Thursday, May 4, 2017

What I Read In April

This first book of April, I listened to it on Audible.  I have heard it spoken very highly of several times, and those recommendations seem to always mention to listen to the cast of 166 narrators instead of reading the book.  Many people said they had given up on the written version but, upon hearing from others, gave the audio version a try and loved it.

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. "My poor boy, he was too good for this earth," the president says at the time. "God has called him home." Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state-called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo-a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction's ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

The 166-person full cast features award-winning actors and musicians, as well as a number of Saunders' family, friends, and members of his publishing team

What a book!  166 people speaking...some in snippets, some in annotated quotes, and some with such passion that the action seemed to leap out of my stereo and I could visualize their every move.  (I got so excited when I heard the familiar southern drawl of Robin Miles.)

There were parts of this book that were HARD to listen to because of language (the vulgar Barons) or content (Miss Trainor) or subject matter (President Lincoln's desire to hold his dead son again).  I admit to sometimes fast forwarding 10 to 15 seconds, especially through the Barons.

Having said that, this was sad and haunting and moving and worth every minute of those seven and a half hours.  There was hardly a subject that wasn't at least touched upon...and the story of the young mulatto girl was harrowing, yet realistic in every way.

This isn't a feel good beach read by any stretch of the imagination.  But I think it is a good and thought provoking read.  It will go on my favorites list for sure.
(7 1/2 hours)

The Pelican Bride: A Novel by Beth White
Gulf Coast Chronicles: Book 1

It is 1704 when Genevieve Gaillain and her sister board a French ship headed for the Louisiana colony as mail-order brides. Both have promised to marry one of the rough-and-tumble Canadian men in this New World in order to escape religious persecution in the Old World. Genevieve knows life won't be easy, but at least here she can establish a home and family without fear of beheading. But when she falls in love with Tristan Lanier, an expatriate cartographer whose courageous stand for fair treatment of native peoples has made him decidedly unpopular in the young colony, Genevieve realizes that even in this land of liberty one is not guaranteed peace. And a secret she harbors could mean the undoing of the colony itself.

Gulf Coast native Beth White brings vividly to life the hot, sultry south in this luscious, layered story of the lengths we must go to in order to be true to ourselves, our faith, and our deepest loves.

One of our book club members attended a conference back in early March where Beth White spoke.  She was so impressed that she suggested this for our April read.  I tore through it in just a couple of days while on vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

I have heard members of other book clubs say that some of the best discussions come from books that were either 'meh' or where someone really disliked it and others really liked it.  That would be this book!  One of our members read it early and didn't care for it (too romantic was the complaint).  Another member read it and felt 'meh' (enjoyed learning some of the historical background but felt like some of the characters needed more development).  The other two loved it...naming it their favorite book so far.

Y'all our discussion usually wraps up by 8:30...9:00 at the latest.  When I was locking up the Barn to go to the house it was after 10:00!  We discussed characters, who we believed did what, why we felt some plot threads were dropped with no satisfaction, who we loved and who we hated.  We talked about who we believed delivered the pastries, what it would be like to make such monumental change in your life from living in France to being one of the first females in the Louisiana Purchase and how we never realized the history of the Mobile, Alabama area or how both are Indian names.

At the end of the night, the person who described the book as 'too romantic' commented on how she missed so many of the plot threads until we were discussing them and that maybe the book was better than she originally thought.

Books really are better with friends!

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