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As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Friday, February 28, 2014

Author Interview: James Markert, A White Wind Blew

Hi everyone! I am embarking on some new things here on Sassy Peach Reads, one of which includes author interviews. My first is with James Markert, author of A White Wind Blew.

I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to ask James Markert, author of the novel A White Wind Blew, and I jumped at the opportunity. I posted about the book not quite a month ago, and I was very taken by the beauty of the story and the characters. I was honored to ask James about his work, what inspired him, and specifically about Waverly Hills.

My first question is, what was your process in selecting this style of writing?
I actually think this style of writing chose me.  Up until A White Wind Blew, all of my fiction was more thriller/suspense, with some comedy as far as screenplays go.  But when a story comes to me I run with it, and this one had me leaning more toward historical drama.  I’m also a big John Irving fan, and I love how he takes his characters from childhood to develop them, so that we see many of the situations that make them the adults they become.  I wanted to do this as well, mostly with Wolfgang and Rose, and I thought it best to do it through periodic flashbacks throughout, bits and pieces at a time.  I think, years ago, once I stopped trying to write like other people and instead decided to write like myself, that is when I started to have success.

I was also very taken with the setting, and I know in blurbs about the book it is mentioned that you visited the Waverly Hills and found inspiration there. Can you speak to this inspiration, and what you felt most attracted you to tell a story set here? Was it there that the outline of the story came to you, or was it developed over time as you felt the initial crop up and sat down to flesh it out?
I grew up not too far away from Waverly Hills and was always intrigued because of its reputation as a haunted building.  The stories of ghosts drew me in, and I’d always planned on writing something scary that takes place there.  But when I visited, I was really taken in by the massive size of the building, the brilliant architecture, and the overall historical grandeur of the time when the disease was most rampant. I stood on the fourth floor solarium porch and watched the trees sway in the wind, and listened, and thought, “What if this place is haunted?  What if I am surrounded by ghosts?  What’s their story?”  I imagined the sound of a violin at that point, and then a piano and orchestra and a doctor to lead them.  The people who fought for survival deserved to have their story told.  I became more intrigued by the possible flesh and blood inhabitants than the ghosts.  The story came to me fast, so I wrote the screenplay first and used it as an outline for the first draft of the novel.  Ten drafts later we have A White Wind Blew. Now, after I finish my next book, I plan on rewriting that original screenplay to match the current story of the novel.  It always had a very cinematic feel for me, especially with the music.

Wolfgang was also a very interesting character, a man who abandoned his first love for his greatest, if you will, then when he lost his greatest love was so broken that he saw no other way to live than to go back into the priesthood. Did you ever consider another outlet for Wolfgang other than the priesthood? I believe that the need for his expertise forced the alternative of medicine on him, but I would love for you to speak to this particular choice and what inspired you to follow in this vein.
Originally, Wolfgang was just a doctor, but then when I started battling with his questions of faith, I thought, how could I really ratchet up that inner turmoil for him?  And then it donned on me: I’d make him a priest, and then that would complicate his emotions with Susannah as well.  So Wolfgang became a priest.  But then, near the end, before my agent sold the book, he suggested another slant: What if Wolf gang was not yet a priest, but in training to be one? At first I was skeptical, but once I dug into it I liked it better.  The patients called him Father because they assumed he was a priest.  Wolfgang here’s confessions from them because there is no one else on the hillside to fill that job.  So this causes him turmoil as well because he’s beginning to perform priestly duties out of need despite the fact that he’s not yet a priest, since his studies were interrupted by Rose and the epidemic.

Once again, a huge "thank you" to James for taking the time to explore the themes of his novel! I appreciate your time and effort, and thank you as well for the book. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Troop: A Novel of Terror

Yeah, so... The subtitle of this book does not lie. {Please hold while I shiver in rememberance.} Caveat reader. This is Nick Cutter's The Troop.

Troop 52 scouts head on their annual camp out--no phones, electronics, or communication with the outside world. It's amazing that in this day and age there are a few teenage boys who want to get away from it all. Their first night, however, a stranger shows up on the shore, starving and emaciated but eating everything in sight. As the minutes tick by, a horror beyond anyone's imagination takes over the camp and changes life as everyone knows it.

So, I just closed the book this morning and have not stopped feeling skeezed out since. (Note: If you've been following the blog for a while, you know things like this are the ultimate compliment. The worst thing you can say about a book that you didn't feel anything.) Since this book came recommended by Stephen King, I had no doubt that it was going to be superbly fascinating and ultimately terrifying. It's exceeded on all counts.

I was really fascinated by the character arcs that took place over the course of the book. One thing that became clear is that we never really know one another regardless of how long we have been friends or how close we are. How we deal with situations when our defenses drop and we have to make spur of the moment decisions defines who we really are. These boys' true colors showed--for better or for worse.

It is nearly impossible for me to discuss details about this book, as I would be giving away some major spoilers that occur as early as a quarter of the way to the book. You all know I'm not even remotely interested in that. You have to read it for yourself to get the full effect of the horror these boys go through at the hands of an unseen, destructively evil force. It's one part astounding, one part fascinating three parts creepy. A recipe for success. I couldn't put this book down--and neither will you.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Wives of Los Alamos: A Novel

Los Alamos has to be one of the most interesting government secrets kept during the Great War, so I jumped at the chance to read TaraShea Nesbit's The Wives of Los Alamos last month.

An exceptional group of women inhabited Los Alamos during WWII. They came from all over the United States, leaving behind their homes and the lives they had built to accompany their husbands to do a strange, secret job in a strange, hot place with strange, unfinished homes and strange, unknown people. They banded together for an unknown length of time, forming deep friendships that were so desperately needed without contact with the outside world. They raised children and together created a community that would sustain them as their husbands made history and changed the world for better or  worse.

This novel is a tribute to the women who held up their husbands in a history-making time that so many of us forget. Not about the atomic bomb; that is covered in history classes and on anniversaries. What so many of us forget is that behind the scientists, the physicists, and the engineers were their families--those who gave up their lives to move to this hot, sandy, far-flung place with nothing but their china and curiosity. Nesbit has written a book that is solid, honest, and eye-opening.

Nesbit's writing style is particularly interesting; this book is written in first person plural. It is unlike anything I have read in recent time. This style allows the author to tell us the story of the Los Alamos everywoman--each had a story to tell, and Nesbit lets us in on the secret of their quiet lives. This wasn't an easy transition for most women; some (if not most) were war brides, coming along after only being married for a short time. Their husbands kept secrets from them daily, and there is no way this did not take a toll on a marriage and a family. Nesbit is able to get this across while telling us that every woman's story was different.

I also found that Nesbit was able to get across quite clearly the reservations of the men in the story regarding what they were doing and the toll it took on their psyche. They understood what they were making, and at times (we are told in this story) some men had crises of conscience, wondering if maybe they un-wove every night the fruits of their labor during the day a la Penelope if maybe they could keep the power of destruction away from those in power. Alas, we may never know if this had been an option to occur.

This was a genuinely beautiful book and I loved living in it for such a short time. 

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Professor: A Legal Thriller

YOU GUYS! This is my 400th post. Can you even believe it??? Where has the time gone? I just want to take a moment to give you all a shout-out, because without you, dear readers, I am just a blogger talking to herself. I am working on some great blog updates for my third anniversary this upcoming summer--stay tuned!

I was intrigued by the promise of a fast-paced thriller, so I picked up Robert Bailey's The Professor last weekend. I got what I bargained for.

When Coach "Bear" Bryant calls, you come; this is exactly what Thomas McMurtie did forty years ago, leaving a promising trial-lawyer career to teach at his alma mater, the University of Alabama. The family of one of his oldest friends is killed in an arguably preventable car accident just days before Thomas is betrayed by another dear friend, losing his job and his reputation. This new case is all Thomas has--and it will be the one that changes his life. After all, everyone knows what happens when the little guy takes on the behemoth--you get a great story of a battle of the wills.

Everyone knows (ok, well, mostly you guys, my dear and loyal followers) how much I love a good legal thriller. I got that and more with this book. I couldn't put it down. I lovedlovedloved it. There was so much to love, so let's get down to it.

First of all, I found the story absolutely compelling. Oh, sure, at times it may have taken a turn for the outlandish, but let's get something clear--I am more than OK with this. If I want hard-core realism I will just walk around the grocery store listening to other people's conversations. I want a good and solid story with a spectrum of characters, and this is what I got. I found the case gripping, the events mind-boggling, and the action to have movement without being so action-packed that I felt my head spin. I was engaged, I was sold, I was in it to win it. Seriously, there is not a whole lot more I can ask for in a legal thriller.

I also found the characters to be honest and enthralling. One thing that I specifically appreciated about Bailey's pen is that he let all of his characters' flaws hang out, regardless of how much he wants us to love them. I felt, and of course I could be misinterpreting here, that he wanted us to love them precisely because they were so far from perfect. Rick was a hothead who deserved a good win after all, and Thomas was warts and all a man who was hard on his students but beloved in spite of it--or even because of it. I particularly appreciated that each of the characters contained qualities to love about them and to hate about them--no one is purely good or purely evil, in life or in literature. I want characters that run the gamut. Bailey gave this to me in full force.

Here is something about a good legal thriller that I need in order to rave about it--I need to feel a rush in the final courtroom scene, something that will find me cheering out loud for the protagonist and saying, "BOO-YA!" I don't give away spoilers, so let me tell you that the book did not let me down. Chew on that for a while.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Half World: A Novel

"Haunting and inspired by real-life events" is like me saying, "You had me at hello." This is Scott O'Connor's Half World

In the 1950's and 1960's, the government ran a secret program (MKULTRA) focused on mind control of unwitting Americans. This novel follows Henry March, a man so deeply committed to his country that he will stop at no bounds following orders. He moves his family across the country, emotionally distances himself from them, and embarks on a journey that will destroy him mentally. Almost twenty years later, his daughter is still desperate to find out what happened to him. When she is approached by a raggedy stranger who claims he can help her, she has no choice but to believe him and allow him to take her on the voyage she was destined to make.

I was sold on the premise, skeptical at first, and then found myself so fascinated by the story, the characters, and the writing that I found it difficult not to race through this novel to avoid putting it down. Sometimes I am so floored by the lengths to which our government has gone to stay ahead--but I am never so surprised. To be sure, this book is a work of fiction based off of O'Connor's thoughts as to what would happen to the men who ran the experiment, not just those who were oblivious participants. That doesn't change, however, the emotional impact of O'Connor's exploration.

O'Connor spent a great deal of time in Henry's head, allowing me as the reader to really get to know him. I felt his care and his apathy, his distancing and his unquestioned obedience. He is a man of his generation and a man of his training; he is a man who has devoted his life to his country and he will go where he is told and he will do what is asked of him. It is almost painfully shocking how deep his love is for his country--it seems, at times, that it is even deeper than the love for his family. He was an absolutely fascinating man, and I venture to say that I loved the character even more than I loved the story. It's hard, though, to separate the man from the story.

A major plot point is the family Henry left behind without warning. He walked away from it all--and why? Was the work that horrible? (I will tell you that from Henry's final straw--yes, it really was.) What is it all for, in the end? Ultimately Henry leaves behind family with more questions than answers--questions that may never see the answers they seek. It is heartbreaking yet incredibly fascinating. A family falls apart because of choices they all make--some greater and more loaded than others.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Deep Winter: A Novel

Deep Winter by Samuel W. Gailey could be the title for the world in which I am living right now. Instead, it is the title of a novel that punched me in the gut. 

In Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, one night will change everything for its residents. Danny Bedford is a gentle giant, a man who will forever be eight years old after an accident through which he barely made it also killed his parents. Mindy, a local waitress, is one of his only true friends, and the night that she dies finds Danny arriving to present her a birthday present, only to be framed for her murder. Will the truth come out that night--or will it cost many more lives in the search for justice?

This was a fairly short novel that carried quite a bit of punch. Always told in the third person but toggling between perspectives, the 24 or so hours over which this story takes place is intense and brutal in its honesty with its readers. Danny, as I said, is a gentle giant who wants to hurt absolutely no one, and his deep and abiding love for Mindy is platonic and wholesome. She treats him as though he is a human, and this is missing in Danny's life in Wyalusing. He is treated as a freak and an outcast, someone who may harm at any given chance. Danny just wants what we all want--to be accepted, and to be loved.

I realize that the local deputy, Sokowski, is supposed to be a hated jerk, but I really just wanted to reach through to pages and kill him myself. He was beyond horrid--he was genuinely evil, and it's not hard to say that we have all met a character or two like him in our lives. I have to say though, that as much as I hated him, I had to respect Gailey for creating such a fully-formed and disgusting human being, the reality being that if he was not such a great character, I wouldn't have cared enough to hate him so intensely.

This book was well worth the time I spent with it and lived inside Wyalusing for a few hours. I grew to love Danny and found myself rooting for him to get away. There were other characters to like in this book, but I really gravitated toward the child-like adult that Danny was. I wanted him to not just be OK but to ultimately thrive after such a nightmare times two--first his childhood accident, then the loss of his only true friend. Danny wasn't even aware that he was accused of the murder--to him, he lost his best and only friend, his confidant and his cheerleader. That is enough to break a spirit.

Which is why it's a miracle when it doesn't.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Friday, February 14, 2014

On Such a Full Sea: A Novel

I have had the honor for the past few months to participate in Mashable's monthly book club, Mashreads. Our pick for last month was Chang-Rae Lee's On Such a Full Sea.

One day, in future America, our land is split into colonies and Open Counties, both differing in population and stratified by class. The colonies are populated by rural Chinese immigrants brought over generations ago, and each colony has its own job to care for others wealthier than they. B-Mor, in the former city of Baltimore, provides produce fish for the wealthier colonies. Fan is a fish diver, and when the love of her life mysteriously disappears after discovering he has a rare gene, she follows by leaving B-Mor. Her journey though the savage Open Counties becomes a cautionary tale, one that is told for generations to come.

Lee has a writing style that is as bucolic as a landscape painting in the Met. I found that his prose lulled me into a state of intensive focus and deep reading, and that I lost track of time when I was on Fan's journey. I found the story arc to be absolutely beautiful and moving, one that was driven by an emotion even deeper than love. It is my perfect Valentine's Day love story (happy holiday, by the way!), as it is about the care you feel when the person you love is out there and needs you--the drive is primal, so much more than when we say those three little words. The love in this story is a driving force, one that pushes Fan beyond anything either you or I believed she could do as a tiny little thing that can hold her breath for minutes on end.

Everything about this story was fascinating, from the dystopian setting in an America that no longer is but one day might be to the we-are-one narrator that was telling the story from a future all-knowing perspective. I loved the narrative structure of this story and the feeling that Fan could be all of us at any time. All it takes is that push to leave the comfort of our current lives and face the unknown for a greater purpose.

I had the pleasure of attending the MashableReads book club for this book. Chang-Rae joined us for one of the most enlightening discussions I could have possibly had on this novel. I am very funny about misquoting, so I won't do that here (it's the academic in me!). However, I want to talk about the overall meeting and the focus on what it all means at the end of the day.

Chang-Rae was one of the most insightful writers I have been able to meet and discuss their work. He talked about his inspiration to write this dystopian novel based in an area of Baltimore that needed to be filled, and he also spoke of the inspiration he took from a never-written novel on Chinese factory workers. He also spoke of the need for strong characters; without a characters that drive a story, we just have a really great landscape description. It's not about the where that is in interesting; rather, it's about what happens to people in those settings that makes a book interesting. His pragmatism was very refreshing, and his explanation of his choices was eye-opening. I am so grateful to have had the chance to hear him speak of his work, and I am excited to read what comes next.

The folks at Mashable are really the bees knees, y'all. They have been so kind and welcoming to me during these discussions, and I really want to encourage you to head to their Goodreads page, follow the hashtag #mashreads on Twitter or Instagram in order to join in their book discussions, follow @mashlifestyle, and if you are in the area and are interested in attending their latest book club, reach out via the Twitter hashtag! They are all such a fantastic bunch, and I am always honored and humbled to be in their presence.

Kindle version on right, hard copy on left.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Husband's Secret: A Novel

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book I read by Liane Moriarty, so I picked up The Husband's Secret one cold, rainy afternoon this winter.

Cecilia blames it all on the Berlin Wall. Her middle child is obsessed with knowing about it, so on a search to find an artifact that will aid in this learning, Cecilia finds an envelope from her husband with instructions to open it only in the event of his death. After some thought, she opens it. What she finds in the letter will rock her world, sending her life into a tailspin and forcing her to question all she knows about the foundation of her marriage and family. There are others that are also affected by the news in the letter--and once they discover the truth as well, no one's life will ever be the same.

I couldn't put this book down. As in, I sat at home one snowy day, didn't leave my house, and read this book cover to cover non-stop. (Ok, I did pause to eat and wash dishes, but it was negligible.) The story drove me to turn each page and read like a maniac to find out what was happening next. Moriarty has this way with her prose that keeps you hanging off of a cliff and instead of skipping ahead to the pertinent information, you find yourself thanking her for making you wait and you patiently read the filler between the lead-up and the information you need. (Maybe not so patiently.)

This was in a different vein than What Alice Forgot. This was much darker and soul-probing than Alice, and I appreciated that immensely. While I loved the previous novel, I felt this one was darker and deeper and asked in-depth questions of the lengths we will go to protect our family. Each woman in the story has a different motivation for her actions, but at the end of the day each chooses to be ferocious about the protection of marriage, family, and home. Circle the wagons, everyone. No one's getting in.

This was a fantastic read, and I picked it up at the exact right time in my reading journey. I dove in head first and swam the length of the pool before coming up for air. Moriarty's writing will do that to you. She will make you finish the race and leave you with answers whether you want them or not.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Leche: A Novel

R. Zamora Linmark's Leche was an off-the-cuff recommendation from a friend a while back.  It snaked its way to the top of my library queue and voila.  A good read for the weekend!

Vince has lived in Hawaii since he was a child, but he is a Philippines native.  He returns after 13 years, having won a free trip by participating in a male pageant.  This trip takes him on a whirlwind and sometime trippy ride through Manila and his shared history with the people who live there.  Can he reconcile who he has become as an American with who he once was as a Filipino?

Maybe it's just because the weather this winter here in New York City has been beyond miserable, but I felt the constant heat that Vince dealt with in the Philippines.  Of course I will be the first to tell you that it's waaaay better here than there, because at least I have the opportunity to bundle up, but the heat was its own character in this book, sending Vince off to shower multiple times a day.  I appreciated the different writing styles that Linmark used in his book; often sections were interspersed with "Tourist Tips" that listed facts (and cultural critiques) of Filipino culture.  If I were to ever visit, I would certainly check out this book again to read the tips.  Linmark also used postcards to tell some of Vince's story, and I found these to be the most effective storytelling structure.

I would love to read this book as I was traveling to or within the Philippines; I would love for any of my friends who have been there to read this and tell me how close it is to their experience of the country and the culture.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The 500: A Novel

I have been wanting to pick up this book for a while, and I finally got a chance to this past week. Oh. Em. Gee. The 500 by Matthew Quirk.

What if you were offered the job of your dreams--it only required you to compromise a tiny little bit on your morals? Just the slightest, really--just a weensy--OK, maybe a small sizable chunk? Mike is the son of a con artist who fell into it himself as a teen until he was scared strait, made his way through college, and found himself in law school. A visiting professor sees Mike's potential and invites him to come work for his firm in Washington with a sizable salary and all the perks. The catch? He has to do everything they ask, and it's not all pretty--or on the level. It's right up Mike's alley until things start to go terribly, horribly, irrevocably awry.

I just love a good thriller that will grab me by the arms, pin me still, and make me finish it. The crazier the better – and this one for fulfilled all my requirements. The pace of this book was quick and smart, and putting it down meant hitting pause on a super good action piece that was too insane to believe, yet too right-on-the-money to walk away from. I loved the pure insanity of it, and found that at times it seemed completely unrealistic yet, when you sit down and think about it, completely plausible at the same time. It would not surprise me in the least if there exist this kind organization in Washington. Right?

The corruption of individuals is nothing new in our world; it's been around since the dawn of time. But when it's put into something this awesome of a read, it makes it all the more real and wild and plausible and completely understandable. It makes the hairs on your arm stand up because you want to believe no on earth is this cowardly, wicked, willing, manipulative, dishonest, powerful, or swayed--depending on which side you stand. You want to believe no one can be this horrible, only they are, aren't they? And it makes for a great read.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Rosie Project: A Novel

I had been hearing really great things about Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, so I grabbed it from the library. These people weren't lying.

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics and in search of a suitable partner with whom to spend his life. The only problem is that he rarely gets past a second date, and this is because of two reasons: he lacks the requisite social skills and he doesn't like the ladies he has taken out. He sets out on The Wife Project, armed with an extensive survey to weed out the unsuitables. It's only when Rosie comes into his life, the opposite of everything he is looking for in a partner from dress to attitude, that Don realizes, slowly and surely, that maybe he has been going about this all wrong the whole time. It is he that needs to learn how to love.

You. Guys. You have no idea how much I love this book. Maybe it's because I have a little bit of Don in me, maybe it's because I know a lot of people like me and Don, maybe it's because it's a damn good book. Who cares? This book is just fantastic.

I appreciate the honesty in this book. The rawness, the realness, and the absolute hilarity of what it's like to be around someone who genuinely has no social skills. But I loved, more than anything, the soul-searching that Don did throughout the book. The character arc is just stunning. Don's willingness by the end of the book to take a step away from what he understands and search deep down in his soul for an understanding of what love truly is was beautiful.

This book was an overall quick read but that doesn't mean that it lacks heart. This book felt like the reading equivalent of what I watched when I saw the Grinch's heart grow three sizes. (Was it three? Or was it two? Or does it matter? The image remains the same.) I recommended this book to all of my grad school friends, and all of my professor friends, but I can't imagine why everyone in the world wouldn't love this book.

Unfortunately, I think it's frightfully easy for so many of us to understand what it's like to push people out of our lives. (Me? No way. No issues here. Look away.) To identify with and to love so deeply the main character, and just stand by him while he learns to admit that he might care about somebody so far away from what it is he wants was just absolute delight.

So yeah, you should read this book. You'll like it.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Unaccompanied Minor: A Novel

I picked up Hollis Gillespie's Unaccompanied Minor because it was made to seem like a thriller--instead I was treated to a book that exceeded all of my hopes and dreams in a fantastically hilarious piece of work.

April Mae (not May) Manning is a fourteen-year-old WorldAir legacy--as far back as she knows, her family has served the airline faithfully. April considers herself an honorary flight attendant; after all, they are her friends and she basically knows how to fly the plane. When her life starts to go wonky because her sociopath step-father (a pilot) manages to get full custody from her mom (a flight attendant) with no logical explanation, April goes on the run, bouncing between the coasts in the air with no one noticing she's gone. One problem--the flight she is on is being hijacked. Whoops.

Oh holy hell. Mother of pearl. OMG. Bloody Mary. Butter my butt and call me a biscuit. I ripped through this book harder than a free taco after a four day fast. JEEBUS LOUISUS. I would argue that this is the best thing since sliced bread. Hollis Gillespie, where have you been all my life? Be besties forever, maybe?

Seriously, there was not anything in this book that I did NOT like. I adored all of the characters, except of course the bad ones. But you're not supposed to like them, so that's okay. I adored the protagonists and heroine, April, and I adored that Gillespie created such a smart and young woman as well, albeit not entirely realistic one. But it doesn't matter; what I loved most about this book was precisely the lack of realism. It lent to itself so hilariously to a suspension of disbelief. I laughed, I cried, but mostly I laughed. Hard. Aloud. In public places.

All I want in my life is a good story and strong characters. From Captain Beefheart to Officer Ned, from Flo to April's attempted kidnapper, I loved them all. Even MacGyver plays a role. That's what I want--I want a story that draws me in and makes me part of its world. The only thing that makes it better as a writer who truly understands the absurd qualities of life and how to weave it into a narrative that is not only funny but is absurd and it's on meta-awareness. Gillespie gave me this. And for that, I think her.

This is supposed to be and a YA novel, but no way. This book was more than perfect for what I needed in my life right now. Seriously, Hollis, I was not kidding about the best friendship. Pretty please?

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A White Wind Blew: A Novel

I was in the mood for a period piece this weekend, so I picked up James Markert's A White Wind Blew and was blown away with the reminder of how much music can impact our lives for the better.

Dr. Wolfgang Pike is a doctor who desperately wants to return to his life in the clergy, but the with tuberculosis raging through the country, his skills are needed at Waverly Hills sanitarium. Since his wife, Rose, died years before, Wolfgang has been trying to finish his requiem in her honor. He can never get it quite right. One day, a concert pianist is checked into Waverly and Wolfgang sees his chance to bring patients together to make music for his patients on a bigger level than just him.

Such a lovely, lovely novel with such deep pathos and open heart. You can't not love Wolfgang for all that he is and all that he strives to be. He is such a good man with faults of course, although compared to me he is an absolute saint. He is a man who strives to be his best and to give all that he has to those in need. The way he cares for a young pregnant woman, Mary Sue, allowing her to see her dying husband and give birth to her baby just down the hall from him was one of my favorite moments in this book. I was moved by his platonic love and care for this woman. Wolfgang's love for all his patients and for humanity in general is overwhelming.

I also really enjoyed the weaving of the requiem through this book; it was a storyline that lead us through the story arc and allowed the work to grow and bend and move in such a way that it carried the story as if on a flying carpet, over Waverly Hills and into the world at large. Humanity was at the center of this story, and the requiem line allowed us to view Wolfgang at his most vulnerable and at his most thoughtful, while also allowing us as the audience to watch him use it for a greater good. The beauty was in the creation of the work.

Markert's prose was beautiful, and I am fascinated by his use of tuberculosis as the crux of all that followed. Whether it was the side storylines of the KKK's presence, dealing with the ramifications of WWI in the patient (and doctor) population, bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition, or dealing with music therapy as a true form of treatment of the human spirit, the underlying current was always this disease that stole too many too soon. It was really lovely, and I am thankful I have had the opportunity to indulge in this novel.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.