The Boy in the Snow

M.J. McGrath’s The Boy in the Snow combines the murder of a child with a lot that is wrong with Alaskan culture. The isolation may be good for a someone wanting quiet but its also the perfect hiding place to traffic women to satisfy the needs of those recluses.

I found the story interesting but the character Edie Kiglatuk an unlikely crime solver. She is a half-Inuit from the remoteness of northern Canada who is in Anchorage only to help support her ex in his attempt to complete the famous Iditarod race across Alaska. She uses many instincts that a traditional crime solver wouldn’t, like her ability to navigate in remote, snowy areas on foot and hide her path.

Overall, I can’t say that this was a particularly great book and its been several weeks now since I read it so I’m foggy on why I felt that way. I read it quickly and I liked that she dealt with things that were wrong with Alaskan society, like trafficing woman, illegal adoptions, political corruptness, while still showing the beauty of the land. Maybe it was a little over the top for me. Edie is from a small village and comes to the big city and solves a huge crime just by using a lot of her intuition. I can’t really put my finger on what my problem with this book is, but it just felt a little unreal. In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of crime novels is that they have to be believable. Something about this novel felt forced.

Read November 2014

Death in August

In Death in August, Marco Vichi’s Inspector Bordelli has seen more than he’d like of petty crime after Italy began its recovery after World War II, but it doesn’t leave him jaded and cynical. Instead he respects that with the horrible economy of post-war Italy, people need to survive and sometimes that means breaking the laws. Inspector Bordelli, against direct orders, fights for the little guy, even if the little guy is caught breaking and entering occasionally.

When a wealthy signora dies under suspicious circumstances, Ins. Bordelli has to try to find answers with the city sweltering and empty. Like most crime novels, the Inspector stews on the details of the crime for lengthy periods trying to put the pieces together, especially since his main suspects were supposedly at the beach during the time of the murder.

Bordelli is a reluctant bachelor wishing that he had someone to share his life. Instead of a wife, he surrounds himself with friends that he meets in his line of work. His friendships sustain him and his dinner parties give him and his friends a platform to reminisce about their lives, war, loves, and maintain a connection that make him content.

This was a quick crime read. Entertaining and enjoyable to read.

Read December 2014

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn tells the story of Francie Nolan, born at the turn of the 20th century into a life of poverty. With a mother who works hard to support the family and a fun alcoholic dad who cannot be relied on for steady work, Francie and her younger brother Neeley have to help out by selling odd scraps along with the other poor children. Francie is a dreamer and her mother, with whom she has a mixed relationship, is not. But Katie learned from her own mother that the way to a better life is through education. So Katie gets ahold of a Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare to teach her children to read and hopes that this will help them succeed more in life. This beginning gives Francie something she needs and doesn’t realize that she has her mother to thank for this. It gives her an escape from the poverty by getting books from the local library, she’s able to read and go to other worlds.

While her mother feeds her love of education by reading nightly, when Francie wants to transfer to another school, where perhaps she won’t be treated like a leper of the public school system, her mother does nothing to help. Johnny steps into his parenting role and gets Francie into the school by lying about their address. Francie takes on the additional responsibility of having to walk back and forth to school twice a day, since her mother refuses to provide her a sack lunch.

The mother-daughter relationship is full of turmoil, with Katie admitting to the reader that she prefers Neeley over Francie. Francie was the harder baby to rear, but Katie never notices or acknowledges that as the children grow, she relies on Francie unfairly while giving extras to Neeley. Francie is the one to work, while Neeley goes to high school because Katie knows that Francie will get educated somehow, while Neeley is a slacker. While understandable, it reeks of favoritism and unfairness.

Smith’s characters are rich with contradiction and love for each other. She deals with life’s harshness but never lets the characters give up hope that something will get better. The characters are like the tree that grows in Brooklyn from the title, popping up in little cracks in the sidewalk, wanting life no matter the cost and environment. And the environment that Smith describes is harsh and unforgiving, but Francie will survive.

This was a fantastic book to read and to discuss in book club. I’m not giving the book justice by this documentation and may come back when I’m less tired to add more. This book is so rich in topics to discuss: poverty, sexism, racism, alcoholism, and more isms. Not only does this book capture a time period and place, it captures so much that is true about human nature and relationships.

Beautifully moving story.

Read November 2014