harmony

Carolyn Parkhurst’s “harmony” is told from 3 perspectives: the mother, the “normal” sister, and as if visiting a strange historical monument of the family.

The Hammond family, in an attempt to help their undiagnosable, Autistic-like daughter Tilly, leaves their DC home and moves to New Hampshire’s Camp Harmony. The brain-child of a child-rearing expert, the childless man named Scott Bean, Camp Harmony will help serve kids who are struggling in their homelife by providing a community that can help support them in their own unique development. The camp is essentially cut off from the world and the residents put their faith in Scott Bean’s approach in the last of innumerable attempts to help their children.

The story’s many twists and turns help tell the struggle of the Hammond family in trying to help Tilly. And the Camp does seem to be helping several of the children that need help but at what cost.

Intersting perspective of living with a family member who does not conform.

Read July 2018

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Silence in October

Jens Christian Grondahl’s Silence in October differs than any other novel I’ve read, possibly ever. An art historian wakes up one morning and his wife of 18 years walks away from their home without explanation or questioning. This begins a stream of consciousness of our narrator about his life, his past loves, and how he’s lived with someone for so long that maybe they lost touch.

Its quite an interesting read. I changed from disliking the wife who left, to disliking the narrator for not asking more questions. No one is perfect in this book as we travel from the present to the past, from current relationships and friendships to loves long gone. Can anyone even know anyone? Can anyone ever be happy or know that they are? Can we become stale in a relationship if everyone’s ok with as things are?

I slowed to this novel, having bought it years ago, and started it multiple times. But once invested in why the wife left, I needed to keep going. Maybe the question shouldn’t be why did the wife leave, but why had she stayed for so many years.

Excellent read. Read July 2018.

The Nightingale

What a great book! The Nightingale is about families, secrets, and protecting one another, and set with the back drop of WWII, where the French citizens are barely staying alive. Kristin Hannah shows a side of the war that I’ve not heard much about with a set of sisters set in a small village and Paris. Vianne and Isabelle  grew up very differently when their mother died and their father abandoned them. Vianne, eight years older, was able to marry soon and have a family. Isabelle, more rebellious, was sent from boarding school to boarding school. However, once the Germans invaded France, their lives changed. Vianne, a young mother, whose husband went to fight, needed to survive for her daughter, even if that meant living with a German officer. Isabelle, unable to stay quiet under a watchful German eye, returned to Paris where she worked with the resistance.

A great, sad story of how important it is to fight for whats right and to survive against all odds.

Read April 2018.

The Rules of Magic

In The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman tells the Owens’ Family story from the perspective of the newest generation. Three siblings, Franny, Jet, and Vincent are raised with very specific rules about magic and how to keep it out of their lives. Their mother cannot protect them forever and they are soon called to the family home in Massachusetts when Franny comes of age. The three siblings grow together as witches and farther apart as adults, but magic becomes an important part of their lives.

A very fun, witchy read! Should’ve read it around Halloween!

Read December 2017

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tells the story of its namesake beginning shortly after his wife died. A.J. comes across as a curmudgeonly old man, but is only in his early 40s when the story begins. A.J. is stuck in a pattern of self pity and self righteousness about proper literary books versus any other type of book out there.

When life circumstances change, A.J. surprisingly changes with them. He develops a community of support that helps him and builds a better community around him, all dedicated to reading. Interspersed in the chapters are educational asides meant for his daughter to read certain books and what each meant to him at the time that he read it.

This was a sweet tale of a man who asks for nothing, but gives so much and ends up getting a family.

Read July 2017

The Wangs vs. The World

Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. The World tells the story of the Wangs after their patriarch looses all their money, homes, cars, etc after a bad business venture. The time period is the beginning of the economic collapse that would devastate so many people, but this story, while it talks a little about the world’s problems, really is a story about the Wangs. For centuries, the Wangs were wealthy land owners in China. This branch of the family survived the war with Japan by escaping to Taiwan.
Charlie started fresh in the new world and ended up with a makeup empire that collapsed due to bad timing and a lot of hubris. Saina, his oldest daughter, moved to NY and became a well known artist, but recently had a crushing show that may have ruined her career. Since she bought her house on her own, no one’s coming to repossess it and the rest of the family will need to move in with her.Andrew, middle child and virgin, drops out of college since his dad can’t foot the bill anymore. Grace, an internet fashion blogger and prep school attendee, also has to leave school. Along with Charlie’s second wife Barbra, the rest of the family drives across country to begin their new life at Saina’s country home.

The novel switches characters often so we really see the impact that this move and the financial/success changes have on all the family members and how it changes how they see themselves.

There’s a lot going on in this novel since each character has to grow and change to survive this. But the love thats shared by the family will help them move on. There’s also a lot of Chinese-American culture references which I found enlightening and don’t think I’ve read anything from this perspective.

At first the switching between characters was not enjoyable, but by the end of the novel I was waiting for each family member’s perspective of the current events.

Slow, but very interesting read.

Read July 2017

Still Alice

Still Alive tells the story of a woman at the height of her career who discovers she has Alzheimer’s. Lisa Genova writes with such compassion for her characters, all of which have to learn to deal with Alice’s disease. Alice must give up her career and her autonomy when it becomes clear that her memory is affecting her ability to function. She must also learn to deal with her family members who have very different reactions and expectations of her.

This story is incredibly heart breaking watching a woman, who has so much intellect and a life full of work and family, change into someone who can’t follow conversations and who seems to be failing some of her loved ones. Its amazing to see who steps in to help her and horrifying to see those who run away.

This was a great, eye-opening read.

Read July 2017.