I Do Not Come To You By Chance

Nwaubani, Adaobi Tricia. I Do Not Come to You By Chance. London: Hachette Digital, 2009.

Reason read: The four-day Argungu Fishing Festival is held in annually every March in Nigeria.

Augustina/Ozoemena’s mother died in childbirth, a sin in Nigeria. It is as if this terrible event had cast a long shadow on the family; one that would follow Augustina into adulthood. Her family of five is wallowing in debt, made worse when her husband falls ill and dies of a stroke. Her son, Kingsley Onyeaghalanwanneya Ibe, being the opara of the family, has been tasked with borrowing money from rich Uncle Boniface. Everyone knows him as Cash Daddy. It is an embarrassment for the family because Cash Daddy does not come by his wealth honestly. There is something dark and dangerous about his lifestyle. But Kingsley can’t come by work honestly; he can’t afford his girlfriend’s bride price; he can’t afford to be the man of the house without a job. What’s the saying? Desperate times call for desperate measures. Despite Kingsley’s reluctance to borrow from Cash Daddy he does so, again and again. This debt ensnares him in his uncle’s world of big corporate scams. Education may have its respectable place, but money moves the world and makes things happen.

Lines I liked, “My taste buds had been hearing the smell of my mother’s cooking and my stomach had started talking” (p 17). Sounds like something I would say. Another good line, “Uncle Boniface had exceeded the speed limit in his derogatory comments” (p 103).

Author fact: I Do Not Come to You By Chance is Nwaubani’s first book and it won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Book trivia: I Do Not Come to You by Chance was also awarded a Betty Trask First Book Award in 2009.

Nancy said: Pearl called I Do Not Come to You By Chance humorous yet thought provoking. It reminded me of the movie Dead Presidents. The criminals were forced into a life of crime because they couldn’t catch a break living honestly.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Nigeria” (p 156).


Think of England

Dark, Alice Elliott. Think of England. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Reason read: Dark was born in December; read in her honor.

Confessional: I read this so fast I didn’t start a blog or take many notes. It’s like a bullet train that sped by me once I finished reading and jumped off.

Jane MacLeod’s life is chronicled in this short first novel from Alice Elliott Dark. We first meet nine year old Jane in rural Pennsylvania where she aspires to be a writer. Under bed covers and behind doors, she writes stories about her family. [Confessional: For a moment this activity reminded me of Harriet, the Spy. By comparison, Jane is more introspective and less mean.] Jane claims she can remember the moment she was born. She carefully watches her parents and their teetering-on-rocky relationship. As young as she is, Jane understands not all is perfect in their household. She can tell when her mother has had too much to drink and she listens closely when the adults talk snipe at each other openly; when her parents forget they are not alone in the room. After a tragic accident, the story jumps many years and Jane is now far away from her family and living in London as a twenty-something writer. She has befriended a few artists, who encourage her poetic endeavors, and a married man who encourages her romantic ones. Fast forward a bunch of years and Jane is back in the States, now living in New York with a daughter of her own. Reunited with family, Jane comes full circle in her quest to understand the tragedy which separated them so long ago.

The title comes from Lady Hillingdon’s 1912 sad journal when she revealed she thinks of England whenever she must have unwanted sex with her husband. Yup. So there’s that. Jane’s mother uses the phrase whenever there is a setback of any size.

Lines I liked, “She was a slow burning shadow” (p 21), “She fought back by competing; if her mother made her feel small, she’d make herself even smaller” (p 32), “They stared at each other across a chasm of diverging logic, all the misunderstandings between them crammed between rings of the phone” (p32), and “Ghosts could cross water, after all” (p 184). There were dozens of other lines I would like to share, but this will have to do. Just read the book. Seriously.

Author fact: Think of England is Dark’s first novel.

Book trivia: when trying to search for Think of England the book, I kept coming up with K.J. Charles. I like that Dark is a little obscure.

Nancy said: Pearl called Dark’s writing “highly polished and controlled (but frequently emotionally charged” (Book Lust p 1).

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


Sporting Club

McGuane, Thomas. The Sporting Club. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968.

Reason read: The Mackinac Bridge was built in November of 1957.

To be honest with you, I’m not really sure what this book was trying to say. I could spout off about a general plot, the characters and the like, but really I don’t know if I landed on the reality what I read.
You have Vernon Stanton and James Quinn for main characters. All Quinn wants to do is be a gentleman and have gentlemanly sex with Janey or anyone who will have him, but unfortunately he keeps running into trouble with loose cannon Stanton; constantly getting caught up in the childish antics of his childhood chum. Stanton is a millionaire with a nasty habit of picking up dueling pistols at the slightest provocation. His behavior is often times outrageous and crass. I couldn’t land on a solid plot that made sense and I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in the characters I met. There was an abundance of posturing, butt sniffing, and pardon my language, dick measuring. Luckily, it was a short read.

Quote I happened to like, “He was close enough to his success to be spurred on by amazement” (p 22).

Author fact: McGuane is better known for his third book, Ninety-Two in the Shade (also on my Challenge list and completed) which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1974.

Book trivia: The Sporting Club is McGuane’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl called the fiction of McGuane “exquisitely tough and gritty” (p 101).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gone Fishin'” (p 100). I have to say The Sporting Club doesn’t really belong in this chapter. The sport of fishing does take place in the book but not often enough.


Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows

Chamoiseau, Patrick. Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows. Translated by Linda Coverdale. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1988.

Reason read: October is the month to celebrate Magical Realism.

The spiritual awakenings of the long dead undead and the magical presence of the beam of everlasting moonlight across the wayward ocean of the Caribbean. Siloce, Hepla, Kouli, Mam Elo, Ti-Boute, Fefee Celie, Anatase, Ti-Choute, Bidjoule, and all the others thread their way through witchcraft markets teeming with childbirth and djobbers like Didon, Sirop, Pin-Pon, Lapochide, Sifilon and our hero, Pipi Soleil. It takes thirty pages to get to Pipi Soleil through abundant pregnancies and whatnot, but Pipi as as king of the wheelbarrow takes center stage. The first thing you need to understand is this is a story told by ghosts and witchcraft and moves back and forth through time as though sequence is of no matter, because it isn’t. Spanning thirty years from the mid 1940s to the mid 1970s, Martinique’s Fort-de-France teems full of djobbers, independent transporters of wares and Pipi Soleil rules them all. He once hauled his wares by boat but after one particularly stormy night he gave up the sea for a wheelbarrow. Even if the plot does not grab you, the lyrical writing will.

Confessional: I have said this before. I am not a good reader of magical realism. I find myself annoyed by the seemingly unrelated fantastical. Seems like more of a trick to me than a treat.

Lines I lived, “She was going to grab fate, she said, by a different end” (p 18), “the young couple made their love debut in this setting – which isn’t of the slightest importance” (p 29), and “She dumped out a big basket of weariness and brought laughter and smiles back form some lost corner of her mind” (p 85).

Author fact: Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows was Chamoiseau’s first novel.

Book trivia: Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows was first published in France in 1986.

Nancy said: Peal called Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows a “vivid” novel.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Contradictory Caribbean: Paradise and Pain” (p 55).


Antonia Saw the Oryx First

Thomas, Maria. Antonia Saw the Oryx First. New York: Soho, 1987.

Reason read: August is Friendship Month.

Antonia Redmond and Esther Moro have an interesting relationship as they couldn’t be anymore different from one another. Antonia, an educated white woman, was born to American parents but has lived in Dar es Salaam, Africa nearly all of her life. As a doctor, she has been schooled in traditional modern medicine. Meanwhile, Esther Moro is on the other end of the spectrum as a woman who sells her body to make ends meet. “She knows only men” as the band The Horseflies would say. After a particularly violent encounter with a Greek fisherman Esther and Antonia meet as patient and doctor. At first Esther wants Antonia to teach her the rules of modern medicine, but soon discovers she has the power to heal within her already. Esther listens to her culture’s whisperings of witchcraft, ancient legends, and curses.

Author fact: Maria Thomas was a pen name for Roberta Worrick. She died in a plane crash was she was only 47 years old.

Book trivia: Two pieces of trivia, actually. Antonia Saw the Oryx First was Thomas’s first novel. She also wrote African Visas which is on my Challenge list for May 2031.

Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t say anything specific about the book or the author; just describes the plot a little.

BookLust Twist: Twice from Book Lust. Once in the chapter called “African Colonialism: Fiction” (p 14) and also in the Book Lust chapter “Women’s Friendships” (p 247).


Gardens of Kyoto

Walbert, Kate. The Gardens of Kyoto. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2001.

Reason read: in honor of the Japanese Tanabata Festival even though The Gardens of Kyoto have nothing to do with Japan or the Tanabata Festival.

What is a memory when it can be tainted or changed by the emotional upheaval of growing up? By grief? Ellen’s favorite cousin, killed in the final days of World War II, leaves a lasting impression on her young life and ultimately shapes her future world. Randall’s death is profound on multiple levels. He leaves Ellen his diary and a book called The Gardens of Kyoto, his most meaningful possessions. The parallel between the Gardens of Kyoto that fascinated Randall and Ellen’s present-day reality is in the illusion: of what is really there before your eyes. Ellen goes through life constantly questioning Randall’s influences.
There is a subtle resilience to Walbert’s writing; an understated strength and grace to her words.

Lines that lingered in my mind, “You will find that certain words stay with you” (p 38), “Exotic and smoky and entirely out of place across from cornfields” (p 66), and my favorite, “You have been mine since the day you were born” (p 273).

Confessional: I know what it is like to be close to a cousin; to have that special bond, only to lose him to death. Memories become profound and I often find myself sifting through them for all the hidden meanings of life.

Author fact: Walbert also wrote Our Kind (also on my Challenge list).

Book trivia: Gardens of Kyoto is Kate Walbert’s first book.

Nancy said: Nancy includes Gardens of Kyoto as a first novel she is “delighted to have read” (p 88).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the simple chapter called “First Novels” (p 88).


Martin Sloane

Redhill, Michael. Martin Sloane. Back Bay Books, 2002. http://archive.org/martinsloanenove00redh

Redhill, Michael. Martin Sloane. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001.

Reason read: May is known as missing child month in some parts of the world. Choosing this book for recognition of missing child month was a little tongue in cheek because it’s actually an adult who goes missing, but his childhood plays a big part of the story. In a way, he has been missing since childhood.

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I love that song.) I had to feel sorry for Jolene. At the tender age of 19 she becomes a pen pal to a man 35 years her senior. At 21 she becomes his lover and loses her virginity to him. Think about that for a second. He’s old enough to be her father. She dedicates her young life to a man 35 years older than her, teaching him how to drive and caring for him like a husband, all because she fell in love with his artistry at first sight. Little object-filled boxes of life. His life. They intrigued her, then captivated her.
Irish born artist, Martin Samuel Joseph Sloane is a conundrum. When he suddenly leaves his and Jolene’s home in the middle of the night, Jolene is left with his little boxes and a million questions. What follows is a quest for love. The themes of loss and forgiveness are unmistakable but what bubbles to the surface in the end is maturation and grace.

Quotes to catch my attention (and there were a lot of them to chose from), “I’d had my share of exquisite humiliations before, but never with someone I actually liked (p 27), “And we continued to learn the other like explorers expanding their maps of the known world” (p 34), “I learned to live with this spectacle of concealment” (p 52), and my favorite, “Love provokes all kinds of behaviour and in retrospect it all seems warranted: you have to allow for passions” (p 93).

As an aside: I think I have said it before, but I like it when a book introduces me to new music. This time it’s new old music, “When Day is Done.” I found a really sultry version sung by Clint Walker on YouTube.
Another aside: I had never been to Watkin’s Glen, New York before meeting my husband. Redhill inserts a minor character from Watkin’s Glen living in Ireland.

Author fact: Redhill wrote many other novels, some under the pseudonym Inger Ash Wolfe, but I only read Martin Sloane for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Martin Sloane is Redhill’s first novel and it nominated for the Giller Prize.

Nancy said: Pearl called Redhill’s book Michael Sloane instead of Martin Sloane. It’s indexed that way as well.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Maiden Voyages” (p ).


Corregidora

Jones, Gayl. Corregidora. New York: Random House, 1975.
Jones, Gayl. Corregidora. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992

The story of Ursa Corregidora is kick-you-in-the-teeth powerful. When we first meet Ursa Corregidora she is a 25 year old blues singer with a jealous husband. When Ursa disregards Mutt’s jealousy and continues performing in the bars he throws her down a flight of stairs causing her to lose her month-old pregnancy. After a hysterectomy Ursa repeatedly revisits her past, reliving generations and generations of slavery and rape. She has been brought up to believe that a woman’s worth lies in her ability to reproduce. Without a womb she is haunted by her ancestors. Physically, she is nursed back to health by her boss and soon his caring takes on a sexual element, one that Ursa has a hard time understanding or enjoying. And speaking of sex, there is a lot of it in Corregidora. Be forewarned, the language is necessarily harsh. This is a short but very powerful book. Read it again and again and again.

Two lines that made me catch my breath: “And what if I’d thrown Mutt Thomas down those stairs instead, and done away with the source of his sex, or inspiration, or whatever the hell it is for a man, what would he feel now?” (p 41) and “You don’t treat love that way” (p 46).

Reason read: Gayl Jones was born in the month of November.
Reason read again: As part of the Early Review program with LibraryThing, I requested to read this book again.

Author fact: Corregidora is Gayl Jones’s first book.

Book trivia: There is little information about Jones anywhere on Corregidora. There isn’t a photograph or “about the author” statement. It’s as if she wanted the work to stand for itself.
Book trivia part II: this was republished as part of the Celebrating Black Women Writers series.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 13).