed to go to church or forcing Matthew to call his mother Ottilie, and violent in the form of severe beatings without provocation or warning. And yet, curiously, Melanie’s recollection of this abuse is fuzzy. She uses such phrases as, “must have bullied”, “no longer recall”, and “barely evoke any memory”. It’s as if she cannot face her terrible childhood with any clarity and as a result it clouds her entire adult life. When faced with another abusive situation Melanie is forced to “wake up” and take action. This time, as an adult, she is able to make choices. Her career as a judge hangs in the balance as she considers how far one would go to protect the ones they love.

I enjoyed the symbolism the wheatfield brought to the story. It is the portrayal of a descent into madness. Van Gogh’s painting is on the cover (and we all know his story). Czepeski (victim in Ratleer’s case) was the only farmer to grow a small patch of wheat not to harvest, but because “he liked to watch it move in the breeze” implying Czepeski was mad enough to kill his own children, implying it was not Ratleer’s defendant who outright admitted to it.

Lines I liked, “Uneasiness or wariness or fear blocked the way to my heart” (p 19) and “I could not remember the last time anyone, sane or insane, had looked inside me and unearthed anything there” (p 350). Probably the most telling line in the whole book.

Author fact: Sharp is also a practicing lawyer in New York.

Book trivia: a national bestseller.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest (Wisconsin)” (p 32).