Sunday, August 20, 2017

Families, Secrets, Decisions - The Lightkeeper's Daughters (Pendziwol) and Everybody's Son (Umrigar)

I finally got my books unpacked and onto their new shelves. And, because I couldn't just keep on wondering, I counted.  Just over 500.  Yeah, I suppose that qualifies as a Book Hoarder.  I'll share them, but only share because I want all the words.

I've had a number of non-Harper books lingering on my "'to review' bookshelf" on Goodreads, but they will linger longer since I also have a number of Harper titles and they get priority. I doubt I'll get fully up to date in one post, but I'll start (and, of course, keep adding to the shelf as I got so I'll never quite get "there")...

When Morgan is caught spray-painting graffiti onto a fence by a senior living home, she gets forced into community-service. Although her work is centered on repairing the "damage" she caused, she ends up bonding with Elizabeth and helping her read recently recovered journals belonging to her father. While we see a bit of the present, including the budding tie between the teen and the older woman and the teen's own backstory, the majority of the story centers on Elizabeth's family and her youth spent living on an island where her father was the lighthouse keeper on a tiny island off Lake Superior. Family relationships are front-and-center (they also have two brothers), especially the bond between Elizabeth and her mute twin whose art eventually becomes well-known and collectible but who seems almost more nature than human.  Secrets abound, several of them of the sort that families just decide not to talk about rather than face (especially in the context of a rough climate in decades-past).

This isn't an action-packed page-turner, although there are a few tense scenes. Instead, it is much more a character study and an ode to a beautiful but dangerous place. The writing is quite enjoyable and the writer clearly has a love for the land. While I can't call it a favorite, I certainly enjoyed the book. I did find some elements of the concluding chapters a bit too neat with a few too many coincidences. That said, Pendziwol is a talented writer and it would be a lovely book to enjoy in a rocking chair on the porch of a summer lake house.

3.5 stars...I'll round up since I have to choose, but it isn't quite 4 stars for me. Definitely aimed at a lover of lyrical prose. I did enjoy the character of Morgan, the type of teen you just want to shake some sense into but who also has reasons for her lack of trust in the world.  Review based on an Advance Readers' Edition supplied by the publisher free of charge.

There is no doubt that David Coleman means least mostly, or at least so he tells himself. After losing their son to tragedy, he and his wife have toyed with the idea of taking in a foster child when David encounters Anton. Then 9 years old, Anton is found after he breaks a window to escape the stifling heat of an apartment locked from the outside where he has been alone for a week, largely without electricity. He takes Anton in and I don't think it gives away too much to say that Anton stays long-term, though exactly how that happens is a part of the story that needs to be experienced un-spoiled. Ultimately, Anton is the focus of this book and it is about how he lives and grows feeling trapped between two very different worlds. His foster family and his birth mom also play important roles in this drama. 

There is a lot here. It is the type of book that raises many questions. It does try to suggest some of the answers, perhaps a little too forcefully, but it also leaves room for uncertainty. Few good acts are truly selfless and what is a rescue to one person is a loss to another. I see how this novel was heavy-handed to some, but I was okay with that. I did feel like there was something a bit disjointed in the latter parts of the tale, maybe the time jumps just felt like too much, but I still enjoyed this read. Some of the issues raised here are uncomfortable...especially for those of us who like to think of ourselves as "good liberals," but they are worth studying.

4 stars. Love would be too strong a word, but it was a good read even if not always an easy one. While I liked some of what happens near the end, I wish some of the latter chapters would have been done differently. Readers definitely need to be ready for a heavy dose of "issues" including race and class matters. Thank you to Harper for supplying the book in exchange for an honest review.