Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chasing Rainbows by Kathleen Long

5 Star

Bernadette Murphy likes her life. Really, she does. What’s wrong with carrying around an extra ten pounds from fertility treatments? Or having your dog kicked out of obedience school? Again?

What’s that saying about the devil you know? For Bernie, it’s the devil she never expected that changes everything.

Her father’s sudden death leaves a gaping void in her life and is one in a series of events that rock her world. Her husband leaves for another woman, and her best friend announces an unplanned pregnancy at the age of forty-one. Bernie’s behavior goes from acting out to out of hand, and she finds herself in trouble at home, out of work and banned from the mall after a confrontation at the cosmetic counter.

When her mother hands over her father’s book of cryptograms, Bernie realizes his encoded lessons in living might be exactly what she needs to survive. From dealing with her family’s grief to bonding with her best friend’s thirteen-year-old daughter, from dieting and dating to mindless almost-sex with the landscaper, Bernie discovers what her father always knew.

In life, you either choose to sing a rainbow, or you don’t.

For Bernie, the singing is about to begin.

Lydia - 5 Star

Written impeccably, with perfect pace and pitch, wonderful characters and a plot to sink your teeth into, Chasing Rainbows tossed all presumptions of self published novels I had off a high rise building.

Chasing Rainbows is definitely a heavy read, but not too over powering that I wanted to put it down. It was the opposite in fact –I couldn’t stop reading. We meet Bernie as she’s dealing with the recent loss of her father just weeks after her husband left her and sprinkle in a devastating loss from years prior that she hadn’t yet dealt with, Bernie is in for a rough ride. And so is the reader.

Bernie’s loss was palpable. Not many novels evoke tears from me within the first fifty pages, but Chasing Rainbows accomplished this, several times. There was enough humour to balance out the anguish though and anyone who has suffered a loss will be able to relate to this novel. As will anyone that has been stuck in a rut, been pissed off with life and wanted to lash out or has suffered with lapses in self esteem, been crippled with self doubt, made a mistake or felt fearful of change or life. There is something in Bernie and her situation that most of us will be able relate to.

As Bernie binges, lashes out and alienates loved ones, toppling her own deck of cards, her fear of life strangles any living she ought to be doing. She is not perfect and is quite self deprecating at times and cannot see how to emerge from her despair and some of the unfavourable reviews I browsed at Amazon seemed not to appreciate this. Maybe they’ve never suffered loss or never tortured themselves by settling on the couch with tear jerker movies and various pints of ice cream and chocolate. I enjoyed watching Bernie crawl back up and loved watching her progress and enjoyed the influencing characters that surrounded her.

This book surprised me multiple times and I was never certain what life would throw Bernie’s way. There were amusing bits, heart wrenching moments and characters that I adored from her best friend and her 'niece' to her mother and brother, although I wish the later two had more scenes.

I really enjoyed the quotes at the end of each chapter which were thought provoking and inspirational, and although I never really got into the cryptograms, I appreciated how they lead to the quotes.

I will definitely be picking up Kathleen Long in the future.

Follow Kathleen Long:

Thank you to CLP Blog Tours for the opportunity for us to be a part of Kathleen's Blog Tour. All opinions are our own.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Julia's Child by Sarah Pinneo

4 Star

Julia Bailey is a mompreneur with too many principles and too little time. Her fledgling company, Julia's Child, makes organic toddler meals like Gentle Lentil and Give Peas a Chance. But turning a profit while saving the world proves tricky as Julia must face a ninety-two-pound TV diva, an ill-timed protest rally, and a room full of one hundred lactating breasts. Will she get her big break before her family reaches the breaking point? In the end, it is a story about motherhood's choices: organic versus local, paper versus plastic, staying at home versus risking it all. 

Kathryn - 4 Star

Julia's Child is an interesting story of one mother’s determination to create healthy, organic snacks and meal for her kids and the challenges she meets in trying to juggle a new business and raising her own boys.
I found the novel interesting from a business perspective and enjoyed the strength of that part of the storyline.  I thought that the way Pinneo describes Julia’s company, her employee and their struggles to decide where and how they can grow their business was really well thought out and had a great flow to it.
I was a little disappointed though with the fact that her kids and husband really did get left out of the plot quite a lot. I would guess that this is probably realistic for someone starting a new business but it was a bit harder for me to relate to Julia as a mother - towards the end I found that Julia only began to spend time with them when she was obsessively trying to make home-made pizza or healthy Halloween snacks.
I also struggled a bit with the message of healthy food- although I entirely agree with feeding your kids only the best things in principle, I just found that once or twice I was given a bit of a guilt trip about it. I don’t think that this was Pinneo’s intention in the least though and am still happily giving my kids the best things I can do with the time I have. 
Julia's Child should really appeal to many people as like I said the business aspect was fascinating and parents will certainly appreciate the struggle to find the time to do it all.

Thank you to KMSPR for the review and giveaway copy and stop on Julia's Blog Tour! All opinions are our own.
Connect with Sarah Pinneo:

Read our Interview with Sarah Pinneo here:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sarah Pinneo Stuck on a Desert Island

We wanted to know how Sarah Pinneo, author of Julia's Child would fare on a desert island? Let's have a look:

1. If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?

Since you’re letting me choose the book ahead of time, it seems foolish to choose anything other than, say, Desert Island Survival for Dummies. I’m a very practical girl.

2. What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?

A nice cold bottle of Prosecco seems like a good choice. Glasses are optional.

3. What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?

A ballpoint pen. I believe I could write my journal on some banana leaves, or something, but it’s a dark day indeed when you can’t find a pen.

4. Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?

I should probably plead the fifth on this question. At the risk of offending my children, I would love the solitude. I’ll bet nobody yells “Mommy! My lego bridge broke again!” on a desert island.

5. If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?

My husband of course. Not only is he excellent company, but he would be great on a desert island. In fact, with him along, I could change my book selection to The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I could read about poor Lily’s downfall while he built us a yacht out of twigs.

6. What modern technology would you miss the most?

Two words: hot shower

7. What food or beverage would you miss the most?

There’s really no rustic substitute for a properly made caffĂ© latte.

8. How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?

Good question! More than two, and less than a season of Survivor. A month? Am I an enormous wimp?

9. What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Call my children and apologize for enjoying the solitude.

10. What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?

“The report of my death was greatly exaggerated.”—Mark Twain.

Follow Sarah Pinneo:

Read our review of Julia's child here:
Julia's Child by Sarah Pinneo


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Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

4 Star
Thessaloniki, 1917. As Dimitri Komninos is born, a devastating fire sweeps through the thriving Greek city where Christians, Jews and Muslims live side by side. Five years later, Katerina Sarafoglou's home in Asia Minor is destroyed by the Turkish army. Losing her mother in the chaos, she flees across the sea to an unknown destination in Greece. Soon her life will become entwined with Dimitri's, and with the story of the city itself, as war, fear and persecution begin to divide its people.

Thessaloniki, 2007. A young Anglo-Greek hears his grandparents' life story for the first time and realises he has a decision to make. For many decades, they have looked after the memories and treasures of the people who were forced to leave. Should he become their next custodian and make this city his home?

Kaley - 4 Star

Have you ever picked up a book not knowing what to expect? The synopsis sounds alright, the author seems well liked, but you just don't know what you're getting yourself into. I imagine most people experience this all the time when trying to decide what to read. Sometimes the book doesn't work out and sometimes you find yourself completely immersed in a gripping tale. The latter was my experience with Victoria Hislop's novel The Thread.

This novel wove a magnificent tale and that is why I enjoyed it so much. The story begins in present day Thessaloniki where we meet Mitsos, a young man attending a local university, and his grandparents. After learning a bit about what the city is like today, we settle down with Mitsos to learn why his grandparents adamantly refuse to leave the city. This is when the magic starts.

The story Mitsos' grandparents tell him send us back to Thessaloniki in 1917. Almost right away we experience the first of many disasters in this book - a monstrous fire that wipes out almost the entire city. I loved how the historical events in this book were told. I really felt like I was there with the characters, smelling the smoke and running from the flames. It wasn't just this event that made me feel like that either. Each incident (and there were many) affected me and I felt what the characters were feeling. I also learned a lot about Greek history, which I found really interesting. The parts of the story that really hit me the hardest took place during World War II. Katerina worked as a seamstress for a Jewish family in their thriving business. Not only were they her employers but they were some of her closest friends. Germans took over the city and after a while rounded up all the Jews and sent them to Poland. When Katerina and Dimitri eventually learn of the fate of their friends I felt as sick as they did and a lot of that had to do with the way Hislop told the story. (This is a good thing, trust me.)

The only negative thing I found about this book has to do with the fact that it takes place over quite a long span of time, at least sixty years, if not longer. I loved that I got to see all of the characters grow and develop and that I experienced many historical events. However, some parts in time were skipped over without any real indication of how much time had passed. Sometimes it seemed like the story jumped ahead by almost ten years and I missed all of it. This issue is probably why I only gave this book four stars. I think if there had been obvious markers of time passing I would have enjoyed it a little more. Then again, maybe there were and I just managed to skip over them. I'm willing to give Hislop the benefit of the doubt as I loved the story telling in this book that much.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Thread. I loved all the characters and the historical aspect to the novel. What really made me enjoy this book, however, was the way Hislop told the story. I absolutely adored it and I think many others will enjoy this tale as well. I definitely plan on checking out more of Victoria Hislop's books in the future!

Connect with Victoria Hislop:

Friday, February 17, 2012

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

5 Star

I’ve lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn’t supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations. And now the very same day his parents are coming, I’ve lost it. The very same day! Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive :) !!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

Lydia - 5 Star

Kinsella has done it again with I’ve Got Your Number. Her latest might have even debunked Twenties Girl from my most favourite of her novels which speaks volumes because I adored that one too.
I have no idea how Kinsella creates such horribly misguided, yet completely loveable and believable characters and creates situations for them that should never seem plausible, but they totally do. Maybe its because she creates normal female characters we can all relate to. Women who make a mistake or two or who end up in awkward situations or are sometimes embarrassed or doubt themselves or feel slightly less than she should at times or does things for others and never herself. Someone with doubts and fears and hopes and dreams and imperfections and is kind and caring and hopeful. You know, someone normal.

I appreciate that she’s made the main characters in her last two non-Shopaholic novels less scatterbrained than Becky Bloomwood because as much as I've enjoyed the Shopaholic series, I just can’t fathom some of the stuff Becky does and the novels are less believable for me because of it. In I’ve Got Your Number, although I didn’t always agree 100% with her decisions – and she still makes some interesting ones - Poppy has her reasons and they aren’t completely out of my realm of realism even though they’re not necessarily something I would do myself.
I adored every sentence in this novel and laughed my ass off on almost every page. People slowly started moving away from me on the subway with my chuckles, snorts and attempts to stifle my giggles. The miscommunication blunders and Poppy’s assumptions and conclusions always lead to humourous situations in typical Kinsella style. And even through the humour, this was the first Kinsella novel that made me choke up. I shed tears, which really surprised me. There were a few scenes and some heavier aspects to I’ve Got Your Number which I really enjoyed and appreciated.
The entire premise of how personal and how much of one’s life a cell phone holds was fascinating to me, even though I know it’s true. I have a tablet now that I share from time to time when I’m not reading and have found it interesting to manage folders and favourites and wondered about adding email accounts, but I already have so many of my own that I might have to draw the line.  Especially after reading some of the situations in this novel!

One frustration to me about this novel was the footnotes. The copy on my e-reader wouldn't flip back and forth, maybe due to it being an advance readers edition, but it was annoying that I couldn't read them in sequence to the story and felt I was missing out, especially on giggles as Poppy's thoughts and insights were always amusing.
Fans of Kinsella will definitely not be disappointed!

Thank you to Random House for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

Connect with Sophie Kinsella:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen

5 Star

More than two decades after moving to Saudi Arabia and marrying powerful Abdullah Baylani, American-born Rosalie learns that her husband has taken a second wife. That discovery plunges their family into chaos as Rosalie grapples with leaving Saudi Arabia, her life, and her family behind. Meanwhile, Abdullah and Rosalie’s consuming personal entanglements blind them to the crisis approaching their sixteen-year-old son, Faisal, whose deepening resentment toward their lifestyle has led to his involvement with a controversial sheikh. When Faisal makes a choice that could destroy everything his embattled family holds dear, all must confront difficult truths as they fight to preserve what remains of their world. 

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

The Ruins of Us brought me into a world that I've often wondered about but never had the opportunity to discover. Rosalie grew up in Saudi Arabia as an American ex-pat and then later in college fell in love with Abdullah and moved back as his wife. Seems simple, right? But not really.

Saudi Arabia has much different rules for women. No driving, no being seen with men other than your husband in public, having to cover yourself. Something we're not used to and I'm not sure we could be. I wondered what it would be like to give up such essential freedoms that we are used to and this book gave me a good glimpse into what that might feel like. I'm not sure I could do it especially discovering that my husband had another wife, as was his right with the laws of the land, as Rosalie does early on in the book.

The children of this couple have grown up in Arab culture but also have been exposed to a warm and loving mothe and her American ways. However, once their son Faisal becomes older, he starts to resent his mother and what he sees as her corrupted way of life. Daughter Maryam remains loyal however, which is a big comfort to Rosalie in these trying times.

This book had me gripped from the first page, though I am not sure I could have been as patient as Rosalie was. However, having been a child in Saudi Arabia, when she married and moved there, she had an idea what she was in for. And perhaps she also felt she needed to be patient as a husband must give his wife permission to travel, so it isn't like she could just have fled home, back to the US.

The descriptions of the characters, the cities, even the fact that Saudis go to nearby Bahrain for more freedom on the weekend, which for them is different days of the week than for us, the detail this book provided made me feel like I was there, a witness to this family and their lives. 

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

Follow Keija Parssinen here:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Austentatious by Alyssa Goodnight

3.5 Star

What happens when an eighteenth century literary darling magically pops up in the weirdest city in Texas? Magic and weird collide in AUSTENTATIOUS, the story of Nicola James, a left-brainer with a Jane Austen obsession and a carefully finessed life plan. A plan that doesn’t include an enchanted journal or an interfering fairy godmother, who just might be the spirit of Jane Austen herself. 
When Nicola discovers her journal entries mysteriously whittled down to a cheeky bit of commentary on her life, she’s freaked first, skeptical second, and finally downright curious. She can’t help but keep writing, dueling really, with a two-dimensional fairy godmother she doesn’t totally believe in. Soon, the witty little notes start coming true, screwing with her plans, her head, and her life, and nudging her towards an impossible—and impossibly seductive—romance with a man who’s inarguably wrong for her. Nicola’s torn, trapped between a life that makes sense and a man who doesn’t, with “Fairy Jane” wedged in the middle, relentlessly rooting for another “Mr. Darcy”.

Lydia - 3.5 Star

A mystical, magical novel, Austentatious takes us on a fairy tale ride merging Jane Austen with Austin, Texas and takes a girl who has a plan and stubbornly refuses to take any detours from it until an unusual journal pops into her life and makes her question everything.
I had an extremely slow start to this novel partly due to some things in life that left me with less reading time, but I also think it was because I wasn’t entirely immersed in this novel until later so I didn’t always rush to pick it up. My main concern initially as I read was that this novel was quite heavy with internal dialogue as well as a lot of detail with small actions.  One example that stood out was the main character ordering a drink.  Then paying for it.  Then scanning the bar.  And then walking away. And then thinking and then... Well, you get the picture.  One scan as she ordered the drink maybe and omit paying because I assume the character isn’t going to skip out on the bill unless she’s flighty or a clepto or maybe her paying results in a flirtation with a hot bartender? And maybe a few less thoughts and a bit more action. Maybe her hand rattles the drink and spills it to show nerves instead of thinking it? It doesn't happen that often, but enough that I noticed and started glossing over, especially when immersed in the internal dialogue. Then again maybe it was just me and my newfound ADHD.
The dialogue between characters was also peppered heavily with tags and thoughts and I had to force myself to read them all when I found myself skimming to continue with the actual dialogue. In addition, there was some repetitiveness regarding the Plan and how she’s not spontaneous and after a few of these thoughts, I got it. It wasn’t overly much, but something I noticed and I think would have made the novel more fluid if tweaked a little.
That said, there was much about this novel I loved. There were some fantastic words, thoughts, and imagery as well as some dialogue that really popped and I definitely had a few giggles. I really enjoyed the description of Austin which I've heard is such a fabulous city, but have never visited myself. All of the characters were enjoyable, well developed and fit well into the different and odd that is Austin.  Sean was an interesting character and I could never entirely figure out whether he was for real or not, especially with the magical element of this novel and Nicola’s transformation was fun to watch. 
The romantic in me was grinning and ridiculously frustrated near the end when I had to get off the subway, unable to finish at an inopportune time in the story.  Jane Austen fans will definitely appreciate Austentatious as will anyone who loves a mystical quality to their chick lit.

Thank you to Alyssa Goodnight for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Alyssa Goodnight:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bitter Is The New Black by Jen Lancaster

3.5 Star

Jen Lancaster was living the sweet life-until real life kicked her to the curb.

She had the perfect man, the perfect job-hell, she had the perfect life-and there was no reason to think it wouldn't last. Or maybe there was, but Jen Lancaster was too busy being manicured, pedicured, highlighted, and generally adored to notice.

This is the smart-mouthed, soul-searching story of a woman trying to figure out what happens next when she's gone from six figures to unemployment checks and she stops to reconsider some of the less-than-rosy attitudes and values she thought she'd never have to answer for when times were good.

Filled with caustic wit and unusual insight, it's a rollicking read as speedy and unpredictable as the trajectory of a burst balloon.

Kaley - 3.5 Star

I don’t often read memoirs but I was eager to give Bitter is the new Black by Jen Lancaster a try. There’s no real reason for why I don’t usually read memoirs. I think I just tend to read more fiction because it seems to be more prevalent. I’ve always wanted to try reading a few and after a good experience with Lancaster’s, I plan on checking out a few more!

For those of you who are like me and are not memoir readers, take note that this book doesn’t really read like one. Lancaster had a great way of writing about her own life to make it sound just like a novel that’s been plotted out. You can’t plan life but the way Lancaster wrote made it seem like she had. She does note at the beginning of the book that she wrote a few things out of sequence, changed some names, characters combined, and time compressed. I can understand why she did that (to make the story move forward a little more quickly) and it didn’t bother me at all. It’s her life, after all, so she can tell her story as she wishes. At least, that’s my take on it.

I have to say, I really didn’t like her at the beginning. I also feel really bad about that because it’s not the same thing as saying you didn’t like a character. No, I am saying that Jen, a real person and the author, annoyed me. Awkward, right? I think she knew how people were going to see her and judge her and she went with it. She really changed as a person by the end of the book and that helped me like her. She had no qualms about spending a ton of money on things and was so superficial at the beginning but once life served her some hard knocks she started to realize what really matters in life.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through what Jen and her husband went through. You think you have everything sorted and out and then your world crumbles around you. That must have been brutal. Lancaster wrote about it in a way that gave her situation some humour but I could still tell what they struggled with and how hard it was for them.

I enjoyed reading Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster. I really liked how she told her story and I will keep my eye out for some of her other books.

Connect with Jen Lancaster:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Promises to Keep by Jane Green

4 Star

Successful photographer Callie Perry thinks she has a pretty perfect life, although it may not be everyone's idea of happiness: a great job, lots of time with her daughters, but a workaholic husband. She couldn't be more unlike Steff, her younger sister, who has never held down a job—or a boyfriend—for more than six months. Walter and Honor, their divorced and perpetually feuding parents, have almost given up hope that Steff will ever learn what it is to be responsible … until they all receive a shocking email that changes their lives forever, and brings them together one extraordinary summer in Maine.

Kathryn - 4 Star

It’s not a secret that I’ve struggled a bit recently with Green’s latest novels.  I was a huge fan of her older work but the last few left me feeling frustrated and bored. Promises to Keep is different from the beginning for me- I was far more intrigued by the characters and they felt less flat and empty. 
I found the first few chapters a bit confusing as there were a lot of people and places - it took me a good few chapters to sort them out and grasp their relationships.  I think there was probably an easier way to introduce them all without it being so choppy but once I got over this I became really wrapped up in the family’s life and struggles. I enjoyed the whole lot of them and I laughed with them and cried my eyes out more than once. I’ve been trying to pin down a favourite character but if it was anyone it was probably Steffi’s friend Mason (which is a bit odd as he’s not one of the main players) but he seemed natural and honest for me- I liked him a lot.  I also appreciated that Green gave some depth to the children in this story- they were, after all, extremely important to the family as a whole and a lot of focus on their care was needed too- Green made this seem unlaboured.
After I finished reading the book I read the notes from Green at the back and realised that Promises to Keep is written from a more personal place for her.  It shows entirely in her writing and I really hope this will re-engage the feeling in her writing for me again.

Thank you to Penguin Canada for our review copy!
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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Alyssa Goodnight Stuck on a Desert Island

How would Alyssa Goodnight, author of the newly released (and soon to be reviewed by Novel Escapes) novel, Austentatious, fare on a desert island? Let's have a look:

1. If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?

This is a tough one.  One book.  One book to get me through the hours,days, weeks, months (?!?) without a library, a bookstore, or even a Kindle.  Yikes.  Maybe The Swiss Family Robinson for inspiration.  Or The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook.  It might help me feel like I was slightly in control.  Doubtful, but possible.

2. What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?

A light, soft blanket.  I have trouble sleeping without one, and it could pull double duty as a security blanket as well.

3. What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?

I'm torn between a knife and a toothbrush; Then again...toilet tissue seems like a must-have too...  I guess I'd have to go with the knife.

4. Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?

I think I would enjoy the solitude.  With the sounds of the waves, the breeze, and the palm leaves (not to mention the occasional curse word), it would be peaceful. 

5. If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?

My husband.  He'd probably have some sort of Swiss Family Robinson style setup rigged in no time.  (My job would be reading aloud from the novel with suggestions and staying out of his way.)

6. What modern technology would you miss the most?

Probably an air-conditioner.  Unless it was comfortably balmy.  Otherwise, a light.

7. What food or beverage would you miss the most?

Dr. Pepper.

8. How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?

Without my husband?  One--maybe.  At which point I'd be totally freaked. With him?  Considerably longer.  Maybe three.

9. What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Probably hug my rescuers.  My husband probably would too.

10. What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?

Being stranded on a desert island is waaay more fun as a what if question than a reality.

Follow Alyssa Goodnight:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tell It To The Trees by Anita Rau Badami

5 Star
One freezing winter morning a dead body is found in the backyard of the Dharma family’s house. It’s the body of Anu Krishnan.

For Anu, a writer seeking a secluded retreat from the city, the Dharmas’ “back-house” in the sleepy mountain town of Merrit’s Point was the ideal spot to take a year off and begin writing. She had found the Dharmas’ rental through a happy coincidence. A friend from university who had kept tabs on everyone in their graduating year – including the quiet and reserved Vikram Dharma and his first wife, Helen – sent her the listing. Anu vaguely remembered Vikram but had a strong recollection of Helen, a beautiful, vivacious, social and charming woman.

But now Vikram had a new wife, a marriage hastily arranged in India after Helen was killed in a car accident. Suman Dharma, a stark contrast to Helen, is quiet and timid. She arrived from the bustling warmth of India full of the promise of her new life – a new home, a new country and a daughter from Vikram’s first marriage. But her husband’s suspicious, controlling and angry tirades become almost a daily ritual, resigning Suman to a desolate future entangled in a marriage of fear and despair.

Suman is isolated both by the landscape and the culture, and her fortunes begin to change only when Anu arrives. A friendship begins to form between the two women as Anu becomes a frequent visitor to the house. While the children, Varsha and Hemant, are at school, Anu, Vikram’s mother, Akka, and Suman spend time sharing tea and stories.

But Anu’s arrival will change the balance of the Dharma household. Young Varsha, deeply affected by her mother’s death and desperate to keep her new family together, becomes increasingly suspicious of Anu’s relationship with her stepmother. Varsha’s singular attention to keeping her family together, and the secrets that emerge as Anu and Suman become friends, create cracks in the Dharma family that can only spell certain disaster.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

Tell It To The Trees is an interesting look into the lives of an Indo-Canadian family living in a secluded community in British Columbia. I've often wondered what it would feel like to be in an arranged marriage and have to move to another country, especially one vastly different from the one you were from. This book did an incredible job portraying her isolation, loneliness and even the way she questioned her reason for being and her decisions in life.

Suman, as the mother figure in the story, tells such a tale. Having been chosen by Vikram to replace the wife who left him and to raise his daughter, Varsha, she soon beomes the mother to Hemant. Also beholden to take care of Vikram's mother, Akka, Suman only exists in their home as she cannot communicate with the outside world and is, in fact, not allowed to. Quite quickly, once Anu arrives to rent the "guest" house, we learn why.

From a controlling and often violent husband, to concern for her mother in law and a manipulative daughter, Suman feels trapped especially since she has no money and her passport, along with all of her ID, has disappeared. A tragedy takes place that threatens everything in her small world and she must decide what to do.

Children Varsha and Hemant have their own ways of dealing with their world. Their only friend being a massive tree in their backyard, it is privy to all of their secrets. 

Alternating between the view points of Hemant, Varsha, Anu and Suman, Tell It To The Trees had my attention - because of the incredible way the characters all made you identify with them despite their intensely different intentions and ways of being. Despite disliking some of the characters, I also could feel their emotions and reasons behind their actions, even though what they were doing or thinking made me uncomfortable. I alternated between disbelief, shame and sadness for this family as I plowed through this fascinating novel. I'll definitely be watching for Anita Rau Badami in the future.

Thank you to Vintage Canada for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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