Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trusting Grace by Maggie Brendan

Set on a farm in Gallatin Valley, Montana, Grace Bidwell who longed to have children had unexpectedly lost her husband. Broken, she had to run the farm and take care of her father, Owen, who is sick.  She needed help and fast.  She placed an ad for a hired hand hoping that someone would respond quickly.

Meanwhile, handsome Robert Frasier arrived with three meager children Tom, Sarah, and Becky.  However, they were not his own.  After he lost his farm and newly wed wife, Ada, Ada's sister burst into the court room with the children. Robert surprised and angry packed his belongings, his newly found out children and traveled to wherever there was an available job.  When he arrived in Gallatin Valley to pick up a few items he noticed Grace's ad and immediately inquired about the job. 

Robert, however, purposely didn't tell Owen or Grace about his children and hid them in the wood which made things a little complicated, especially when Grace found out.  Grace gave Robert no choice to leave the children unattended in the woods but to come live on the farm with her and her father. Robert knew to comply. If not, it could cost him his job.  

Grace immediately fell in love with the children. Robert saw her nurturing side and how she interacted with the children and started to grow feelings towards Grace.  However, Robert vowed that he would never fall in love let alone trust another woman after what Ada had done to him.  Both Grace and Robert both realized they needed to stop looking into the past, a past filled with hurt, anger, and resentment to find peace and a future they are both longing for.

For those who love historical fiction, pick up this charming and lighthearted story about faith, trust, and unexpected love.  

Dani Green 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

 Annie Proulx’s sprawling saga, Barkskins, is at once a cautionary tale and an epic testimony to the force of will. The story follows the lives and descendants of two indentured servants, René Sel and Charles Duquet, who land in New France with the crude social climber Monsieur Claude Trépagny. Shortly after discovering the true nature of his master’s plans, Duquet runs off, taking his chances in the forest-choked landscape of modern day Canada. René Sel stays behind, letting winds of fate decide his destiny.

Duquet survives his trek and begins to make a name for himself among the fur traders.  With an eye for business and a desperate need for status, he expands his scope to including the burgeoning timber industry.  Suddenly, before cementing his status as a man of worth (after starting life as a street urchin in Paris), the patriarch mysteriously disappears. His progeny continue to expand the venture, bringing fortune and recognition to the “Duke” family name, with two or three members of each generation inheriting his drive and acumen.

Rene, far less driven, stays put on the Trépagny land and is forced into a marriage with Trépagny’s mi’kmaq cook Mari. Their children, along with her previous children, wander the land of New France, some spreading as far as New England. Mixed-raced, they live on the fringe, working as barkskins (lumberjack). Several attempt to flee the white man’s influence, and are constantly being pushed west and north as new settlers arrive, devouring the land like locusts.

Impeccably researched and told without the heavy gloss that tends to romanticize colonial times, Barkskins is a masterpiece of historical fiction.

Jennifer Wilson

Monday, May 22, 2017

Marlena by Julie Buntin

A well-written first novel about two girls who find and then lose each other. Although this is a familiar plot, good girl meets bad girl who changes her life, Buntin makes it fresh and new. The setting is northern Michigan, in a bitterly cold and harshly poor small town. People there seem in a downward spiral, and drug and alcohol use are rampant. It's a dreary picture, and although we know right up front how things end (badly), Buntin carefully and patiently draws us through the story, flipping between Cat's adult, present day New York and her teenage past in Michigan. It's really shocking the kind of life her friend Marlena finds herself stuck in, but sadly it's probably not unusual. Drugs and poverty do battle with people's souls, and more times than not, the souls lose. Cat herself does not emerge unharmed, but by the end we can see how hard she's trying. Highly recommended for readers who don't mind darkness in their books. 

Kelly Currie

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Underground Fugue by Margot Singer

In a London neighborhood, the lives of four characters quickly become entangled over a few months in 2005. Esther has fled her marriage and life in New York to care for her mother, Lonia, as she battles cancer. As the disease takes hold, Lonia begins to spend more and more of her time in a dream-like state, remembering her escape from Czechoslovakia at the beginning of WWII. Next door is Javad Asghari, a neurosurgeon who fled Iran as a young man to escape the ayatollah’s fundamentalist regime. Javad’s 19-year-old son Amir is a college student struggling to find himself and reconcile his Iranian heritage and British upbringing. Over the long summer Esther and Javad form a friendship that has a possibility of blossoming into romance. When the London Underground is bombed by Islamic fundamentalists, Esther must make a decision that will change her, Javad, and Amir’s lives forever. 

A musical fugue is a piece of music where a musical theme is repeated or imitated throughout the piece by multiple voices, with the parts building onto and weaving in and out of sync with one another. In psychology, a fugue is a dissociation or loss of the self. In her debut novel, Margot Singer masterfully reflects both definitions in one unforgettable story. The fugue theme is prevalent throughout without feeling heavy-handed or forced. It is easy to see the differences among these four characters, and yet their lives are often reflections of one another’s. With plenty of tension and intrigue, Underground Fugue is a stark look at loneliness and isolation that reads like a thriller.

-Portia Kapraun