Tag Archives: TLC Book Tours

Review: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

silenceTitle: The Weight of Silence

Author: Heather Gudenkauf

Genre/Pages: Fiction/373

Publication: Mira; July 28, 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

Employing multiple narrators, Heather Gudenkauf weaves a suspenseful novel about two young girls who go missing from their beds early one summer morning.

In the pre-dawn hours of an August morning in Iowa, seven-year-old Calli Clark is violently dragged into the woods against her will.  Her fear is palpable, but Calli can’t call out for help because she suffers from selective mutism.  Nearby, Petra Gregory, Calli’s best friend and voice, is lured from her own bedroom after spying something from her window.  Does she see her friend or is it someone more sinister?

As the novel progresses, the narrators shift with each new chapter.  We take in the story through the eyes of Calli, her mother Antonia, her older brother Ben, Petra’s dad, and Deputy Sheriff Louis.  Through each of their narratives, we get the backstory about Calli’s mutism, the family dynamics of the Clark household, life in the Gregory house, and Antonia’s relationship with Louis.

Gudenkauf gives Calli a voice as a narrator despite the fact that she doesn’t speak, while Petra, Calli’s mouthpiece in life, remains silent–her perspective of the story untold.  Anxiety builds as the novel progresses and suspicion is cast on several characters.  Compounding the fear is the  local unsolved murder of another little girl who went missing from her bedroom.  Will Calli and Petra meet the same end?

The Weight of Silence is such a page-turner–I read it in one night, staying up until the wee hours to finish it!  The novel is rife with symbols–the woods, the yellow house, the music note chain–and themes of family, friendship, substance abuse, and loss.   This book would be ideal for a book club selection and comes with discussion questions at the end of the novel. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book!

 

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Review: The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances by Mark Millhone

patronsaintTitle: The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances

Author: Mark Millhone

Genre/Pages: Nonfiction, Memoir (Humor, Relationships)/192

Publication: Rodale Books; July 7, 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

 

Nat’s ‘In a Nutshell’:  One man’s nine month journey to hell and back with a layover in Dallas where he picks up a honey of a used car hoping it will have the power to ferry him back (literally and metaphorically) to his wife, children, and the way things used to be.

To say that things aren’t going well for Mark Millhone and his family would be an understatement.  In the span of time equivalent to a baby’s gestation, Millhone fields tragedy after trauma, from his mother’s death, father’s diagnosis with cancer, infant son’s near-death after birth, and older son’s run-in with the family dog’s fangs. 

As his world and marriage crumble around him, Millhone takes to his computer, stalking eBay Motors for a car.  His salvation comes in the form of a 1994 BMW 7 series–the panacea to all that ails him.  The symbolism is clear–the car is much more than just four wheels and seat–it’s redemption with leather upholstery.  Under the pretext of asking for help, Millhone orchestrates some father-son bonding by enlisting his father to ride shotgun on the drive home from the Lone Star State (where the Beemer is)  to the Big Apple (where Millhone lives).

In the interim, Mark packs up his wife and sons and trundles them off to his in-laws’ house in upstate New York.  He mentions that in better times, he and his wife owned and renovated a farmhouse in Margaretville.  My great-grandfather owns a piece of prime real estate in the Margaretville Cemetery and has been in residence there since 1954.  Before that, he owned a dairy farm in Halcottsville, where my dad summered as a boy.  (It was a kick to read about these towns–especially since I spent part of my summer vacation there last month!)

Millhone and his father make the epic drive, and as readers we ride along, getting filled in on the back story.  He doesn’t shy away from the telling–even when it would be less painful or easier to edit events or conversations.  He confronts his failures and examines his self-doubt.  He openly discusses the difficult relationship he had with his mother and the challenge that parenthood really is. 

It was refreshing to read such an honest account of how parenting and marriage can, despite best efforts and intentions, go bad.  No one sets out to be a bad spouse or parent, but both roles are jobs that require Herculean dedication and responsibility.  Millhone’s memoir examines marriage, family relationships, and being a father with humor and authenticity that comes from experience and perseverance.    

This memoir acted as springboard in my house for some interesting discussions about marriage and family.  Children dramatically impact the landscape of a marriage and the husband-wife dynamic shifts.  If you have children, did you find the adjustment to be more or less difficult than you anticipated?  Do you have any tips for dealing with this issue?

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this memoir–nonfiction is one of my favorite genres!

 

Review: Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

norain

Title: Two Years, No Rain

Author: Shawn Klomparens

Genre/Pages: Fiction/320

Publication: Delta Trade/Random House;  6/23/09

Rating: 3 BOOKMARKS

 

Weatherman-turned-children’s television host Andy Dunne has been living a literal and figurative 580-day drought, with no relief in sight.

Shawn Klomparens’s Two Years, No Rain, tells the story of Andy Dunne, a man in his early 30s who, to borrow one of his weather terms, is a ‘desiccated’ husk.  His personal life and job reporting weather for a satellite radio station parallel the parched weather and landscape of San Diego. 

Andy excels at repressing emotions and spends a good deal of the novel denying himself the right to the most basic and primal emotions.  He buries grief over personal loss, ignores the pain of his wife’s infidelities, stands idly by as their marriage disintegrates, and patently ignores his health.

Andy applies for and gets a job that propels him to television fame.  The job opens the door to a trip to Hong Kong and the unburdening of Andy’s guilt and regrets.  While on the island, a typhoon strikes and, ironically, the weatherman isn’t conscious to see a good part of it.

Relationships, loss, avoidance, regret, and infidelity are strong themes in this novel and each is weaved throughout.  Klomparens pens a realistic world for Andy with well-developed friends and family, though I thought the characterization of Andy’s love interest, Hillary, was a bit soft.  I learned more about his niece than I did about Hillary.  Their relationship was based mostly on hundreds of text messages and illicit late-night phone calls because of their respective marriages. 

After Andy’s marriage falls apart, Hillary’s marriage to Jason deteriorates.  It’s no coincidence that Hillary’s husband shares a name with Andy’s twin brother–Klomparens uses Hillary’s Jason as Andy’s foil–reflecting the unspoken competitive relationship that Andy and his twin shared. 

The novel is chock full of symbols and metaphors—stormy weather, withering plants that flourish with proper care and attention, the text messages between Andy and Hillary, dry weather, an empty house, ‘new’ and ‘old’; page has depth and more to offer than meets the eye.

Darkly humorous, I enjoyed several laughs during the novel.  Ultimately, Two Years, No Rainis really a quest on which Andy struggles to finds peace with his losses, regrets, career, and relationships–only then can the literal and figurative rain come.  This would be a great read for a book club and there’s a discussion guide on Klomparens’s website. 

Thanks to Lisa and Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this novel!

TLC Book Tour: Precious by Sandra Novack

preciousTitle: Precious

Author: Sandra Novack

Genre/Pages: Fiction; 288 pages

Publication: Random House; 2/17/09

Rating: 4.5 BOOKMARKS

I’ve been thinking about Precious ever since I finished it late last month; Sandra Novack’s lyrical prose had a profound impact on me, hence the longer-than-usual review—this book deserves it! 

Set in rural Pennsylvania in the late 1970s, Precious tells the story of a family falling apart from the inside out.  Unable to find balance in her roles as mother, wife, and woman, Natalia Kisch is tired of feeling overwhelmed and runs off to Italy with a lover.  Shockwaves from Natalia’s decision ripple through her family, neighborhood, and community, fundamentally and irreparably damaging her children and spouse.    

Eldest daughter Eva’s anger is tinged with fear and humiliation and sets her on a self-destructive path of promiscuity.  She is powerless and can’t control anything except her own actions, which ultimately lead her to a heartrending decision. 

9-year-old Sissy exists in a hazy world, hovering between fantasy and reality.  She harbors guilt over her mother’s abandonment and over the disappearance of a former friend and neighborhood girl.  Avoidance is the only way she can cope.  At several points during the book I feared for her safety because she was so lost in her private, dreamy world.

Frank, father of the girls and Natalia’s husband, withdraws from his children, unable and unwilling to navigate the rocky waters of his emotions.  He’s ill-equipped to handle the anger, embarrassment, and pain that comes with his wife’s betrayal and abandonment.

Novack’s use of figurative language and characterization actually gave me pause at several points during the novel.  The simplicity and beauty of her diction helped to make this book one of the best novels I’ve read in the last ten months.   Themes of abandonment and loss resonate on each page.   Imagery is vivid– especially in the following passage—making Sissy’s terror palpable: 

“After Eva leaves, the day grows as long as a shadow.  By four the house will begin to feel ominous.  In the kitchen, the basement door will become a gateway to a place filled with cobwebby terror, unspeakable dread.  In the living room, Sissy will be certain someone lurks just outside the window: a mystery man, a murderer.  Upstairs, the shuttered closet in Sissy’s room will suddenly hold too many secrets; each slat will cause her to worry.”  (Novack, 22.)

I can’t recommend this book strongly enough.  It’s worthy of so much more praise than it has garnered.  I hope that with the exposure from TLC tours and book blogger word-of-mouth, it will finally receive the accolades it deserves.  Thank you to Lisa and Trish of TLC Book Tours for inviting me to host Sandra Novack’s Precious—it was truly my pleasure.