Tuesday, January 23, 2018

MY ABSOLUTE DARLING BY Gabriel Tallent
















5.5

Riverhead
Pages 432
Available now
US


Kirkus review ( starred )


A 14-year-old girl struggles to escape her father’s emotional and physical abuse in this harrowing debut.
Turtle (born Julia) lives with her father, Martin, in the woods near the Mendocino coast. Their home is equipped like a separatist camp, and Martin opines officiously about climate change when he isn’t training Turtle in gun skills or, at night, raping her. Unsurprisingly, Turtle is isolated, self-hating, and cruel to her classmates. She also possesses the kind of strength that suggests she could leave Martin if she had help, but her concerned teacher and grandfather are unsure what to do, and once Martin pulls her out of school and her grandfather dies, the point is moot. Can she get out? Tallent delays the answer to that question, of course, but before the climax he’s written a fearless adventure tale that’s as savvy about internal emotional storms as it is about wrangling with family and nature. Turtle gets a glimpse of a better life through Jacob, a classmate from a well-off family (“she feels brilliantly included within that province of things she wants”), and her efforts to save him in the woods earn his admiration. But when Martin brings another young girl home, Turtle can’t leave for fear of history repeating. Tallent often stretches out visceral, violent scenes—Turtle forced to sustain a pull-up as Martin holds a knife beneath her, homebrew surgery, eating scorpions—to a point that is nearly sadistic. But he plainly means to explore how such moments seem to slow time, imprinting his young characters deeply. And he also takes care with Martin’s character, showing how the autodidact, hard-edged attitude that makes him so monstrous also gives Turtle the means to plot against him. Ultimately, though, this is Turtle’s story, and she is a remarkable teenage hero, heavily damaged but admirably persistent.
A powerful, well-turned story about abuse, its consequences, and what it takes to survive it.
Highly recommended...

Friday, January 5, 2018

A QUIET PLACE by Seisho Matsumoto
















5.5

Bitter Lemon Press
Published August 2016
Pages 224
JAPAN
JLC

Synopsis

 While on a business trip to Kobe, Tsuneo Asai receives the news that his wife Eiko has died of a heart attack. Eiko had a heart condition so the news of her death wasn't totally unexpected. But the circumstances of her demise left Tsuneo, a softly-spoken government bureaucrat, perplexed. How did it come about that his wife--who was shy and withdrawn, and only left their house twice a week to go to haiku meetings--ended up dead in a small shop in a shady Tokyo neighborhood? When Tsuneo goes to apologize to the boutique owner for the trouble caused by his wife's death he discovers the villa Tachibana near by, a house known to be a meeting place for secret lovers. As he digs deeper into his wife's recent past, he must eventually conclude that she led a double life..


Highly recommended 😊




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

PEARLS ON A BRANCH by Najla Jraissatiy Khoury


















Archipelago
Publishing date March 6, 2018
Literary Fiction
Middle East


Synopsis

A collection of 30 traditional Syrian and Lebanese folktales infused with new life by Lebanese women, collected by Najla Khoury.

While civil war raged in Lebanon, Najla Khoury traveled with a theater troupe, putting on shows in marginal areas where electricity was a luxury, in air raid shelters, Palestinian refugee camps, and isolated villages. Their plays were largely based on oral tales, and she combed the country in search of stories. Many years later, she chose one hundred stories from among the most popular and published them in Arabic in 2014, exactly as she received them, from the mouths of the storytellers who told them as they had heard them when they were children from their parents and grandparents. Out of the hundred stories published in Arabic, Inea Bushnaq and Najla Khoury chose thirty for this book.



"After twenty years the final curtain was lowered on Sanduk el Fergeh. The pursuit of stories, however, continued for memory and for pleasure. These are stories that belong to the human heritage. They are expressions of a distinctive cultural milieu. The notions of good and evil, for example, are not as categorical in them as in Western folktales. Fairies and witches have no equivalent in Arabic; instead there are magicians, male and female, good and bad. An old woman or an ancient man often are ogres, addressed as "Uncle Ogre" or "Mother Ogre." A hero can tame them through his courtesy and deeds.

These stories have an identity all their own. I had no right to keep them hidden in my drawers; I felt it a duty to share them. I hope that they will give the reader as much pleasure as I had listening to them."