Monthly Archives: September 2013

Breathless by Anne Sward *Review*

breathlessLo was just six when she met thirteen-year-old Lukas the night a brushfire threatened their community. Both the children of immigrants, both wild with love for the land, theirs was an easy friendship despite the fierce injunctions of Lo’s family. Meeting in secret at an abandoned lake house, they whiled away their summers in the water and their winters curled up inside, reenacting dialogue from their favorite film, Breathless.

How a friendship so innocent and pure—and so strictly forbidden—could be destroyed is a mystery that unfolds across Lo’s travels from Berlin to Copenhagen to New York, from tryst to tryst, as she seems fated to roam the outside world she blames for tearing her and Lukas apart. Haunting, resonant, full of humor and heartrending depth, Breathless explores how childhood acts can stake an unimpeachable claim on our older selves, and how atonement might be wrest from the past.

How do I even begin to describe this book?  As I was reading it I found myself caught between feeling bored and feeling transfixed.  I didn’t really like it but I couldn’t put it down.  I loved it but I was afraid to pick it up again.  My emotions ran hot and cold throughout the book.  I knew little about what was going on, but I understood it all.

I realize as I am attempting to write this review that I can’t pin down what I want to say, and therefore I am not going to try, other than to throw out a few adjectives: haunting, beautiful, tragic.


The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen *Review*

Imagine this, you and several of your closest friends are invited on an all expense paid trip to Jamaica.  No kids, no worries, nothing but time to relax.  Imagine now, how much time that gives you to think about your life…

An all-expense-paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage. 

Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.

boa2I recently got the opportunity to meet the author, Sarah Pekkanen at the Wine & Words fundraiser put on by my friend Sheila of Book Journey and our local Friends of the Library.  So I was excited to read this book, although I think you get a little biased about a book after meeting the author.  The authors are always so nice and you really want to like their book!  But I did like this book and I’m sure I would have even if I hadn’t met Ms. Pekkanen.

I could relate to a couple of the characters and the swirling winds in their own hearts.  Who can’t relate to occasionally feeling overwhelmed with work, kids, sports, church, classes, volunteer activities…?  Who can’t relate to feeling like you are just not good enough if you can’t do it all, and do it all perfectly?  That’s what makes this book so believable.  We have all felt something these characters are feeling at one point in our lives.  It’s how we deal with those feelings that make us different.

The way Tina, and Allie and Savannah deal with the troubles they are having in life and in their marriages would not have been how I deal with things, but in this book alcohol flows freely and alcohol can skew your judgement.

By the end of the book they all come to life changing decisions.  Will Tina cave under the demands of motherhood?  Will Allie find out she has the gene for a fatal disease?  Will Savannah take back her unfaithful husband and risk having her heart broke again?  Will Pauline finally come clean to her husband about the secrets she has been keeping?  Pick up Sarah’s book and escape for a while yourself!    4/5 stars


The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden *Review*

wgWhen prestigious plantation owner Cornelius Allen gives his daughter Clarissa’s hand in marriage, she takes with her a gift: Sarah-her slave and her half-sister.  Raised by an educated mother, Clarissa is not the proper southern belle she appears to be with ambitions of loving who she chooses and Sarah equally hides behind the facade of being a docile house slave as she plots to escape.  Both women bring these tumultuous secrets and desires with them to their new home, igniting events that spiral into a tale beyond what you ever imagined possible and leave you enraptured until the very end.

Narrated by two women with a unique and compelling bond- Sarah, the slave and Theodora the wife of plantation owner Mr. Allen, you see two different viewpoints of plantation life in Alabama in the mid 1800s.

Sarah yearns for freedom.  She is treated differently from the other slaves because she is not only the master’s daughter, but the playmate  of his other daughter Clarissa.  Clarissa likes having Sarah by her side and even requests Sarah’s presence during her school lessons.  Thus, Sarah learns to read and write, an activity that is actually illegal for Negroes during this period of time.  Learning awaken’s Sarah’s mind to the possibility of someday escaping her life of servitude and becoming a free woman.

Theodora, initially resents Sarah and most of all, Emmaline, Sarah’s mother for taking Cornelius’ attention away from his wife and his marriage bed.  But soon Cornelius begins to change and become mean and distant.  Theodora throws herself into teaching her daughter her studies, and Sarah along with her.

What I liked about this book was I didn’t get the dark, heavy depressing feel I normally get when reading books about slavery.  Yes, there were beatings, yes there was mistreatment of slaves but because that wasn’t the focus of the book so it was never dwelled on and drawn out.

I enjoyed hearing life from Sarah’s point of view and learned some about what it took a slave to be able to escape their bonds and all the people who helped along the way.  The ending, though a little bittersweet has a remarkable twist,  Based on a true story, The Wedding Gift was an easy summer read with a potent ending.  3/5 stars