Monday, February 25, 2013

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth — Audiobook Review

Recorded by HighBridge Company
Narrated by Nicola Barber
Length: 12 Hours 2 Minutes

At only 22, Jennifer Worth has decided to become a midwife in postwar London, specifically in the slums of the East End. When she arrives at the convent that will be both her home and her workplace, she meets the eclectic bunch of nuns and trained nurses that will come to be a second family to her as she begins plying her craft to the poor and underprivileged women of the city. Riding out on her bicycle to labors both just beginning and already in progress, Jennifer tells the tales of the remarkable women and babies who show such a zest for life, that she is sometime taken aback. Life in the slums is dirty and most of the women that
Worth sees are badly in need of other types of assistance as well. Each birth she attends is rare, special and beautiful, but there is at times heartbreaking sadness that accompanies her deliveries. From the tiny baby that is so premature that she must take milk wrung one drop at a time out of a towel, to the reproductive health clinic that she must sometimes manage, Jennifer sees it all with newfound awe and sometimes even with amusement. Some of the tasks that she is asked to cope with are gruesome and some are bittersweet, but as she learns to navigate her way on bicycle across the city, in any weather or condition, Jennifer becomes a nurse and midwife of such skill that she sometimes even surprises herself. Interspersed with her birthing tales are the tales of the nuns whom she lives and works with—nuns who range from sly and spirited to diffident and easily offended, Jennifer comes to know and love them all. It is a solid and well told tale, crafting equal bits truth and reflection. Jennifer the midwife will linger in your mind long after the book is put away on its shelf.

When I discovered this audiobook at SIBA, I didn’t know that there was a planned PBS series already underway, and I took that as a good sign. I love it when books become television shows, and know that PBS has a fantastic reputation—just look at Downton Abbey. I was very pleased with this audiobook from start to finish, and thought that Nicola Barber totally embodied Jennifer Worth in this reflective set of tales. Her British accent was flawless and spirited, and she had no trouble in capturing the awe of bringing struggling babes into the world, and also in the jovial way that she captures the voices of the nuns. I liked her delivery, for she was able to handle the soft and tender moments with care, and also the less swanky side of life in the slums. You could hear her voice, gripped with empathy and silent understanding of these women in the way she spoke her tales, and by the time it was all over, I felt very close to both the narrator and the author.

Despite her choice of profession, Jennifer is not a stodgy and overserious woman, and in fact, she struggles with the choice of living in  St. Raymond Nonnatus house when she first arrives on the scene. She has no particular religious calling, but the fact that the nuns of Nonnatus house are so well regarded in the community for their successful birthing methods, and the fact that Jennifer herself feels somehow called to be there, leads her right into the ruckus that will one day become second nature to her. Jennifer herself was very capable, even in her first deliveries, and she had a sound mind that enabled her to cope with the many sadnesses that life in the slums would expose her to. She was bold enough to know when a woman was in travail, and when it became dangerous, and she was sure in her ways with the women of the town. Make no mistake, it was not only the births and postnatal care that she had to be responsible for, but also for the sexual health clinic in a disorderly corner of London. Many times the things she saw were unappetizing, and sometimes even even the stolid Jennifer was shaken.

The many stories that she tells about the births that she presided over were the icing on the cake for me. I’ve already admitted to loving midwife stories, but the truths and solidity behind every aspect of the births that she attends were totally absorbing to me. Many of the medical advancements that we now take for granted had not been invented yet, and still, not many of her mothers fared badly at all. Particularly striking was the tale of the immigrant mother who was married to an Englishman and spoke no English, while bearing him 24 children. It’s impossible to even contemplate that number, but what Jennifer insists is an error on her record is indeed fact, and giving birth to her 24th child, Jennifer is present and sees a rapturous love for both the new baby and all her other children from a mother who speaks not a word of English.

Some of the stories were funny, some unusual, and some very sad as well. Both babies and mothers were lost, but funnily enough, not as many as you would expect, for the training and expertise of the Nonnatus house nuns was impeccable and went beyond the standard of care that we have even today. Mothers were visited at their homes for home births, unless it became perilous for them to do so. Only then were they removed to the hospital. Each mother had two visits a day from a traveling nurse as their day approached, and they were to stay abed for two weeks after delivery. This is virtually unheard of nowadays, when the typical delivery and hospital stay is about three days, after which the mother is sent home to fend for herself, with no one looking in. The nuns of Nonnatus house were different in that they did continue to look in, again, twice a day. They must make sure the child and mother were healthy, the child was suckling, and all things in between. It was dedication of the highest order, and it was hard not to be impressed with the level of care.

The other aspect of this winning book was the nuns themselves. They ran the gamut, personality wise, and flew in the face of what a nun should look like or be. They were ever compassionate and understanding, but this didn’t mean that they weren’t above petty rivalries in the abbey, or didn’t have difficulty trying to keep their own intentions honestly or without struggle. As Jennifer gets to know each nun very closely, she finds that living among the sisters is just like living among literal sisters, and that despite their higher calling from God, some could be petty while still being loving and selfless. As she breaks through the walls of their emotional interiors, she discovers that they are all very human women who have had lives of struggle and who all come from very different walks of life. It is these nuns who, without knowing it, help Jennifer to find her own way to God, and find her place among them as well.

This was a fantastic listen for me, and it only took me a couple of days to finish it. It’s a must read for all those who love midwifery or those who would like to get a picture of what it was like to be a British woman in the 1940s. It was not a book that one could read totally dry-eyed, either with tears or with laughter, and because of the abundance of emotion instilled in Jennifer’s words, it was a book that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Both the emotional and physical practicalities were given great regard, and despite the differences that readers will see cross culturally and cross generationally, it is a book to be marvelled at. I can’t wait to see the series that PBS crafted from this wonderful specimen of literature.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tim Rowland’s Creature Features by Tim Rowland — 160 pgs

Whether it’s the bouncing and flopping dog, Opie, or the tiny horse with attitude, Tim Rowland has probably seen it all on his farm.  He shares it all with his readers in this collection of off-the-cuff essays that will leave animal lovers hungering for more. A pig that graciously thanks his owner for the scraps? A chicken who can’t seem to stop thinking of Tim’s outstretched leg as a perch? Three fractious billy goats that cause a ruckus wherever they go? Tim’s got them all living down home on the farm with him. It’s an eclectic mix of pets, that’s for sure, and he knows it. As he shares his wonderment at the strange jokes that nature plays, he gives his readers a peek at what it’s like to live nose to nose with the animals that have come to be his constant amusement and his unlikely harassers. In these 75 short essays, readers will come to know the truth about Tim: he is a man with an extremely adept way with animals, and he has a heart that is both kind and funny.

This was a departure for me. As the stress levels in my life have gone up, I ‘ve sought out softer and funnier stories to get me through the storms. This was the first of my lighter reads, and once again, it had me following my husband all over the house trying to read him passages of the book. Even he could not argue with Tim’s assessment of his pets, which was wry and amusing, and gave us both many laughs. It wasn’t the comedy alone that made this collection great, it was also the size of the pieces and the clarity of the writing.

Tim knows he’s not a normal guy. He and his wife have made a life carved out of the land and have adopted many animals into the fold, not only to be food sources but also to be companions and unlikely ruffians.  Some of his cows are there to give milk and breed, but some are there to be beef cattle, and as Tim claims, once an animal has a name, it’s here to stay. And a spirited group it is. There is a chicken named Stink who is the most agile and productive at catching stink bugs when they infest the farm, and Tim is very attached to this little fellow, who doesn’t have much going for him other than the bug work. There is a chicken who is jealous when she doesn’t receive enough attention and will peck holes into the legs of unsuspecting company when they do not exhibit the proper awe. And then there are the dogs: a bulldog, who is quite content just watching the action, and wild and wily Opie, a dog with a pedigree who acts like a feral three year old.

Like many of his animals, Tim is a card, and he relates his tales with a wilting sense of defeat that his animals seem to be overtaking the farm and worming themselves into the category of “The Named.” And there are many already on that list. What makes this particular book so refreshing is that each essay is approximately 2-½ pages long, making for bite sized reading that will have you rolling your eyes and giggling away at the odd things that he discovers on a daily basis. You need some of this in your lives, for this is all good clean fun that pokes fun directly where it should: at the animals and the couple who own them. It’s a crafty bunch that live on the farm, and each day brings new surprises that Tim may find daunting but that will provoke readers to chuckle along as Tim bumbles around and discovers the daily maelstrom that his goats, cows, pigs, et al. are involved in.

From sweet and golden moments to the wild conundrums that his pets cause , Tim has to learn to sigh and laugh it off. When the cow begins to give birth in front of Tim, he is flabbergasted and can only think to give her verbal praise, because what else can he do? Luckily his wife is on the scene and she knows just how to handle things. The thuggish goats were my favorite though. As they vow to take down a group of wild deer, they get more than they could ever bargain for. I liked the pigs too. One dour and highly righteous, the other as friendly as a dog, giving his grunts of thanks to every meal thrown into his trough, it’s clear that this particular little porker is destined to be named. Rowland gives the writing of these stories not only a hefty dose of comedy, but clearly invokes irony and his suspicion that his animals may at any time revolt and cause havoc that none can contain. It’s a clever balance between the farmer and his animals, and it’s related with such a punchy and winsome voice that readers will be smiling as the pages keep turning and turning, almost outside of their control.

I found the humor and utter brashness of Rowland’s animals to be not only funny, but could relate to the feeling that perhaps the pets will take over one day. I know I feel that way in my house sometimes, and I think others will relate to Tim’s causal stupor of the big blunders that his animals seem to naturally create for themselves and for him. If you need some funny, delivered in bite sized packages, this is the book for you. It’s hilarious without being in any way offensive and it shows its readers that animals have a lot more personality than we give them credit for, even farm animals. Original and highly raucous, this is a book that begs to be read and glitters with personality and verve. A wonderfully tight and solid little read. Recommended!

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Driving Alone: A Love Story by Kevin Lynn Helmick — 102 pgs

Life is not going well for bad boy Billy Keyhoe. He’s drunk more often than not, has a violent temper that he uses as an excuse to rain down physical abuse on his girlfriend, and he thinks that he can take whatever he wants, without consequences. After one particularly nasty night, Billy’s anger leads to a severe beating for his girlfriend, Billy just wants to split town before the girl’s family comes a’calling. But the problems that Billy faces when he tries to steal from the local gas station will have a lot more repercussions than he ever thought possible. Now Billy is on his own, driving alone through the deserted highways of Texas, with his booze and gas running out, and only a little over twenty dollars to his name. When he reaches the crossroads that will lead out of town, Billy is surprised to find a sweet and fresh faced young girl hitching rides in the middle of nowhere. Since Billy operates as if he is God’s gift to women, there will be no doubt he will stop for the girl, who calls herself Feather. But Feather is not what she appears to be, and from the first moment that she enters Billy’s car, she is a rather tempting, but seriously taunting woman. As Billy and Feather move towards Savannah, Feather continues to poke and prod at Billy’s vulnerabilities, and for some reason, he continues to let her. But when her story finally comes out, it leads Billy to a discovery that will rob him of the essence of his self confidence, and fill him with dread. For Billy and Feather are two of a kind, and they are headed down a road that is difficult to imagine, and even harder to deal with. In this short work of gothic noir, Billy Keyhoe, a man forever with a plan, comes up just the wrong moment.

I don’t often read novellas, and I can’t think of any reason why they have escaped my attention for so long. In fact, I think this is my first attempt at reviewing a novella, and I must conclude that I liked the format a lot more than I thought I would, despite some misgivings I had with the book. It was a story that was almost predictable, but not quite. It didn’t bother me that I had an inkling of what was going on before the end, but the author did a great job of keeping his story all tucked together until those final few moments, when things went in a different direction than I had expected. This is not to say that there weren’t some drawbacks to the book that I will soon explain.

There is no doubt that Billy is the epitome of the hard drinking and hard loving man. Though he abuses his girlfriend, he feels no shame or regret, only the need to escape before his ass is handed to him. In Billy’s mind, his girlfriend has gotten some of the confidence back that he has worked so hard to destroy, and it angers him fiercely. Her situation is changing, and she is becoming more courageous, which burns Billy’s anger into a flame. After a brutal beating, Billy thinks that he will just jump out of harm’s way for a few days, but it’s clear that the news is out when he tries to rob the gas station, and is accosted by a threat he never saw coming. This sends Billy into a panic, and as he drives away, the fear he feels is dissipated by the large amounts of alcohol he is swilling while driving those dusty roads.

When Billy sees Feather on the side of the road, he is almost aghast at his luck. She is young and more beautiful than any girl he has ever seen, and he wonders why it is that he is so lucky to have crossed paths with her. Feather for the most part is annoying; like a little gnat in your ear, she is always buzzing away annoyingly, trying to get a rise out of Billy. For once, the man keeps his temper, but only by a slim margin. I didn’t really enjoy the sections between the hitchhiking Feather and Billy because of the heavy southern dialect that was used to convey their conversations. It took away some of the intensity of the story, and it broke into my consciousness while reading in an unpleasant way. Almost all of her dialogue ended with the word “hey”, even when she wasn’t asking a question. This made her seem very uneducated and backwards, and it bothered me immensely.

While Billy and Feather ride down the roads, Feather continues to pepper Billy with questions and “heys”, but Billy is slower to anger than he has ever been before. But so great is the annoyance that Feather causes that Billy’s true colors come out in a split second, forcing a confrontation that surprised me. In the conclusion, Feather’s true and final message is delivered to a stunned and scared Billy, and it’s not what readers might be expecting at all. After it is done, Billy will see himself as he truly is, and will discover just what fate has in store for him, and believe me folks, it’s not good. It’s hard not to cheer as Billy gets his comeuppance, but the tale ends in a way that is both frightening and sad for all concerned.

This story held some things that I felt were predictable, and some things that weren’t, though I do feel that the use of the southern slang was overused, causing me a bit of annoyance. It’s not a novella that is wholly original, but parts of it seemed to be elevated into something that was a little more surprising than first hinted at. So, while it worked, and it’s story was effective, there were some parts that just didn’t quite hit the mark. It was a quick read though, and led me to search for more short novellas, which is something that I am grateful for. A mixed bag of a book.

Author Photo About the Author

Kevin Lynn Helmick, born 1963, Fort Madison IA, is the author of The Lost Creek Journal, selective poems and flash fiction, Clovis Point, a rural noir thriller, Sebastian Cross, a literary adventure novel, Heartland Gothic, a literary black comedy, and Driving Alone, a dark southern gothic romance novella. Growing up seven years younger than the youngest of four brothers, his views of the world were largely shaped by 60′s and 70′s pop culture, by Elvis Presley, James Bond, Andy Warhol, comic books and of course the music of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Doors.

Kevin has had several short stories published including “Allison” in Manarchy Magazine, “My Muse Plays Hard to Get” in Pulp Metal Magazine, and “No 7 Valentine” in Noir at the Bar II. All proceeds from Noir at the Bar II go to support independent bookseller Subterranean Books of St. Louis. All Kevin’s books and full bio are available at Amazon Books.

Kevin keeps a blog with other short stories, commentaries and guest writers at The Write Room Cafe.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, January 29th:Seaside Book Nook
Wednesday, January 30th:Under My Apple Tree
Monday, February 4th:Fiction Addict
Friday, February 8th:Unabridged Chick
Monday, February 11th:Pornokitsch – guest post
Tuesday, February 12th:Crime Fiction Lover
Wednesday, February 13th:Book Hooked Blog
Friday, February 15th:Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
Monday, February 18th:Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, February 20th:Bibliophiliac 
Friday, February 22nd:Luxury Reading
Monday, February 25th:Jen’s Book Thoughts
Date TBD:House of Crime and Mystery

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman — Audiobook Review

Recorded by Listening Library
Narrated by Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre
Length: 13 hours 15 minutes

In this exciting hybrid genre of fantasy, science fiction and just a touch of steampunk, the compelling story of Seraphina Dombegh and her dragon compatriots takes its readers on a journey of  majestic heights of intrigue and secrecy. The town of Goredd is an ancient civilization where there is a definite distinction between human and dragon. Though the dragons in this tale are magnificent beings that can fold themselves into human form and hold high positions in government and science, most of the citizenry both fear and loathe them, though they do have some friends in high places. Goredd has held a peace treaty with dragonkind for 40 years, and in this seminal year, the treaty is to be rewritten and redeemed, much to the chagrin of those who distrust the dragons. In this expansive civilization lives a maid named Seraphina Dombegh, who is the daughter of one of the country’s highest government officials. Seraphina, whose mother died in childbirth, is virtually raised by a dragon in human form named Orma, whose didactical views of humans and their emotions makes for great amusement for the young girl. Seraphina is also the chief music teacher to the irascible princess of the castle, where she meets the bastard prince Lucien Kiggs. When a plot to destroy the negotiations between dragonkind and humankind is discovered, it is up to the unlikely band of royal successors, Seraphina, and Orma to figure out how to stop it before society crumbles into war and mayhem. But lurking behind all of this is a secret that threatens to change Seraphina’s world forever. Will the foursome be able to stop the destruction of the city in time, and will Lucien Kiggs ever notice an inconsequential maid like Seraphina? These questions and many more form the heart and soul of this beautiful and emotionally deft novel that blends fantasy and compassionate humanity in perfect harmony.

This audiobook was a departure for me. When I read Swapna’s mini review over at S. Krishna’s Reviews, I wondered how I would do with a fantasy tale, of which I do not read many. Now, my daughter loves dragons, and could tell you just about anything you wanted to know about the many different types and species and so forth, but I am, well... a dragon newbie. This book, narrated by Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre, was well worth the time I spent dithering over whether or not I was a dragon person. Mandy Williams does the majority of the narration, and her voice is young, but not untrained. She had a wonderfully lilting British accent and was very interesting to listen to, especially when she voiced the parts of Orma, whom she befitted with a puzzled and almost innocent voice. Justine Eyre was more of a bit player in the narration, with her parts being interspersed within the story as recollections from Seraphina’s mother. Both did an outstanding job and both were able to successfully carry this baroque and thrilling tale into a tale full of beguilement and suspense.

Seraphina is a young girl without pretensions, and the only thing that separates her from the many masses of maids at the castle is her outstanding voice. This voice is so elevated that she has been gifted with the tutelage of the princess, and the apprenticeship to the master of music of the castle. Unlike most of the population, Seraphina is not fearful and loathing of dragons. This has more to do with the love and care that has been lavished on her by the dragon disguised as a human named Orma than any other influence. Orma is not an expressive creature, but for reasons that Seraphina doesn’t yet understand, he is charged with her upbringing and does his best to instill her with the values and virtues that gain her the admiration of all. She is a bright girl, but is coming to understand that there are things about herself that she doesn’t understand and secrets that others are unwilling to share with her. There is another strange puzzlement about Seraphina: she has a mind that is filled with creatures that need her daily care and tending. These creatures, called her grotesques, are all strange and otherworldly, and seem to exist only in her mind. But if anyone should ever find out about them, it would spell danger for her.

For 40 years, the dragons and humans have lived in peace under the treaty of Goredd, but that peace is fragile and there are both humans and dragons who wish to destroy it. But in a year of vital importance, this treaty is to be celebrated and re-pledged. It is a tenuous time for the city and all its inhabitants when the unthinkable happens, and a dragon attacks a member of the royal family. Needless to say, the hunt is on for the attacker, and no dragon, even in human form, is safe. Buried to the hilt in secrets and intrigue, Seraphina and her royal friends, the princess and Lucien Kiggs, decide that they must find out the truth before the fragile bonds of both species is broken forever. I admit that I was totally ensnared in this story and found that the blend between the very specific politics of Goredd and the personal trials of the heroine kept me enthralled every step of the way. As more and more is revealed, the danger becomes potent and universal. Nothing is safe. Everyone is a suspect. Add to this the fact that Seraphina is discovering some unpleasant truths about herself, and the story becomes unstoppable.

There is a slight romantic element to this tale, but it’s not overdone and barely even creeps out of the woodwork. After all, the two players are not free to to entangle, so to speak. With Seraphina’s mind garden creeping out of control and the appearance of a menacing presence that was thought to be slain years ago, it seems unlikely that peace will be able to be held together. But in the stirrings of her heart, Seraphina has the information she now needs to prove a powerful force, and it will cost her everything to unleash it. So entranced was I with this book that I carried my iPod around everywhere, sneaking listens whenever I could. I must warn you though, this book is part of a series, and I do expect to listen to the next installment with the same ravenousness that I did this one.

You might think that this one is not for you because it’s fantasy, or science fiction, or because it has dragons in it, but trust me, this book transcends genres and is a heart pumping delight. It wasn’t over the top or silly, and it wasn’t dark and malevolent. It was the story of a strange girl finding her way in an even stranger society, and it knocked my socks off. If you’re looking for something that is different and that takes energy and action to a new level, check this one out. The audio is fabulous, but I bet it would fare just as well in print. An eclectic mix of the new and bold. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Good American by Alex George — Audiobook Review

Recorded by Penguin Audiobooks
Narrated by Gibson Frazier
Length: 11 hours 27 minutes

The Meisenheimer clan didn’t originate in Beatrice, Missouri, but in war-torn Germany, where their flight to America began. Jetta, a tall and handsome woman, was already pregnant with her first child when she and her new husband, Frederick, boarded the ship that would take them to the land of opportunity and freedom. And though Missouri was not their chosen arrival spot, it was the place that their son, Joseph, was born, and where they decided to put down roots that would extend into a beautiful and crowded family tree. Frederick and Jetta’s story, and indeed the story of the whole family, is narrated here by their grandson James. From their first ventures into capitalism with the christening of their own unusual restaurant to the stories of Jetta’s two children, who are born, grow, and take spouses, to the early 50s when James and his two brothers are born, Alex George tells the story of a family with unusually deep bonds, and music in their very souls. At times funny, and often tragic, A Good American takes the immigrant story and does what no other writer manages to do: examine each member of the family with a microscopic and heartfelt lens. Trials. Tragedies. Redemption. All are here for the taking, both gleefully and sorrowfully recounted as the family’s fortunes both publically and privately wax and wane. Both original and colorful, these are the Meisenheimers: temperamental and mischievous, loyal and diffident, but at their core, good Americans.

This book has garnered many awards and the love of many readers. I would have to agree with all who have lauded it and say that it was one of the most interesting and entertaining audiobooks that I’ve listened to in a very long time. The audio version is narrated by Gibson Frazier, who is the voice of James, a third generation Meisenheimer. Frazier is an excellent narrator for this tale, wry and witty when the narrative commands it, and somber and reflective when things for the family go awry. I grew to think of him as James, his voice and inflection embodying the young man so perfectly that the book almost felt like a family biography. In fact, my husband asked me if this was a true story as I was listening.

When Frederick and Jetta step onto the boat that will take them to America, they are headed for New Orleans, the home of jazz. But due to Jetta’s advanced pregnancy, they are waylaid in Missouri, where Frederick sees kindness and attentiveness in all the people he encounters in the town. The decision is made to stay and the lives of the couple begin to flourish in ways they would have never imagined. The birth of two healthy children in Missouri is Yetta’s dream, but Frederick has a passion for music and entrepreneurship in equal measure, and soon the family is embarking on new and exciting paths that allow Frederick’s passions to be explored fully. It’s humbling to see how the family that arrived with nothing slowly climbs the ladder of success, becoming a fixture of the town that graciously welcomed them with open arms.

Frederick and Jetta’s two children, Joseph and Rosa, couldn’t be more different. Joseph wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, but Rosa is rather bookish and studious. Through the voice of James, the listener hears all about the foibles and triumphs of the family, the brush with racism that tears a schism in the town, and their eventual turn to a new type of business. This tale is told with humor and love, and the author doesn’t for a moment forget that the reader is connecting more and more deeply with the Meisenheimers as the chapters plow ahead. But there are secrets deeply buried in the family’s closet that will take years to escape, and amid the laughter, there is terrible guilt and regret.

The years that recount James and his brothers’ life stories was a particularly engrossing section for me. I’m not sure if this was because these sections were more current and I could relate to them a little more, or because this was when the tale truly came alive for me and the heartbreak and laughter became deeper and more mature. What I loved about this book is that no detail was spared; Every character and situation got their own time to shine and then fade into the background. I also loved that the tale didn’t end, per se. It left the reader looking forward into the new generation and revealed long-held nuggets of wisdom and secrecy. I was so fond of this family that I became a little bereft when the tale was finished and Frazier uttered his last line.

For those readers who love multigenerational sagas that have an equal measure of humor and heartache, this is a natural winner. There aren’t an overabundance of characters to keep straight and the author does a great job of plotting the whole story so that it feels like a beautiful aria, full of crescendos and declines. I loved this book, and feel that many others will too—not only for its readability and perfect pacing, but for the way the characters cling to your heartstrings long after you’ve listened to the final chapter. Highly recommended.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.
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