Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Review: Chattanooga

Title of Book:  Chattanooga
Authors:  Chet Raymo & Dan Raymo
Published:  May 23, 2011 by Platypus Multimedia
Available:  Amazon

Chattanooga uses a clever format in which each chapter is told through the eyes of a different character, and each character is an essential part of the mosaic which makes up a unique and dysfunctional household. As we weave through the story, we witness the same events through varying viewpoints, and realize just how much our rendition of things is based upon selective memory.

The characters each have a distinct, unique flavour, accentuated by differing dialects, accumulated baggage and a clearly separate way of looking at the world. The strength in the depiction of the characters is in the stark appraisal of their humanity. Some characters are more favourably portrayed than others, yet none are spared a harsh revelation of their weaknesses. But we are also witness to their strengths, no matter how frail they appear at times.

We learn that the most intricate ties are not solely based on the physical structures  in which we are housed, but still carry on, even when these physical edifices are torn down, albeit differently. The ending is a simple and fitting testimony to the subtle manner in which we touch each other at times.

It is not easy interweaving the testimonies of the individual characters and maintaining the momentum of the unravelling plot, at times.  Although I felt myself carried along during the first half of the book, I found that things struggled through the next few chapters, but was caught up again as things began to come together towards the end.

If you enjoy character driven plots and an unusual approach to story telling, I think this is a book you will want to read.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: Call Me Tuesday

Title of Book:  Call Me Tuesday
Author:  Leigh Byrne
Published: February 15, 2012 by Create Space
Available:  Amazon, Nook, Smashwords

This is a book which is difficult to read at times - for the pain in the writing is so poignant and artfully expressed. A pain that most people would probably want to forget and leave behind. But the author knows that she has a story to tell, a story that needs to be told, so that others may be spared the trauma that Tuesday went through. Which requires remarkable courage, in going through it all - not once, but twice - this second time page by written page.

We usually view motherhood as something sacred, but in “Call Me Tuesday” motherhood is anything but that. The book begins with a pivotal event, where her mother appears as an inhuman monster and Tuesday is at the height of her despair. We are then taken back to a much earlier time, when her mother was still a loving parent and Tuesday had not yet been robbed of her childhood. This is skilfully done, for we know that at some point in the book, we will reach that point again. But for now, it is for us to try and put the pieces together, in such a way that may somehow explain the change in her mother, and in her life. And as we go through a journey of mental and physical abuse together with Tuesday, witnessing the world through her eyes, we are unable to find the answers. Even after Tuesday has managed to break free, neither she nor we are any closer to understanding how such a thing can happen.

For how can a mother abuse her child? Day by day, year by year. Mothers are supposed to protect their children, care for them and nurture them. Children trust and believe in their parents, and when a parent turns on them, the child is helpless, with nowhere to turn. In most cases, the people nearby: neighbours, relatives, teachers... sense that something is wrong, but do nothing to help, perhaps not wanting to believe that such things are possible. And even now, I am sure that there are people who read this book and rationalize it away as being a solitary case. But the truth is, this is becoming much too common. Perhaps it has always been this widespread, and only now, in the digital age when new avenues of communication open up to us, it is much more difficult to keep such things hidden. Hopefully books, like this one, will encourage others to speak up, have the courage and support to unveil these dark secrets.

The book is very well written. We see Tuesday's world totally through her own eyes. The detailed descriptions of her surroundings effortlessly blend into the running plot and we are carried along, not able to put the book down - not wanting to hear more at times for it becomes almost too difficult to hear - but having to see it through, for we have come too close to Tuesday's inner turmoil than to desert her now.

Perhaps another testament to the strength of Tuesday’s character is the fact that she can still feel love for her mother, despite all that has happened to her. Maybe we need to learn from her. I, for one, think I could never be that forgiving.

I hope that others will read this book and learn from it. And that those in dire need of help will come upon it and through it find strength. And that
Tuesday, after breaking free and setting out on a new beginning, will now live a happy life.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Review: Web of Lies - My Life with a Narcissist

Title of Book:  Web of Lies - My Life with a Narcissist
Author:  Sarah Tate
Published:  Feb. 22, 201
Available: Smashwords, Amazon

There are times, when reading this book, that we must ask ourselves - How could these things have happened? How could an apparently intelligent woman allow herself to be continually deceived by the verbal manipulation of a man who clearly suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Perhaps there was no reason for suspicion during the courtship stage, when he showered her with attention, lavished her with gifts and impressed her with his intelligence. Perhaps she was blinded by her concern for her children when their apparent financial stability started to come apart at the seams. But there came a time when she still wanted to believe, even when all of the signs told her otherwise. And even then, she was unable to make the decision to leave him.

It would be too easy to judge, from the outside looking in. Why didn’t she listen to her friends, why didn’t she listen to her family. Why didn’t the fact that he was married twice before, and one of his wives had committed suicide, not to set off an alarm far earlier than it did? And why didn’t her concern for her children lead her to leave him rather than convince her to stay with him, until it was almost too late?

But most of us know someone who has been in a similar situation. That is why Sarah Tate’s book is so important. To tell an important story - a confession of sorts. An open, honest and often painful appraisal of her life and who she was during this time. Perhaps, when we know of friends who are lying to themselves in similar situations, we should simply give them this book to read, rather than offer advice that we know they will ignore. Let them read and recognize her words as words that they could have easily uttered themselves.

We live in a world where reality is very elusive. Virtual relationships rest on the power of words alone - words which create identities and worlds in common. It seems too easy to create something out of nothing, without the person on the other side knowing the difference. We claim that such things happen because we do not meet the other face to face, see the other in his/her “real” environment. Yet the “Web of Lies” shows us how this can happen in the so-called real world as well. Sarah was deceived into believing in a world through words alone. Words which created a dream world for her, and words which then explained why it no longer existed. Her being in close physical proximity with the man, only served to strengthen the deception, rather than the opposite. At least, for a very long time.

The “Web of Lies” is well-written and carries us along at a fast pace. It is told totally through the eyes of Sarah, and she warns us beforehand that some parts may be the result of a very subjective memory. And there are times, when her rolling narration take us into the depths of her despair, and she tries to rationalize it away while still wanting to believe in him - that we want to reach out and slap her - tell her to get out of it. And this shows how well she has captured us in her prose, leading us to understand the world she is experiencing through her own eyes.