In the Time of Butterflies

Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of Butterflies. New York: Penguin, 1995.

Reason read: On November 25th, 1960 Patria Mercedes Mirabal (36), Minerva Mirabal (31), Maria Teresa Mirabal (25), and Rufino De La Cruz (37) were murdered. True story. Read in their memory.

Julia Alvarez framed In the Time of Butterflies around one truth: On November 25th, 1960 three sisters, known as “las mariposas,” died under very suspicious circumstances in the Dominican Republic. While their Jeep was found at the bottom of a steep cliff, their injuries told of a much different and violent death. Before their murders these courageous women were no ordinary citizens of the Republic. After being radicalized at University three of the four sisters defiantly joined an underground movement to overthrow the country’s tyrannical leader, Rafael Leonides Trujillo. Imprisoned for their activities, the women failed to see the warning signs when they are suddenly freed without fanfare. They don’t think anything amiss when their imprisoned husbands are moved to a more remote prison, forcing the sisters to travel a deserted mountain road to visit them. The story begins with Dede, the surviving Mirabal sister, who feels almost a sideshow freak. Every year on the anniversary of her sisters’ murders, some reporter comes calling to hear the sad tale. Because the narration of In the Time of Butterflies is told from the perspective of each sister, character development happens seamlessly. They take turns releasing their passions and convictions, sometimes in first person, sometimes in third.
In the Time of Butterflies is an extremely exquisite and tragic tale. As Dede says, “If you multiply by zero, you still get zero, and a thousand heartaches.”

Lines to linger over (and there were a bunch), “It took some doing and undoing to bring me down to earth” (p 120), “The kissing was bringing on waves of pleasure she feared would capsize her self-control” (p 204), “Even so, my voice threw sparks” (p 261) and lastly, “But if she had a ghost in her heart, she didn’t give out his name” (p 271).

Author fact: Alvarez also wrote How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents which I thought was on my Challenge list, but the only Alvarez I am to read is In the Time of Butterflies. Bummer.

Book trivia: While the deaths of the Mirabal sisters and their driver is a fact, Alvarez admits to filling in their personalities with her imagination.

Nancy said: Pearl called In the Time of Butterflies “heartrending.”

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction Around the World” (p 113) and in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Dominican Republic” (p 52).


Darkest Road

Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Darkest Road. New York: Arbor House, 1986.

Reason read: to finish the series started in September in honor of Fantasy month.

This is the conclusion of the Tapestry series. Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveller, is busy assembling his armies for battle. Everyone knows magic must prevail…but will it? It all comes down to the decision of young Darien. Darien, who was born of Darkness and Light; half mortal, half god; good versus evil and so on and so forth. Darien still struggles with his identity. Because his mother insists on giving him space to work out his issues he feels lost and unloved. There is a lesson to be learned from this. Darien is left to his own devices, not because he isn’t loved, but because he is trusted to do the right thing on his own. Which side will be his? Enter Lancelot to be his protector from both sides of identity. There is a whole lot more that goes on in The Darkest Road. All the typical battles and trysts; atypical alliances and love affairs. The humans are in there, too.

Author fact: My next Kay book for the Challenge is The Last Light of the Sun, but I also have Under Heaven and The Lions of al-Rassan to read.

Book trivia: This is the last book in the Tapestry series.

Nancy said: Pearl mentions The Darkest Road in her list of critically acclaimed fantasy.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Reptile Room

Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events #2: The Reptile Room. Harper Perennial, 2004.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Halloween and all things spooky.

The Reptile Room starts with a small recap of the first unfortunate event because it is important for the reader to know that Mr. Poe, a family friend from the bank, is still in charge of finding the Baudelaire orphans a suitable place to live. It is even more important to be reminded that Count Olaf escaped in the first Unfortunate book. When we meet back up with the children they have been shuffled off to their even more distance relative, Uncle Monty. Montgomery Montgomery is a world renowned herpetologist with a roomful of, you guessed it, snakes (hence the title of Book Number Two of the Series of Unfortunate Events). Of course, the snakes turn out to be the Baudelaire children’s downfall. I won’t say anymore than that.
True to form, the stylistic pattern for Lemony’s books is to constantly remind you to slam the book closed and not read another word; to go read another book if you want a happy ending. Dear reader, you also need to accept Lemony is going to define words every now and then. It’s all part of the schtick. It just is.

Lines I actually liked, “It is plenty difficult to wait for Halloween when the tedious month of September is still ahead of you” (p 27). Agreed. “You couldn’t tell how the Incredibly Deadly Viper looked, because the facial expressions of a snake are difficult to read” (p 67). Again, agreed.

Author fact: Last time I told you Lemony’s real name. This time I can tell you he was born in February.

Book trivia: I am reading an electronic version without illustrations so it’s only 78 pages long.

Nancy said: Pearl called the series “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Only For Kids: Fantasies For Grown-Ups” (p 174).


Mindfulness in Plain English

Gunaratana, Bhante Henepola. Mindfulness in Plain English. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2002.

Reason read: During these crazy times I need to remember to breath; to be still. Read for me, myself, and moi.

The title of this book does not lie. Gunaratana offers a how-to for insight mindfulness in a straight-forward and easy-to-understand language. This is not the deeply didactic philosophy of mindfulness, but rather a deep dive into South and Southeast Asian Buddhism. The first order of business is to dispel the misconceptions surrounding mindfulness and meditation. For example, there is no magic to this vipassana style medication. You won’t levitate. Instead, you become grounded in morality, concentration, and wisdom. Speaking of concentration, you learn the concept of shallow concentration which seems contrary to successful mindfulness. In other words, you won’t lose yourself in mindfulness. Instead, you will train your mind to concentrate on a mental object, the breath being more convenient and ever-present. I am reminded of one of my favorite Natalie Merchant lyric from ‘Not in This Life,’ “Lately I’ve been satisfied by simple things like breathing in and breathing out.” Despite the easy language and thin volume, Mindfulness is a treasure trove of information.

As an aside, I have to laugh when Gunaratana advised not to sit in any one position for more than twenty minutes. Please! I can’t sit comfortably in any position for more than five, maybe ten minutes tops.

Quotes I loved, “Life seems a perpetual struggle, an enormous effort against staggering odds” (p 9), “What we face every day is unpredictable” (p 53), “Distraction cannot be seen as distraction unless there is some central focus to be distracted from” ( 77), and “Somewhere in the process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy” (p 82). Amen.

Author fact: Gunaratana was ordained as a monk at the age of twelve. Twelve! I shudder to think what I was doing at the age of twelve.

Book trivia: I can tell this book helped many people. My copy was dog-eared and heavily underlined.

Nancy said: Pearl said there was useful information in Mindfulness in Plain English. She goes on to say “Gunaratana’s book is much less theoretical, vis-a-vis Buddhist philosophy and psychology…but more practical and systematic in its presentation of technique” (Book Lust p 255).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Zen Buddhism and Meditation” (p 255).


Rifles for Watie

Keith, Harold. Rifles for Watie. New York: Harper Collins, 1987.

Reason read: Veteran’s Day is November 11th, 2020. Read in honor of Civil War veterans long dead and gone but never forgotten.

One of the most interesting aspects of Rifles for Watie is that it is told from the perspective of multiple groups in and around the American civil war of April 1861 – April 1865. Keith visited actual battle locations to get a sense of the varying conflicts and not just the well known ones related to violent battle. Poverty, wealth, prejudice, pride, religion, gender, tribal feuding, slavery, freedom. Right or wrong, all of these issues collide.
Keith used diaries, journals, and personal letters to give Rifles for Watie first person authenticity. To personalize it even further, he used interviews conducted for his thesis. Between the years of 1940 and 1941 he visited with twenty two veterans and listened to their nostalgic reminiscing. These oral histories captured the large and small personal sacrifices of war. Ever in their debt, Keith was careful to give all twenty two individuals credit saying, “my obligation to all their memories is very deep” (Introduction, Rifles for Watie p 12). While General Watie and James G. Blunt were a real-life historical figures, the character of Jeffrey and the other soldiers in Rifles for Watie are Keith’s imagination; I would like to think of them as a creative combination of all the men Harold Keith interviewed.
My favorite segment was when Jefferey was having a passionate argument with Lucy. Every side of the conflict is laid bare; because there are more than two sides to every truth. Good guys aren’t necessarily all that good. Bad guys aren’t that bad. Dogs are just dogs.

An aside: My sticking point. Early on in Rifles for Watie Jeffrey’s family is violently attacked by rebel bushwhackers. The family manages to fend off the raiders, but not before the bushwhackers threaten a much more violent return. I was confused as to why Jeffrey would leave his family knowing they barely survived the first vicious attack. Yes, it gave Jefferey the impetus to join the war to fight the rebels, but what about his defenseless family back in Kansas? No matter. When he is home on furlough all seems fine and there is no mention of bushwhackers ever returning.

Author fact: Keith was dedicated to the state of Oklahoma where he was born, raised, lived, and died.

Book trivia: Rifles for Watie won a Newbery Award in 1958.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Rifles for Watie except that it explores one of the least well-known aspects of the Civil War.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction for Kids of All Ages” (p 114).


Bad Beginning

Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: the Bad Beginning. New York: Scholastic, 2000.

Reason read: Halloween is October 31st. Same as it ever was. Read in honor of spooky stories.

This is a pretty horrible story, even if it is for older children. Unfortunate event #1: The parents of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire die in a terrible fire. In accordance with their parents’ last wishes, the children are to live with any next of kin. No one else will do. The judge happens to find distant relative, Count Olaf (unfortunate event #2). Olaf turns out to be a greedy son of a b!tch who will stop at nothing to get at the children’s rather large inheritance. I almost drew the line at incestual nuptials but was determined to finish the less than seventy page book. You can live through seventy pages of anything. What kept The Bad Beginning interesting was the frequent didactic definitions of words and phrases and the air of Victorian gothic mystery kept the story chilled. Truthfully, the all-out creepiness kept me engaged. Like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away. It’s no wonder there were sequels. No wonder most of the series were made into movies. It has even been a series on NetFlix.

Line I happened to like, “Sometimes, just saying that you hate something, and having someone agree with you, can make you feel better about a terrible situation” (p 15).

Confessional: When these books were all the rage (and then again when the movie came out) I wasn’t tempted to read them. Not in the least tempted. The same way I wasn’t drawn in by Harry Potter or the Twilight series, I had no desire to read Lemony Snicket.

Author fact: Lemony Snicket is the pen name of Daniel Handler.

Book trivia: Everyone knows the Unfortunate Events series was made into a 2004 movie. (One I have yet to see. Big surprise there.)

Nancy said: Pearl called the series “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Only For Kids: Fantasies For Grown-Ups” (p 174).


Wandering Fire

Guy, Gavriel Kay. The Wandering Fire. New York: Arbor House, 1986.

Reason read: to continue the series started last month in honor of fantasy.

Although it isn’t readily obvious, Wandering Fire takes place six months after The Summer Tree. All of the humans are back. Kim is in desperate need of a dream to tell her the plan while Jennifer and Paul are chased by the wolf, Galadan. Paul is able to save them by pulling them back into Fionovar….and so begins the next installment of the Tapestry trilogy.
Like The Summer Tree before it, Wandering Fire, relies heavily on familiarity to keep non-fantasy readers engaged. This time the legends of King Arthur and Lancelot are front and center, with Jennifer as Guinevere from another lifetime. But, anyway…back to the plot. After hundreds of years of imprisonment, Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveller, has finally escaped the confines of his mountain jail. To punish the inhabitants of Fionavar he subjects them to a never-ending winter (I was reminded of the holiday special for kids: A Year Without Santa). I digress. Again. Needless to say, the cold confuses the calendar. Midsummer’s Eve is upon the people of Fionavar, but they have lost track of time because the weather is anything but summer-like. It takes a great deal of back and forth magic that I can’t even get into in order to break the spell. Did I mention fantasy isn’t my thing?
Meanwhile, there is the birth of Darien, half human and half demigod. He was born of darkness and light; of good and evil…you get the point. The real question is where will he end up when he is old enough to chose a side? Much like that Skywalker kid…I digress again.
One of my favorite characters dies. Bummer.

Line to like, “Are you trying to earn my hate?” I think I want to use that one on a few people.

Author fact: did I mention Kay is Canadian? I think he should write a fantasy about the U.S. and the upcoming election. It promises to be fantastic.

Book trivia: Wandering Fire was awarded the Prix Aurora Award (Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy award).

Nancy said: Pearl included The Wandering Fire in a list of contemporary critically acclaimed fantasy, but said nothing specific about the book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Summer Tree

Kay, Guy Gavriel. Summer Tree: The Fionavar Tapestry: Book One. New York: Roc Trade, 2001.

Expect the typical push and pull of good versus evil; light versus dark. Five typical college students are attending a lecture at the University of Toronto. This normal behavior grounds the lesser fan of fantasy and urges them to keep reading as the students are summoned by a dwarf and a mage to return to the world of Fionavar for a celebration. It’s High King Ailell of Brennin’s fiftieth year of rein and these five students are very important guests…or at least one of them seems to be. Being able to relate is the name of the game when trying to hook someone who isn’t a hard core fanatic of the fantasy genre. Summer Tree draws from Nordic and Celtic mythology as another way to insert familiarity into the plot. The characters are straight out of stereotyping (leave it to a burly man who has to avenge his humiliation with violence). The theme is definitely medieval, even in fashion with doublet and hose. The mystery of why these five students are important is dangled in front of the reader like a carrot on a stick. Another mystery is the sleeping danger that lurks beneath the mountain. This danger is hidden away and the possibility of its exposure is intriguing. All told, it is the dangerous Summer Tree that is the star of the show. The Summer Tree has blood magic and is sacred to Mornir of the Thunder. It is the place where people hang naked until the ultimate sacrifice of death.

The players:
Kevin, the musician.
Dave, the law student. He has a bad feeling about going to this new world and tries to bail at the last minute. He instead goes missing.
Kim Ford, studying to be a doctor. She becomes a seer early in the plot.
Paul Shafer, not well and grieving for a dead girlfriend.
Jennifer Lowell, a target for the prince’s affections.
Loren, the mage. Also known as Silvercloak.
Diamuid, the prince who has a thing for Jennifer.

One complaint is the implausible emotion brought on by unrealistic dialogue. Case in point: if a friend told me a dog “wanted” him I would have a hard time leaving the statement to hang in the air without so much as a raised eyebrow. I would be quizzically asking what he meant, or at the very least exclaiming the less intelligent, “whaa?!?”
A writing tactic I appreciated was the different perspectives of the same situation. It was reminiscent of Michael Dorris’s Yellow Raft in Blue Water, which I loved.

Expect a little sexism. Leave it to a man who has to avenge his humiliation. Case in point, most annoying quote: “She was growing too undisciplined; it was time to have her married.”

Author fact: Kay has been compared to Tolkien a bunch of times.

Book trivia: Summer Tree is Book One of the Fionavar Tapestry. There are two other books in the series.

Nancy said: Summer Tree was included in Pearl’s list of contemporary critically acclaimed fantasy.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Nemesis

Christie, Agatha. Nemesis. New York: Signet, 2000.

Reason read: Christie’s birth month is in September. Read in her honor even though I already read her Murder on the Orient Express this summer.

Nemesis is a breath of fresh air. When seemingly ordinary people: dentists, librarians, park guides (what have you) get caught up in murders again and again and again I get annoyed by the coincidence…especially if it is an unexplained phenomenon. Miss Jane Marple addresses crime’s ability to find her time and time again, acknowledging how odd it is for this elderly women to be an accidental investigator. I found that refreshing.
On to the plot: Jason Rafiel, an extremely wealthy man dies. Seeing his name in the obituary section of the newspaper sends Miss Marple down memory lane. She immediately beings to reminisce about the deceased even though she only met him once on a trip in the Caribbean West Indies. Oddly enough, they were thrown together to solve a mystery. Imagine that! What a coincidence when she receives a letter from the dead man asking her to take on an investigation without any information. If she can, she stands to earn 20,000. Is she to solve a crime or just a conundrum? Miss Jane Marple, elderly and nosy, is up to the task despite not knowing a single detail. Dear readers, this will be the final case of her investigative career. Back to the drama: Mysterious Mr. Rafiel sends her on a garden tour lasting two to three weeks and prearranges every detail for Miss Marple, right down to the people she needs to meet.
A warning to those sensitive to a time before political correctness: there is a lot of ageism and sexism. I have a high tolerance for the days before being polite…except for when they say a woman is asking to be raped. “Girls, you must remember, are far more ready to be raped nowadays than they used to be.” Whatever that means. I also took offense to the line, “Accuracy is more of a male quality than a female one.” Again, whatever.

Confessional: I have always wanted to read a Miss Marple mystery.

Lines I did like, “Well, she hadn’t wished to get mixed up in any murders, but it just happened” (p 8) and “Miss Marple lost herself in a train of thoughts that arose from her thoughts” (p 53).

Author fact: Besides the character of Miss Jane Marple, Christie is responsible for the creation of Inspector Hercule Poirot.

Book trivia: Nemesis is a Miss Marple mystery. The interesting thing is this is the only Miss Marple I am reading for the Lust Challenge, and it is well down the list in the series, meaning it was written late in Christie’s life. I have no idea why Pearl chose this particular title.

Nancy said: Pearl said Nemesis was “written quite late in Christie’s career, but up to her high standards” (Book Lust p 118).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the ginormous chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


Holes

Sachar, Louis. Holes. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998.

Reason read: September would have been Back to School month for most children. Now it’s the back to school month for some children, thanks to COVID-19.

This is one of the more imaginative books for kids I have read in a long time. Stanley Yelnats stands accused of stealing the shoes of a major league baseball legend nicknamed Sweet Feet. He claimed they mysteriously fell from the sky and hit him on the head. In lieu of jail, Stanley’s punishment of choice is 180 days at Camp Green Lake, a correctional facility for delinquent boys (“this isn’t Girl Scouts”). Once Stanley arrives he quickly learns every boy has to dig a 5’x5′ hole once a day in a desert full of scorpions, rattle snakes, and yellow lizards. Every boy has a nickname and every boy had a place in the pecking order. Stanley, soon renamed Caveman, is in the back of the line; ruled by X-Ray, Armpit, and the others. Interspersed in Stanley’s story is the legend of his family’s curse and how it follows Stanley to drought-ridden Camp Green Lake. I could go on and on about how clever Holes is, but it will take you a day to read it for yourself.

Author fact: Sachar has his own website here.

Book trivia: Holes was made into a movie in 2003 starring Shia LaBeouf and Sigourney Weaver. Of course I haven’t seen it, but it looks cute. Update: by the time I turned the very last page of the book I had the movie queued up.

Nancy said: Pearl said Holes was appropriate for boys and girls alike.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls”


Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.

Reason read: Doyle died in July. Read in his memory.

If you were to read the Complete Sherlock Holmes in chronological order, you would not start with the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The short stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, twelve in all, start after Holmes and Watson have gone their separate ways and are no longer sharing rooms of a flat together. Watson is by this time married with a house of his own while Holmes is still on Baker Street. One constant that remains throughout all the stories is Holmes’s ability to confuse people with his keen sense of observation. “How could you know that?” is a constant refrain. Another constant is that all of the stories are told in first person from Watson’s point of view.

Short stories:

  • “Scandal in Bohemia” – a Duke and heir King is blackmailed by an actress. Sherlock, with the help of Holmes, attempts to end the threat but the woman outsmarts them.
  • “Red-Headed League” – what do you get when you mix a redhead, an Encyclopedia, a bank, and a scam? Answer: a Sherlock Holmes mystery, of course!
  • “A Case of Identity” – How far will a man go to keep his stepdaughter from marrying?
  • “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” – Did a man really murder his father or is there more going on?
  • “The Five Orange Pips” – a curse has come down through the generations, terrorizing a family.
  • “The Man with the Twisted Lip” – This was my favorite. A man goes missing and is believed to be dead while his wife has faith he is alive.
  • “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” – Who stole this precious jewel?
  • “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” – another crazy story about a father not wanting his daughters to marry because of losing the inheritance.
  • “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” – is it a spoiler to say this is one story where the criminals get away?
  • “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” – Just what the title says, a guy does the right thing.
  • “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” – family devotion illustrated with a coronet.
  • “The Adventure of the Copper Beaches” – a really interesting story about trying to thwart a wedding (another common theme for Sherlock).

Author fact: rumor has it, Sherlock Holmes is somewhat modeled after Dr. Joseph Bell, a professor of Dolye’s at Edinburgh University.

Book trivia: Despite publishing two novels previously, Doyle’s career didn’t take off until he started writing short stories. The twelve listed above were published together in 1892.

Nancy said: Pearl included the Complete Sherlock Holmes in a list of private-eye mysteries.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the really long chapter called “I love a Mystery” (p 117).


Bright Nights, Big City

McInerney, Jay. Bright Nights, Big City. New York: Vintage Books, 1984

Reason read: New York became a state in the month of July. I am also reading this for the Portland Public Library reading challenge for the category of novel written in second person.

While reading Bright Nights, Big City you want to call its protagonist a sucker. On the mean streets of New York City he buys fake Rolex watches, falls for fake schemes, follows around false friends, and believes a model could fake loving him enough to stay married until death do them part. You want to call this guy a loser because you know there isn’t a happy ending for him. There can’t be. Drugs constantly addle his mind and he never sleeps enough. His spiral becomes out of control when he loses his fact checking job for a publication, he loses his freak friends, and nearly loses his mind. What he doesn’t realize is that he has a lot to mourn. He had wanted to be a writer. He wanted to be married to a hot girl. He wanted his mother to survive cancer. He is literally drowning his deep seeded in a tsunami of cocaine and bright lights. The end comes when rock bottom is met and our friend has to have an awakening of sorts.

Author fact: McInerney also wrote the screenplay for the movie of the same name.

Book trivia: Bright Nights, Big City was made into a movie starring Michael J. Fox in 1988. You can tell I haven’t seen it because I kept getting it confused with the movie starring Robert Downey, Jr., Less Than Zero.

Nancy said: Pearl called Bright Nights, Big City a “wonderful” novel.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “New York, New York” (p 170).


Mosquito Coast

Theroux, Paul. The Mosquito Coast. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Reason read: June 21st is Father’s Day. Ahem.

Despite this being a book read in honor of Father’s Day, Charlie Fox’s dad isn’t the ideal father figure. He could fit into the role of Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s The Shining. Allie Fox, from the town of Hadley in Massachusetts, doesn’t trust the traditional school system, doesn’t trust the government, doesn’t trust his neighbors. He believes he can teach his children (Charlie, Jerry and the twins, Clover and April) all they need to know. He doesn’t suffer fools and constantly tests his children’s courage, especially eldest son Charlie’s. He is in constant competition with other men (“How many push ups can you do?”); he is proud, defiant, and must not, absolutely cannot, be embarrassed in front of his family. Fed up with his own country, Papa Fox is easily swayed by Honduran migrant workers to pack up his family and move to the Mosquito Coast. Once there, Theroux threads a growing sense of unease throughout the pages. The first whiff of danger comes with Father jokes about throwing Mr. Haddy overboard and it is possible to believe he is mad enough to have done it. Like Kings’s Jack Torrance, Allie Fox displays an escalating sense of craziness as time goes on. Paranoia grows like mold in the jungles of Honduras. It goes without saying that things don’t end well for the Fox family; or maybe they do if you like endings like The Shining.

As an aside, it is really strange to read about the area in which I currently call “home.” I try not to over analyze Theroux’s descriptions of Northampton or Hatfield or Springfield.

Lines or phrases I liked: First the phrases – “four-o’clock-in-the-morning courage,” and “creepy-quiet.”
Here are the lines I liked – “It was the town of dead ends” (p 108), “But what can you do with people who have already been corrupted?” (p 190), and last one, ” When a person is suffering and afraid, his ailments are obvious and his injuries stick out” (p 298).

Author fact: I think it is obvious Theroux spent some time in Massachusetts.

Book trivia: Woodcuts are by David Frampton. Another piece of trivia: Mosquito Coast was made into a movie in 1986.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Mosquito Coast other than explain the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Fathers and Sons” (p 85).


The Good War

Terkel, Studs. “The Good War”: an Oral History of World War Two. New York: Partheon Books, 1984

Reason read: I am taking a full two months to the “The Good War.” Victory Day is May 9th and D-Day is June 6th.

The best way to read “The Good War” is to sit down with a cup of coffee and envision a WWII vet sitting across from you. He has a faraway look in his eyes and a slight tremor in his hands as he remembers best a single event that most likely changed his life forever. But, don’t stop there. Now sitting across from you could be a businessman, a nurse, a dress maker, a dancer, a man who was just a child during the war and thought the battlefield was place of adventure. you might imagine someone who survived a prison camp, or a conscientious objector, or a young boy who thought enlisting would be a chance to prove himself…Terkel interviewed people from all walks of life. Each story is unique and yet, yet hauntingly similar. You hear of young men losing their sense of humanity in the face of unimaginable cruelty: a man remembers watching his comrade in arms throw pebbles into the open skull of a dead Japanese soldier; the smell of cooking cats. Other young men speak of hiding their sexual orientation while trying to appear manly enough for battle (Ted Allenby’s story reminded me of Ryan O’Callaghan a great deal). But, you also hear from the women: wives and girlfriends left behind, Red Cross nurses on the front lines, even singers sent to entertain the troops. It is easy to see why this stunning nonfiction won a Pulitzer.

Quotes to quote, “No matter what the official edict, for millions of American women home would never be again a Doll’s House” (p 10), and “I got on the stick and wrote the President again” (p 21), and “Must a society experience horror in order to understand horror?” (p 14).

Author fact: Studs’s real name was Louis.

Book trivia: “The Good War” won a Pulitzer for nonfiction in 1985.

Nancy said: Pearl said you could never do better than Terkel’s “The Good War” for an oral history. Agreed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War Two Nonfiction” (p 254).


Lovely Bones

Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2002.

Reason read: Father’s Day is June 21, 2020. Susie’s father never gave up on finding Susie’s killer. A father’s love triumphs against all tragedies, doesn’t it?

This is the sort of book that takes you by the throat and hold you in a death grip like Darth Vader. I say this because there are times when I could not breathe while reading The Lovely Bones because I was either actively holding my breath, or choking on the different expressions of heartbreak. In truth, every emotion (think stages of grief) floats just under the icy surface of reality as a dead girl narrates “life” after murder. Susie Salmon was an ordinary girl who knew right from wrong; knew the man in the cornfield wasn’t quite right, but yet curiosity got the better of her. Now, she is suspended in this alternate universe of “heaven” while watching her family, friends, and community cope with her murder. In her heaven, reality is a school-like atmosphere while she blandly looks down on the world she left behind. She is unmoved when her mother seeks a drastic remedy for grief, or when her would-be boyfriend almost finds her body.
What impressed me the most about The Lovely Bones was the end. Sebold did not feel pressured to give into a Hollywood ending. It might be a spoiler alert, but the ending is more realistic than what you would see in a movie. I’m alright with that.

As an aside, I have been watching Mind Hunter on Netflix (just started, so don’t ruin it for me) and The Lovely Bones keeps popping into my head every time another Georgian boy goes missing. I kept asking how? every single time.

Quotes I liked, “There wasn’t a lot of bullshit in my heaven” (p 8), and “In violence, it is the getting away that you concentrate on” (p 37).

Author fact: The Lovely Bones was Sebold’s first novel.

Book trivia: everyone knows The Lovely Bones was made into a movie in December of 2009. I still have yet to see it.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Lovely Bones original and shocking.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A…My name is Alice” (p 1).