Thursday, June 6, 2019

Dreams of Falling by Karen White

Dreams of Falling. Karen White. Penguin Publishing Group.  June 2018; hb. 416 pp.; ISBN #: 9780451488411.

Ivy, Larkin, Margaret, Cecee, Bitty and a host of their former friends fill these pages with mysteries and secrets!

Larkin left Georgetown, South Carolina for New York nine years ago but gets a telephone call noting that her mother Ivy is missing.  While she is traveling home, Ivy is found, fallen through a rotted plank of a staircase in their old plantation home.  Close to the house are moss-covered trees in which one puts ribbons which are inscribed with one’s dreams.  There, the characters discover there are ribbons newly placed which hold mystifying messages or dreams. Who placed them there and what do the ribbon messages mean?

The plot in this latest novel by Karen White is simple and yet oh so complex.  Larkin obviously felt very insecure and incapable when she lived here as a child.  However, everyone else remembers her as a forward, more than capable and amusing child and teen, to the point that her strengths made others feel less capable and even inferior.  So the memories of her former friends emerge more as confessions, envy and slightly critical of her for leaving.  South Carolinian relationships seem quite binding and even at times slightly oppressive which adds to the mystery in each scene as it unfolds.

Ivy never recovered from losing Ellis, her first husband and deepest love; her artistic abilities and kindness to all are noteworthy.  Cecee is the preacher’s daughter who along with the others went on a phenomenal trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when a teen that changed her life forever.  Bitty, another artist, seems to be a follower but has her own past relationships and dreams that never quite unfolded as she wanted.

As the tales unfold about the past, will new romantic interests emerge?  Will Ivy come out of unconsciousness or not?  Larkin spends a great deal of time discovering things about her mother from other people.  As she talks to her unconscious mother in the hospital, Ivy is internally hearing it all and responding mentally.  Only when these dreams, scenes and discoveries are fulfilled in the way they must can each character truly let go of the past and embrace the present.

Dreams of Falling is another lovely story penned by the talented Karen White!  This is fine, interesting and endearing historical and contemporary fiction for all to thoroughly enjoy.  Nicely crafted and recommended reading!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Favorite Daughter: A Novel by Patti Callahan Henry

The Favorite Daughter: A Novel. Patti Callahan Henry. Penguin Publishing Group.  June 2019. pb, 368 pp.; ISBN: 9780399583131.

Lena (Colleen) Donohue proceeded to walk to her wedding and instead accidentally walked in on an act of betrayal that ultimately changed her life forever.  She loved her hometown of Watersend, South Carolina but fled to New York on that traumatic day.  One can leave to New York and begin a successful life as a journalist but can one forget one’s true “home” and return without having to deal with her immense pain and inability to forgive?  Can one learn to trust again and perhaps even learn to love without waiting for another disaster to follow?

When Lena’s brother Shane begs her to come home to help with their Dad, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Of course, she returns but does everything she can to avoid her sister Hallie.  That’s not really possible but they realize concern for their father must take top priority. 

So they decide to throw a 60th birthday for their father and to create a memory book that spans Virginia, Ireland and South Carolina, so that he can remember and refer to it frequently before his memory declines completely.  In the process of doing this, the family discover secrets very close to Lena’s heartache and how their parents coped with their sense of betrayal and forgiveness.

Eventually Hallie will have that conversation she’s always wanted to have before Lena ran away to New York but not until many terse, sniping words pass back and forth between the two formerly very close sisters.  Yes, home is more than just a place.  It’s a location where all the ups and downs as well as the acts and words that destroy and bind happen, albeit a wee bit contrived. The personalities are spunky and tender in just the right spots.  It will trigger the reader to contemplate what one considers to be one’s own precious memories!

The Favorite Daughter is a good read, a story brimming with passion, love, hate, forgiveness and renewal.  It’s also a lovely story of a beautiful part of the country which is described in all its lush greenery, marshland and seaside.  A very nice summer read!

Where I End and You Begin by Preston North

Where I End and You Begin. Preston Norton. Disney Press.  June 2019; pb and e-book, 416 pp.; ISBN: 9781484798355.

Ezra Slevin is one very anxious, crazy and sleep-deprived teenager and his friends are as crazy as he is in singular ways.  His main objective these days is to get up the guts to ask Imogen to the prom.  Imogen is a beauty, although rather nerdy, who is more into helping her friends than impressing them with her dazzling, blond looks.  Her best friend, Wynonna, thrives on making fun of Ezra and thus proves to be the foil that keeps Ezra from ever getting close enough to Imogen to ask her the big question.

On a night when their class was to gather to watch a solar eclipse, they manage to get caught sneaking into the local high school. The punishment – play a role as a member of the other sex in a Shakespearean high school production. But more importantly is that Wynonna and Ezra further on in this out-of-control dramatic presentation wake up in the other person’s body.  Not only are they freaked out by this occurrence but they over time also decide that it’s funky enough that they want to keep doing it.

During the switching Ezra discovers Wynonna’s secret crush on his good friend.  Finally they work out a deal to keep switching bodies in order to get a romantic relationship they want.  There’s plenty happening through this unique plot to compel questions and ponder the idea of gender identity and how it affects males and females.  And what happens when one switches gender and wants to stay there?

There are many literary and historical allusions that come up in many conversations – all accomplished with a funny and insanely humorous style that never lets up.  While this story takes place about ten years ago, the issues are more than relevant to today’s concerns with sexual identity and how we treat each other depending on one’s gender, some great and some forcing prolonged reflection on the not-so-nice ways that have become questionable parts of today’s culture.

This is a sharply plotted, wittily crafted, crazy and funky story perfect for today’s teens and, perhaps, adults as well!!!

Cleverly crafted and presented, Preston Norton!!! Keep writing!