Support your Library- via BookRiot

My library has taken to their Facebook page with fierce determination to educate the public in light of recent political events. Offering resources to combat fake new and better understand American history in context. I am proud to be a patron and hope you take the time to explore what your library has to offer! Click the link to see how to best support yours.

Read voraciously.

Book Review: Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan

Of course, there is nothing remarkable about the process, this much at least she knows. Because we do it to ourselves all the time— turn our lives into a story— anything to try to keep the chaos of the self in check.

Three separate narratives presented with intricate detail and knitted together showcase the history of Jewish people in Ireland. One immigrant family from Lithuania struggles to find their place in Cork when they mistakenly disembarked their ship bound ultimately for New York. One young man, silenced in an attempt to protect his mother’s secret out of loyalty and love finds solace in the story of another. One young Irish woman living in London grapples with a decision that with change her life forever. Nine Fold Make A Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan is a rich examination of humanity and the struggles we face that transcend generations.

“What about a man who courted his woman via pigeon mail, so he called the chef the night before their wedding to ask if he can cook the bird and serve it at the reception, to allow the guests to ingest the effort of their love? To tear the brown, gamey flesh and hook the wishbone with their little fingers and pull either side ’til it snaps?”

The story opens with Ruth, a child aboard a ship bound for New York where they are hoping to reunite with family and start anew. However, they make a misguided early departure from the ship and land in Cork, Ireland.

Just as long as she ignored the pull in her pocket where the compass tried to drag her down. It must be broken too, she told herself, the magnets somehow mangled when the boat slammed the shore, because as they boarded the tram she had checked it, just to be sure. She had stood at the edge of the dock and gazed out at the Atlantic, knowing the sea was meant to be East. The arrow had dithered, stuttering like a lip before tears. And then it had fallen down. South. The sea spreading off the bottom of Ireland and away.

Outsiders by birth and belief, Ruth and her family attempt to navigate the tricky waters as immigrants in the early 20th century. Ruth looks to her father, a playwright with a fierce imagination who crafts fantastical stories, for escape from their harsh reality.  Many of these stories have a mysterious origin until Ruth understands that sometimes the most mysterious thing of all is one’s own family.

A wall of hush lingered in the room. Not one of them moved. Instead they just hovered there in the darkness of a north Lithuanian shed with a beautiful young girl and an earnest young boy, stupid with love; a woman they had never quite liked and a man they had never quite understood. But suddenly the light had caught them differently, just two characters in a story, right back at the beginning— a story that had finally been told. As Ruth realized that now, everything really was lost.

Shem Sweeney is a young man trapped in the silence of his own creation. In an effort to protect his mother, Shem becomes a mute to avoid the temptation to share a secret that he was sure would break her heart. Keeping with the beliefs of the late 1950’s, he is sent to Montague House, an asylum run by Catholic nuns, with the hopes of restoring his ability to speak. Shem begins a complicated friendship with the only other Jewish person at Montague House, Alf, who coerces Shem into transcribing his memories before he succumbs to his illness. Through these exchanges we discover the depth and details behind Shem’s history.

So I wondered now if a family could ever really exist without these lies, these secrets, to keep it alive. Or if, in the end, that was the definition of love.

Aisling Creedon is a present day obituary columnist for a newspaper in London. Her relationship with Noah takes a significant turn when he presents her with a second-hand Irish written book of instructions on converting to Judaism. In a flight of panic, she abandons Noah following a Hanukkah celebration with his family to return to her family in Ireland where they are celebrating Christmas.

Not even a tiny white swan bent into place, the lines so defined that when you take it apart it can just be put back together again, in nine simple folds, exactly the same as before.

She struggles with the weight of and the possible consequences of her decisions- both to leave Noah so abruptly and to shed her past, her family, her life before. Searching for answers she seeks out the woman who owned the book prior to her, hoping to see satisfaction in her decision. Through this quest, aided by annotations in the book made by the previous owner, Aisling reveals the stitching that held each of the three narratives together.

He picks it up. He stares at the title, still struggling to believe. And then he reads, knowing he might not stop, not tomorrow or even the tomorrow after that when the pigeons have flown off somewhere better again, resisting the urge to come home. Because in the end, it is the only story to have survived.

With imaginative prose each story is woven to a satisfying completeness. A powerful account of what defines family and what we do to belong, Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan takes the mostly unknown stories of the Jewish community in Ireland and uses it as a mirror to reflect the greater human experience.

Read voraciously.

Thoughts?

Intrigued? Buy the book here:

Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan
by Ruth Gilligan
Trade Paperback
Powells.com

A review copy of this title was provided by Tin House Books via Netgalley.

When the dictionary comes to the rescue- via Buzzfeed

“But we will say this: Anyone who spends their life sifting through how language is used also has to sift through history, and how words have been used at various points to harm, erase, or exclude. Our job is to tease language out from spin, politicking, rhetoric, and apologetics, and tell the truth about what a word means.”

Check out how one dictionary revamped its online presence in light of recent political events and quickly reminded us that it is a source of timely truth and knowledge.

Thoughts?

Read voraciously.

Preview: My Netgalley TBR 

Just a quick peek at my Netgalley shelf! Four great books to carry me through this month. I can’t wait to start them!

I have four reviews to write this weekend as well so I’m going to be busy. Here’s a look at what’s to come:

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan

The Most Dangerous Place On Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Read voraciously.

Books to watch for this month- via BookRiot

We are well into February and there are some great books publishing this month, click the link to see the list.

Have any of these made your TBR?

Read voraciously.

Book Review: To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

Émile looked out over the city, at the river way below, strapped down by its bridges and edged with bright green like verdant lace around a wrist. It was for this the tower was being built, to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution, to gift the idea of the city to the people of Paris, for as far as they could see in all directions. While life down there was chaotic, nonsensical, frustrating, up here you couldn’t smell the sewers of the sweet stink of horse manure, up here you could rise above it all, up here you could see the world unfold below, everything in its place, everything laid out to make some sort of sense.

Supported by the rich history of Paris during the construction of the Eiffel Tower,  To Capture What We Cannot Keep explores the complicated and unlikely relationship between Émile Nouguier and Caitriona Wallace. Émile is the lead engineer for the Eiffel Tower. He is under constant scrutiny for his choice of career and his choice to remain unmarried. Caitriona, or Cait, serves as a guardian to Alice and Jamie Arrol- one of the few acceptable positions for a widow outside only remarriage. Cait and the Arrol’s traveled throughout Europe but their stop in Paris proved to be the most indelible. At the trip’s end, Cait returns to her dreary Glasgow flat where she is assaulted with memories and the reality of her current situation.

Cait stood and listened to the sounds of the house, to the bad-tempered clatter and slap from the kitchen, and the sound of rain on the roof. To be standing alone in the hallway seemed suddenly fitting, a metaphor for who she was, stuck between floors, between rooms, between youth and old age, a person without status, without a husband, without a future. Was this living or merely waiting for the inevitable?

The lure and attraction of Paris is felt in varying degrees by Cait and the Arrol’s. Cait craves escape from her previous life which continues to haunt her and needs redirection. Alice Arrol is desperate to find a man to call her husband and her ambitions and youthful fancy far surpasses her social standing. Jamie seeks the grandeur of success and wealth; to break through the constraints of class. In an attempt to satiate the needs of his niece and nephew William Arrol requests Cait to return to Paris as their chaperone for an extended visit.

Each story-line is fleshed out with immense detail, covering everything from societal expectations in Paris, the struggle between the bourgeois and the bohemian movement, prostitution, ambition, and, most of all, love. Colin provides a unique perspective with the variety of characters and their individuality. Written with both imagination and precision, To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a masterful tale of romance and La Belle Epoque.

They stood side by side in the middle of the old wooden bridge as the brown river water rushed beneath them on its way to the Gambia River and then on to the estuary and the wide-open North Atlantic Ocean.

“I thought I’d never see you again,” she said softly.

“I thought the same. But here I am.”

Read voraciously.

Thoughts? Intrigued, buy the book here:

To Capture What We Cannot Keep
by Terry, Alfred H.
Hardcover
Powells.com

A review copy of this title was provided by Flatiron Books via Netgalley.

Book Review: The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church 

book

I first loved him because he taught me the flight of a bird, precisely how it happens, how it is possible. Lift. Wing structure and shape, the concepts of wing loading, drag, thrust. The perfectly allotted tasks of each differently shaped feather. The hollowness of bones to reduce weight, to overcome gravity. I was too young to realize that what I really yearned to know was why birds take flight— and why, sometimes, they refuse.

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church examines the delicate balance between love and duty and the multitude of ways each is present throughout life. Meridian is an intelligent woman whose love for birds transcended all other things in her early life.

That’s where my career as an ornithologist began— at the dinner table, beside the train tracks, in the late-night hours while my parents slept and I read lying in the empty bathtub. When I found a dead goldfinch on the walk home from school, my father applied the balm of Darwin to my broken heart.

As she grows she becomes more desperate to solidify her place in academia. She sets out to study ornithology- a field in the sciences that is, like most, male dominated, during a time that women are still the large minority in the universities.

The whole enterprise was far bolder than I. I concealed fears: near-certainty of my dire lack of qualifications and absolute certainty of my inability to fit in. The first day of classes, I rushed between buildings, the heavy, costly textbooks in the book bag bouncing off of my hip. In a gloomy, bell-jar-lined classroom in the zoology building, I sat near the front and watched men— all men— file in to join me. A few of them met my eyes, smiled tentatively. I saw clean-shaven cheeks and starched shirts, hastily tied Windsor knots. Some nodded, but none sat next to me.

As she struggles to find her place, she finds solace in a romance between a renowned physic’s professor, Alden Whetstone. Her growing love for him helps to spark the topic for the final project of her academic career.

I knew my master’s thesis would be on crow behavior, the social aspects of the bird, but I also knew I needed to hone in on a narrower aspect of their social lives. I longed to know how, when, and why they formed allegiances and if those bonds crossed familial boundaries. I wanted to understand loyalty— to know if it derived solely from evolutionary advantage, or if it might also be motivated by something else, something akin to caring, love, and devotion.

Like her crows, when Alden is dispatched to Los Alamos, New Mexico for a top secret project (what is known to us now as the construction of the Atomic Bomb), Meri loyally follows her husband- giving up her studies, her degree and her dreams.

Men do. Women make do. We wait, patient Penelope at the hearth. We conform, good girls in girdles. We serve, suppressed sighs growing stale. We meld with oblivion, Flying ever in his slipstream.

Resentment and discontent slowly erode the foundation of Meridian and Alden’s love. The pressure and weight of the truth behind Alden’s work drive him deeper into his science while pushing Meri away because she so desperately wants to have a place in her community both scientific or otherwise.

In the gloom I heard his breath deepen, watched his shoulders release their tension. He’d said his piece at long last, and now he could relax. For me, any chance of sleep had vanished, and so I took my book, a blanket, and a pillow into the bathroom and climbed into the empty tub, just as I had when I was a girl. The hard sides of the bathtub seemed an appropriate place for me to lay my body that night— unforgiving and nonmalleable. I couldn’t concentrate, though. Finally, I pulled a hand towel from the rack, bit down on it, and used it to muffle my sobs. I let my shoulders spasm, felt the muscles of my lower back tighten into fists of pain.

To fill the void left by Alden’s rejections Meri embarks on an attempt to rediscover her love for birds in the desert of New Mexico. She finds a lone group of crows and throws herself wholeheartedly into their study. In the desert she discovers more than just her love for ornithology- she finds her youth and sexuality in a young war veteran, Clay.

Nestled against Clay’s naked body and drifting off to sleep that night, I thought about what Clay had told me about geologic rifts. That they were the earth pulling apart, like wounds opening. I wondered at the depth and mystery of it, a crack in the earth, in myself. Part of me recognized it as a potentially dangerous breach of my skin; another part of me relished the possibility for change that it posed, the powerful forces at work.

A poignant examination of family and the expectations therein The Atomic Weight of Love takes all the nuances of marriage, infidelity, feminism and self-worth in the 1940s and beyond and puts them under the microscope to be examined with true finesse and depth.

As I watched him, I wondered how many times a heart can heal. Are we allotted a specific number of comebacks from heartbreak? Or is that what really kills us, in the end— not strokes or cancer or pneumonia— but instead just one too many blows to the heart? Doctors talk of “cardiac insults”— such a perfect turn of phrase— but they know nothing of the heart, not truly.

Read voraciously,

Thoughts?

Intrugued? Buy the book here:

Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J ChurchHardcover
Powells.com

 

A review copy of this title was provided by HarperCollins via Netgalley.