“Roses, Rhododenron”

Adams, Alice. “Roses, Rhododendron.” The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Reason read: June is short story month.

“Roses, Rhododendron” is a short story of the angsty kind. Jane remembers her coming of age childhood; after her father left them for a younger woman, ten year old Jane’s mother packed them up and moved from Boston to the suburbs of North Carolina. Jane remembers everything being different in the south – the houses, the gardens, the people. She looks back at the  impact made by the relationship she had at the time with her eccentric mother, Margot and the new friendship with a girl her age living in the neighborhood, Harriet and Harriet’s mother, Emily. Jane was fascinated with everything in Harriet’s life. It seemed so calm and dignified compared to her own. Mother Margot had a loose, breezy hold on her daughter while allowing a Ouija board to dictate her own life. Meanwhile, Harriet’s parents appeared to be cultured, educated and refined. It was only when Margot disclosed some unsettling gossip that Jane decided they had more in common than she first thought. But, the biggest surprise came when in adulthood Harriet revealed to Jane she impacted her family just as much Harriet had impacted Jane’s.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).


Bruised Hibiscus

Nunez, Elizabeth. Bruised Hibiscus. Seattle: Seal Press, 2000.

Reason read: There is a steel drum festival called the Pan Ramajay festival that sometimes takes place in May.

Lean into the narrative of Bruised Hibiscus lest you might miss something important or more likely, something sensuous. The lyrical language is like two songs being sung at the same time. Two love songs in different languages. First, there is the language of the Trinidad village of Otahiti, abuzz with the news of a mysterious white woman pulled from the sea, her eyes and lips eaten away by sea life. An evil has come into their community. Then there is the culture of sexuality, both good and bad, which circles two marriages. Two women share a dark secret from childhood; forever linked after witnessing the brutal violation of a young girl. Zuela is the mother of ten children and runs a grocery shop with her husband in Port-of-Spain. Rosa lives on the other side of town in a two-story house in Taccarigua. As adults Zuela and Rosa are mired in loveless and cruel marriages. When the body of the white woman was first discovered, each woman reacted differently but both shared the sensation of memories of the young girl’s violation flooding back.

Examples of the lyrical language, “She, too, had removed the boulder damming her memory” (p 43), and “Then the Chinaman insisted, and forced her lips to shape his words” (p 63).

As an aside, my mother used to play an album by a Calypso band called The Merrymen. They had a song about the Yankee dollar. This book reminded me of them.

Author fact: Nunez was born in Trinidad but lives in New York.

Book trivia: I found Bruised Hibiscus to be somewhat repetitive. Be prepared to feel like you are reading whole passages four or five times.

Nancy said: Nancy said she enjoyed the novels of Nunez (p 58).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Trinidad and Tobago” (p 58).


Oneiron

Lindstedt, Linda. Oneiron: a fantasy about the seconds after death. Translated by Owen Witesman. London: OneWorld, 2018.

Reason read: I requested this book as an Early Review from LibraryThing.

How to describe this book? Odd? Maybe. It is the imaginative story of seven unique women who are caught in a space somewhere between death and the final destination, wherever that may be. It is obvious all seven women have passed away but they themselves are not fully cognizant of that fact. They aren’t even sure they know where they are except to say they are in a white room devoid of detail. Each woman has a thoroughly detailed personality and an elaborate past to match. More time is spent telling the reader where they have been instead of moving them forward to where they are going. It gets heavy at times. Certain scenes are graphic.

Disclaimer: I normally only chose two different types of books from LibraryThing for the Early Review Program: nonfiction and debut novels. For some reason, the premise of Oneiron (pronounced o.ne:.ron from the Greek, meaning dream) fascinated me: seven women meet in an undefined space only seconds after their deaths. They are in the space between life and afterlife. The don’t understand this in-between world.

Second disclaimer: I was not prepared for the lesbian sex scene right off the bat, only four pages in.
Truth be told, I had a hard time with this. I could put it down for days weeks and not miss the characters I abandoned. I didn’t find a likable woman in the bunch. Maybe that was my problem.

Author fact: Lindstedt’s debut novel was Scissors. Another useless piece of trivia: Lindstedt has amazing cheek bones. She could model in her spare time. Maybe she does.

Book trivia: Oneiron has already won the Finlandia Prize, Finland’s highest literary honor. Another piece of trivia: Oneiron is organized a little differently than American published books. Table of contents is in the back while the author bio is in the front.


Marching Out

March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

Nonfiction –

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels
  • Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Series Continuations –

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts

Early Review for Librarything –

  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
  • Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves

Poetry –

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)

Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.


February Falling Up

I can only describe February as falling up because health-wise I am up on upswing. I’m still not really running yet (I’ve gone for four under-three-mile runs, but who’s counting?). I’m not really running but I haven’t fallen down either. Hence, falling up.

We had a snow day from work, I took a few days off for my birthday and we took a trip to New Jersey so I was able to get in a fair amount of reading. I spent President’s Day reading, too. Oh, and I almost forgot. I’m barely running so there’s that, too. Needless to say, I’ve been reading a lot. Weirdly enough, for all the reading I’ve done you would think there would be more books. Oh well. Speaking of the books, here they are:

Fiction:

  • Dead Room Farce by Simon Brett. Read in three days.
  • Captivated by Nora Roberts. Read on my iPad in four days.
  • Backup Men by Ross Thomas. Read in five days.
  • The Almond Picker by Simonetta Hornby.
  • Color of Money by Walter Tevis. Read in five days.

Nonfiction:

  • City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.
  • Full Steam Ahead by Rhoda Blumberg.

Series Continuation:

  • Beyond Euphrates by Freya Stark.

For Fun:

  • Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline.

Beyond Euphrates

Stark, Freya. Beyond Euphrates: autobiography 1928 – 1933. London: John Murray, 1951.

Reason read: Stark was born in January. Reading Beyond Euphrates to continue the series.

When we left Freya at the end of Traveller’s Prelude Freya had just gained her independence as an adult and the travel bug had bitten hard. She takes her first journey in 1928 to Damascus. As a woman, traveling without an escort was unheard of in 1928. To make matters worse, because Freya could speak several different languages, she was believed to be a Russian spy when she reached Baghdad. The more Freya travels, the more her independent spirit grows. She scoffs at using escorts and chaperones. At one point she fears being tied to a job because it might keep her rooted in one place and yet she needed to earn a living in order to keep traveling. It was at this point that she started writing articles and her first book, Baghdad Sketches was published. Stark ends Beyond Euphrates in hopes of traveling to Yemen next. Amusingly enough, in her last letter to her mother she rejoices to find a good face cream.

Quotes to quote. An example of bravery: “I don’t mind the chance at being shot at, but did not want to be held up by police and kept all night in one of their solitary little towers for safety…” (p 270). An example of humor: “Darling B, I am busy with prostitutes” (p 267).

Author fact: Stark had a sense of humor. Case in point: “Captain Holt told me I had better go home from North Persia by way of Moscow (where he is to be): and I had to remind him that I am a Bolshevic spy” (p 127).

Book trivia: Beyond Euphrates also has great photographs. Not as many of Freya, though. Second book trivia – I am reading a first edition of Beyond Euphrates.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travellers” (p 142).


Fay

Brown, Larry. Fay. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2000.

Reason reading: December is Southern Literature Month. Fay takes place in Mississippi.

You can’t help but fall in love with Fay…in the beginning. Despite being abused by animals and humans alike beautiful seventeen year old Fay Jones holds out hope she can be friends with either of them. Preferably both at some point in her young life. But for now she is eager to find Biloxi after running away from a potentially dangerous and definitely drunk father. With only the clothes on her back and two dollars hidden in her bra, she is uneducated and generous; thoughtful in a complicated and naive way. She’ll trust anyone who can steer her in the right direction. You’ll find yourself holding your breath as she hitches a ride with three drunk boys back to their trailer deep in the woods. You again become breathless when a cop picks her up and takes her home. Fay’s ignorance makes people want to help her and hurt her all at the same time. I must admit, over time Fay’s willingness (eagerness?) to fall in with some really bad people grew wearisome. She’s either intensely shallow or so stupid she can’t help herself. She doesn’t recognize when someone is taking advantage of her. When she goes from being a blushing virgin to an easy lay in one week’s time I felt myself losing interest in her fate and willing the character I did care about to stay away from her.
Because Brown will make you care about some people. Even Fay.

My biggest pet peeve? Brown is almost too coy, too cute and dare I say, cheesy? about creating reader suspense at times. His first mention of Alesandra elicited an eye roll from me. One inappropriate remark that spoke volumes in a sea of other details and then nothing for pages and pages. It’s the proverbial gun on a table. Sooner or later it has to go off.

The only line I liked, “Then he was standing there with his neatly pressed gray trousers, a blue stripe down each leg, a gun on his hip and a crisp shirt, his nameplate and his shiny brass and all the authority she feared” (p 34).

Author fact: Brown also wrote Joe and Dirty Work. I’m reading both. Here is the crazy thing. For the first time I have started tracking the approximate time certain books will come up on the schedule. According to the master calendar I will be reading Joe in December of 2037 and Dirty Work in October of 2040.

Book trivia: This should be a movie. It has everything. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Strippers, prostitutes and drug dealers. Explosions and violence. And don’t forget beautiful scenery of the Mississippi gulf coast.

Nancy said: Nancy said “any list of grit-lit practitioners worth its whiskey would also include Larry Brown” (p 106). She also said Fay drifts through life “serenely” and “almost untouched” by the violence around her. I don’t know if I would agree. Fay’s traumas haunt her constantly. I would see her more as resilient; trying to push on despite the abuses. She has a steely determination to survive.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very appropriate chapter called “Grit Lit” (p 106).