by Kevin Wilson
Hands down the most brilliantly creative book I read in 2011. Darkly comic (and sometimes just dark), the Fangs live at the border between life and art.
Art, if you love it, was worth any amount of unhappiness and pain. If you had to hurt someone to achieve those ends, so be it. If the outcome was beautiful enough, strange enough, memorable enough, it did not matter. It was worth it.”
Wilson takes this thought-provoking premise and fills it with these wonderful characters. Buster and Annie (the children of the family now struggling into adulthood) are exactly the products we might expect from a dysfunctional family. I couldn’t help falling in love with them and truly caring what happened as the story twisted through to its conclusion.
The events in the book swirl around the fall of Jerusalem and the siege of the fortress at Masada. Although I knew little about these events when I started the book, she draws the setting and characters so well at I honestly felt I was living there with them. My pulse quickened at dramatic moments and I felt the heat and wind of the desert just as described. The four women who tell this story are all damaged, yet strong (my favorite kinds of characters). And I love that they are all dovekeepers (peacekeepers) in a time of war and brutality.
We stood and watched as God abandoned us, and then we did the best we could.”
The symbolism is deep and constant, but the deeper levels never get in the way of the storytelling.
by Timothy Schaffert
I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. It has the feel of a Tim Burton film — dark and funny at the same time. I found myself smiling a lot at the odd characters and their observations about modern-day small-town living. But Schaffert is also exploring some deeper ideas about aging, mass media, and perceptions of reality. Just when I was cruising along, I’d go back to reread passages, surprised to be so moved so suddenly.
We could endlessly reminisce, live in the past to an unhealthy degree, then politely kill each other some winter night before bedtime, stirring poison into our cups of whiskey-spiked chamomile tea, wearing party hats. Then, nervous about our double homicide, we could lie in bed together, holding hands again, frightened and waiting, still wondering, after all these years, if we even believed in our own souls.”
Without including a spoiler, I will admit that the last 30 pages are very weak, which was really disappointing given how strong most of the writing is. I’ll definitely give this author another shot.
Geraldine Brooks is the Queen of Historical Fiction. I’ve liked everything she’s written, but Caleb’s Crossing is my favorite. Brook’s attention to detail, especially to the voice of narrator Bethia, is fascinating.
I felt the reckless abandon of one who knows she stands already among the damned. “Why not, then, another sin?”
Bethia’s diary put us squarely in the time and place of the book, 17th century Martha’s vineyard. We understand the constraints and opportunities of the time through her eyes. I could easily relate to her struggles to enlighten her mind while keeping her thoughts to herself. It’s a great conflict. As the title suggests, the story is also about her young Indian friend, whom she names Caleb. Can her. will he cross to the mainland literally and figuratively. That’s the story that moves the plot forward, but this is Bethia’s book all the way. A must read for historical fiction lovers
- How I Wrote It: Alice Hoffman, on Writing Anywhere (omnivoracious.com)
- Review: The Dovekeepers (bookingmama.net)
- #CBR4 Review 15: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (hellokatieo.wordpress.com)