Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Edwards weaves a tri-part interconnected story made up of some fascinating strands. I highly enjoyed the family history/genealogical hunt aspect of the novel as genealogy has long been a hobby/obsession of mine. In addition I also liked the women's suffrage movement details that figured into the story as women's rights is another issue that is dear to me.
Lucy is a woman adrift in the world in more ways than one. Ever since her father's sudden death a decade ago she's lived out of state or overseas, returned home annually for brief visits, and disconnected from the daily lives of her family and hometown both of which are in for some profound changes. But for all she's accomplished in her life, she feels as if all she's ever done is circle back to the single most life altering tragedy of her life tethered by grief and an unwillingness to let go of her father's memory and truly move on with her life.
Lucy returns home to The Lake of Dreams, a small village in the lakes region of New York state. She finds myriad, rapid moving changes to the town, to the land, and to her family. She quickly realizes that even more life altering changes are on the horizon for both town and family in which long unresolved tensions and revelations in both her family and the town threaten to obliterate everything Lucy ever thought she knew about her family and its history.
When she discovers a long hidden cache of flyers and articles related to the women's suffrage movement dating back to 1913, Lucy stumbles upon a long buried family secret and a long lost female ancestor that's been erased from the family lore. As Lucy's hunt for answers about this family story progresses, she realizes that the answers she finds may not be the ones she wants to know and will most certainly alter the dynamics and the lore that is her family's dearly held foundation and heritage.
In this engrossing, intriguing story, a family's history, a region's connections to women's suffrage, and an early twentieth century stained glass artisan are all inexplicably intertwined. It is clear that the events and dynamics of the distant past shaped Lucy's family yesterday and continue to shape it today. This is a great read, and I highly recommend you check it out the next time you're in the library--you won't regret it.
--Reviewed by Ms.Angie
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
This book has similarities in superficial details of the narrator's life and setting with Goodman's first novel, The Lake of Dead Languages. Meg, the narrator, flees the city to the rural New York campus of an eccentric, arts based private school steeped in pagan lore and the traditions of its founders who were the original inhabitants of the arts colony from which the school was born. Meg and her moody teenage daughter Sally are still mourning the loss of husband and father respectively after his sudden death a year ago. Left in dire financial debt by her husband, Meg is forced to sell off most of their possessions and their house to pay the bills; she's also forced to take a job as an English teacher at a rural, exclusive private school. The position is perfect for her because it also offers housing for her and her daughter, and it was founded in the 1930's by two female artists, Vera Beecher and Lily Eberhardt, whose folklore collections are the subject of Meg's doctoral thesis.
Soon after Meg and Sally's arrival on campus the school holds its fall, pagan flavored festival to kick off the school year. When one of the female students is discovered to be missing and then later found dead close to the spot where Lily Eberhardt fell to her death the entire student body is shaken. As the school year progresses and Meg dives back into her research the story of the school's founding women emerges from a long lost journal uncovered one night by Meg. The events of the past parallel current events on campus, and it becomes clear those long past events' ripples continue to capsize those in their wake today. While Meg struggles to piece together what happened that long ago winter night when Lily died, she copes with the ever widening emotional distance between herself and her daughter.
Astute readers will piece together and guess the implications and outcomes of this story in which jealousy and tensions between mothers and daughters plays a central, disturbing theme. But don't think once you've guessed the solution to the mystery that the story's done because it still has a few twists to throw out before the close of the novel. This is a must read for Goodman fans and those who enjoy folklore and fairy tales. I recommend you check out this book the next time you're in the library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Thursday, February 10, 2011
This series of vignettes follows the inhabitants of a tiny Massachusetts village starting with its founding in the mid-eighteenth century through the present day. Charactered by the intermarried generations of descendants of its original settlers, the vignettes follow the fortunes, loves, and tragedies of these families and the town in which many are born, live and die through harsh winters, wars and epidemics.
Beautifully, lyrically written, this absorbing book is hard to put down as the reader greedily turns the pages to follow the generations of these families through the years. I recommend you pick up this book the next time you visit the library; it is a must read for every Hoffman fan, and a good place to start for those unfamiliar with her magical work.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
April and Isabelle are both from Cape Cod and are both women on the run from their respective marriages when their cars collide on a faraway, fog shrouded road. Of the two women only Isabelle walks away while April leaves behind a husband and an eight year old son sick with asthma to grieve her sudden inexplicable death. Isabelle, already devastated by the sudden revelation of her husband's long term infidelity, is shattered by the car accident and the weight she carries over April's death. Charlie and Sam, April's husband and son, struggle amid their grief with the unexplained questions April left in her wake. Why was she on that road to begin with? Why was there a suitcase in her car? And where was she headed?
As Isabelle grieves and struggles to move on with her life she forms a bond with Sam after a chance encounter. Soon Sam is seeking her out despite his father's admonishments to stay away from her. Then Charlie realizes that Sam's doing better after his visits with Isabelle, and Charlie decides to put his son's needs first and allow him to spend time with Isabelle.
Both Isabelle and April are the product of dysfunctional parents and childhood traumas. While Isabelle seems to have grown into a relatively well adjusted adult, April, as her story is told, is revealed to be unstable, dysfunctional and insecure in ways even her husband and son were unaware.
Back to the ending. I have mixed feelings about it--it's not your typical happy ending for either character. It's not that I need everything tied up in a neat little bow with sparkles on top, but I also don't want it ending with the characters settling and forever being passing ships in the ocean. It's heart-wrenching and frustrating that ultimately Sam finds out that he was lied to by both his mother and his father about different things at different times for different reasons. Now I'm done obsessing over the ending. And I really don't know if I should end this with my customary recommendation. Maybe you should read it yourself so you can decide. Let me know whether you would recommend this novel in the comments.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Beautifully and lyrically written the tale this novel tells is an unusual one of a modern day diviner. A diviner or a dowser is a person who uses a rod to guide them in locating water on people's land. It is a supernatural, mysterious, and dying art that until recently admitted only men to its fraternity.
Cassandra is the fifth generation and first female dowser in her family. A single mother of twins who makes ends meet by substitute teaching part-time and divining the rest of the time, Cassandra has always secretly regarded herself as a fraud in her archaic chosen profession. She has also been plagued all her life by visions of the future that her father dubbed 'forevisioning'. It is a phenomenon Cassandra regards as separate and different from divining and refers to as her 'monster' when the visions come back to plague her at different times in her life while threatening to pull her back into the darkness she suffered in her adolescence. Between her forevisions and her divining, the residents of her rural town in upstate New York regard Cassandra with a mix of superstition, fear, and skepticism.
One day while divining on an isolated and remote piece of land, Cassandra comes upon a girl hanging from a tree. Shocked and shaken, when Cassandra returns with the sheriff's department the hanging girl has vanished. While the woods remain pristine and untouched, they give away no indication of the disturbance that the hanging and subsequent removal of the girl would have left behind. A search of the woods yields up a frightened, mute, runaway girl and the ensuing investigation and resulting gossip and rumors regarding Cassandra's involvement in the girl's discovery leave her smarting and worrying about her damaged credibility and reputation. At the end of the school year Cassandra packs up her boys and flees to the family's isolated Maine island retreat. However, her problems have followed right on her heels to Maine. After Cassandra returns home she decides to handle her problems her way for better or for worse.
While it is clear to the reader that things may not be as they seem and that something sinister awaits Cassandra, these things aren't so clear to Cassandra and her family and friends, all of whom worry that she may be losing her grip on reality. As the story progresses it becomes clear that the key to the present mystery lies in a possibly shattering, traumatic event buried in Cassandra's past. One also has to consider that given her background in therapy and the medications prescribed to her in her youth to control her hallucinations and the lastings effects these may have had on Cassandra's mental stability and the reliability of Cassandra's character and narration. For a good part of this book I was wondering if indeed Cassandra was an unreliable narrator and was crazy--yet Cassandra herself worries about her sanity, so is she really losing her grip on reality or is someone going to an awful lot of trouble to make her think so?
This was highly intriguing read that was hard to put down. I recommend you pick it up the next time you visit the library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie