Saturday, August 11, 2018

Book Review: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie - Fiction

It is a story about a particular immigrant family, Nero Golden and his three adult children, moving to America in the hope of leaving their past behind them and starting anew in America. They live in Manhattan, New York City. Initially they keep to themselves and do not socialize thus causing neighbours to wonder about this family of a father and three grown children. They are wealthy as Nero continues to amass his wealth through real estate. Once the narrator, Rene, infiltrates this family he views their lives from the lens of a film camera. What he uncovers becomes the story that in some ways depicts mayhem and emotional turmoil in a comfortable, prosperous home.

The author alludes to the Mumbai bombing that was the cause of the wife/mother being killed while socializing in one of the hotels that was attacked by the terrorists. This appears to be the reason that Nero brings his family to America—to start anew. The Golden family is thriving in America. Rushdie weaves the political threads of the more recent political era of new realities that Rushdie deftly portrays throughout the story. America has changed and the Golden family is evolving that encapsulates transformations within the family as they adapt to life in America. There is intrigue, suspense and oddities as the story unravels to its end.

Ultimately, Rushdie illustrates that starting anew in America is absolutely easy for the wealthy no matter where they come from. They become Americanized; perhaps at a cost of their former lifestyle and culture. The Golden House is an interesting immigrant story set in Manhattan, New York City.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Essays: Short Essay: Thimbles of Life

The photograph on the left is a collector’s set of thimbles. Each thimble is designed and finely crafted to represent a country in Europe. I collected these thimbles in fond memory of my father, C. P. Joanes, who creatively designed and sewed women’s clothing and men’s classic suits in Nairobi, Kenya.

These thimbles are symbols of life. In reality, each thimble serves to protect the outer skin of the finger from the pricks and pokes of the needle. And in our daily interactions with people we find ways to protect ourselves from harsh and, sometimes, unwanted criticism; we create an unseen inner protective layer to withstand this kind of reproach. When we are not successful we appear bruised and that takes time to heal to get to that place of mutual humanitarianism.

The thimble is also a conduit for pushing the needle through different strengths and thicknesses of the varying kinds of fabric. In this instance, the symbolic premise lends itself to negotiating with each other to achieve the best outcome for the good of all involved in any given situation. There is discussion, agreement followed by disagreement and the active engagement in the process of problem solving. Ultimately, it culminates to a compromised decision. Some are pleased while others accept the outcome.

In life there is a need for safeguards and support mechanisms. How we construct these determines the success or failure of being in harmony with each other.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Trailer: There There by Tommy Orange: Fiction

Meet Tommy Orange, author of the year's most galvanizing debut novel


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Book Review: A Bird on Every Tree by Carol Bruneau - Short Stories

Review by Robert J. Wiersema
Source: Quill & Quire, September 1, 2017.

A Bird on Every Tree, the third collection of stories from Carol Bruneau, is even more impressive. While rooted significantly in Halifax, where Bruneau lives and teaches, the stories in A Bird on Every Tree are expansive, both geographically and chronologically. “The Race,” the first story in the collection, puts the reader inside the mind of distance swimmer Marion Lester as she competes in the “world’s longest-ever mixed saltwater race,” driving herself not only against her opponents but her own past.

The past is also the subject of “The Vagabond Lover,” perhaps the collection’s strongest story. Focused on the last days of Dolly Cutler, dying in a bed with a view of the Newfoundland ferry, the story spans decades, teasing out details of a doomed love and the power of literature, before climaxing with an emotionally devastating final scene. To Bruneau’s credit, the story, which could have felt maudlin or sentimental, instead feels simply true.

That sense of fictional truth is key to the success of many stories in the collection. “Burning Times,” which chronicles a middle-aged couple’s whistle stop in Florence, focuses on Keith, for whom a small incident has life-altering overtones, while “If My Feet Don’t Touch the Ground” draws together family dynamics, the music business, and the legacy of the Second World War in contemporary Berlin. Bruneau treats her characters with a compassionate clarity, often understanding them more than they do themselves. “Crotch Rockets,” for example, seems to focus on the reunion of former lovers Roz and Rannie after 26 years, but reveals itself to have been about something – and someone – else entirely.

Bruneau’s writing rarely calls attention to itself, but this is a bravura performance: there is nothing simple about the prose, nothing rudimentary. Rather, a close examination reveals every sentence to be carefully crafted, with an attention not only to sense and sound but character and place. As a result, every story feels unique and spontaneous, genuinely surprising. The style of “Crotch Rockets,” for example, would be calamitous if applied to “If My Feet Don’t Touch the Ground” – and vice versa. This is no mere exercise in voice: this is a reflection of a writer utterly in touch with her stories – not only what they are, but how they are, overlooking nothing in her craft. Bruneau is a master. We should know this by now, but A Bird on Every Tree is a powerful reminder.

Comments from Maria Lynch: As I read the twelve stories I was taken on a journey through Halifax in Nova Scotia where I became familiar with the culture and language of that part of the East Coast of Canada. Poignantly, Bruneau describes the nuances of a variety of lifestyles of the people that are engaged in their day-to-day living. Each story has a unique appeal of beauty, heartbreak and joy.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Book Review: My Fther's Wake by Kevin Toolis - Non-fiction

In his book, My Father's Wake: How the Irish Teach Us To Live Love And Die, Kevin Toolis brings to the surface the concept of death and dying and how it has evolved over the centuries. Toolis describes his personal experiences as he takes the readers back to his home in Ireland to witness the Irish way of coping with the dying and death. Below is the Kirkus Review:

"A gut-wrenching exploration of death from an Irish perspective.

Journalist and award-winning filmmaker Toolis (Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA's Soul, 1996) centers this work in his ancestral homeland, a small village on an island off the west coast of Ireland, where his father died of cancer at home. The author has spent a lifetime exploring death, beginning with his own brushes with it—first as a patient in a tuberculosis ward and, later, through his brother’s excruciating and untimely death from cancer. The author went on to use journalism to explore violence, especially from a religious or political perspective; he has covered the Arab-Israeli conflict, North African fighting, and the Troubles of Northern Ireland. His experiences have left him with a fascinating view of what most of us try not to consider: the end of life. His own father’s death, and the wake that ensued, ground his thoughts on the subject. Throughout, Toolis rails against “the Western Death Machine.” In Europe and North America, he writes, we remove death from the private sphere and place it in the hands of “experts,” ranging from coroners to funeral directors. “We need to find our way again with death,” he writes, noting that for thousands of years, humanity dealt with death in healthier, more fulfilling ways. He sees in the Irish wake a pattern to emulate, a remnant of ancient methods of handling the mourning process that brought dignity to the dying and closure to the living. This book is not for the faint of heart, as the experiences he shares will leave readers emotionally raw. It is unquestionably rewarding, however, a thought-provoking argument against a sterile and industrial view of death.

From the graveside of an Irish Republican Army execution victim, whose young son cries inconsolably at his loss, to that of the author’s own father, Toolis provides a series of intimate, eye-opening visits with the end-of-life process." Source: Kirkus Review.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Book Review: 7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life by Dr. Mary Neal - Non-fiction

In this follow-up book, entitled, 7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life, Dr. Mary Neal describes her chance meetings and conversations with Jesus, an understanding of the reality of Heaven and its profound impact on her daily life on Earth.

This spiritual awakening began when Dr. Neal was in a kayaking accident in 1999 that took her life; this experience is outlined in her first book entitled, To Heaven and Back. Neal, appropriately, contextualizes the accident to amplify her sense of spirituality in her daily living activities. 

As an orthopedic surgeon she indicates how she “second- guesses” her spiritual experiences of her accident and what was it that brought her back to life from death. Her explanation is well-researched with no scientific conclusions other than believing in the spiritual aspect of what happened to her. She died and was brought back to life through the intervention of Jesus. While in this state of being spiritually uplifted she tells about her meetings and conversations with Jesus. It is an inexplicable account of the impact of the reality of Heaven and how it can shape one’s life in a radiantly and joyful manner while on Earth. There are many stories of other people’s experiences that foster looking for opened doors and walking through them to enable a better lifestyle. She stresses the importance of living in the present. Even though many questions surface, it defies medical science, leaving the reader to accept these inexplicable accounts of being spiritually enlightened by “coincidental” incidences.

7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life is an inspiring book.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book Review: Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis - Fiction

Fifteen dogs by André Alexis takes the reader into the minds of the dogs. They escape from the shelter as a group to fend for themselves within the environs of the City of Toronto. They become a pack. They roam the streets until they come to High Park. Here, they create a coppice as their new home. On their own they learn to hunt for sustenance. Leaders emerge among them who define the differences in each dog, its relationship to each other and the leaders.

There are vivid descriptions of how these dogs interact with each other and other dogs they avoid in their meanderings around the Park highlighted by the variety of smells and filth they encounter in their new environment. There is a sense of wildness evident in these dogs as they plot, scheme and even kill. They communicate with each other and a couple of them assume the human language.

Each dog’s fate and eventual demise is determined by the gods, Hermes and Apollo. These gods “toy” with the cognitive senses of these dogs as they shape the fate of this group of dogs. The author brings in philosophical aspects of the undercurrent of the mind and intelligence of each dog through his portrayal of how these dogs live and survive or not.

Fifteen Dogs is an unusual read. It takes the reader into the minds of the dogs that could create rare assumptions leading to shrewd conclusions.