The Resurrection of Joan Ashby: A Novel

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“A stunning debut novel. The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas encompasses a wealth of superb writing, mature insights, and breathtaking risks . . .”

A stunning debut novel. The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas encompasses a wealth of superb writing, mature insights, and breathtaking risks. Joan Ashby emerges as a substantial and realistic character; you can scarcely believe this is a feat of fiction and not biography. The book is not without some minor flaws—a kitschy ending, too many interruptions to the narrative with extraneous material, and some less than credible synchronistic events.

But even these glitches cannot mar the impact and power of the novel.

Wolas places under the microscope and through decades the nuances and expectations of marriage, where two people who love one another yet never truly know each other, gradually grow into two different people. She also microscopically examines motherhood and parent-child bonds.

Joan Ashby, in her early twenties was a rising, celebrated author of two international, bestselling short story collections. Since girlhood she had plotted the path of lifelong authorship: “Read great literature every day. Write every day. Rewrite every day. Avoid crushes and love. Do not entertain any offer of marriage. Never ever have children. Never allow anyone to get in my way.”

Surprising herself Joan falls in love with a handsome eye surgeon, Martin Manning, and marries him once he promises to never to ask her to bear children. Yet she soon falls pregnant and agonizes: “If she had this baby, it meant a second baby, Joan understood that now; the only discussion would be one of timing. Martin would want to create a foundation of family, Manning children . . . The opposite of how Joan lived her life, the opposite of what she required for her work. She knew other women managed both, had for centuries. But most of those women desired motherhood . . . she did not want motherhood, had no underlying faith in her ability to negotiate the enormity of the obligation, had no interest in the supposed majesty of the experience.”

Daniel is born and to her surprise, Joan falls in love with him, dotes on him, and gives up writing (despite her publisher’s admonishments) to tend to him. A strange, young woman, Fancy, enters their lives as Daniel’s nanny. She and Joan bond, and as Joan leaves her writing life behind, she embraces young motherhood, all the commitments of domestic life, and together with Fancy sets up flower and vegetable gardens, orchards and glens on the Manning four-acre property. Several years later Eric is born and mothering him proves to be much more difficult for Joan; she does not bond with this baby as she has with Daniel. Eric is born with an independent streak.

The narrative takes a darker twist when—years later—11-year-old Daniel, a voracious and advanced reader, who has been writing stories about a squirrel named Henry that garners his parents’ praise and pulls the mother-son bond ever tighter, suddenly discovers that his mother is a famous writer. The fact that she hid this part of her life from him, never said a word about her writing, is a shock that ends his burgeoning promise to follow on her path, and strains their bond. This sin of omission (for which she has a well thought through rationale) sets in motion a series of events that a decade later will shatter Joan’s life.

The Manning family is brilliant: Joan the fêted writer; Martin, a pioneer in eye surgery practices that he shares internationally; Daniel, venture capitalist and graduate of Wharton Business School; and Eric, the child Joan could never truly connect with, who drops out of school at 13 when his computer coding skills lead to the creation of a start-up hi-tech company that he sells and at age 22 is a billionaire.

In Wolas’ pages, Joan’s fully embodied motherhood, despite her ambiguous doubts about her role, are brilliantly accurate. Every mother who has sacrificed her ambition and talents for motherhood will find she is reading about herself. Every husband and wife whose marriage is torn apart will gain new perspectives from reading this novel. Every adult child who wonders about their parents’ relationship to one another and to themselves and their siblings will find a mirror shard here.

After a major bombshell blows the family apart, Joan leaves the Manning home in the Virginia suburbs and heads alone to Dharmashala, India, a place and country that has long fascinated her. Here she works hard to reclaim her shattered sense of self: “She is returning to her own beginning, in solitude, writing away—does she want to alter the rhythm, the joy she is at last experiencing again? Her engrained instinct is to keep everything to herself, to keep the facets of her world separated. Like a port-wine birthmark staining the skin over her heart—even if she could remove the mark, laser it away somehow, it would leave behind an outline, a ghost of what she was born into, of the child she became, of the adult who emerged from the ice and flames.”

On one of her excursions into the Himalayan foothills Joan climbs into a temple dug and shaped deep in the rock in the eighth century. She finds herself overcome by the chiseled perfection of the innermost sanctum. She kneels in the stone temple and asks what is she doing precisely:

“Working in words, trying to hurtle herself into her future, undecided about whether, or how extensive, an amputation of her own life is required? She is kneeling in this stone temple, thinking how hard stone is, how it endures for eternity, and when she rises, she knows she is not prepared to leave this remarkable Indian world, not ready to step back into the small world of Virginia, to be with Martin.”

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is a remarkable achievement. Cherise Wolas is deserving of the laudatory praise her novel is receiving. A rare book such as this comes along only once in a long while.

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Sacrificed

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“Sacrificed places Chanette Paul among the classiest thriller writers of our day.”

Sacrificed by Chanette Paul is a long and satisfying read. Despite its length it is a page-turner that will keep you reading long past the moment the midnight oil burns out. It is a thriller and a family saga with heft and portent. The novel thrusts us deeply into the troubled seas of racial identity in pre- and post-apartheid South Africa, as well as into the tragic and chaotic political mix that comprises modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

From the desperate Belgian Congo in 1961—the time of the murder of President Patrice Lumumba—to life in the natural beauty of South Africa, now a country that 20 years after apartheid ended, sadly is riddled with crime. South African author, Chanette Paul, does not sugarcoat reality.

Ambiguity and coincidence serve as the major organizing principles of this complex and evocative novel. Protagonist Caz Colijn notes this and quotes the poet John Donne, “no man is an island.” Life is an intricate puzzle of interconnected stories—those we know and those that remain hidden. What happens in one life shakes the web of interconnection with often unforeseen consequences.

Caz, a 53-year-old woman, translates English and Afrikaans books. She is a recluse, living alone in a remote part of the rural Cape Province of South Africa—the Overberg. Unexpectedly her estranged sister calls from Belgium to tell her that their mother is dying and wants to see Caz. She declares that Fien is not Caz’s biological mother, and she, not Caz’s sister. This news comes as a thunderbolt to Caz and galvanizes her into undertaking the trip to Belgium. She is obsessed with a search for her biological mother.

We meet a host of characters, all with interconnected ties to Caz, although often they and she do not know this. There are the two mysterious Congolese men who shadow Caz’s every move, a professor of contemporary African history who finds himself thrust into the mix, and a Belgium detective who follows apparently synchronistic clues that ultimately do not produce conclusive evidence. There are African spirits, nkisi, African art, and spiritual rituals—all somehow associated with diamonds. Any more details will be spoilers to this gripping thriller.

Caz is a white woman but she has a remarkable black daughter, an international super-model, Lilah. Lilah’s father was Caz’s white, Afrikaner, long since divorced from husband. Cross-currents of race and racial identity abound.

“Of course, she realized that there must have been a racial mix somewhere for her to have given birth to Lilah, but she would never have thought that it would be a father or grandfather, an old transgression of the immorality law on the Maritz side, perhaps even of Magdel’s forefathers in days gone by who had fallen out of the family tree.

Now it turned out she herself was of color. Despite her white skin.

Until Lilah had said it so comically, it had not really dawned on her. A half-breed. That was what she was. It didn’t turn her into anything or anyone other than Caz Colijn, but it was still a shock. An idea she would have to get used to. . . .

She and Lilah came from a family tree where they had to make peace with shades. Like the yesterday-today-and-tomorrow tree had to make peace with its fading flowers.”

In Sacrificed the arcs of many storylines merge and part and ultimately leave several threads hanging. This in itself is satisfying and realistic, an intelligent way to conclude the book. Intimate family trajectories, as well as those of grandiose political schemas cannot be neatly packaged simply because they have become more transparent to the characters and the reader. Ultimately, we are left with some answers but also more questions.

If there is a weakness in the novel it is the somewhat sketchy role of the two Congolese men who doggedly follow Caz. Their philosophy of “reAfrikanization + Dewhitenization = Total Afrikan Liberation” deserves far more development than simply serving as a plot device in the riveting mystery and drama around Congolese uncut diamonds and political ambition.

But this is a minor quibble in what is a compelling read in author Paul’s North American debut. After 41 novels written in Afrikaans and published in her native South Africa, Sacrificed places Chanette Paul among the classiest thriller writers of our day.

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Image of Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
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“This book is a breath of fresh air.”

Born A Crime is a rollicking ride of a book, an enjoyable feast of storytelling. Deservedly it is already a number one bestselling book. Combining comedy and tragedy, the book covers the dying days of apartheid in South Africa and the uncertain dawn of a new age as Nelson Mandela tries to birth a Rainbow Nation out of a horrific, nationalist, racist past.

Trevor Noah’s autobiography of his childhood and adolescence in this perilous, shifting landscape cleverly avoids polemical statements and moral platitudes. Instead he describes a resilient and opportunistic child and teenager whose intuitive street smarts lead him into a hustler’s life. The very facts of how he learns to navigate the political currents swirling around him provides vivid commentary on those challenging times for South Africa.

The book begins and ends with chapters on his mother. She is a woman of unbreakable religious faith. Sundays with Mom mean attending three different churches in three different parts of Johannesburg and environs.

Mrs. Noah is a formidable woman. She knowingly broke apartheid laws designating as a crime sexual intercourse between people of different races. Yet, she moved into a “gray” area (neither white nor black-only residences) with a man she loved, a Swiss man. Wanting a child she persuaded him to be the father.

When Trevor was born she moved back to her mother in Soweto, the sprawling black township near Johannesburg. Trevor became accustomed to clandestine visits to his father. He learned that if they were out in public he could not call him “Dad” and must walk alongside his mother but several steps behind his father. In later years his father moved to Cape Town, and they lost contact.

Trevor does not enjoy church and argues continually with his mother about her Sunday regime. But she is steadfast in her faith overcoming all obstacles an inadequate transport system throws in her way. Only when he was an older teenager and living away from home did Trevor stop going to church.

By then we have learned of his mother’s marriage to a Tsonga man, a master mechanic, Abel, and of their move to a previously “whites only” suburb where Abel houses his business. Eventually Trevor has two younger brothers, Andrew and Isaac.

Early on Trevor experiences being on the receiving end of Abel’s strength, wrath and other ravages his alcoholism bring. But this move does not only portend tragedy. Fortuitously it also provides Trevor with a shot at better schooling. He is now enrolled in previous “whites only” schools.

At junior high and high school, Trevor encounters the heartache of crushed love. He struggles to find his identity as a so-called “colored” youth, unacceptable to both the black kids at school and the white. His identity crisis also creates opportunities as he uses his entrepreneurial instincts to keep himself busy and earn some money.

“My life of crime started off small. Selling pirated CDs on the corner. That in itself was a crime, and today I feel I owe all these artists money for stealing their music, but by hood standards it didn’t even qualify as illegal. At the time it never occurred to any of us that we were doing anything wrong—if copying CDs is wrong, why would they make CD writers?”

Trevor graduates from high school and wants to study computer programming at university, but the family does not have the money to pay for his studies. Unemployment among black youth is as high as 50 percent. For the last two years of his adolescence, Trevor, living away from home, and along with friends, works the streets of seedy and dangerous Alexandria Township selling pirated CDs, DJ’ing wherever invited, and working deals for other hustlers that give him and his cronies a cut of the profit.

Inevitably, the day arrives where he is stopped by the cops and arrested for driving a stolen car. The car belongs to Abel but Trevor “borrowed” it and put on false number plates. He cannot find the registration papers. Through guile he avoids a jail sentence but after describing a week in a holding pen awaiting trail, we see fully that the new black police force is as brutal as their white predecessors.

The book ends on a poignant note. Trevor, in his twenties and working as a stand-up comic, on Sunday morning is called by one of his younger brothers and told Abel shot their mother. Her life had moved on from Abel having divorced him and married again. One Sunday in a drunken rage he sought her out and shot her. Miraculously she survives, and Noah writes movingly of how her near-death experience highlights their indestructible bond and how much having her as his mother shaped his life.

Once she is out of danger they sit on her hospital bed, “She broke into a huge smile and started laughing. Through my tears I started laughing too. I was bawling my eyes out and laughing hysterically at the same time. We sat there and she squeezed my hand and we cracked each other up the way we always did, mother and son. Laughing together through the pain in an intensive-care recovery room on a bright and sunny and beautiful day.”

This book is a breath of fresh air. Hopefully a sequel is in the works. We wonder how Trevor Noah made the leap from stand-up comic in South Africa to anchor The Daily Show as Jon Stewart’s successor in New York.

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MY HEARTFELT APPEAL DIRECTED TO REPUBLICAN LEADERS TO DITCH DRUMPF.

LET’S PUT OUR COUNTRY BACK ON A PATH OF SANITY. HE IS AMERICA’S GREATEST FAILURE.

For most of my adult life I’ve been an educator, as well as a freelance journalist and an author, an international expert on the psychology of personality, and since the age of thirteen an anti-apartheid activist in my motherland, South Africa.

Let’s start there—the racist ideological madmen whom we opposed in South Africa at least believed in something, albeit a despicable racist ideology.

Drumpf believes in nothing except himself and his brand…and that’s it. He is non-empathic and unaware of the damage his lies do to other Americans and his country. He’s a racist. He’s a psychologically impaired ego- and megalomaniac. He is in the same league as all the most infamous villains of history. That alone should disqualify him for President.

Drumpf is the most pervasive negative role model for our children and grandchildren.

I’ve written a book on parenting, I’ve taught hundreds, if not into the low thousands of highly intelligent, young people, about moral responsibility, human rights, reality and illusion, and perhaps, most importantly, how to think and write critically.

* Drumpf models that it’s perfectly acceptable to be an ill-prepared, foul-mouthed, morally blind ignoramus. As long as you can lie and lie again, and bully and browbeat, you can be President.

*Drumpf models to them that bluster and bullying, screaming obscenities at individuals and groups is acceptable —after all he’s running for President; he’s the standard-bearer of the Republican Party, he must be okay.

* Drumpf lies and double downs, contradicts himself, lies again. He is a national embarrassment. He is a vaudeville villain, a clown, a con man, a cheat, a liar, a liar, and a liar.

HE IS A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR. He models to America and the world’s children that it’s okay to lie. And lie, and lie.

* He signals to America’s allies and enemies that his word is NEVER TO BE TRUSTED.

* He signals to Americans not only that can WE NEVER TRUST HIM but the sure road ahead if he becomes President will be to upend 240 years of progress, of tearing up the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

*He is the greatest danger to America’s future and that means the international order too.

Can you imagine Drumpf trying to deal with a major catastrophe; he’ll blame the victims.

He’ll shirk responsibility. He won’t spend time in the White House; he’ll go back to his shyster business dealings. He and his wife will visit occasionally. Pence will be our president except in name…. and on and on.

My heartfelt appeal is directed to Republican leaders TO DITCH DRUMPF. Let’s put our country back on a path of sanity. He is America’s greatest failure.

 

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Barkskins: A Novel by Annie Proulx

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“Over 300 years the forests are raped, eco-systems destroyed, wealth generated, and the insatiable international desire and greed for wood exploited.”

Annie Proulx, the author of Barkskins is an accomplished American writer. She has achieved the status of grande dame of American letters and deservedly so. An earlier book, The Shipping News, is a stellar work, one with teeth and grit, lyricism and poignancy, dark as well as magical moments. That book remains a pioneer at the frontier of American fiction, as her protagonist, Quoyle, exists in one of the first portrayals of a single father as a heroic figure through the travails and triumphs of his small, dysfunctional family.

If readers hope for more of the same in Barkskins they will be disappointed. The book is overlong, the storylines confusing, the insertion of pages and pages of albeit interesting facts about daily life in the towering, primeval forests—the utensils, the logging tools, the clothes, the traditions, rites and rituals of all the people who meet, clash, and intermingle—are shared in almost overwhelming detail, so as to slow and even disrupt the novel. It is as if Proulx insisted on using all the detail she had accumulated in her ten years of research and writing of Barkskins. At the very moment we are engrossed in one of the story lines we are dragged back to arcane documentation.

The book opens in 1693 when two indentured Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in Canada—New France—to serve as woodcutters for an eccentric feudal lord who built a grand chateau deep in the forests for his future bride (when he finds one).

Sel is forced to marry a native Mi’kmaw woman, and his progeny, through generations, vacillate between the two worlds of their generators—French frontiersmen and native Canadians or “original people.”

Duquet escapes his servitude to gain a foothold on the wealth the territory offers through fur-trapping, trading, and later enterprising forays into timber. He founds, and his descendants (later changing their last name to Duke), now timber barons, forge an international empire.

Both families’ genealogical lines are tied to trees, natural disasters, unexpected plot twists and turns—in frontier Quebec, then Michigan and hundreds of years later in the kauri forests of New Zealand.

Over 300 years the forests are raped, eco-systems destroyed, wealth generated, and the insatiable international desire and greed for wood exploited.

Overall the writing is fluid, and as would expect of Proulx her characters are exposed to states of the human condition from veniality to love. There are too many characters and episodes to cite here, but among the most intriguing is the union of Kuntaw, one of Sel’s grandsons and Beatrix Duquet, a granddaughter of Charles, and their life near the Penobscot people, river and bay in Maine. This union (although they never married) is one where descendants of the Sel and Duquet families unknowingly for many years in the second half of the eighteenth century, amalgamated their lives. They had no offspring.

Kuntaw and Beatrix meet on the muddy banks of the river:

He stood a few yards back from the horse and looked at the girl. She was elegant, wearing a black cloak edged in red. Something about her dark-ivory face said she was part Indian.

“You like to make some money?” she asked moving close. She lifted her head and inhaled his odor of smoke, meat and pine pitch.

He shrugged. “What do?”

“Split wood of course.” She enunciated very carefully. ‘You carry an ax. Do you know how to split firewood?”

He nodded. “I know.”

“I need you, Indian man. Follow.” Beatrix Duquet turned her horse and trotted gracefully toward the big house, he had to run to keep up with her. Watching her long crinkled hair sway, the bright heels of her boots, he felt a wave of enchantment strike him like warm rain. So, in his thirtieth spring, began the strangest part of his life, as he seemed to stumble out of the knotted forest and onto a shining path.

Barkskins is an epic saga but unlike many of James Michener’s epic historical sagas or others such as The Thornbirds by Australian, Colleen McCullough, or Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, to name only a few, Barkskins does not have the sweep and flow of history that keeps one reading through the night.

Perhaps the material here would be better served as eco-nonfiction, such as John McPhee’s The Control of Nature, Bill McKibbon’s The End of Nature, or Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring and influence this and successive generations to save the planet and specifically in Proulx’s case, the forests that are left on our planet before they are denuded; however, as eco-fiction it falls below Annie Proulx’s admittedly extraordinarily high standards.

Perhaps her intention all along is to write a cautionary tale about the environmental catastrophe we have already wrought.

Why shouldn’t things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go well together. —George Santayana

By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feeling of natural objects. —Lynn White, Jr.

These epigraphs certainly suggest the reason for Annie Proulx’s book encompassing the polemical tilt toward recording so thoroughly this irreparable damage.

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Relativity

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“Relativity is a wonderful read . . . well written, sometimes lyrically so, well plotted and not afraid to enter some of the grittier territory of complex human relationships.”

Relativity by Antonia Hayes is a wonderful read. Hayes deserves a wide audience for this book. Relativity is Hayes debut novel, well written, sometimes lyrically so, well plotted and not afraid to enter some of the grittier territory of complex human relationships. One of Hayes’ singular achievements in this work is her non-judgmental stance and balanced voice.

For protagonists, 12-year-old Ethan, his biological father, Mark, and his single mom, Claire, sometimes explosive, sometimes tender, often hard-to-read shifting points of view have the ring of truth. Indeed they should, for as author Hayes says in interviews the novel’s impetus is largely based on autobiographical fact but the characters and evolving plot are fictional. The novel is set in Sydney Australia, Hayes’ hometown although she now lives in San Francisco.

Another character omnipresent in the novel is ideas created from theoretical physics and cosmology. Hayes’ writing of complex abstraction is masterful. By having, albeit a remarkable 12 year old articulate his understanding of these ideas, she makes them accessible to a wide audience.

A tattoo on Mark’s arm illustrates the interaction between science and this troubled family, ‘E=mc2’: Ethan equals Mark and Claire. Ethan, a brilliant and precocious boy fascinated by physics, Mark, a mysterious figure in Ethan’s life until he is 12, and Claire, a professional ballerina, who ends her performance career to care for her son.

No other spoilers in this review for that would mar your reading of this compulsive, compassionate, and intelligent novel. It grabs you from the jarring opening page and on the last page you gasp at the fitting paean of appreciation for the force of gravity and how Hayes links the implications of physics to the plot.

“Gravitation shapes our universe. Forms tides, heats planetary cores. It’s why fragments of gravitational matter clump together into planets and moons, why stars cluster into vast, rippling galaxies. Earth isn’t going to crash into the sun, the moon won’t collide with Earth—gravity keeps them safe in orbit. It always attracts and never repels; it brings the planets back.

Gravity is insistent. It firmly stands its ground. We never stop accelerating toward the center of the Earth at 9.8/s2. That curvature in the fabric of space-time is a phenomenon we experience every day, an invisible experience we all have in common.”

Light years from the rarified conceptual realm of scientific ideas, Ethan’s family is mired in hurt, excrutiating guilt, and a combination of hate and love not yet understood or clarified. Microcosmic and macrocosmic perceptions of human experience do not align—yet.

“Claire got dressed. Her head was full of contradictions, as though each hemisphere of her own brain were battling some civil war. Confusion left her with a strong desire for solitude, to be left alone with her conflicting thoughts. She felt completely disorientated, questioning her entire life. What if her heart had reshaped itself around a lie? Part of her was angry . . . another part of her utterly distraught.”

Ethan, a child on the cusp of adolescence, is the perfect vehicle through which the story unfolds. We learn at the same time he does the mysterious twists of family history, burial and reframing of tortured memories, a family constellation torn apart.

Gravity does not operate the same way in this family constellation as it does on a universal scale; the stars do not align, at least not on the surface. But at the quantum level gravity and relativity are present although to the untrained eye particles heave and bubble like chaos itself.

Hayes invites us to look deeper into the quantum level of her characters’ psyches. Our clue to this interpretation is Ethan’s pet rabbit named, Quark. As Hayes explains, quarks are elementary particles and fundamental constituents of matter. Quarks combine to form particles called hadrons, the components of atomic nuclei.

The matter that constitutes stars is the same matter firing neurons in our brains. At some level Ethan is already the space-time traveler he strives to be. After all, the title of the novel is Relativity.

– See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/relativity#sthash.rnDkrJJr.dpuf

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Solstice Greetings December 21, 2014

When thinking what to blog about at this juncture of the year,  the word “books” keeps coming to mind. Books, in many ways remain an anchor in my life. So, I am going to share my great pleasure in books by selecting several highlights from my reading this year.  I’ll start with my most recent “fav”.

Seems as if this past year is the season for excellent historical novels and I so enjoyed and highly recommend The Paying Guests by acclaimed British author, Sarah Waters. In 1920s London, begrimed both physically and metaphorically by the ravages of WW1, Frances Wray and Lilian Barber form a friendship that leads to unanticipated and spellbinding consequences. Shot through with undertones of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s inimitable Crime and Punishment, this exquisitely written novel hits all the high notes available to a consummate artist at the height of her powers.

The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami, a fictional memoir written by formerly wealthy Moroccan merchant-cum-Spanish slave, Estebanico, who in 1527 accompanied his grandee master–along with 600 other Spanish conquistadors and journeymen–on the fictional recreation of a historic expedition from Hispaniola to the Gulf Coast of Florida to explore and claim La Florida territory for the Spanish crown. Only four members survived. Estebanico’s account counters the whitewash “official” version. This novel has everything: history, adventure, relationships, survival, courage, cruelty and important questions of morality, religiosity, and cultural anthropology. It is both anachronistic and perfectly attuned to contemporary issues.

The classic book on the Florida Everglades, The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, first published almost seventy years ago, remains a gripping and fascinating account of the pre-history and history of this amazing eco-system. It is a must read for anyone who loves or who is interested in this landscape. I love the Everglades and this biota is one of the main motivations for my move to southwest Florida. I’ll be forever grateful for Stoneman’s book, it is already my constant companion.

I’m honored to highlight The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, published late fall 2013, an unforgettable read, a towering novel, that will remain the gold standard for dissecting the post-2001 apocalyptic world in which we find ourselves. In February 2014 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Here are several paragraphs from the concluding pages. I hope they leave you wanting more.

“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

“It’s not about outward appearances but inward significance, a grandeur in the world, but not of the world, a grandeur that the world doesn’t understand. That first glimpse of pure otherness, in whose presence you bloom out and out and out.

“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: is the space where all art exists, and all magic.

“And—I would argue as well—all love…the play between things, both love and not-love, there and not there.”

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Happy Solstice! As we (in the northern hemisphere) emerge from the dark light of December I send my love and wholehearted good wishes to my followers and readers for good health and happiness in the upcoming year, wherever you are.

 

 

 

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