Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Genre: General Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

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This is a story of Mireille Duval Jameson, a daughter of a very wealthy and powerful man of Haiti. She has a very happy and successful life with her American husband and son as they live a life of relative luxury in Miami. When Mireille and her husband are on their annual vacation to visit with her parents in Haiti, she is kidnapped and held for ransom for 13 horrifying days. The things she must endure and survive through while under the control of a dangerous psychopath will change who she is forever. This book holds no punches with the descriptions and realities of her brutal and violent 13 days…as well as the months (and years) of healing that must take place afterward.

“Once upon a time, my life was a fairy tale and then I was stolen from everything I’ve ever loved. There was no happily ever after. After days of dying, I was dead.”

This was a beautifully written story about so much more than just a kidnapping. It’s more than just a story about the class divide in Haiti. It’s a story about endurance, strength, and the power we all have to heal. There is a very strong message of the inner strength of the human spirit and it’s ability to heal and survive. I absolutely loved the relationship Mireille had with her mother in law, Lorraine. The fact that their need for each other went full circle throughout this journey was such a beautiful addition.

This was definitely a tough read a time and it likely needs a trigger warning for some readers. There are more than a few very descriptive scenes of brutal rapes, assaults and torture. None of this story is easy to read and at times, I needed to take emotional breaks.
If you can handle heavy and disturbing subject matter to get to a beautiful story about the strength and resilience of a woman’s need to survive, this is an excellent book that was beautifully written.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

An Untamed State – Amazon

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Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: International/Cultural Fiction, General Fiction

img_0367  Americanah  is a contemporary fiction novel about race, immigration, and love…all centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face many difficult choices as they immigrate out of their home country.

Ifemelu and Obinze meet each other and fall in love while they are teenagers attending school together. They both have big dreams about their futures and, like most Nigerians, have hopes to leave their home country for better lives abroad. Ifemelu gets the opportunity to move to America to study and finish her degree. In her part of the story, we see her many struggles with money, friendships, relationships….and something bigger, something she never had to deal with back home…race and what it’s like to deal with race while living in America.

“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.”

Ifemelu and Obinze had always hoped and planned to be together eventually in America….but sadly, he is never able to acquire permission to enter the county. As Ifemelu continues to struggle adjusting to life in America, she slowly begins to shut off contact with Obinze for fear that he won’t understand all that she has to overcome and deal with. Completely heartbroken, confused, and worried….Obinze begins a dangerous and underground life as an undocumented immigrant in London, trying to scrape by enough money to survive all while not being deported back to Nigeria.

“Alexa and the other guests, and perhaps even Georgina, all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for for choice and certainty.”

Americanah follows the story and life of both characters and their unique challenges as immigrants in different countries. Years later….Ifelmelu, now a successful blog writer, and Obinze, a wealthy man back in Nigeria….are eventually reunited when Ifemelu decides to return “home” after 13 years in America.

This was a very enjoyable novel about race, race issues that are specific to America, the trials of immigration, and realities of being an immigrant. It’s also about love, friendship, expectations, and stark reality. I love reading international authors that can bring me to a different world and maybe even give me a very small glimpse of a different culture…and this one did just that.

I will say that for the first 75% of the book, I was pretty sure I’d give this a 5 star rating. The last 25% drug by a little bit for me with what felt like too many unnecessary details that didn’t feel important to the story of the characters. At some point, the book actually seemed to have a whole different tone and writing style….which kind of threw me off. The first parts of the book that I enjoyed so much had a very real life and honest feel to it. Then the last part of the story seemed to take on too much of a contemporary romance vibe and I’m not a huge fan of those type of stories in general. Overall, this was a solid 4 star read for me though. There are plenty of very interesting, often hard to discuss topics about race and race issues in this book. I’ll definitely be reading other books by this author in the future.

“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Americanah – Amazon

Review: Needful Things by Stephen King

Needful Things by Stephen King

Genre: Horror/Thriller

img_0379 I’m going to start this review by mentioning the fact that I am WAY behind on writing up my book reviews. It appears that I am about 4 books behind and, for that, I apologize. I guess it’s a good thing that, lately, I’ve been more in the mood to read than I have to write. But I’m going to force myself to sit and try and catch up…I have finished some great books in the past few weeks that I’m excited to share.

Anyway….on to the review:

As I have mentioned before, I am a HUGE Stephen King fan…I’ve been reading and loving his books since I first read The Shining  when I was about 12 years old. I’m slowly working to reread some of his books that I first read decades ago as well as reading some of his others for the first time. Needful Things falls into the later category. It’s a book that I’ve heard a lot of positive things about, but for some reason or another, never picked up until now.

Our story starts in the small Maine town of Castle Rock (the very same town from King’s short story, The Body, and film, Stand by Me as well as Cujo)… where we meet Polly Chalmers, the proprietor of You Sew and Sew as well as Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who is in charge of keeping the peace of the sleepy town. Fans of Stephen King will relish in some familiar names and stories about this town….Cujo, the murderous dog…Ace Merrill, the local criminal delinquent….but there is also a new citizen to Castle Rock, Leland Gaunt. Mr. Gaunt is a stranger to everyone in the town, but he immediately peaks everyone’s interest when he opens a strange and mysterious store called Needful Things. This interesting place seems to be a unique thrift-type store that carries a little bit of everything and the most interesting thing about it is that it seems to carry just the perfect thing for each and every citizen of Castle Rock. The price of each item is also a point of interest….Leland Gaunt doesn’t post the prices on his items….each item has a very specific cost depending on just how much someone is willing to pay for their most desperate wants and desires. The costs are high….very high….but it doesn’t seem to stop any of the customers from purchasing these needs. What Leland Gaunt knows that nobody else seems to is: EVERYTHING is for sale and everything has a price.

This was a phenomenal story and I absolutely loved every minute of it! I actually listened to the audiobook version of this solely because King narrates it himself and it was simply amazing! As with typical King novels, you get a wonderful insight into each of the characters that all becomes interwoven with a genius plot and storyline. King’s immense imagination and ability to describe the most perfect scenarios and details will never cease to amaze me and Needful Things is no exception. While this story has a definite creepy and ominous feel, it’s not overly gory or too far into the horror genre…so if you shy away from King because of that, this is a pretty “safe” choice in that aspect. The idea that people might give up their morals just for the opportunity to have their most desperate wants and desires is the central theme of this story. As with most King books, the central antagonist, Leland Gaunt, is terrifically creepy, evil and manipulative. I also really enjoyed the small tie-ins with other familiar King characters and story lines …it’s like a nice little surprise for regular fans.

Needful Things has definitely earned it’s place in my Top 5 favorite King books….so if you haven’t yet read this one and you are a fan of his work, I highly recommend it!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Needful Things – Amazon

Review: The View From The Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman

The View From The Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Non-Fiction/Essays

img_0295 Ever since I read my first Neil Gaiman book, American Gods, I have been in complete awe of this man’s imagination and his way with words. I have since read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Neverwhere and I was totally in love with both of those as well. When I saw this collection of his speeches, essays, forwards, and thoughts …I knew I had to have it.

Fot this, I alternated in between reading the hard text and listening to the audiobook and let me tell you….both were wonderful experiences! Gaiman narrates this himself…so it’s him reading his own words and his interpretation, opinions, and thoughts really shine through. Not to mention that his voice is just amazingly relaxing and mesmerizing. If Gaiman narrated every audiobook there is, I likely might not ever read an actual book again 😉

There were so many parts to this book that I absolutely loved, but if I had to pick my favorite…I would probably say it was a lecture he gave in 2013 for the Reading Agency, a UK charity with a mission to help people become more confident readers:

img_0293 Literate people read fiction, and fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end…that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key.”

This entire speech is simply beautiful and perfect. In it he also talks about children and their reading preferences and how, unknowingly so, some adults will turn children away from reading simply by forcing them to read things they don’t enjoy, aren’t interested in, or just not ready for. Adults thinking that certain authors aren’t “good enough” or that comics aren’t “real” reading…..those ideas are “hogwash” according to Gaiman, and I have to agree. Reading is reading is reading:

“You don’t discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is the gateway drug to other books you may prefer them to read. And not everyone has the same taste as you. Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.”

Seriously, I love this man. I could probably quote that entire speech here, instead I’ll just have you get the book and read it in it’s entirely for yourself.

Another part that I adored was an opening for a tour book for Tori Amos’s Under the Pink tour in 1994. Mostly because, in high school, I was a huge Tori Amos fan…and they way he describes and talks about his friend makes me realize that she’s likely every bit as cool as I thought she was 20 years ago. Gaiman also has a few chapters dedicated to his wife, Amanda Palmer, and you can’t help but smile at the pure love, adoration, and awe he has for her and how those emotions just come out with his simple words.

There’s also plenty of hilariously funny moments too. Like the time he admitted to his nineteen year old daughter, Holly, that she was named after the Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn in “Walk on the Wild Side”:

“‘That’s right,” I said, and bit the bullet. We were having the conversation. “You were named after the drag queen in a Lou Reed song”‘

In case you can’t tell…I thoroughly enjoyed reading and listening to The View From the Cheap Seats…and I definitely recommend it if you are a fan of Gaiman’s work. There were a few chapters that centered around famous sci-fi authors and comic artists that I found myself skimming, but overall this was a great read for me. He is definitely an author I would love to meet in person one day.

My Rating; 4/5 stars

Review: All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

img_0257 Nicolette Farrell is returning home to the rural, small town where she grew up. She left Cooley Ridge a decade ago after her best friend disappeared and was never heard from again. Everyone in the town has different ideas as to what happened to Corinne all those years ago; some think she ran away, some think she was murdered by her boyfriend, and some are still as clueless as the investigators seem to have been all those years ago.

When Nicolette receives a phone call from her brother telling her that their father’s health has taken a turn for the worse, she knows she has no choice but to go back home and help. Even though most things in Cooley Ridge are very different than what Nicolette remembers….some things will never change. Nicolette’s brother is married and expecting a baby, her old high school boyfriend, Tyler,  is dating a younger girl, Annaleise Carter….who mysteriously goes missing just days after Nicolette comes back into town. Annaleise also just happens to be the one person who can confirm Nicolette, Daniel, and Tyler’s alibi for the night Corinne went missing 10 years ago.  Old memories and new questions of Corinne’s disappearance begin to emerge when a brand new missing persons investigation turns the small town upside down.

“We were a town full of fear, searching for answers. But we were also a town full of liars.”

This was a fun and exciting read!!! I love a good mystery/psychological thriller that keeps you guessing the entire time….and this is a perfect example of that kind of book. This particular novel has a very unique and interesting twist to the style in that the story is all told in reverse! Yes, you read that right…the story is told in reverse order and it’s brilliant! All The Missing Girls starts present day with different small flashbacks from the past…then, suddenly, it jumps to day 15 when the major twist or conclusion seems to have already been revealed. After that the story is told each day in reverse so you only get tidbits of information at a time and you have to sort of piece little parts together as you go. It’s really quite a fun and totally engrossing ride. I found myself totally changing my opinion on certain events or decisions the characters made with each previous day’s events being unfolded in the story.

This novel had me on the edge of my seat for the entire read! If you enjoy a good mystery/thriller, this ones for you!

All The Missing Girls – Amazon

Review: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

img_0175 The Dollhouse is a debut novel that takes place both present day, and with alternating chapters in 1952, in New York City. In the present day chapters of the story, we meet Rose Lewin, a former television reporter, who has been spending a lot of time questioning some of her life choices as of late. She has recently resigned from a very high profile, high paying television job to take what would be considered a big career set-back with a print reporting position. She’s also just found out that her relationship with her live in boyfriend has been completely turned upside down. Rose, desperate for a story to impress her new boss, sets her sights on a downstairs neighbor of hers, Ms. McLaughlin. Ms. McLaughlin is one of the many women who are original tenants of the building they share….moving in back when it was the “old” Barbizon Hotel aka: The Dollhouse. Rose is sure that this group of women who have lived on one particular floor in this building since the early 1950’s must have some stories to tell…especially after a doorman clues her in to a “tragedy” that occurred so many year ago. One that ended with a woman disfigured and another taking a fatal plunge off a upper story balcony.

“The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you.”

Alternately…in 1952 New York city, we meet Darby McLaughlin, and Ohio native living on her own for the first time. She’s a young and naive girl who moved to the big city to attend secretarial school and live in the famous Barbizon Hotel. At the time, the Barbizon was THE place for young women to stay while living in New York city, trying to make their way as secretaries, models ,or actresses. Over the years, it was home to some very famous women such as; Sylvia Plath, Candace Bergen, and Joan Crawford. Shortly after arriving, Darby’s befriends a maid of the hotel named Esme. Esme slowly introduces Darby to a life that she could never previously have imagined; seedy jazz clubs, handsome musicians, as well as the dark and scary part of the city. Darby and Esme’s relationship becomes more complicated as Darby begins to hear rumors and off-hand warnings to stay away from Esme because she’s “trouble”. What begins as a friendship, ends in a deadly scuffle on the rooftop….but everyone has kept the true story of what happened that day hidden for the past 60 years.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think at the beginning of the book. Darby was a very whiny character for me and almost immediately she grated on my nerves. I didn’t necessarily care for Rose either….she wasn’t whiny like Darby, but I just didn’t find her very likable.
So I guess you’d assume that I wouldn’t end up liking the book…But I did, overall. I really enjoyed reading about the Barbizon Hotel, the women who stayed there, and the true history surrounding it. I also liked most of the secondary characters in the story. So between the interesting time period, history, storyline, and the secondary characters…it turned into a 3.5-4 star book for me.

I’d never heard of the Barbizon Hotel in NY before and I loved learning a little bit about it’s history and some of the famous women who stayed there while getting their start.
If you enjoy reading about different periods in American history, this will likely be an enjoyable read for you. There’s nothing really too heavy, or sad and the overall tone of the book is a positive uplifting one.

My Rating: 3.5/4 Stars

The Dollhouse – Amazon

*** I would like to thank NetGalley, Dutton Books, and Fiona Davis for the opportunity to read in exchange for my honest review***

Review: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance/Sci-Fi

img_0160 Cress is the third installment in the very poplar Lunar Chronicles Series. If you aren’t familiar with these books…they are modern day/somewhat futuristic fairy tale retellings that are simply awesome! All of the lead female characters are kick-ass strong, smart, and self sufficient. There’s just the right amount of fairy tale-like romance to keep it intriguing without going too mushy. Because they are a series…all the books continue the same large story line with each one highlighting a different girl. Cinder (a Cinderella retelling) was the first…and my review of that book can be found HERE. The second installment is Scarlet (a Little Red Riding Hood retelling) and my review of that book is HERE. Cress (a Rapunzel retelling) is probably my favorite book in the series so far!

“Maybe there isn’t such a thing as fate. Maybe it’s just the opportunities we’re given, and what we do with them. I’m beginning to think that maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves.”

In this book, the action is pretty much non-stop as we are at a point where universe-wide war is on the brink. This part of the story begins with us finally meeting  Cress, the computer genius/hacker girl, who has spent the majority of her life held prisoner in a Lunar satellite hidden away from civilization. Her orders come from Queen Levana and she has been charged with tracking down Cinder. Cress wants nothing more than to be rescued from her jail and and help Cinder put a stop to Queen Lenava and her evil plans….but she is watched very closely and is limited to netscreens as her sole source of communication with the outside universe.

When Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorne plan a daring rescue mission for Cress, she thinks all her hopes and dreams have been answered. But the rescue goes awry and Cress will soon learn all that everyone has risked to try to save her. In the meantime, Queen Levana will stop at nothing to make sure that her marriage to Emperor Kai goes off without a hitch. Cress may not have realized that the world’s safety will rely on her, Cinder, and Scarlet…but she’s about to find that out.

I absolutely loved this installment of the series! In fact, I think it might be my favorite so far. Tons of action, plenty of twists & turns and I just adore how the storyline is unfolding. The characters, the world building, all of it… YA fantasy at its finest! If you love fair tales, fairy tale retellings, or just some cool fantasy world building in general….definitely check this series out!

My Rating: 5/5 fun and entertaining stars

Cress – Amazon

Scarlet – Amazon

Cinder – Amazon

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Genre: Biography/Memoir, Non-Fiction

img_0106 Janette Walls grew up with very non-traditional parents who had some very unique views about raising children, responsibility, and life. While Jeannette was born in Arizona, the Walls family moved around like nomads for the majority of her young childhood….literally packing up their family vehicle, grabbing whatever they could carry, and doing the “skedaddle”. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had a total of 4 living children who spent almost their entire childhoods living in poverty, suffering from neglect & abuse, and never really knowing where their next meal was coming from.

“If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim”

The way Jeanette Walls tells it, it took the children some time to actually realize that the way their family was living probably wasn’t normal, ideal or even safe. When the author was 3 years old, she tells the story of boiling herself hotdogs because her mother was far too busy painting to be concerned with feeding her children. She ended up severely burning herself, spending 6 weeks in a burn unit complete with skin grafts….only to get back home and have her parents encourage her to, once again, boil herself some hotdogs as to “not fear the fire”.  Rose Mary didn’t appreciate having to be responsible for her children’s needs, she was an artist who thought her time could be much better spent fulfilling her wants. Rex was a severe alcoholic who, at times, could be charismatic and engaging…but spent the majority of his children’s lives drunk, absent, or squandering what little money they had on gambling or booze.

At some point, money ran out and the Walls family had no choice but to move to a small West Virginia mining town where Rex was originally from and where his family still lived. Jeannette and her siblings were forced to fend for themselves while they lived in a literal shack that had no running water, electricity or food. Eventually, all 4 of the Walls siblings find the will to separate from their dysfunctional parents in one way or another and move on to forge lives for themselves.

This was an incredible story! I found myself feeling so frustrated and angry at her parents for the complete neglect, danger and abuse they continued to subject their children to…all in the name of selfishness and “free living”. What shocked me the most was Walls’ ability to see her parents for who they were as people & what they were/were not able to give her with a completely pragmatic and matter of fact point of view. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the child in her trying to gloss over, rationalize, or protect her parents’ abuse & neglect to some degree…OR, if she’s just that mature to not hold any ill will or anger toward them.

“I wanted to let the world know that no one had a perfect life, that even the people who seemed to have it all had their secrets.” 

It will never cease to amaze me that people who are raised in such conditions are ever able to make it out whole. Listening to Ms. Walls describe the filthy living conditions, absence of food, lack of parental care, and utter neglect made me feel both angry and sad for her and her siblings. But at the same time, hearing her describe the events in a very honest, but non-complaining way was eye opening…at no point in her story is she expecting or even looking for sympathy. Jeannette Walls actually credits her parents, her upbringing, and the things she had to endure with her drive, work ethic and career. In fact, she actually mentions her family members in her Acknowledgments of her book:”I’d like to thank my brother, Brian, for standing by me when we were growing up and while I write this. I’m also grateful to my mother for believing in art and truth and for supporting the idea of this book;  to my brilliant and talented older sister, Lori, for coming around to it; and to my younger sister, Maureen, whom I will always love. And to my father, Rex S. Walls, for dreaming all those big dreams.”

I chose to listen to the audio book of this, and because it’s narrated by the author, the reading feels very personal and real. I found myself shaking my head or actually having my mouth hang open in utter shock at some of the stories from her life.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

The Glass Castle – Amazon

Review: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Genre: General Fiction

img_0039 Years of dealing with infertility, miscarriages, and finally a still birth proved to be too much for Zoe and Max’s marriage. While Zoe finds solace in her job as a music therapist….Max finds his in the bottom of a bottle. Life begins to take drastic turns for the both of them in just a few months time. Max is saved by both his brother and his new found Christian fundamentalism. In the meantime, Zoe finds that a very strong friendly relationship with Vanessa, a co-worker, quickly turns into a romantic one. Once Zoe and Vanessa are married, they decide that they would like to start a family together. Because of the years of infertility treatments she went through, Zoe decides she would like to use the remaining frozen embryos that are sitting in storage. However, the embryos also belong to Max….and with Max’s new found conservative views, he has a very big problem with the idea of his “future children” being born to and raised by a lesbian couple. Each side feels that they have the best of intentions for these embryos but neither side seems to be able to agree with the other.

Sadly, I’m thinking I’ve just read too much Picoult over the years to really enjoy this one much. Maybe if it was my first or second of her novels, I might not have felt it was so predictable and I might have enjoyed it more. And I may not have even minded the stereotypes or the cheesy ending that seemed to irk me so much in this book.

I have a hard time being overly critical of her work… Because My Sisters Keeper is in my top 10 favorite books and because I’ve now read all but 1 of her full length, solo books…I feel like I should like this one more. Sadly, i just didn’t love this one.
I do like that Picoult takes very divisive and serious social, political, or personal topics and dissects the sides and opinions in them. But, her style can get very predictable and repetitive. This book is a classic example of that. The alternating points of view (I normally don’t mind that), the suspenseful legal drama, the *gasp* moment of the secret revelation in court, the overly “everything works out in the end” ending….it was just too typical and predictable feeling. Most of these things mentioned were also the style in Small Great Things which I really enjoyed. So, sometimes admittedly that works for me…It just didn’t here.

I also felt like the characters were very cliche and full of stereotypes. And I didn’t really find either Zoe or Max all that believable or authentic. Within 2 months of their divorce…Zoe discovers she is a lesbian, gets married, and wants to have a family with her partner. And max also becomes a very die hard, strict bible thumping evangelical Christian. Seems way too convenient in a too short time.
Not a favorite of mine by her at all. I get why this took me months to pick back up and finish after starting it. I did bump it up to 2.5 stars because It wasn’t a “did not finish” and I was wanting to see how the ending played out. I usually reserve my 1 star ratings for “did not finish” books and 2 star ratings for books I finished but trudged through. If you’ve never read a Picoult book and this storyline intrigues you, you might actually like it. It was just too much of her typical style that I feel like I’ve read before for me.

My Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Sing You Home – Amazon

Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

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“Putting down the burden of the lie has meant giving up the freedom of the dream.” 

Tom Sherbourne returns to his home in Australia after 4 years of fighting in Europe during WW1. He decides to take a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, an island that is a few hours boat ride from the coast. On one of his short leaves from the island onto the mainland of Australia, Tom soon meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Isabel. When the newlyweds return to their private island and lighthouse duties, they have big plans for starting a family. But the years pass with nothing but heartache….two miscarriages and one still birth leave both Tom and Isabel feeling like they will never be parents.

Then one dark and stormy night, Isabel is certain that she hears the weak and shrill cries of a baby in the wind. Tom and Isabel discover a small boat that has washed up on shore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who is a strict rule follower and takes his lighthouse keeper duties very seriously, wants to immediately report the boat and it’s passengers. But Isabel finds herself falling immediately in love with this tiny and helpless baby and she feels that fate or God has stepped in to make them parents after all. Against Tom’s better judgement, the couple decides to keep the baby, name her Lucy, and pass her off as their own child to the biannual supply boats that come to the Island.

When Lucy is two years old, the Sherbourne’s make their first trip to the mainland since becoming a family of three. While there, Tom and Isabel are reminded that there are other people in the world who have been affected by the choices they made two years previous. They must come to grips with the fact that sometimes the line between right and wrong can be very fuzzy and confusing…especially when you think you are doing what’s best for the people you love.

“We live with the decisions we make, Bill. That’s what bravery is. Standing by the consequences of your mistakes.”

This was an incredibly intense and emotional roller coaster of a ride! I found myself completely empathizing with every single character in this book, for different reasons and at different parts of the story. Very rarely has a book been written in such a way when it’s hard for the reader to not agree with or understand such opposing sides to the same story. The characters are very well written, believable and all are even likable in their own way…which is why this is such a roller coaster of a read. At no point was I convinced one person was right or wrong…there are no easy answers in this story and nothing is simple.

For the first half of this book, I was pretty sure that this would be an easy 4 star rating for me. But, at some point during the second half, I was absolutely certain that I could give this book no less than 5 stars. The Light Between Oceans pretty quickly earned it’s place into my “favorites” category and I foresee myself recommending this book often to many different people. It was for sure a tear jerker for me…so you’ll need the tissues handy and it’s not always an easy read as there is a lot of heartache and emotional torment in the story. But it’s a book that is worth the tears. This is a story about the blurred lines of right & wrong,  love and loss, the hard choices we make, and the long term consequences of those choices. I still can’t get over the fact that this is a debut novel…I will for sure be on the look out for other books by this author.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

The Light Between Oceans – Amazon