This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

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This Too Shall Pass

by Milena Busquets

published by Hogarth

I received an advanced review copy of this book from Library Thing as part of the Early Reviewers group in exchange for an honest opinion.

This was an enjoyable, quick read.  Blanca is a forty year old woman from Barcelona who has just lost her mother to a prolonged illness.  She takes her family- children, best friends, ex husbands- to the family beach house on Cadaques- to recover from her grief.  She is reeling from the loss of her mother.  I read this book in about 4 hours and while I enjoyed it and very much want to go to this beach town myself, it was not an extremely deep book.  It definitely left me wanting to know more about everyone in the book.  I wanted to know why Blanca’s mother was such an amazing force in her life, why she divorced both of these amazing men if she still loves them.  All in all, a very enjoyable read.

Summary

Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shaken by the unexpected death of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realizes that she has no idea what her future will look like.

To ease her dizzying grief and confusion, Blanca turns to her dearest friends, her closest family, and a change of scenery. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to Cadaqués on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, and makes a plan to meet her married lover for a few stolen moments as well. Surrounded by those she loves most, she spends the summer in an impossibly beautiful place, finding ways to reconnect and understand what it means to truly, happily live on her own terms, just as her mother would have wanted. 

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In Wilderness by Diane Thomas

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In Wilderness

by Diane Thomas

published by Random House

March 2015

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer Program in exchange for an honest review.

 

My Review

In Wilderness is strange and dark, but totally captivating.  It pulled me in and made it impossible to concentrate on anything else.  This is the story of Katherine Reid, who suffered a miscarriage in 1962, after being exposed to pesticides sprayed on the trees in her neighborhood.  Her marriage crumbles and her health slowly deteriorates.  Four years later, she is informed by her third doctor that her body is shutting down for unknown reasons and that she has 2-3 months to live.  She sells her business and home and moves into a small stone cabin in the North Georgia mountains to die alone.  But she is not alone.  Danny, a young Vietnam veteran, had been living in that cabin before her and is unhappy someone had moved in.  He retreats to a burnt out mansion nearby, and watches Katherine, who he calls the Dead Lad, from the woods.  He can see she is ill, as he is himself.  He can no longer be in society and has taken to hide away.  Bot of these characters are struggling with illnesses that had not been recognized yet- Environmental Illness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Away from the modern world, Katherine actually begins to recover, which she cannot believe.  Only going back into town leave her feeling sick again, so she remains in the woods as much as possible- growing her own vegetables and chopping firewood.  Danny eventually becomes fixated on Katherine and they enter into a strange and warped relationship.

In Wilderness is a beautifully written book, filled with darkness, suffering, wonder and love.

Summary

In the winter of 1966, Katherine Reid receives a shattering diagnosis. Debilitated by a terminal and painful illness, Katherine moves to an isolated cabin deep in Georgia’s Appalachian Mountains. There, with little more than a sleeping bag, a tin plate, and a loaded gun, she plans to spend the few short months remaining to her in beautiful but desolate solitude. Her isolation brings her peace, until the day she realizes the woods are not as empty as she believed. A heartbeat in the darkness. Breathing in the night. Katherine is not alone. Someone else is near, observing her every move.

Twenty-year-old Vietnam veteran Danny lives in the once-grand mansion he has dubbed “Gatsby’s house.” Haunted by the scars of war and enclosed by walls of moldering books, he becomes fixated on Katherine. What starts as cautious observation grows to an obsession. When these two lost souls collide, the passion that ignites between them is all-consuming—and increasingly dangerous.

Suffused with a stunning sense of character and atmosphere, Diane Thomas’s intimate voice creates an unforgettable depiction of the transformative power of love, how we grieve and hope, and the perilous ways in which we heed and test our hearts.

About the Diane Thomas

My second novel, In Wilderness, a literary thriller inspired in part by the haunting southern Appalachian folk ballads of violence and erotic obsession, was also my first. I wrote it in 1981 to distract myself from fears of dying, during an extended period of extreme ill health. I titled this early version The Clearing, gave my symptoms to its protagonist, and sent her into a Georgia mountain wilderness to either die or heal.
Before moving to New Mexico in 2009, I’d lived in Atlanta and north Georgia since age four, except for two years in New York earning an MFA in Theater and Film History and Criticism at Columbia University. I hold a BA in English from Georgia State University and have worked as a reporter for The Atlanta Constitution, now the AJC. In 1966, at 24, I became the nation’s youngest major-newspaper entertainment editor, reviewing local plays, interviewing national film and theatre celebrities (including directors Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, and Elia Kazan, and actors Susan Hayward, Carol Channing, and Michael Caine), and reviewing such iconic films as “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Midnight Cowboy,” and “Blow Up.” I later joined Atlanta, then a controversial, pioneering city magazine. By the time I fell ill, I had become successful as a freelance writer.
Though nominated for the Pushcart Editors Prize, The Clearing was never published. My illness abated, I resumed my freelance career fulltime, studied in Georgia State’s Creative Writing program, and in 2002 completed The Year the Music Changed: The Letters of Achsa McEachern-Isaacs and Elvis Presley (The Toby Press, 2005). This coming-of-age novel enjoyed critical success and, for a small-press book, respectable sales.
In 2009, my husband and I moved to New Mexico. Homesick for the Georgia mountains, where we’d spent much of the previous seven years, I completely rewrote The Clearing, retitled it In Wilderness, and never dreamed anyone would publish it, since no one had before. A Santa Fe friend talked me into looking for an agent anyway and, miracle of miracles, I found one and she found a publisher for my book.
In Wilderness came out in March 2015 from Bantam Books, an imprint of Random House, seven weeks before my 73rd birthday. It was names an “Amazon Best Book” for March 2015, was recommended by Library Journal for “readers who also like the raw, honest writing of Amy Bloom and Amanda Coplin,” and endorsed by Lee Child as “Altogether spectacular.”
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Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

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Vanessa and Her Sister

by Priya Parmar

published by Ballantine Books

December 2014

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

I always love when I get books through Library Thing, and was excited to receive a copy of Vanessa And Her Sister by author Priya Parmar.  This is an epistolary novel told through the diary and letters of Vanessa Stephen Bell.  Bell tells us the story of herself and her sister, Virginia Woolf, and there famous friends, the Bloomsbury Group.  I loved the story, especially the artists and friend who came into the lives of the Stephen family.  When history is interwoven into a well written piece of fiction, it creates a peephole into what might have happened in the past.  Some names were very familiar, some not.  I was most surprised by the portrayal of Virginia Woolf.  I didn’t not know very much about the famous author, though I did know she had some mental problems.  Parmar writes of a very disturbed Woolf, one that had trouble maintaining sanity for long stretches and is overly attached not her sister.  I was surprised by this portrayal, but left wanting to know even more about Woolf.  This is a  very well written novel and I would definitely recommend reading it!

Summary

London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.
 
Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.
 
But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa’s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else.
 
The work of exciting young newcomer Priya Parmar, Vanessa and Her Sister exquisitely captures the champagne-heady days of prewar London and the extraordinary lives of sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.

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Educated at Mount Holyoke College, the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh, Priya Parmar is the author of one previous novel, Exit the Actress.

Her new novel, VANESSA AND HER SISTER will be published by Ballantine/Random House on 12/30/14.

She divides her time between Hawaii and London.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas- a review

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We are Not Ourselves

by Matthew Thomas

published by Simon & Schuster

August 2014

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

 

My Review

I was very excited to receive an ARC of this novel through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers group, so I was actually surprised to find myself putting it aside- twice- to read other books.  The writing was wonderful, but I just couldn’t keep reading about Eileen Tumulty.  She reminded me of a great aunt I had- not my favorite person.  When I finally decided to push through, about a third of the way through the book, Bam! I was hooked and finished it in two days.  The summary of the novel is below, and I am going to let you go with that, because I had mixed feelings about the start of the book.  Instead, let me tell you about the book as a whole.  It was a wonderful, thought provoking story that will stay with me a long time.  Without giving away too much, it shows you how amazing life can be.  Hopefully, I will have many years to enjoy this author’s works.

Summary

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away. 

 

A few great quotes-

“There were places, she now saw, that contained more happiness than ordinary places did. Unless you knew that such places existed, you might be content to stay where you were.”

 

“The fact that they were there, that everything they owned wasn’t enough somehow, disturbed her, suggesting a bottomlessness to certain kinds of unhappiness.”

 

“So much of life was the peeling away of illusions.”