Author Archives: Melody Wilson

April 2014: What I’m Reading

Sunday Salon

So far in March, I’ve finished a whopping NINE books, and made progress on two more. I think this is a new record for me! All the snow we had this month made for lots of quality reading time. Over the next few months, I have a somewhat hectic travel schedule, so I’m not sure how many new titles I’ll be able to get to. But I’ll have a ton of options!

Books read:

  • The Sense of Touch by Ron Parsons
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Answers I’ll Accept, edited by Kelly Ann Jacobson
  • The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith
  • After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman
  • Highs in the Low Fifties by Marion Winik
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  • The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend by Annabelle Costa
  • Gulp by Mary Roach

Halfway through:

  • Brazil on the Rise by Larry Rohter
  • The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

To read:

We Learn NothingWe Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider
Kreider will be visiting my memoir/essay writing class while I’m in Brazil, and I’m bummed to miss him. But I’ve met him before, and he is very funny and entertaining. I’m really looking forward to this collections of his essays–including the infamous, much-emailed “Busy Trap.”

Coming of Age on ZoloftComing of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are by Katherine Sharpe
This is the next One More Page nonfiction book club pick. After discussing Hyperbole and a Half last month, I’m eager to examine depression, especially among adolescents, even more closely. We’ll talk about the book on Monday, April 21; I hope to see you there!

The PromiseThe Promise by Ann Weisgarber
I loved Weisgarber’s first book, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree (my review here) so much, I named it a top 10 book in 2011. I’m very excited to read more from this author! Also, she told me on Twitter that she kept a red-eared turtle for years. This woman knows the way to my icy little heart!

Miss PeregrineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My fiction book club chose this as our next book. I might miss the meeting, since I’ll be out of town so much, but I still want to read along. I’ve heard a LOT about this book, and I think it will be a very enjoyable read on my travels! I’m particularly intrigued by the author’s use of photographs.

Have you read any of these? Which should I pick up first?

Trailer for Emma Donoghue’s “Frog Music”

Sunday Salon

I’m not usually one to post book trailers, but I’m very intrigued by Emma Donoghue’s next book, Frog Music. As faithful blog readers (there has to be one or two of you, right? Guys??) will know, I’m Donoghue’s biggest fangirl. Hearing her read an excerpt from Room (my review here) at Politics & Prose was a highlight of my literary life. I know. Sometimes my nerdiness disturbs even me.

Anyway, the trailer:

More about the book:
Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.

The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice–if he doesn’t track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

In thrilling, cinematic style, Frog Music digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue’s lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.

“The Frangipani Hotel” by Violet Kupersmith

Frangipani HotelTitle: The Frangipani Hotel
Author: Violet Kupersmith
ISBN: 9780812993318
Pages: 256
Release date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Genre: Short story collection
Format: Ebook
Source: Review copy (TLC Book Tours/Netgalley)
Rating: 5 out of 5

Gabriel Garcia Marquez annoys me. There, I said it. His is the most prominent name in magical realism, and his work had me convinced that I was not a fan of the genre. I inevitably grew weary of what seems like cutesy or convenient inventions put it place to further the narrative or tickle the reader. I want to know if a story is based in the world that I know or if it is fantastical. Go big or go home; don’t settle for ambiguous magical realism, I always thought.

Thankfully, Violet Kupersmith, an impossibly young debut writer, changed all of that.

In a series of long short stories—about half a dozen in all—Kupersmith composes a collage of Vietnamese identities, fragmented by perspective and background and distance. There’s the sixteen-year-old girl questioning her grandmother about her escape to the U.S. in “Boat Story”; Phi, who works at the eponymous Frangipani Hotel in “Reception”; Sister Emmanuel, whose story in “The Red Veil” pushes a questioning novice even further from God; and several others. Each story touches upon magical or mythical elements in large and small ways.

Although I am not familiar with Vietnamese mythology, I would guess that Kupersmith is immersed in it. The collection is steeped in folklore and mythology, whether real or imagined. The magic in these stories never felt like a convenient way to end a tale, a mythological deux es machina. Quite the contrary, each invocation of magic, if you want to call it that, felt inevitable in a strange and thrilling way. Of course a dying man would try to steal his driver’s life force! Who wouldn’t? And you should never trust the girl who mysteriously washed up in a hotel room. Each twist is utterly natural.

Kupersmith is inventive to the right degree; it never seems as though she is straining to shock or thrill. No bells and whistles—just solid, compelling storytelling.

Her prose is clear and confident, with an assured voice that made me enviously check and re-check to make sure she was really a first-time author. All of the stories center around Vietnam, but each character has a strong voice of their own and unique identities.

So, yeah, in case you weren’t sure: I loved every second of this story collection.

The entire book was full of fantastic quotes and observations, but here are some of my favorites:

“Why can’t you tell me how you escaped?”
“It’s simple, child: Did we ever really escape?”

“The first rule of the country we come from is that it always gives you what you ask for, but never exactly what you want.”

“All I have is a story. I’ve never told it to anyone before and I think it’s time. You may take what you like from it; look for a moral if you can. Perhaps the story will give you something, though you must be careful lest you give yourself to it instead.”

TLC Book ToursDon’t just take my word for it! Check out what other people on the tour have to say:

Monday, March 3rd:  Bibliophiliac
Tuesday, March 4th:  The Things You Can Read
Wednesday, March 5th:  Savvy Verse and Wit
Tuesday, March 11th:  The Written World
Tuesday, March 11th:  Books a la Mode + author guest post
Wednesday, March 12th:  River City Reading
Thursday, March 13th:  Under My Apple Tree
Monday, March 17th:  1330 V
Thursday, March 20th:  The Relentless Reader
Monday, March 24th:  A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, March 25th:  Suko’s Notebook
Wednesday, March 26th:  Lit and Life
Thursday, March 27th:  Too Fond 
Monday, March 31st:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, April 1st:  Mandy Boles: Life Between Books
Wednesday, April 2nd:  Guiltless Reading
Thursday, April 3rd:  Books and Movies
Monday, April 7th:  The Lost Entwife
Tuesday, April 8th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, April 9th:  girlichef
TBD:  50 Books Project

Or buy The Frangipani Hotel for yourself from an independent bookstore or Amazon (a Kindle version is also available). Each sale from these links helps support Melody & Words.

“The Sense of Touch” by Ron Parsons

The Sense of TouchTitle: The Sense of Touch
Author: Ron Parsons
ISBN: 9780988383777
Pages: 252
Release date: April 2013
Publisher: Aqueous
Genre: Short story collection
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy (TLC Book Tours)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Sense of Touch, a collection of short stories by Ron Parsons, examines the lives of Midwesterners—the struggles and compromises, the joy and grief—set against larger-than-life landscapes.

A college student struggles to renew a relationship with a smart but strange friend from childhood. A wife returns, however briefly, to her husband’s farm and bed. A grief-stricken man reunites with a friend who sees much more than his damaged eyes let on. A twin contemplates the violence of baseball and grief.

It’s difficult to judge story collections, particularly when some resonate more than others. However, it can be illuminating to read an author’s collection of short stories; the strengths (and weaknesses) of his or her writing are on display.

Parsons’s greatest strengths lie in the strong sense of place permeating each story. The Midwest is vast, and Parsons moves from state to state in the stories. Yet the role of environment on relationships is a constant throughout the collection.

I talk a lot about place as a character in a story. Look, for example, to some of the best writing in television: Baltimore and Louisiana are as much characters in “The Wire” and “True Detective” as the people are.

Yet in this collection, place acts more as exposition. The vagaries of nature move the story forward even when the characters are frozen with indecision, fear, regret. In the title story, the main character realizes:

I wanted a sturdy, honest, decisive winter, where the air feels like a sharpened weapon… Every now and then, we can all use the feeling of a long deadening freeze. It makes you appreciate the mercy of a thaw.

And, later, as he’s driving from school in Minneapolis down home to Texas:

Layers seem to lift and wash away. And I remember things differently. History becomes reversible.

His life story seems as affected by his surroundings as it is by his own decisions.

While, as I’ve noted, not all of the stories connected with me, I still admired Parsons’s understated writing style.

“People change,” one stoic, nearly voiceless character reflects, “and they forget to let the other people know.” Another posits heartbreakingly: “There isn’t a grief that exists that refuses to soften and crack with time, but oh, what a long, sad cloud that was.”

I enjoyed Parsons’s way with words and the way he blends place with exposition, even when some of the stories themselves seemed to fall flat. I’d love to see more from him.

TLC Book ToursDon’t just take my word for it! Check out what other people on the tour have to say:

February 3: Lavish Bookshelf
February 4: Books on the Table
February 6: Booksie’s Blog
February 7: Every Free Chance Book Reviews
February 10: Chronicles of a Country Girl
February 11: West Metro Mommy
February 17: A Book Geek
February 24: Patricia’s Wisdom
February 25: Great Imaginations
February 26: Ms. Nose in a Book
February 27: Books and Things
March 4: Priscilla and Her Books
March 5: The Road to Here
TBD: The Mookse and the Gripes

Or buy The Sense of Touch for yourself from an independent bookstore or Amazon (a Kindle version is also available). Each sale from these links helps support Melody & Words.

On the “R” Word and Insults in Books

I was reading a good book recently. It was funny and well-written, with a voice that was clear as a bell. But after three uses of the R word (as in, someone who faces developmental challenges), I had to put it down.

Interested in linguistics? John McWhorter's books are an excellent place to start!

Interested in linguistics? John McWhorter’s books are an excellent place to start!

I’m trained as a linguist. So on one level, I believe words are a social construct whose meaning can depend entirely upon the users. Words are vessels for sound and meaning. Words are wonderful, because with just one or two little sounds, we can convey a universe. We have created this system whereby these little sounds summon nearly anything, and everyone who speaks your language can understand you.

Language is flexible and fun, and normally I’m the last person to tell you how to use it. I drop the F-bomb like it’s my job, because there’s nothing inherently offensive about it. (Unless, I suppose, you’re anti-sex, in which case I’m anti-you.)

But insults are an entirely different beast. These are words used to destroy people.

“But hold on,” the author might say, if he or she read this little blog. “It’s just a joke. I didn’t mean any of that.”

I get it. Everyone loves jokes, and no one wants to analyze every single word they utter. But there’s nothing funny about using a word that has and continues to hurt so many.

This is the other edge of the sword that is language. When you choose to speak, you are entering into a contract of sorts. You are acknowledging that the words you speak carry greater meaning beyond their composite sounds. Most of the time, we benefit from this, in that we can make ourselves understood to strangers. But we must also acknowledge that there is a history of oppression and fear lingering behind certain combinations of sound.

There are those who have been on the receiving end of insults who seek to reclaim them, who want to imbue oppressive words with positivity. Let them. That’s the great part of language–how it changes with us. But if you keep using these words in their traditional context of insult, you are only prolonging the negativity.

Words are our right and our responsibility. Use them carefully.

Note: The book pictured above is not the book I’m talking about. I didn’t want to name and shame that author. But if you are interested in some of the linguistic concepts I’ve so clumsily explained, check out McWhorter’s careful work in the field. He’s one of the best.

March 2014: What I’m Reading

Sunday Salon

February was a short month! But I was still able to read four titles and make progress on four more. I hope to finish reading several books in March, before my travel schedule gets really hectic!

Books read:

  • Cairo in White by Kelly Ann Jacobson
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
  • Be With Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • (T)here: Writings on Returnings edited by Brandi Dawn Henderson

Halfway through:

  • After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman
  • The Sense of Touch by Ron Parsons
  • Highs in the Low Fifties by Marion Winik
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

To read:

GulpGulp by Mary Roach
This is the selection for both of my book clubs–the one with my friends, and the one held at One More Page. (We’ll discuss it at OMP in May.) I really enjoyed Roach’s Packing for Mars, so this should be a lot of fun!

Frangipani HotelThe Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith
This book sounds fantastic–it has garnered praise from the likes of Téa Obreht, as well as starred reviews from both Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal. I haven’t read many books set in Vietnam, but the last one–The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli–made me fall in love with the country.

Brazil on the RiseBrazil on the Rise: The Story of a Country Transformed by Larry Rohter
I’m traveling to Brazil next month, and this seems to be the must-read book on understanding Brazil’s present state and future promise. Rohter, a reporter for The New York Times, goes beyond the stereotypes of Brazil–Carnival, beaches, supermodels–to dive into its rapid growth and status among other emerging markets.

River of DoubtThe River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
Did you know that, after being defeated in 1912, Roosevelt mapped a dangerous tributary of the Amazon? Yeah, me neither. While I won’t spend much time around this famous river (at least, not on this trip), this book sounded like an unusual glimpse into the country and a fun, if harrowing, story.

In March, I’ll also read Hyperbole and a Half, the next One More Page book club pick–I can’t wait to discuss it!

Have you read any of these? Which should I pick up first?

“Be With Me” by J. Lynn

Be With MeTitle: Be With Me
Series: Wait for You, #2
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout (J. Lynn)
ISBN: 9780062294784
Pages: 376
Release date: February 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: New Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy (TLC Book Tours)
Rating: 4 out of 5

The past few months haven’t been easy for Teresa Hamilton. After she tore her ACL, she had to put her ballet career on hold. She enrolls in the same college where her older brother and his girlfriend attend. But Cam and Avery are not the only ones she knows on campus; there’s also Jase, Cam’s best friend. She hasn’t talked to Jase since last year–when she finally summoned up the courage to kiss him. And he seemed very, very into that.

But now Jase doesn’t seem to want anything to do with her. Whenever they’re alone, their attraction to each other is undeniable, yet he seems bent on ignoring it. Can Jase put the past behind him and trust Teresa with his heart?

Meanwhile, personal tragedies rock Teresa’s life. But sometimes even the worst situations can change your life for the better.

I really enjoyed Wait for You, the first book in this series. It was incredibly sexy, and it explored serious issues relating to sexual assault and identity. While this book didn’t quite have the same effect on me, I still enjoyed it.

I wasn’t quite as pulled in by the relationship between Teresa and Jase. I loved the constant tension between Avery and Cam in the first book, but the volume seemed turned way down in the second installment.

However, Teresa is a very compelling character–a real fighter. When Jase seems unwilling to risk a relationship with her, she calls him out on it. When her roommate shows signs of partner abuse, she helps her confront him. Teresa is not one to let a man walk all over her–not after her first boyfriend turned violent and threatened to ruin her life a few years ago.

Domestic violence is a recurring issue throughout this book. I applaud Armentrout for addressing an issue that is prevalent, even among young couples, but so often overlooked. Armentrout finds an excellent balance between telling a fun, sexy story and addressing important issues in this series.

Her writing isn’t exactly literary (at one point, she describes Jase as appearing to be “drowning while being nom nom’d on by cookie cutter sharks”), which often held me back from truly getting into the story.

But I loved Teresa’s pugnacious spirit, and her humor–as with the first time she tells Jase she loves him:

“Please God, let him think I said something else–anything else. Like maybe I dove you. That was better.”

Despite my qualms about Armentrout’s writing style, I appreciate how well she tells stories about serious issues without coming across as preachy. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Quote of Note:

“I stroked the flame until it turned into an orb of anger–anger was better than hurt.”

TLC Book ToursDon’t just take my word for it! Check out what other people on the tour have to say:

Tuesday, February 4th: In Bed with Books
Wednesday, February 5th: Nightly Reading
Thursday, February 6th: Ladybug Literature
Monday, February 10th: Oh! Paper Pages
Tuesday, February 11th: Books à la Mode
Wednesday, February 12th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Monday, February 17th: Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, February 18th: Mom in Love With Fiction
Thursday, February 20th: Luxury Reading
Monday, February 24th: cupcake’s book cupboard
Tuesday, February 25th: Curling Up With a Good Book
Wednesday, February 26th: Dear Brighton
Thursday, February 27th: Book Marks the Spot
TBD: Schmexy Girl Book Blog
TBD: Tina’s Book Reviews

Or buy Be With Me for yourself from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle and Audible versions are also available). Each sale from these links helps support Melody & Words.

“Wait for You” by J. Lynn

Wait for YouTitle: Wait for You
Series: Wait for You, #1
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout (J. Lynn)
ISBN: 9780062294777
Pages: 384
Release date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: New Adult
Format: E-book
Source: Personal collection
Rating: 4 out of 5

Going to college is stressful for pretty much everyone, but for Avery, there is a whole new level of fear. Now, away from home, she can’t explain why she hates going to parties and why she’s never dated a boy—hell, never even been alone in a car with one before.

But leaving all that behind her in Texas also gives Avery a lot of freedom. She’s finally out from under her parents’ control. And here, no one shoots her sideways glances and whispers behind her back about what happened at that party—so many years ago, yet still haunting her.

And then there’s Cam, the beyond-hot guy who just so happens to live across the hall. But Cam is hiding a past of his own. Can these two (both incredibly good-looking people, I should point out) ever figure out how to maintain a relationship?

I haven’t read a lot of romance, so I was surprised by how deeply I was drawn into this story. Although the writing lacks polish, the story resonated on a deeper level than I expected.

This is a subject that so many women face—sexual assault—and yet I’ve read remarkably few books about it, which I only realized now. At the same time, part of Avery’s search for identity involves coming to grips with her sexuality—a huge task, after what she went through. And that means there is a good bit of sex. The story is dark, but it’s erotic as well; it’s not for prudes.

In my opinion, though, Armentrout finds a good balance between pain and happiness. Wait for You deals with enough deep, emotional themes to hook me in, and the sexy stuff was awfully fun, too. (I’m probably the opposite of the average reader, but there you go.) All in all, I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series!

Quote of Note:

Everything was okay. Maybe not perfect, but life wasn’t meant to be perfect. It was messy and sometimes it was a disaster, but there was beauty in the messiness and there could be peace in the disaster.

Don’t just take my word for it! Buy Wait for You from Amazon (Kindle and Audible versions are also available). Each sale from these links helps support Melody & Words.

“Cairo In White” by Kelly Ann Jacobson

Cairo in WhiteTitle: Cairo In White
Author: Kelly Ann Jacobson
ISBN: 9781619377714
Pages: 158
Release date: February 14, 2014
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Fiction
Format: E-book
Source: Review copy
Rating: 5 out of 5

Eighteen-year-old Zahra had been climbing over the wall to Jamila’s house and sneaking into her girlfriend’s room for years, but that night was different.

That night, as she crept through the Ahmeds’ house, she ran smack-dab into her parents. They were taking tea and arranging her marriage. But not to Jamila; love between two girls in 1986 Egypt was forbidden. Instead, Zahra will marry Jamila’s brother.

The only thing stronger than Zahra’s sense of independence is her loyalty to her family. And so she follows her head rather than her heart, committing herself to a brutish man she hardly knows on one condition: they move across an ocean, far from memories of true love, to a new world—one that, Zahra discovers, is far more accepting of her sexuality.

More than two decades later, 22-year-old Aisha greets the heat of her homeland for the first time. After growing up in the U.S. with only her mother to watch over her, Aisha is determined to find a family and a history in Egypt. But she discovers more than she bargained for.

Will Aisha find acceptance, even a home, in a culture that once rejected Zahra? Will Aisha be free to pursue the love that she finds in Egypt? And will Zahra ever rediscover love herself?

At this point I should note that I am a biased reader. Kelly is a writer friend of mine, and I’ve enjoyed watching this novel take shape. (But trust me: Friend or not, you would know if I didn’t like it. I’m not really known for holding back my opinions.)

Lucky for our friendship… I loved this book from start to finish. The writing is fabulous, but more importantly, the story’s central themes resonated deeply with me. How do you reconcile cultural taboos with what you know to be true about yourself? How do you manage your family’s expectations with what you really want and need?

Both Aisha and Zahra feel, for different reasons, like outsiders in a culture that is an irreplaceable part of them. The conflicts of growing up and growing into yourself, figuring out where you belong and who you are—these are universal struggles, and Cairo In White illustrates them beautifully.

One of my favorite exchanges occurs when Zahra asks Jamila why white is her favorite color. “There are so many beautiful colors to choose from, why would you choose the one that doesn’t count?” Zahra asks with the sweet thoughtlessness of youth. “Sometimes, the things that don’t count are the most beautiful of all,” her girlfriend responds. Indeed.

Zahra’s loss is clearly defined—she knows all too well what she has given up—while Aisha’s is vague, an indefinable lack—both of family support and purpose in life. Their interwoven narratives contrast identities—mother and daughter, traditional and modern, gay and straight, immigrant and emigrant—that are not so different as they seem. A low throb of heartache and loss run beneath the narrative, but so, too, does a bright vein of optimism.

The best stories fully ground the reader in a place. They make you miss somewhere you’ve never been. I can see it all now: the crowded markets, the women with jangling bracelets haggling with old vendors. The swish of cool fabric against hot skin, cigarette and shisha smoke blending and floating on a dry breeze.

Jacobson has a gift for descriptions—for pulling the reader on to the page and immersing her in an unfamiliar setting, whether on the streets of Cairo or in an immigrant neighborhood in Northern Virginia. I loved poetic descriptions like these:

Al Qahirah, or the city of a thousand minarets, had turned like a dried date. The streets were bruised with shadows, and empty sunflower shells littered the pathways like breadcrumbs through the dark.

The book is probably best described as a romance, although it could also be called new adult. I’ve been reading a lot of LGBTQI fiction lately, and have a special focus on new adult titles this year, so Cairo In White was a very satisfying read on those levels as well.

In all, I highly recommend it! I wouldn’t be surprised if this book found its way on to my Best of 2014 list in a few months.

Quote of Note:

Eventually, they would fade like paintings in the sun, just an outline and a wash of color against an ever-expanding white background.

Don’t just take my word for it! Buy Cairo In White from the publisher or Amazon. Each sale from these links helps support Melody & Words.

Or come to her book launch party tonight in DC’s Adams Morgan!

“We” by Michael Landweber

WeTitle: We
Author: Michael Landweber
ISBN: 9781603811668
Pages: 194
Release date: September 2013
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
Genre: Speculative fiction
Format: Ebook
Source: Review copy (TLC Book Tours)
Rating: 3 out of 5

Ben was 42 when he reached to scrub an old stain from the ceiling of his apartment and lost his balance. When he opened his eyes, he was 7 again. He had traveled back in time to the days before his sister’s rape tore their family apart.

As Ben relives those days through his 7-year-old self, Binky, he struggles to warn his family of the impending tragedy written in their future. But you can’t change the past—can you?

I really enjoyed the experimental form of this novel. Ben coexists with his younger self, who is in subject to strong currents of emotion—love, terror, anxiety—that as an adult he no longer feels so strongly. The best part of the novel–really, a novella–was his keen sense of the loss of his entire family, not just Sara. His father’s indifference, his mother’s abandonment, his brother’s distance.

In addition to the waves of feeling that regularly buffet his seven-year-old self, Ben can’t escape the ways the tragedy affected his own attempts, or lack thereof, at a family. “I was terrified of repeating my father’s mistakes, of showing a child his indifference,” he reflects while thinking of his partner’s insistence on adoption. “I wanted him to feel the absence of my mother the way I felt it.”

The ending was somewhat disappointing; it took the story from a realistic psychological or even medical story to a story about time travel. In my opinion, it misses the opportunity to reflect on how the past cannot be changed—only the future.

The story, however, was well-written. Anyone who has ever experienced or imagined a family tragedy (so, basically, everyone) can appreciate the wrenching apart that older Ben anticipates as he tries to change the events of that night. I was struck by parallels with my own family; this passage in particular resonated with me:

No one knew if Sara was tired or hungry or alone or alive. Her absence was deeply felt, there being a full, untouched place-setting laid out before her chair. I had listened to my mother make all the obligatory pre-dinner phone calls to Sara’s friends, or at least the friends she used to have in the long-ago time when she last confided in my parents. With each call, each act of contrition, my mother wilted. I sensed that this was a common ritual—the search for Sara. There was not much effort invested in it, no real hope for success.

In all, I enjoyed the book, but the ending clouded the rest of the story for me. But I’m looking forward to the next book by Landweber, a local author.

TLC Book ToursDon’t just take my word for it! Check out what other people on the tour have to say:

Monday, February 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, February 5th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, February 6th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, February 11th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, February 12th: Happy. Pretty. Sweet.
Friday, February 14th: Laura’s Reviews
Wednesday, February 19th: The Book Wheel
Thursday, February 20th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, February 21st: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Monday, February 24th: Suko’s Notebook
Wednesday, February 26th: Simply Stacie

Or buy We from an independent bookstore or Amazon (a Kindle version is also available). Each sale from these links helps support Melody & Words.