The Life She Was Given, by author, Ellen Marie Wiseman is a fictional account of the traveling circuses of the 1930’s. The author extensively researched the subject to the point where it nearly overwhelmed the story.
However, the writing was very good and I was thoroughly engaged for most of the novel. While I’m not a fan of spoilers, there will be one here because I feel it is only fair to the reader.
The novel involves two young women decades apart, but are linked by a mysterious and tragic past. Julia Blackwood returns home to inherit her families’ horse farm. Her parents’ kept a secret that was monstrous. The secret was about another girl, a daughter named Lily. The novel transitions from the past to the near present as Julia seeks to learn more about the mystery. The mystery involves Lily, a beautiful child who was born an albino. The mother kept her locked in the typical Victorian attic her entire young life. At the age of seven, the mother sells Lily to a traveling circus.
Lily goes from the attic prison to another sort of prison. She is owned by a brutal circus boss who uses Lily’s gift with people and her affinity for animals for years to add to his own fortune. She is kept penniless and in fear of being sent to an asylum, as was common in those days for people with disabilities. But, she is befriended by other circus “freaks” and along the way falls in love with the young and handsome Cole who works with the circus elephants. Pepper is an extremely smart elephant, and is loved by both Lily and Cole, but tragedy strikes and Pepper is horribly murdered for protecting her offspring, Jojo. Cole and Lily try to save Pepper, but both are brutalized by the circus owners.
In the end, the mystery is solved, but the ending for Lily is so brutal and so gut wrenching, I was shocked and sickened. While I don’t need happy endings, I expect, in fiction at least, a more humane ending. I rate the ending as a horror story. So, while it is an interesting story, I say, reader be forewarned.
Author, Bryn Greenwood has written a love story, a forbidden love story, a reviled love story, but one that is true to the deepest meaning of love. We have our notions of family, but truly, what is a family unless there is love?
I guess family comes in many packages, as does love. Like family, Love can hurt, can abuse, can neglect, can rescue, and kill. Love is both ugly and beautiful. So here is the story of Wavonna, a beautiful wisp of a child, an angel by the looks of her. Yet, the mother who loves her has many faces, the least of which is a loving, caring mother. She is a mother with mental illness and this illness shapes Wavonna and her view of love and of the world. Called Wavy by those who come to know her, those who will care for her even though she has gone beyond the reach of normal, but her view of love and life is hers alone.
Told with the voices of those who are her family, a story emerges of a child who is old beyond her years, and damaged by those who may or may not love her, yet, Wavy prevails. We may not agree with the life she’s chosen, or whom she has chosen to love, but she creates her own family and in that family, there is abundant love. And as we should know, in the end, love is all we need.
Greenwood’s writing is clear and concise and wonderful even as we cringe in her telling of it. It’s a novel that may not be for everyone, but it is a story we can believe.
I read this novel many years ago, and after reading it once again, I found it to be even more relevant in today’s political climate.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a horrifying dystopian account of what life would be under repressive, rightwing fundamentalists who have taken over the government. Atwood’s writing is sparse, but elegant. In this world, women are disenfranchised, indoctrinated and controlled by watchers. The fictional Gilead, the new republic, endeavors to supplant the population with white only children. Women of childbearing age are farmed out as breeders to the Republic’s Elite Commanders who, under direct supervision, have sexual intercourse with the women after a Bible reading ceremony.
The narrator, Offred, meaning she is of Fred, who is her commander, remembers her life from before in various flashbacks throughout the novel. She had been the mother of a daughter and married to a man she loved. They tried to escape, but were captured and separated. Offred never learns what happened to them. Many Handmaids commit suicide, and Offred considers it.
Subversives, academics and non-whites are summarily tortured and garroted on walls that had once been academic institutions. Women must be subservient to their husbands in all matters and beatings by men are allowed. Books and magazines are burned. Women are not allowed to read. The written word is replaced by pictures as to not tempt women to read or learn how to read.
The ending is ambiguous, though there is the possibility that Offred escaped via a network of Quakers.
A couple of centuries forward during a consortium, a professor of history plays 30 tapes by one woman who describes what she endured during those terrible times. It is assumed to be Offred.
This novel is both fascinating and horrifying. Fear and revulsion of others is a slippery slope and one that leads to Authoritarianism, reminiscent of the Nazi’s. Freedom for all must be carefully guarded. I highly recommend this novel.
Author, Nicola Yoon’s storytelling is unique in that she uses multiple POV’s and does so successfully. Most of the story takes place in one day. The two major protagonists, Natasha and Daniel, are both on their way to appointments. Natasha to the immigration office and Daniel on his way to a college interview. They meet on a sidewalk in Manhattan and this is where their stories converge.
Natasha and her family are due to be deported from the US to Jamaica in a matter of hours. Natasha and her family have been in the America since Natasha was 10 years old. America is her home and she’s about to graduate from high school. She’s desperate to stay in America.
Daniel’s family are Korean immigrants, but they are documented citizens. Daniel’s family wants him to go to Yale and become a Doctor, but he’d rather be a poet. Still, as a good son, he will follow his family’s wishes.
Daniel is immediately attracted to Natasha and he pursues her through a series of happenstances and they spend the day together. Their meeting seems impactful to both of them and the reader will want a happy resolution, but that is not life, though all is not lost. Both take something meaningful away from their encounter, something they will never forget.
Even if life is not fair, fate, fickle as it is, construes for them to connect again in the far future. The rest is left to the readers’ imagination.
Nicola’s writing is excellent and the story is interesting on many levels. I enjoyed her characterization of their encounters.
Kathleen Flynn has meticulously crafted a fine and intelligent novel about Jane Austen’s world. She has successfully melded and incorporated a realistic version of what would happen if Jane had lived to write more novels. What if future time travelers altered the course of history and Jane’s life? What if their purpose had been to merely find and retrieve a lost novel of hers, only to change the course of history?
Our protagonists, Rachel, a highly respected physician, and Liam, a well known, British actor, author and historian of sorts, are chosen to do just that.
They had prepared and trained for a year because stepping back in time, existing there as being part of that time with the specific dictates of the genders, is not an easy thing. They had to be believable and become fast friends of the Austen’s. No easy task.
No spoilers here, but for lovers of anything Austen, or of the Regency era, Kathleen Flynn succeeded on all levels. This is a wonderful novel, well written and filled with interesting details. I’m sure Austen lovers will love it as much as I did.
Originally posted on Legends of Windemere: Yahoo Image Search Aragorn Yahoo Image Search Some Disney Snowman Thing Yahoo Image Search Yahoo Image Search (Found when searching for fantasy author stuff) Damn right, Chuck.