Saturday, November 30, 2013

Little Island

Little Island by Katherine Britton

"Does anyone get the future they dream of?".......

Joy ponders these words as she drives aimlessly to the scenic family-owned inn on Little Island off the coast of Maine for her grandmother's funeral service. Everyone will be there. Her parents, Grace and Gar and the twins, Roger and Tamar. Maybe her sister can even muster the courage to bring her twin girls, Natalie and Haley. Mother-of-the-year she is not. But then Joy realizes she must look into her own soul, too. Now that her son has left for college, Joy knows she has lost her own identity. How sad and pathetic is she, leaving her husband behind, and engaging in loathing self-destructive behavior. And why or why would her mother choose this weekend? Twenty years ago a tragic automobile accident claimed the life of Joy's best friend. It also shattered the lives of their entire family because Roger was behind the wheel in a drunken stupor. So now they will gather to celebrate the last wishes of a grandmother who led a life of unbelievable sacrifice while the ghosts of their past lie in wait for them.

This story has many intersecting sub-plots that the author manages to describe in detail. The touching moments when Grace finally discovers the truth about a mother who protected her from harm, the bond between twins that Joy will never penetrate, resentments, rivalries and secrets hidden for so many years; when they finally erupt, can a dysfunctional family such as the Littles weather the storm?  The reader meets a loving group of people who live in a fog both figuratively and literally.  Unable to see one another for their strengths and weaknesses, they will also fight dense, dangerous fog off the coast to save innocent lives of children who prefer to escape from a family they don't understand. Perhaps in that harrowing moment they are all rescued from the sins of long ago.

It may take the reader a few chapters to sort out these memorable characters and alternate between past and present. Once you do, I think you will enjoy an easy read with unexpected surprises. Joy and her mid-life crisis, Tamar's realization that bitterness,deceit, and regret have defined her, Roger, coming to terms with his past and hope for his future;  Grace embracing her heritage; ordinary people overcoming fears and believing in a dream......


Friday, November 22, 2013

Illusions of Happiness

Illusions of Happiness by Elizabeth Lord

The loss of innocence.

For eighteen-year-old Madeline, the summer of her return from an exclusive boarding school in Switzerland is one of leisurely afternoons and whimsical daydreams. Her parents, however, are determined to shape her future by choosing the man who will be her husband after a suitable courtship.  He is Hamilton Bramwell, hand-picked by them to provide for her all the comforts of a proper English life, while socializing in elite circles. He may not be sophisticated and suave, but her father has spoken, and no one ever,ever, disobeys him. Then one day the local milkman arrives at the back door of their sprawling, majestic home, and innocent Maddie finds herself caught in a whirlwind of ardent love and clandestine meetings with this handsome smooth talker.
Not exactly what her domineering father had in mind.

A child is born. A child is taken away. A dictatorial father and subservient mother sever all ties with their daughter. So with only a small pittance of an allowance from her parents, Madeline resumes her life alone, learning to survive in London during the War-torn years of the early 1900s. By chance, she meets wealthy stock-broker James Ingleton while out one evening with her new-found friends. So much older than she, James is kind and caring, looking for nothing more than companionship. A husband who would be willing to search for her missing child and bestow upon her all the material things she once took for granted. Once again Madeline makes a decision that will alter her life forever. In the years that follow she believes the words of so many, finally realizing that "life has a way of tearing down the strongest promise".

You undoubtedly have read the theme of this story before, this time from a British author who carves out a spirited character forced to deal with the innocence she lost so many years ago. Discover what she should have learned but never did; will it be too late for her to turn back time?  "Not so much made a fool of but having been a fool".  These words echo in her mind.

For some, true happiness is just an illusion.....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dream With Little Angels

Dream With Little Angels by Michael Hiebert

Fourteen-year-old Mary Ann Dailey is missing. This can't be happening again.

Not in a small Southern town like Alvin, Alabama where everyone knows everybody's business. Twelve years ago Ruby Mae Vickers' lifeless body was discovered under a willow tree after weeks of searching through dense forests and murky swamp waters where the gators roam and wait.....

Police detective Leah Teal was assigned to that case back then and still bears the guilt of being unable to save an innocent child's life. Now a widow, she struggles to raise daughter Carry, and son, Abe. A daughter coming to terms with womanhood, a son wise beyond his years.  Eerily similar, another child, Tiffany Michelle Yates, disappears, and Leah feels not only an urgency to find her, but a terrifying realization that her own children may be in danger. Suspects abound. That elusive man next door who stays up all night while jolting, horrific sounds come out of his closed garage. The trusted family friend who finds a body, and suddenly faces scrutiny from even those who once respected him. As Leah feels the pressing importance to stop the insanity that encompasses her hometown, she must face her own resentments and fears.

This novel is short and simple, narrated by the voice of a sensitive, innocent boy who has the uncanny ability to help his courageous  mother uncover the truth.  Reminiscent of languid summer days sipping sweet iced tea on an old porch swing, the story takes the reader back to life in the Deep South in the late 1980s. Little do these townspeople know of the danger lurking in the shadows.  This book profiles small town bureaucracy, subtle racial discrimination, and the realization that children sometimes are the greatest teachers of all.

If only we would listen.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

The two-pump filling station. As the attendant wipes the dirt and oil from his hands, he rushes to the waiting car, pops the hood and checks the tires. All with a smile. As he cleans your windshield, enjoy a cream soda from the soda pop machine and trade some local gossip. Now picture lovely ladies doing a man's job....

Sarah Jane (Sookie) Poole from Point Clear, Alabama is finally breathing a sigh of relief. After planning three successful weddings for her daughters and knowing that her son is on his own, it's time for some rest and relaxation with husband Earle. Certainly he is ready to take some time off from his busy dental practice. Now if they can just slip away from the prying eyes of Sookie's meddlesome eighty-eight year old mother, Lenore Simmons Krackenberry.  Easier said than done. Domineering, overbearing, and always the life of the party, everyone in town knows Lenore. Sookie lives in her shadow. She resigned herself to that fact long ago. Then one day a registered letter arrives at Sookie's doorstep, and the person she thought she was is suddenly in question. Troubling news from a stranger takes Sookie on a journey of discovery to Wisconsin, California and the Midwest.  Her quest for the truth takes her back in time to the 1940s and  World War II days where she discovers a most remarkable woman, Fritzi Jurdabralinski and her amazing Polish family.  What Sookie learns about her past creates an inspirational beginning for her and the family she so dearly loves; in ways she never imagined.

Here we have two distinct story lines that intertwine with one another in a most delightful way. This is an endearing, laugh-out-loud novel filled with quirky, eccentric characters (just look at the names!), and little-known history about World War II. Meet the bold, courageous women of the War and learn about their dangerous chosen profession. Women that were pivotal in shaping the lives of those back home. Flagg has created a memorable, amusing tale worth reading. And yes, the title becomes oh so crystal clear.

Stop in and visit the All-Girls Filling Station.  You'll be glad you did.......

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Secrets She Carried

The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis

Skeletons in the closet. We all have them, lurking in the shadows long before we were born.  Now that the celebration of what used to be known as All Hallows Eve has come and gone, it seems fitting to review a book that tells the haunting tale of a mysterious death, a hidden grave, and puzzling secrets best left in the past.

It is the 1930s. Adele Laveau is on a train headed to Peak Plantation in North Carolina. As tears stream down Mama's face, Adele knows she will never see her again, but when you love someone you want to give them a better life. That's what Mama says. Now Adele must learn to cope with her new life in the Big House on this grand tobacco farm as a lady's maid to the Gavin family. Missus Suzanne is a bitter, pretentious, unhappy woman, addicted to the "tincture" prescribed by the doctor, desperate to bear a child. Who would marry such a woman?  Adele soon finds out when she meets Henry Gavin. Her life and the lives of those who follow her for generations to come will never be the same. The sacrifices we make for love.

New York City 2013. Leslie Nichols reluctantly returns to Peak Plantation , her childhood home, to claim an inheritance.  Half of the estate is now hers due to her grandmother Maggie's death; surprising since they have been estranged for over thirty years.  The other half is bequeathed to caretaker Jay Davenport, Maggie's confidante. As Leslie begins the overwhelming task of sorting through Maggie's possessions, she comes across a faded picture of a tombstone; a grave hidden high on the ridge.  Jay discloses that Maggie hinted in her dying days of a secret she longed to reveal. A powerful secret that Leslie is determined to uncover if only she can decipher the clues.

As you can see, two stories that combine the past with the present. In a span of  over eighty years, the author develops the characters of Leslie's family tree quite remarkably.  For those of you who enjoyed Whistling Past the Graveyard or The Kitchen House, this may be one to choose. It is a heartfelt, lovely portrayal of strong women. A story sure to keep you turning the pages.

You may even shed a few tears.