4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace – A Review.

4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace – by  Johan Twiss. Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK and elsewhere.

He was gone,  “his saxophone, Betty, strapped around his neck…”

When first I decided to read this book, I was curious as to what sort of point of view the author, Johan Twiss, could possibly employ to tell the story of a friendship between a young man trapped in his mind by Cryptococcal Meningitis and an old man trapped in his memories by dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

We meet Aaron Greenberg on this fourteenth birthday, having been already immobilized for two years by Meningeal paralysis. His aging parents, unable to care for him physically or emotionally, have parked him in a nursing home. Aaron endures a lifetime of bad television, noise, and ignorant medical personnel treating him as if he were a vegetable in the first few weeks of confinement. They never consider that his cerebrum might be humming along just fine, even though his cerebellum was impaired by disease.  The exception is Barry, the Janitor, who is a musician, too, and talks to Aaron as he would to anyone.

Then Aaron’s world changes forever. He gets a room mate, Solomon Felsher, formerly a famous jazz saxophonist.

Twiss takes his cue from Euripides and  introduces the novel’s dei ex machinis: there are two.  His characters discover not only can they communicate telepathically but also they can insert simulacra of themselves into alternate historical timelines, so closely interwoven that it is nearly impossible to separate past from present. Aaron sets off on a trip to Yankee Stadium with a youthful Solomon selling newspapers;  they take boxing lessons; go to see Jack Dempsey box the “Wild Bull Firpo”;  court Solomon’s future wife, Dolores. Aaron finds himself with Solomon in the foxholes of France during WWII; they play in jazz bands, Aaron rapturously released from the bonds of his illness, playing the trombone with abandon; and they share other adventures too numerous to mention in a review. Strangely, the devices work.  Twiss’s narrative carries  us and his characters along to meet F.Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, the 1989 earthquake in CA, and a Valentine’s Day Dance at the nursing home with equal ease. The author treats his characters with love and respect, their disabilities transformed and disarmed.

Twiss deftly examines some of the existential and spiritual choices we are forced to make when we, ourselves, or our loved ones face mortality sooner than expected.

“Why did this have to happen? I thought. Why did any of it have to happen? Why did I get sick and become paralyzed? That wasn’t fair. And why does Solomon have to suffer like this? Why? I sat in silence, pondering these questions, when a new train of thought hit me, like a whisper from my mind. It was a moment of clarity that I wasn’t prepared for. If I had not been sick, I never would have met Solomon. This thought struck me like a javelin to the heart. I mulled over what it meant. If given the option, would I trade the last two years with Solomon in exchange for a healthy, perfect body?”

4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace is part historical novel, part philosophical novel, and part common sense novel about how people with disabilities should be treated.

I enjoyed reading this book.


Posted in Historical Fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Her Secret Rose – A Review.

Her Secret Rose by Orna Ross – available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Into the abyss of themselves…
Loreena McKennitt’s singing of two W.B. Yeats poems last evening reminded me I had never done a review of this interesting book.

Maud Nic Ghoinn Bean Mac Giolla Bhríghde (Maud Gonne McBride) and William Butler Yeats live again as complicated people in Ross’s account of their intertwined lives. They live as people, as opposed to their shibboleths: the wild suffragette and the eccentric poet, respectively.
Rose Cross observes the dichotomy: “The living, breathing woman and man, what he called “the bundle of accident and incoherence that sits down to breakfast,” and the creations they made to feed the newspapers and stalk the history books.”

“Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days! Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways… …Come near, that no more blinded by man’s fate, I find under the boughs of love and hate, In all poor foolish things that live a day, Eternal beauty wandering on her way.” (To the Rose upon the Rood of Time – W.B. Yeats) This is just one of the snippets of Yeats’s work sprinkled through this historical novel.

We meet Gonne as a conflicted woman: on the one hand, involved with a right-wing Parisian politician Lucien Millevoye, and on the other, agitating for revolt of the Irish, with Yeats as one of her Irish “contacts.” She and Yeats, both Anglo-Irish, are presented as detached. Maud’s affinity for the Rising seems more intellectual than passionate in this telling, mostly in the omniscient third person point of view. The point of view is that of Rose Cross, the housekeeper and, of course, the symbol of the Rosicrucian mystics. Part is in past tense and part in present tense which is a bit disconcerting at first. We meet Yeats as part of an extended family, a poet, a mystic, a nationalist, but a pacifist.

Ross pulls back the curtain on both the French and Irish literati and politicos who walked the same streets and sat in the same cafés with Yeats and Gonne: General Boulanger, Paul Déroulède, du Rochefort, Clemenceau, Lady Gregory of Coole Park, and many others. But more prominant are the occultist friends and influences: Samuel Mathers, Madam Blavatsky, with their incense and séances. Gonne’s attempt to reincarnate her beloved son Georges while in his crypt at Samois Cemetery is one of the strangest chapters.

Yeats himself wrote a book of short stories called The Secret Rose, with a highly ornate cover designed by his friend Althea Gyles and dedicated to his mystical “AEther” friend George Russell. Who was the Secret Rose. Was it Gonne’s son George, whom she tells Yeats is her adopted charge; was it “the Ruby Rose and Cross of Gold” of the secret Golden Dawn occultist society; there are many possibilities described in this book of roses. Or does “Her” refer to the narrator, Rosie. Ross leaves that to the reader.

Posted in Historical Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Forsaken Oath – A Review.

Forsaken Oath, A Dana Hargrave legal mystery by V.S. Kemanis,  Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Four years ago V.S. Kemanis came to my attention via a Kindle Book Review request, and at that time I was quite impressed with her story collection called Everyone But Us.

So, now I have just read her fourth (in order of publication) legal mystery.

The title arises from a charge made by Ellen C. Fortier, founder of Justice Restored (an innocence project):

“We’ve subpoenaed Dana Hargrove to testify on Monday in the case of the People against Ramón Pineda. She’s a woman who shuns her duty to seek justice. Prosecutor Dana Hargrove has forsaken her oath of office.”

Several stories, intertwined, create a complex and busy plot:  the murder of a haute couture designer;  the trail of an unscrupulous financial advisor; a class-action suit filed by the husband of Ms. Hargrove; the murder of a bodega clerk; that of a conspicuously public crusader and her n’er-do-well brother; a bit of BDS&M thrown in for a nefarious ex-fashionista; an assistant D.A. who has trouble following instructions; the protagonist’s attempt to eke out a vacation from Trial Bureau 90 (position peculiar to the New York  District Attorney offices).  At least a couple of the story lines have unexpected conclusions.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the complexity of the New York State legal system and understands the “lawyer talk” (“No more graveyard, no more chart.” ) or to anyone who wants some intelligent writing for a change. My only quibble is with the “office banter” which seems somewhat contrived.

So, download the book before you have to return from your holiday!

Leila Smith. This is  an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.

Posted in Crime | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Percentages Men – A Review.

The Percentages Men by Brendan Gisby. Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Listen up you cubicle captives, statistical parameterizers, percentage purveyors!

When we say we are 95% sure that you will like The Percentages Men, we mean that in the bell curve world inhabited by Gisby’s characters, we think you will be in the middle 95% of the curve. We are not bothering with the standard deviations.

Whether it is a biannual public attitudes tracker survey about food and nutrition, or a survey about changing attitudes in Northern Ireland, or a salary survey or an investigation of complaints from council tenants, apparently social research is BIG BUSINESS in the United Kingdom.

Gisby’s novel could be set in most any sort of corporation. Those who power modern offices in their hamster wheels every day set will recognize the infighting and intrigues that infuse most office settings, the time wasted on assuaging egos, arguing about parking spaces and corner offices. In The Percentages Men we have James Boston, a/k/a Jimbo, the star statistician; Dan McKay, a good manager; Jack Lamb, an ironic name for a ruthless person obsessed with his own power; and Neville Brown, the familiar “yes” man who looks out for his own interests and marches around with the Territorial Army in his spare time. By the way, Gisby’s corporations have women directors too.

There is a quest for the “secret formula,” vacation villas, “greasy” accountants, takeover deals and lots of suspense. Then, of course, the office romances; raucous parties; dreaming and scheming keep the reader turning the pages. Also, unexpectedly, there is the underlying tension between the Belfast men and the Scottish men; between Catholics and Protestants, as the novel starts in 1985. But the reader will also learn a bit about random probability sampling, sample sizes and other information useful in evaluating the blizzard of studies which hit the newspapers outside of the novel every day. The reader’s bonus is an introduction to the Belfast way of speaking, some Scottish slang and a perspective on public transportation versus using one’s private automobile, so it is.

Gisby writes with the assurance of one who worked his way up in business, from a poor family in South Queensferry in Edinburgh to an author’s retirement in Perthshire. His characters are well-developed. The plot does not plod! The Percentages Men moves along smartly. Market Surveys Scotland goes through many incarnations. On the way to a conglomerate (MSUK), Market Surveys Northern Ireland, Market Surveys North-East arise along with changes in share values, divisions arising and dying, directors being hired and fired.

We learn the fate of each main character at the end including one character who “reinvented himself as a writer, an author.” “… Maybe one of these days he’ll write a book about MSUK.” Well, I think he did and I’m glad he did. I enjoyed this novel.




Posted in Literary Fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Spill Simmer Falter Wither – A Review.

By Sara Baume. Available on multiple platforms.

Beautifully written; disturbing to its core, especially disturbing that so young an author understands so deeply social isolation, loneliness and despair.

From Sara Baume’s Prologue: “He is running, running, running. And there’s no course or current to deter him. There’s no impulse from the root of his brain to the roof of his skull which says other than RUN. He is One Eye now. He is on his way.”

She is telling us about the rat terrier One Eye, but the inexorable rush to destiny also applies to the 57-year-old motherless child who casts his lot with One Eye.

Ray needed a rat terrier. He found One Eye but only after a badger found the dog first.

Why he needed the terrier is a complex question. He had rats, to be sure. Why he had rats is for the reader to discover. One Eye had no one. Ray had no one. Then they had each other.

“I summoned every last dot of valour I could scratch from my soul, I swallowed a shot glass of rescue remedy and went to the social welfare office. I filled out forms and ticked boxes. I found that continued survival came down to a simple matter of form-filling, a basic proficiency in the ticking of boxes. And because I managed never to miss a box or make an illiterate mark on the bottommost line instead of signing my name, nobody came. And here I am still, and here you are.”

“My father’s name was the same word as for the small insectivorous passerine birds found most commonly photographed on Christmas cards, with orange-red blushed breasts as though they’ve been water boarded by molten amber and stained for life.”

Our narrator is never explicitly named, but he is Ray. He speaks to One Eye (and sometimes, seemingly to us) and interacts only with the clerks at the post office and the grocers. He shows One Eye (and thereby us) the circumscribed world in which he lives. And I use “circumscribed” advisedly. He starts and ends his life in a small Irish village, with limited financial resources and no social support. He exhausted his savings account and could have collected rent, but that task, like so many others, seemed too overwhelming.

“For two years now, the hairdresser hasn’t paid a snip of rent, I’ve only just realised that. She used to post it through the letterbox on the first working day of every month in an envelope that smelled like sweet glue and hand cream. But for the last two years, not a snip. And why would she bother, when the landlord’s disappeared and there’s only his idiot son who won’t notice anyway? And I didn’t notice, did I? So maybe I’m everybody’s idiot after all.”

Baume peels away each prickly leaf of the whin, painfully, one at a time, as she reveals Ray’s secrets.

She also gives us a survey of the flora and fauna of the Irish sea coast – Bowerbirds, chamomile, furze, cuckoos, silverweed, nasturtiums, jackdaws and all manner of living things, flaunting their living as Ray tries to hang on. The alliteration abounds: the “grandiosity of grottos.” The multitude of Marys meets us around the bend. We smell what Ray smells: black mold, cigarette smoke, old slippers and, Baume tells us, time. Irony abounds. The ever-present radio tells Ray and One Eye about endangered species.

This is a remarkable book, not only for the gorgeous language which others have noted, but also for the unmistakably Irish fatalism and folk wisdom contained therein. “Tomorrow, once our slanted slates have collided with the course of the sun, we’ll come back here, I promise.”

The language brings to mind that wonderful Welsh Marches story by Peter Maughan, who also reveres the plants and animals of Batch Magna, “a place on a road to nowhere in particular,” but where the prose trips and trills over the tongue if one reads it aloud. Unlike The Cuckoos of Batch Magna, Baume’s book is not one for those who insist on happy endings. Ray says it best when he tells One Eye:

“This is the way people survive, by filling one hole at a time for the flightiest of temporary gratifications, over and over and over, until the season’s out and they die off anyway, wither back into the wall or path, into their dark crevasse. This is the way life’s eaten away, expended by the onerous effort of living itself.”


Posted in Literary Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Wild Folk – A Review.

The Wild Folk by Flora Kennedy available on Amazon US and Amazon UK and on Barnes and Noble.

The enchanting fairy tale woven from seaweed, sea, sand and selkies by Flora Kennedy was a pleasure to read.

Sibilant alliteration throughout the prose carries the reader along on waves lapping the shores of the Hebridean islands, reminding this reader of Ring of Bright Water.

The Wild Folk is the kind of book that almost reviews itself: the reviewer cannot really add anything except an admonition to buy it.

“He’d slither through the seaweed, its flowing, feeling, fingers of fronds fondling and tangling and he would point to the place he was going to land himself, always a different place, with a bony pale white finger at the end of his lanky arm and I would race over to that spot of his choosing and wait and watch. Me on the grounded shore. Lachie in the flowing water. Separated.”

Lachie and Lorna, Lorna and Lachie. Islanders. This is their story. They form a very insular, inseparable pair, until Lorna grows up and joins the world of the others. It is a story of formal education vs. the lessons of the sea; of adults vs. children; dying in hospitals vs. dying on the island. It is a story of secrets: dangerous secrets and tender secrets.

The relationships are deep as the eyes of Uncle Niall’s cows; as deep as the flowers and foliage; as deep as the pools where Lorna and Lachie swam as children.

Kennedy tells us:

‘The thing about Coll Finn is that it’s precious piece of land in wild sea; an island we can cling to while the waters all around us change. That’s why islands are so special.’

Lorna says:

“Our signal is a scarlet handkerchief of my mother’s that I wrap around a round grey stone on the roof. The stone is there on the corner to stop the tarred roofing material curling off in the heat. Lachie can see the roof of the caravan, the big caravan that is, not the small one perched on the side of it like a wee fluffy fledgling tucked into its mother’s breast. Lachie can see the red from the hill at the end of Struan beach between his place and ours and knows it’s safe for him to come.”

Through Kennedy’s book, we are fortunate to get an introduction to the Gàidhlig phrases which convey meanings between and among the island folk of the Outer Hebrides, the ancient language of their ancestors.

‘Auntie Ruby told me that if I collect enough sheep’s wool I can use it stuff a cushion and maybe she’ll give me one of her old summer dresses to use as a cover’ I say and Lachie smiles and nods ‘tha sin uabhasach math’

We learn a bit of Western Isles history:

“Later in Oban there was a girl at my school who was eerily beautiful with her brown skin and black curls. We were friends for a few weeks and she said she had been told she was a throw-back to the Spanish invaders centuries ago. I told her she looked Maori to me and how I wished I looked like her and I told her of the Maori shearers who slept where they were welcomed.”

It is a story of death and mystery: Who killed Lachie? My only quibble is with the structure in the middle of the book – the voice changes suddenly.

At the wake we meet some of the island folk:  We meet John-Mac, the constable; Aunt Ruby; Kirsty, Johnny, Freya and Finn; Agnes and Jack; Mrs. Cuddy, the librarian; Hughie and Seumus; Margaret Petersen and others. Alec and Dougal are there along with Big Brodie, Fergus and Jordan. Significantly, we do not meet Malky. But we learn some devastating truths.

The language is poetic and ever evocative:

“They are like the standing stones at Totronald transposed there onto Struan beach. Quiet, ancient sentinels to something no-one remembers or knows.”

Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. This is an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.

Posted in Literary Fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Falling Star – A Review.

Falling Star (The Watchers Book 1) by Philip Chen – Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.  and on Barnes & Noble

“The hologram rose out of the plate and the President saw what Johnny Thapaha [Navajo medicine man] had seen over the forty-some years he had welcomed the morning sunrise with plate in hand.” 

I really enjoyed this science fiction adventure. Unlike most of the dystopian “science” fiction books I receive for review, Chen’s book is heavy on “science” and plausibility. Actual events meld into fictive events (not just invented but inventive to make a specific point) so deftly that this reviewer found herself on the verge of believing the unbelievable. 

The story spans the years from 1967 to 1993, following the career of Lieutenant Mike Liu, the secrets of Navajo Shaman Johnny Thapaha, assorted KGB thugs and, if that were not enough, the fate of the “fourth alien” from “the Socorro and Roswell incidents.”

The reader will certainly get his/her “money’s worth” from this novel. 

At the heart of the book, and the mystery, are the four “mysterious objects” deep in the silt under the oceans around the perimeter of the United States. 

“The curtain of state secrets fell quickly on the mysterious object in the Hatteras Abyssal Plain. “ 

There are Defense Intelligence Agents on the case; there are “CSAC” agents competing for attention, and their agency is so secretive that even meaning of the acronym is classified. By the way, there is a woman agent too, Mildred Swensen; and a woman assassin, Julie Davenport who interact with myriad other interesting characters clothed in the kind of detailed development usually found in a literary novel. 

(For those readers who dabble in numerology, the number four (4) appears fifty-nine times, so watch for it.) 

“Because of this and, perhaps because this alien took four days and four nights to expire, Johnny Thapaha believed him to be an emissary from the Great Spirit.  Johnny Thapaha called him ‘the traveler.’ “ 

You will have to buy the book to find out what happened before the alien died! 

But the best part of Falling Star is the chance to learn about magnetometers, submersibles, sonar technology, oscilloscopes, Heckler Koch MP-5 submachine guns, and other integral equipment – lots of technical information – from an author who is also an engineer, trial lawyer and investment banker. If the reader pays attention, he/she will also absorb some geopolitical realities, the vicissitudes inherent in the war between Congress and science and the meaning of Starlength 1300.2! 

Buy this book before the mysterious sonic booms shake your reading room. 

Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. This review was not solicited. This is an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.


Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hyper – A Review.

Align, Define, Deliver and Reference – useful advice for a change., December 8, 2015

Hyper by Gregory P. Steffine. Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

If you think you are using “Agile Methodology”, you had better be Nimble and Quick.
That’s the advice from Gregory P. Steffine in his well-researched and organized book called Hyper. Do not hesitate! Get that prototype to your client early in the process.

Although ostensibly a book on Business Intelligence in the usual sense meaning “mining” data and transforming it into information useful to analysts and decision-makers, this book contains common sense business intelligence which will be invaluable to Business Analysts who need to learn how to effectively extract and organize requirements.

Steffine quotes subject matter experts from Alvin Toffler (author of Future Shock and many other thought-provoking books) to Stephen Few (Data visualization expert).
For the most part he avoids the usual crutch “buzz” words and jargon which render many “business” books useless to the uninitiated statistician or data analyst, and tiresome to the discerning BI (business intelligence) analyst. There are, however, a few jargon-type words which got by the editors. On the other hand, his bibliography and footnotes may be worth the price of the book.

Chapters 13 and 14 on organizing your data are especially pertinent.
Chapter 26 on “Big Data” is worth a look.
Chapter 25 on Dashboards and Business Intelligence Delivery contains some very good suggestions.

Steffine provides process flow charts and offers templates and outlines as a bonus to his readers for organization of their projects as opposed to the “blather” that populates many of these “how to” books submitted for review.

I would definitely recommend this book to data and business analysts.

Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon. The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair and honest review.

Posted in Non Fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

In The Electric Mists With The Confederate Dead – A Review.

In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke.

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
Echoes from the 1860s across the bayous.

A sense of foreboding drifts over New Iberia from the very first page of this most literary novel, as the reader is treated to not one but three mysteries: one is thirty-five years old – the murder of Dewitt Prejean – and serves as a device to draw characters together. Lieutenant Dave Robicheaux, FBI agent Rosie Gomez and General John Bell Hood (1831-1879) search for a sadistic murderer in present-day 1992, the second mystery. They use logic, assumptions, luck, setups, breaches of ethics, intuition and extrasensory clues to determine the connections between an unlikely security guard Murphy Doucet; a hapless has-been movie star Elrod T. Sykes and his lady friend Kelly Drummond; a mobster Julie “Baby Feet” Balboni; the long-retired night jailer Ben Hebert; movie director Mikey Goldman; bottler and “respectable” business man Twinky Lemoyne and others like Sam “Hogman” Patin who plays Harmonica and Twelve-string guitar. Don’t you love the names?

The third mystery concerns General Hood and Major Moss. That mystery, dear reader, will not be solved for you by Mr. Burke. That is a mystery for the Ages.

Hood, noted for bravery, recklessness, and aggressiveness, is in some ways an alter ego for Robicheaux. Hood was ultimately defeated by his former West Point instructor. Robicheaux is almost defeated by his boss the Sheriff and deputy Rufus. But, Hood blessed with hindsight and foresight is able to help Dave prevail.

USA Today described this novel as “mystery cloaked in eloquence.” It is that and more. Electric Mist captures the people, the patois, the swamps, the dark and humid atmosphere so vividly, I will remember Burke’s New Iberia forever. I do not usually read mystery or crime novels, but I have received a couple of that genre recently for review, so I have some limited exposure. However, In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead ranks with the best of books in ANY genre I have read. The genre writers should take their cues from the Master, Mr. Burke. Those amateurs who think that anything literary must be removed in order to appeal to readers or that gratuitous violence is a substitute for eloquence are ruefully mistaken. Burke’s murders actually occurred, if that’s important to the reader. His victims were “marginalized” people, who now live forever in thoughtful and intelligent prose. Burke has identified Keats, Chaucer, Milton and Shakespeare as the greatest English language writers but has said that Faulkner could join their rank at the Tabard Inn. I think they would welcome Burke, too.
I have my own Confederate ghost, an ancestor, who would have been a major contributor to Southern writing, had he not worn the gray and died under a tree in Tennessee. Maybe not coincidentally, he spoke to me a couple of times this month marking the 150th year since the end of that Civil War. Maybe synchronicity led me to In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead this month. Maybe General Hood did. This book of James Lee Burke brought my ancestor to consciousness again. If you like murder mysteries; if you like Civil War History; if you read literary novels; if you want to learn some French; if you would like to know more about Louisiana, then download it to your kindle immediately.

Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon. This review was not solicited.

Posted in Speculative Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Our Wild and Precious Lives – A Review.

“Melly was here.”

Our Wild and Precious Lives by A.G. Russo Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

I cannot improve upon what the other reviewers have said. This is an exceptional novel, which, as they have noted, seems more a memoir than a work of fiction. The Amazon author page is blank for Mr. or Ms. Russo, but surely the author was a soldier.

Our Wild and Precious Lives deals with the big questions of Life, Death, Love and Loss set against a backdrop of WWII and the Korean Conflict, and as another reviewer has correctly noted, from many points of view, all handled perfectly.

More importantly, it also deals with the social upheaval in families and societies caused by war, on both sides: on the side of the victor and on the side of the vanquished. Our Wild and Precious Lives makes clear the considerable costs of war paid by the ordinary enlisted soldiers and their kin. It wrenchingly pulls back the covers and shows us the pain and anguish caused by ordinary people trying to “do the right thing.”

Sergeant Major Jim McCarron, a hard-working Irish American is the overbearing patriarch of a military family, married grudgingly to an Italian woman to fulfill a promise to his best friend, with two unwanted children. Those children are also casualties of the Second World War. There are extended families suffering, too, in Brooklyn and in a village near Naples.

For those teens and adults who were born after the 1960s, this novel will teach them history not learned in schools as a rule. It will teach them perspective. The novel also covers the tense years of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Readers will learn geography; some German sentences necessary for kids to get by in a foreign land, split into East and West; European architecture; and will find an abundance of cultural information about German society, Italian society and American society. Some of those American cultural beliefs are only revealed to the holders of same against the backdrop of minority status in a strange land. They will become familiar with General Patton and the social stratification in the army at that time.

This novel also fits the “coming of age” genre in that we meet the two teenage characters when they are fourteen and thirteen, but it regresses and progresses in time deftly. Teenage problems such as bullying, racism, dyslexia, parental abuse, feeling misunderstood are handled sensitively and well. The movies and popular music of the time features prominently in the many school dances, which were among the few social outlets available to Army “brats.”

Cimarron, based on an Edna Ferber story, was Melly’s favorite film. It has been described as starkly beautiful, wildly adventuresome, and grippingly dramatic. At its core is guilt, a war over land, and a family disrupted. I understand Melly’s point of view completely.

Leila Smith for The Kindle Book Review.
The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.

Posted in Historical Fiction | Leave a comment