Tag Archives: book review
Two days ago, I pick up the novel, A Dance for Three. I’ve read it before, when it was in ARC form (how did I get that?). I remember how I cried. I was on the road with my family. Were we in CO? I think so. I remember I lay in the pull-down bed in a Hampton Inn Suite, and wept over this novel by Louise Plummer.
It’s even better this time around. Am I smarter today? Do I love words more? Do I love Louise more? For sure, I am changed. I’m a lot fatter. My life has been stretched and rechecked and re-re-checked.
When I read the inscription in this particular paperback, I see that Louise is a bit worried about Carolina, who wasn’t very old when I bought the novel for her. “To Carolina. Don’t read this book until you are at least 14. Love, Louise Plummer.” Carolina has two more years to go.
Once, many years ago, before A Dance for Three was published, I introduced Louise at the Orem Public Library. I made up every fact about her: when she was born, where she was born, that she had been married more than once . . . a whole two minutes of lies. Louise grinned. No one asked me if any of what I said could be the truth. They just accepted my story telling. That was a good day in my life. The one detail I forgot to mention (that Louise had told me and I thought was terrific) was she loved her teeth.
Lying in bed this morning, I am startled awake. I wasn’t able to read yesterday. I chopped up a parsnip, two beets (one golden, one red), and a rutabaga. I sauteed them in butter. It took a lot of time. I am a slow cook with dull knives. I made sandwiches with those veggies. I thought about Louise’s book. I noticed that dandelion greens are way bitter.
So here are three things I learn about A Dance for Three.
1. This is a genius telling of a heart-breaking situation. It’s told in several voices. I remember Louise speaking to a group of writers about this. I remember her reading a section from the novel that was discarded and used in a short story collection. I remember Louise telling me she had read an adult novel written in a similar fashion and she wanted to do this same thing. So, as a writer, I learn I can experiment and I just might succeed.
2. As I read through the book, I am amazed at how the story never lags. The tension in the book steadily rises. I know the end, but I read anyway. Why? It’s so beautiful–Louise’s best?–and the language makes me hold my breath. I know Louise well enough to know that she is a careful writer. So, as a writer, I learn that words DO matter.
3. Repetition can be the ultimate key in letting us see a character grow and change and realize who she has become and why. This is the case in A Dance for Three. We hear a bit of the story, a bit more, and a bit more–always from the same starting point, but with more and more truth thrown in. The unveiling of the plot, the uncovering of the truth of each part of the story, it all plays out in this perfect way. Nothing is wasted. So, as a writer, I learn maybe what I thought for my character isn’t the way the story happened at all.
In critique group, Louise always says, ‘Oh, there’s going to be heartache.’ Is she talking about my life? She’s talking about fiction, right (–and maybe her own life story–at least a little? And mine, too, yes.)? She is generous with her laugh, her home, and her company. I am still in awe of Louise. I can’t believe that she and I share our work before it is published.
Here’s a fourth thing I learn from Louise’s novel: A terrific book should be read many times, and A Dance for Three, is no exception.
Wanna sign-up for the marathon? Thought so.
Book review for Taken By Storm
by Angela Morrison.
I found an arc of the book Taken by Storm just chillin’ at the top of my mom’s closet early ’09. I pulled it off the shelf and looked at it. I wasn’t really interested in reading a romance, so I prejudged the book. I told myself “You won’t like this, so put it back.”
Still, I looked at the romance-y cover about three times before I actually started reading it.
So we know what happened, right? That old cliche . . . NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY THE COVER.
The story has a strong religious undertone that I usually avoid when reading novels. Especially Mormon novels. Why? Because 99% of the time the author just ends up sounding preachy and like he/she is trying to get me to join the LDS church (I am a member of the LDS church. But I don’t want anyone making me feel like I better be a member or else.).
This was NOT the case with Taken by Storm and that is why I enjoyed the book. The characters were believable, they felt real. Leesie and Michael were like kids I went to high school with. They weren’t perfect (something I’ve noticed in a lot of novels today–perfect characters, I mean). They had their flaws. Michael messes up a lot, and it makes the story seem that much more real. I don’t want to give much away, but the grief feels real, and the characters don’t just get over that grief. The relationship, the sexual desire, was developed well, and didn’t go too far.
If you’re interested in reading a good book with a religious character, then Taken By Storm is for you.
I love The Bell Jar.
I found it on Saturday as I was moving boxes from one room to another so that I could make room for an elliptical machine that my sister is giving me which counts for the next five Christmases and Birthdays and that is totally worth it. I was moving the boxes because unlike where we lived before, there are no book shelves here. And that is bad. All the books stay in boxes for now unless I’m moving them which means I’m really opening them and finding The Bell Jar.
I read it for the first time when I had just graduated college and I could not believe, could not believe, the ease of the voice.
Okay, not really. Not going to use jargon for this book.
What I want to say is, when I read The Bell Jar, I was blown away. Somebody understood me*.
Here’s the thing: Sylvia Plath, someone who lived far far away from any of the places I’ve lived, someone who lived a life a thousand times different than mine, someone who didn’t know anything about me, in fact, someone who died fifteen years before I was born, someone like her had managed to write a character who I connected with on many many levels. It was sort of unbelievable.
Here’s a passage:
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.
From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was EeGee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and one by one, they plopped on the ground at my feet. (77)
I remember reading this. I remember sitting on my bed, books and clothes and candy bar wrappers, and alone on a Friday night, and reading this. It was exactly how I was feeling. What was I doing with my life? What could I do with my life? What had I let rot at my feet? Why couldn’t I make a decision?
How did she know?
I keep typing in passages and then erasing them. Like when her mom tells her she didn’t get into the writing course she had applied to and she suddenly has nothing to look forward to. Or when she is in her room and hears someone outside so she crawls on the floor and shuts the blinds, just in case. Or when she decides to write a novel just to show everyone. So she eats some raw hamburger and egg and sets up a card table and counts out three hundred and fifty sheets of paper and sits there and thinks and writes a paragraph and is proud that she described drops of sweat like insects even though she thought maybe she’d read it somewhere and then it’s been hours and she only has two paragraphs written and her mom comes in and asks her why she isn’t dressed, it’s three in the afternoon, and she says,”I’m writing a novel . . . I haven’t got time to change out of this and into that.” I keep writing them and then erasing them because I don’t know what this post is about.
I think what I’m trying to say is I love books. I love books that make me feel normal even if normal is the Bell Jar. I want to write books that make someone far far away think, How did she know? And I won’t know. But she’ll know. That’s what I want to write.
*Don’t be scared.