Category: Family Life

+Blog Book Tour+ Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter #LitFic, #diverselit

Posted Thursday, 10 July, 2014 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

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Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

Published By: One World Publications (), 15 July, 2014
Official Author Websites: Site |
Available Formats: Paperback & Ebook
Page Count: 224

Converse on Twitter via: #LosingTouch OR #OneWorldPublications

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Losing Touch” virtual book tour through TLC  Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher One World Publications, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I have always had a keen eye on Bollywood films, especially those which feature Aishwarya Rai, as I came to know of her works through the release of “Mistress of Spices“. I love the full-on lively atmosphere of combining dream sequences, musical numbers, and the heart of a story told in motion pictures such as the ones I find from Bollywood releases! I try to find new ones to watch as I become aware of them, which is why I have thus far seen: “Bride & Prejudice” and “Do Dooni Chaar“. All of which I happily checked out of my local library, as they are quite inspiring on the dexterity of always keeping our card catalogue full of foreign language releases both in literature and motion picture. I’d love to explore more Bollywood & Indian film releases in both Hindi and English, as whilst I was watching Do Dooni Chaar, I noted that after awhile I did not even realise I was ‘reading the subtitles’! I love when that happens! (previously, I felt this way as I watched “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” & “Life is Beautiful” as I watched them on the silver screen at time of release) My focus on India as both as a country and as a cultural heritage stems from my appreciation of their enriched cultural heritage (from art to music to dance to film to religion), and of course, my absolute joy in eating their cuisine!

When you find yourself passionate about a culture and a country, you always want to surround yourself with the stories that are either set there or are about the people who come from there. For me, my heart will always be attached to India. The fact that I draw a measure of joy out of reading Buddhist texts and studying their cultural heritage is only the tip of why I love India as much as I do. I have been wanting to read more stories by Indian authors and writers who give their stories a heart of their cultural identity. When this book was offered on tour, I simply was overjoyed, not only as it was the start of being able to read Literature of India, but because I truly appreciated the premise — of one family attempting to carve out a new life in a new country whilst attempting to keep their cultural identity and heritage in tact.

My own heritage is full of stories where my ancestors immigrated to America, and how their journeys led them to the New World. I find myself attracted to other families and their own personal journeys towards discovering where they wanted to lay down roots for their next generations as much as I am encouraged to continue to root out my own ancestral past through genealogical research. Each of us has a story within our bones, which is carried through the whispers of our past relations who strove to give each of us a different path to live than they had themselves. I think we each honour our family each time we take a pause out of our day to listen and read the stories of all families who take this step to change their own stars.

Book Synopsis:

Sandra HunterAfter Indian Independence Arjun brings his family to London, but hopes of a better life rapidly dissipate. His wife Sunila spends all day longing for a nice tea service, his son suddenly hates anything Indian, and his daughter, well, that’s a whole other problem. As he struggles to enforce the values he grew up with, his family eagerly embraces the new. But when Arjun’s right leg suddenly fails him, his sense of imbalance is more than external. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he is forced to question his youthful impatience and careless cruelty to his family, until he learns, ultimately, to love them despite — or because of — their flaws. In a series of tender and touching glimpses into the shared life of a married couple, Sandra Hunter creates strikingly sympathetic characters — ones that remind us of our own shortfalls, successes, hypocrisies, and humanity.

Author Biography:

Sandra Hunter’s fiction has appeared in a number of literary magazines, and has received three Pushcart Prize nominations. Among other awards, she won the 2013 Women’s Domination Story Competition, 2012 Cobalt Literary Magazine Fiction Prize and the 2011 Arthur Edelstein Short Fiction Prize. Her short story “Blessed Are the Meek” won Glimmer Train’s Spring 2005 Very Short Fiction Award, and is now a chapter in her novel Losing Touch, to be published in July 2014 (OneWorld Publications).

A note on the Cover Art:

I tend to forget to realise that as I am reading books published across the Pond with a bit more regularity than I could have done in the past (one of the blessings of being a book blogger), the book cover art I am appreciating on recently read novels are the editions from across the Pond! For instance, I had not stopped to realise the cover art designs I appreciated for The Lost Duchess were in effect the British edition covers! Likewise, as I settled into Losing Touch my mind did not readily auto-adjust to noticing this cover art is decidedly British as well! When I pulled up sites in reference to the novel, I noted an awkward difference in cover design! Whereas this one alludes to Arjun’s wife Sunila or even Jonti’s wife Nawal or even Nawal’s sister Haseena. I first felt it could be Sunila as although she has a want for British life, she still holds a few traditions of her heritage close to her heart. Yet, to be truthful she does not wear traditional Indian clothes, so this directed my eye to believe it was truly Nawal.*

(*until I read the story and realised it was Haseena!)

The cover art for the American edition makes absolute no sense to me at all – it is one of those modern graphic designs that has a repetitive pattern; I am finding myself not a plumb of passion for these selections. A few times I find graphic designed covers to be quite befit of the narrative. In this particular case, I think the novel loses a piece of its own identity by the swirls and two non-identical blotches of orange.

What appealed to me about the cover (as displayed on this book review!) which arrived to me on my copy of Losing Touch, is that it goes to the core of the story: being in transition and yet curious about ‘something’ being said ‘off camera and out of view’ of the photographer. I realise they used stock images but for whichever reason, I felt this cover connected more directly to Arjun & the Kulkanis.

On a personal note: This is why I am thankful there is Foyle’s, who will drop ship to anyone in the world who wants to purchase books from England! There are other book shoppes surely that will do the same, as I still remember the expressive joy in purchasing the Complete Histories of Middle Earth from one such book shoppe in the recent past to help me curate a way to read Tolkien’s legacy in the order of Middle Earth! This is a project noted on my tCC list for those curious to know ‘when’ I shall embrace Middle Earth. I am also reminded that when I go to read my next Jenny Barden novel, I will need to import the book from England! I can see myself spreading the joy of future purchases between Foyle’s & all the lovelies (book shoppes) I am finding on Twitter! It is quite incredible to live in an age where you can exchange bookish tweets with Indies from Ireland & England! What joy I have as a Joyful Tweeter of Bookish Joy! (a part of me will forevermore think of “Foyle’s War” as I make future purchases; now that the series is encased inside my heart)

 

Transitions: India to London:

I appreciated getting a first-hand glimpse into a family striving to find their niche in England, after having immigrated from India for a fresh start in a new country. Little notations of their cultural heritage from India are mentioned and observed throughout the text, as well as their contemporary choices to extract out a new identity amongst their new co-workers, neighbours, and friend circles. I think a part of what is difficult for anyone to shift their life from one country to the next, is to find the balance of what to keep with them as a cultural identity and what to compromise as far as what new attributes to introduce into their life as a different method or mannerism of how to live next. Each country you reside in is going to have their own particular pace and recognisable differences; this even includes how different regions within the same country have ‘regional dialects’ (of which I have blogged about previously), where the pronunciations and phrasing can alter as you travel. (this is inclusive of America as much as England)

I appreciated reading the differences in how their children were being given more freedom of choice (as far as schooling and matches of marriage) and how even in the subtle differences they were still learning to understand how to complete the transitions from India to London. Throughout the text, they always remained true to who they were, right or wrong, their individual character left a strong impression.

My review of Losing Touch:

Losing Touch sensitively opens at the funeral of Arjun’s younger brother Jonti, as Arjun recollects his brother’s life and observes how his wife and children are attempting to blend into British culture and society without wanting to keep a part of their Indian culture attached. They are shifting into a new life in a new setting and country, opting instead to shed a bit of their own cultural past to embrace the new one that they are finding. Arjun is struggling to come to terms with his family’s choices as he is a traditionalist and believes that although he wants them to embrace life in England, he apparently did not expect them to forsake their heritage to do so.

Hunter etches into her story the power of sensory knowledge and memory of how certain things are able to be smelt on the air near us, can lead our minds back down memory’s row. And, how at the moment of recovering those memories, we either feel more remorse (if already grieving through anguished sorrow) or a swath of bittersweet recollection, half filled with the regret of the days no longer here. The mind and the heart does a lot of odd things to a person who is grieving their loved one. Time and space of our everyday living can shift and transform out of us and between us at the very same moment; we are not of ourselves completely when we are attempting to rectify the loss of someone who was once fully present and now spiritually renewed into the next life.

Jonti has passed by what I can only presume is an inherited neurological disease, as he was not the first in his family to contract it, and this unknowing of the family medical history eludes to a growing concern on behalf of Arjun’s own health and wellness. I refer to this being ‘unknown’ as Hunter only slips a piece of knowledge of how Jonti passed rather than a full disclosure of what led to his sudden death in his thirties. Arjun’s own fears and concerns for his family’s adjustment to England are acting as a blinding to his own health concerns, as his collapsed falls in conjunction to his brother’s death did not lead him to think anything malicious was afoot.

Sunila’s voice comes a bit lateron as we find through her point of view the disintegrating condition of her marriage to Arjun; as there were quiet attributions of this happening in early chapters. His quickfire temper, his unease to dissolve a disagreement between his daughter Tarani and son Murad (the object of the fight was a radio), and his disbelief and avoidance of having a physical condition that could not only control his life but take it from him. He walks through the motions of his everyday life without the bliss and attention Jonti gave to his own family. This is a stress factor for Arjun, and as we read through the passages where Sunila is contemplating divorce and a life away from her husband, we start to see how the undercurrent of their marriage is tilted against a rocky shore. The author keeps the obvious obstructed from the reader’s view, revealing the evidence of domestic disturbances only in brief flickering moments where we gather a larger sense of the reality of Sunila’s marriage. In this way, the novel is a gentle read with clean references to deeper angst and a guiding hand of giving you a breathing space to digest the story.

The symbolism and metaphors within the heart of the context of Losing Touch are some of my favourites I’ve stumbled across recently. I have forgotten to mention this habit of mine in recent reviews of noticing the touches of how each writer chooses to convey certain thoughts and observations. I also appreciate the fact that this is full-on Briton, with their unique turns of phrase and cheeky short-cuts of expression. The Anglophile in me was most happy throughout the reading! I also noted having read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” a few years back has seemingly given me a proper knowledge of the roadways in England. I nearly could envision the A40 as Arjun and Murad traversed it in order to meet up with Haseena! Although Arjun is not committing adultery with Haseena, he is eclipsed in that uneasy spot between being spiritually / mentally committed to another woman and being physically entwined. Of course, I did see a programme on television which expressed that there are different levels and conditions of adultery and one of them is being physically present in a marriage whilst being mindfully absent in spirit with another outside of it. To the level, that despite no physical contact is involved, in all other ways an affair is elicited.

The novel yields itself into two thoroughly engaging sections, where Part I engages us with the foundation of where Part II is leading us next; whilst skipping a near-full twenty years in-between. The second half is more solemn and melancholic than the first, and I believe is told in second or third person rather than first. I am always getting a bit confused on tense and person points of view; irregardless of how many examples I read of each. I credit that to being dyslexic, but the point here is that there is a radical change in the voice of the narrator for this half of the story. Part I was filled with a robust energy and Part II is a bit more subdued and ambles a bit like a snail. Giving more pause to thoughts and to musings neither of the characters felt they’d aspire to know the answers of. (Alas! I’ve sorted it! Part I the characters were telling their own story to the reader; in Part II they’re life is being observed and spoken about without their voices leading the story forward. Until they return just before the end, to conclude as they begun.)

Losing Touch in of itself (as a title and as a story) is attempting to draw attention on the aspects of our lives that we might allow to fall behind our fingers, like the sand in an hourglass; tricking unnoticed and unaware of how much we’ve lost a connection to everything we hold dear until its nearly too late to reconcile. With unflinching honesty and a keen awareness of how to paint the portrait of a family emerging out of their cultural heritage whilst sorting out how to live amongst the Brits: Hunter finds a way to encourage us to examine our on thoughts on life, marriage, children, and the unspoken absence of things left unsaid.

By the time I reached the ending chapters, I knew my time with the Kulkanis was drawing to a close. I was going to miss peeking in on their lives, listening to their conversations, and being with them as they rose above the tides like waves arching over and under the years of their lives. Sunila is the heroine of the story for me, as she walks her life through her faith, eager to sort out the best way to approach the trials as they arise and to hold fast to her vows she took with her husband on her wedding day. It is her quiet strength that leads the family back together, and gives her husband the bolster to continue to thrive despite how different his life became once his body could no longer support his normal activities. The three Auntys: Sunila, Pavi, and Haseena give us such a welcoming warmth into their intimate lives, that I must thank the author, Sandra Hunter for blessing me with their presence!

On Sandra Hunter’s writing style & voice of character:

I appreciate how her narrative voice and style allows us to align ourselves with Arjun and his immediate family. She stitches into the dialogue and thought sequences words of Hindi origin which gives the story an authentic feel. I always appreciate when native words and phrases are incorporated into a story, as they allude to the fact we are reading about a different culture and language heritage outside of our own. The pacing of the story is quite British, as I am noting differences in the craft of story-telling between American and British authors of late, as I have had more opportunities to read Modern British Literature over the past year. It is a bit like noting the differences in motion picture, when you see the styles of American, British, Canadian, and Indian film-makers. Each has their own set of tools of the trade (so to speak), and each has their own unique definitive style therein.

Each chapter is devouted to one full year of Arjun and his family life, carried through by snippets of reflection and action, that were to give the reader key insight into the family’s progress past Jonti’s death and what occurred in their lives since they said their good-byes when the story opened at his funeral. Told in first person perspective, you get a rather firm and intimate view of their thoughts, their expressions, and the way in which each of them elects to live their life. Arjun by far is the curious one who as a true introvert processes everything with the knack for self-reflection and internal musings that lead him towards understanding, acceptance, and transition.

The one curious pattern of her story-telling style is that for each chapter, it is not merely a new year that progresses forward but a month as well! For instance, the first chapter begins in September and by the time you reach chapter four you are arriving in December. The years clicked off from 1966 to 1969 as well. This is a most curious pattern and by doing so, it allows you to see not only the passage of time, but of the season in a gentle arc of time shifting forward and ebbing away. There is a bit of a time jump from Part I to Part II, as the second half picks up in 1998 shortly after leaving 1973!

Her personal style is both gentle and guiding, she allows you to soak into her prose and appreciate her characters for what they have to relay to you. She is a writer I want to read more of and I cannot wait to seek out a new novel of hers when they are available to read as she is only just now venturing forward into novels, as she previously focused on short stories. I might have to see if her shorts are bound into print collections, as I do have this new penchant for shorts! Except to say, the brief excerpt of her current WIP (work-in-progress) of a novel took me by a bit of gobsmacked surprise due to the language — Losing Touch was graceful in its ability to paint a story without the abrasive language so popular in today’s literature. I even appreciated how she handled the changes in faith as both Arjun and Sunila were embracing Christianity which gave them a lot of fodder to chew on throughout the book.

As an aside: I appreciated using the lovely bookmark, Ms. Hugo gave me whilst I received “A Matter of Mercy” for review for an upcoming TLC Book Tours stop! I am always attempting to remember which bookmark was enclosed with each novel that I find myself using to read other novels that arrive for review! Forgive me if my notations of which bookmark I selected goes amiss and a-rye. If you were curious of my reference as an Anglophile kindly direct your attention to ‘My Bookish Life‘.

Fly in the Ointment:

There is a very brief and short passage in Chapter 14 where quite strong language is used rather unexpectedly, so much so I nearly forgot to mention it here! I was totally taken by surprise to find such strong words to convey such a simple scene of action and dialogue. In fact, held within the gentle voice of the story’s narrating pace I found it was rather out of step with the rest of the chapters and clearly not necessary to be included. I agree, the scene was alarming and dicey, but I think it could have been writ without the use of the strongest word I most dislike in literature. I believe my mind skirted over this completely, as said, I nearly forgot to mention this as I posted my review!Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Read an article where Sandra Hunter selects her Top Ten Books:

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This Blog Tour Stop is courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

Losing Touch
by Sandra Hunter
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

Genres: Literary Fiction


Published by One World Publications

on 15th July, 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

TLC Book Tours | Tour HostFun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comVirtual Road Map of “Losing Touch” Blog Tour:

Tuesday, July 1st: Review @ 1330 V

Wednesday, July 2nd: Review @ Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Thursday, July 3rd: Review @ Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, July 7th: Review @ Lit and Life

Tuesday, July 8th:  The Written World *not posted yet

Wednesday, July 9th:  Books in the City *not posted yet

Thursday, July 10th: Review @ Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, July 11th:  BookNAround

Monday, July 14th:  Missris

Tuesday, July 15th:  Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, July 16th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, July 17th:  Luxury Reading

Friday, July 18th:  Time 2 Read

Monday, July 21st:  Bound By Words

Tuesday, July 22nd:  A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, July 23rd:  Good Girl Gone Redneck

Please visit my Bookish Events page to stay in the know for upcoming events!

As foresaid, I have already earmarked off quite a heap of selections of ‘next reads’ for Literature of India choices, a few of which can be viewed on my Riffle List: Equality in Literature & Diversity in Literature : walk hand in hand. Other choices include: “The Hope Factory” by Lavanya Sankaran, “The Sandalwood Tree” by Elle Newmark, and “Haunting Bombay” by Shilpa Agarwal.

Reader Interactive Question: I am curious to know which books you’ve read about India or have stories set around the cultural heritage of India that have introduced you to Literature of India and given you a reason to continue reading their stories? What first drew you to appreciate India, was it through their cuisine or music? Did you pick up a novel once and found yourself enchanted? I’d love for you to share your own personal reasons for reading Indian stories in the comment threads & if you would be inclined to read “Losing Touch” after reading my own ruminations on its behalf.

{SOURCES: Book cover for “Losing Touch”, Author Biography, Author Photograph, and Book Synopsis  were provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets are able to be embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Go Indie
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Posted Thursday, 10 July, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Bookish Discussions, Bookmark slipped inside a Review Book, Britian, Cultural Heritage, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Disillusionment in Marriage, Domestic Violence, England, Equality In Literature, Family Life, Fly in the Ointment, Hindi Words & Phrases, Immigrant Stories, India, Indie Author, Library Find, Library Love, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Literature of India, London, Modern British Literature, Multicultural Marriages & Families, The Sixties, TLC Book Tours, TV Serials & Motion Pictures, Vulgarity in Literature

+Blog Book Tour+ The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly #histfic

Posted Tuesday, 8 July, 2014 by jorielov , , , , 4 Comments

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The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly

Published By:William Morrow (@WmMorrowBks),
10 June 2014 (reprint – paperback edition)
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers ()
Author PagesTom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly @ Mississippi Writers & Musicians
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback & Ebook
Page Count: 336

Converse on Twitter via: #TheTiltedWorld, #TomFranklin, & #BethAnnFennelly

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Tilted World” virtual book tour through TLC  Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher William Morrow, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

The premise of the story itself appealed to me, but truly what captured my heart and attention about this particular story was the book review posted by Max Winter on Los Angeles Review of Books. Talk about centering one’s attention around a story and the characters within the story in such a way as to illuminate The Tilted World in a tangible and cohesive way to warrant you to itch to read its chapters for yourself! I could not wait to sign up for the blog tour after reading this particular review, because I felt inspired by the words in which Winter imparted on the novel’s behalf as much as the attention he gave to the writers who penned the tale itself. It truly is a review that captures the joy of reading and the blessings of finding stories which capture our attention. The kind of review I always hope I am able to write myself, and thereby, inspire others to read the stories which instill a fond memory inside my heart for having found them.

I had found this title through my local library prior to being selected for the tour, however, I never did have the properly chance to check the book out! I simply like giving a nod to my library for being a constant source of inspiration of where I find new authors and new stories to read!

Book Synopsis:

Set against the backdrop of the historic flooding of the Mississippi River, The Tilted World is an extraordinary tale of murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, and a man and a woman who find unexpected love, from Tom Franklin, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, and award-winning poet Beth Ann Fennelly

The year is 1927. As rains swell the Mississippi, the mighty river threatens to burst its banks and engulf everything in its path, including federal revenue agent Ted Ingersoll and his partner, Ham Johnson. Arriving in the tiny hamlet of Hobnob, Mississippi, to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents who’d been on the trail of a local bootlegger, they are astonished to find a baby boy abandoned in the middle of a crime scene.

Ingersoll, an orphan raised by nuns, is determined to find the infant a home, and his search leads him to Dixie Clay Holliver. A strong woman married too young to a philandering charmer, Dixie Clay has lost a child to illness and is powerless to resist this second chance at motherhood. From the moment they meet, Ingersoll and Dixie Clay are drawn to each other. He has no idea that she’s the best bootlegger in the county and may be connected to the agents’ disappearance. And while he seems kind and gentle, Dixie Clay knows full well that he is an enemy who can never be trusted.

When Ingersoll learns that a saboteur might be among them, planning a catastrophe along the river that would wreak havoc in Hobnob, he knows that he and Dixie Clay will face challenges and choices that they will be fortunate to survive. Written with extraordinary insight and tenderness, The Tilted World is that rarest of creations, a story of seemingly ordinary people who find hope and deliverance where they least expect it—in each other.

Author Biographies:Tom Franklin

Tom Franklin is the award-winning and New York Timesbestselling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, which was nominated for nine awards and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award. His previous works include Poachers, whose title story won the Edgar Award, as well as Hell at the Breech and Smonk. The winner of a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship, he teaches in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.

Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and United States Artists, as well as a Fulbright grant to travel to Brazil. Her honors include the Kenyon Review Prize and three inclusions in The Best American Poetry. She has published three volumes of poetry as well as a work of nonfiction, Great with Child. She directs the University of Mississippi’s MFA program, where she was named the 2011 Outstanding Teacher of the Year.

Beth Ann and Tom live in Oxford, Mississippi, with their three children.

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Read an Excerpt of the Novel:

The Tilted World: A Novel by HarperCollins

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The Southern States and Mid-West during the 1920s:

Etched into the background of the novel, is the discourse and disillusionment of the 1920s era of socioeconomic differences between the classes. From seeing points of view of the federal agents operating under Hoover’s arm of command (prior to his Presidency, I had not realised he was what I would consider one of the first officials to take charge in a manner that is representative of what we now call FEMA) to the sweeping arc of seeing the everyday world of farmers, bootleggers, and every person in-between caught between the Mississippi and higher ground. The prejudicial views between cultural backgrounds are also fully present, as they would be as the Civil Rights era was still a ways off into the future. It was a time of distrust and a discrepancy of honour, as there are murmurings of agents on the take and of back-end deals that would disrupt the integrity of law and order.

What I appreciated the most is the manner in which everything is depicted and given a true voice to the era in which the story is set. The authors found a way to relay the fullness of the time without making you feel the heavy weight of the research. The bits they worked into the background aide the reader’s impression of the time and help paint the picture for those of us without relatives who either survived the flood or remembered its aftermath.

My review of The Tilted World:

The opening of the story is hitch-tailed to an all-out flash and dash shoot-out between two of the main lead characters: Jesse and Dixie Clay Holliver (a whipper snapper of woman if I ever laid eyes on in a novel) and two federal agents! She has the rapid fire intensity of a Southerner mixed in with a taste of moxie only a moonshining bootlegger of a woman would dare attribute to her list of qualities! She keeps calm under intense pressure of stress fused to a situation that does not bend nor yield to a positive outcome. Her husband Jesse, on the other hand, is a stick of dynamite that has less sense inside his head than a hound dog! He simply acts on impulse, lacks remorse and has no empathy for another life if given the chance to save his own skin. The two are a motley mix to be perfectly straight and frank, but fit within the manner in which the story is told through the writer’s vision that draws you into a story as complex and layered as this one is moulded!

I have always had a keen eye on Southern Literature (i.e. either literary exploits like this one OR Southern Gothic in nature), and this one by far captures the full essence of why I appreciate the category within its realm. On the one hand you have people living as best they can on the outskirts of the law, and on the opposite side you have the law itself, in the form of federal agents attempting to keep order whilst dealing with the lawbreakers who for all their quirks and sins, have captured your attention to hear their story straight til the concluding chapters! There is always going to be heavy drama against the backdrop of displacement and angst associated with natural disasters, but what I always worried about myself was the level of violence, looting, and absence of propriety during the time when it would be wiser to draw closer together as neighbours and aide each other through the worst bits still yet to come. To come together as a community rather than stand divided against each other on political or social grounds that in the end won’t add up to much if the loss of land and life outweighs the injustice of division.

I will admit, I had never heard of the Mississippi Flood of 1927 prior to my reading of The Tilted World, which struck me as a bit odd as I have always been rather keen on researching natural disasters and understanding climate change and the environmental impacts on a shifting global climate on a larger scale. Of course, truth be known until I saw back-to-back tornado documentaries on The Weather Channel this Spring, I had missed a few key storm systems, including the footage from the 1920s and 1930s which destroyed parts of the Northeast & New England states. I find that when it comes to climate and weather patterns, none of us truly know the full wrath of nature until the storm is upon us and the waters start to recede.

The murder and violence which erupts out of desperation runs counter-current to the drama unfolding for Dixie Clay (as she is commonly referred), who is running head-on into a situation quite beyond her control. The foreboding presence of the  natural world is a key element and nearly a narrator to the story. I appreciate the rooted presence of the beguiling skies and the approaching Mississippi; it gives way to understanding how fragile and how insufficient we are when it comes to the natural world and the cycles of its rhythms. There is a complete surprise sequence in the middle of the mayhem that truly warmed my heart, as is typically the plot twist I’d suspect to find inside a Romance novel (i.e. by ChocLitUK or Heartsong Presents): a brute and strong man finds his heart melts as soon as he meets a wee babe without a house, a home, or a family! I loved the sequences in which separated the federal agents: Ted Ingersoll and Ham Johnson – where one went to secure the flood zone from a supposed murderer on the lamb, the other went to sort out the affairs of the baby they found in the middle of the crime scene! That action by Ingersoll took him on a haphazard journey towards realising that he could no more leave the babe he nicknamed ‘Junior’ (after finding out his gender by way of changing his nappy!) at an orphanage than he could leave his roan in the mud!

Quite a classic scene in the early bits of the novel is when Ingersoll saunders rain-soaked down to his shins, covered in mud and muck, with an infant at his chest into what we would refer to as a General Mercantile with an attached Soda Fountain café with a bewildered expression that begged for help to secure his needs. He plucked out a bit of the money Hoover had given him to take the journey towards Hobnob and spent it on securing a better future for Junior. My own mind flitted back towards Dixie Clay and how she was suffering from postpartum depression from the loss of her own babe Jacob. Call me crazy, or maybe I’ve read a few too many romances in my time, but I thought to myself as the scene was setting up for Ingersoll and Junior, wouldn’t that make a mighty fine resolution to Dixie Clay’s situation? She’s a Mum-to-Be who lost her wee child too fast and too tragically. A woman in her early twenties without much of a prospect of a life outside of hard work and depressing living conditions with a husband who chases skirts and forgets he’s even married. Perhaps not the most ideal match, I grant you, but I had a hankering of a feeling the writers might spin this tale into a bit of a redemptive arc and give Dixie Clay a second chance at life, motherhood, and love.

I positively adore finding stories where men who otherwise are engaged into their careers would not even consider they were ready to become parents suddenly find themselves in the custody and care of a child! The way in which they approach the situation and how they handle the onslaught of emotions and conflicting beliefs of whether or not they feel befit to raise a child never loses its hold on my heart. I love seeing how unexpected circumstances give a ‘second view of life’ to someone who never thought they would have any life outside their respective job of choice. To see how their life would be different as a father, especially is a joy for a reader who loves how these kind of stories knit together. In this way, I was overjoyed with the passages Franklin & Fennelly stitched into “The Tilted World” on behalf of Ingersoll and Junior.

By the time I reached Chapter 14 & Chapter 15, my feelings of the novel started to shift and turn against the story as I was thinking of the tale heading in one direction only to arrive in one I was hoping against. The earlier chapters where Dixie Clay was describing her life and starting to piece together a life for her and Willy (Junior’s adopted name), I felt were the strongest parts knitting the story together and bringing forward a chance for Ingersoll and Dixie to come together. In the back of my mind, however, I knew that Jesse was a character who was as evil as the pitch of night, and that he might not be the type to simply let her walk out of his life, much less leave with her life in tact.

Dixie Clay’s life was not the kind of life most fathers would have wanted for their daughters, but her story reminded me of the women who find themselves trapped inside of a life they did not realise they had married into either. She was smarter than she felt, but she did not always make the right choices at the right moments to escape the heartache and the violence her husband would cast upon her without mercy. The rest of the story ebbed away from me, as I simply felt a bit disconnected from the remaining chapters of the story. For me, the better part of the story involved the second chance Dixie Clay and Ted Ingersoll had at having a life which involved love and the care of a child they both have fallen in love with the first moment they met him. The bits I struggled with were the menacing factors attributed to Jesse and his ill-plans for the towne he was attempting to destroy whilst erasing every inch of his life with Dixie Clay. The Mississippi true to its natural strength plays a strong role in how everything ties together and how wicked events can turn when acted upon out of hate and spite.

On the dual writing styles of a husband & wife team:

Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly co-write The Tilted World in such a way as to allow the reader to jettison into the Deep South, the Mississippi Delta region, and portions of the Mid-West as though we were alighting our shoes and feet during those epic days and nights awaiting for the floodwaters to crest and overtake our very own lands in 1927! The way in which they indued the setting and the swirling nightmaric event yet to come is a credit to their understanding of Southern Literature and the elements in which drift us back through time itself. They very much understand the subtlety of prose interwoven with narrative, and their ability to shine a light on a catastrophic event with the keen insight of the counter-culture affecting the tides of the people whose lives hang in the balance is rather brilliant!

The entire time I was reading The Tilted World, all I could think about was Clarkesville, Missouri a towne that was told there wasn’t enough resources (i.e. money) to battle the approaching flood-waters. They were very much on their own. A towne whose Mayor full of grief knew what that declaration would mean to her towne and to the people who lived there. We are still living through soul-wrecking natural disasters which are going to test not only our resolve but our strength as a nation. To not only survive, but to find ways to help each other without leaving anyone behind or without the resources for aide. I also recollected the efforts Fargoians gave to help stop the Red River from overtaking both Fargo (North Dakota) and Moorhead (Minnesota) not so long ago from today. We have a surge of bravery inside us, but nature is going to continue to test our will and our fortitude. We need to find ways to better prepare ourselves for what is going to become imminently devastating and minimalise the aftereffects.

 A small notation about vulgarity and the stronger language used proportionally throughout the text: as I consider this particular title to be held within the arena of literary fiction, there is a small measure of grace given for the inclusion of strong language, esp considering the time frame in which the story is set, the degree of the extreme events depicted, and the mindset of the characters who are reflecting their true natures within the context of the story’s arc. None of the blights of language used within the text affected me, because at the rare moments a word was said or used, it fit the subjective nature of the sentence or paragraph, did not alter or takeaway the narrative voice, and was realistically representative of the story. My only grave concerns on this particular topic of vulgarity is when it is used to shock or to jolt a reader out of the context of a story, or used surreptitiously without foundation. In this case, the writers owned the essence of their setting, the manner in which their style eludes to the greater horror of the historic flood, and conveyed their characters with honour. 

I also purposely did not mention the hurricane which destroyed the Gulf States in 2005. I believed it was quite apparent how this epic flood in 1927 was a precursor to Katrina and that mentioning it was not necessary. Afterall, none of us who live in this region will ever forget the storm, whether we were directly or indirectly impacted by its wrath. I personally still remember being on the road and interacting with survivors as much as the men and women who came into the region to provide aide, resources, and a sense of normalcy when the world was once again upturnt. What did surprise me is that this particular flood was not mentioned in any of the stories I listened too during Katrina, nor was it referenced after 2005. I am quite gobsmacked how this part of history seems to have disappeared from view and mind, like the writers hint at inside their Author’s Note.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThis Blog Tour Stop is courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

The Tilted World
by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

Genres: Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction


Published by William Morrow

on 10th of June, 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

TLC Book Tours | Tour HostFun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comVirtual Road Map of “The Tilted World” Blog Tour:

Thursday, June 12th: Cruising Susan Reviews

Thursday, June 19th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Friday, June 27th: The Relentless Reader

Monday, June 30th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, July 2nd: Books on the Table

Thursday, July 3rd: Anita Loves Books

Monday, July 7th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, July 8th: Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, July 9th: A Bookworm’s World

TBD: Unabridged Chick

Please visit my Bookish Events page to stay in the know for upcoming events!

{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Tilted World”, Author Biography, Author Photograph, and Book Synopsis  were provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Buy links on Scribd excerpt are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story. Book Excerpt was able to be embedded due to codes provided by Scribd.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Related Articles:

After the Deluge – (smithsonianmag.com)

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Posted Tuesday, 8 July, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Adoption, African-American History, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book | Novel Excerpt, Bookish Discussions, Bootleggers & Smugglers, Crime Fiction, Domestic Violence, Family Life, Historical Fiction, Historical Perspectives, History, Library Find, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Mississippi River, Natural Disasters & Catastrophic Events, Orphans & Guardians, Prohibition, Scribd, Small Towne Fiction, The Deep South, the Mississippi Flood of 1927, The Natural World, TLC Book Tours, Vulgarity in Literature, Writing Style & Voice

+Book Review+ The Road Back by Liz Harris #ChocLitSaturdays

Posted Saturday, 5 July, 2014 by jorielov , , , 5 Comments

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The Road Back by Liz HarrisThe Road Back by Liz Harris

Author Connections: Personal Site | Blog

Facebook | Twitter | Converse via: #ChocLit

Illustrated By: Berni Stevens

 @circleoflebanon | Writer | Illustrator

Genre(s): Fiction | Romance | Time Shift

Forbidden Love | Drama | Historical

Published by: ChocLitUK, 6 September, 2012

Available Formats: Paperback, E-Book & Audiobook

Page Count: 314

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Acquired Book By:

I am a ChocLit reviewer who receives books of my choice in exchange for honest reviews! I received a complimentary copy of “The Road Back” from ChocLit via IPM (International Publisher’s Marketing) in exchange for an honest review! I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

On my Connection to Ms. Harris & my inspiration to read this novel:

When I began reading this novel, I was already hosting #ChocLitSaturdays chats on a regular basis. Eleven in the morning of a Saturday, has become a favourite hour for me to exchange conversation and joy with everyone who shows up to participate in a chat centered around ChocLit novels and the Romance branch of literature in general. Ms. Harris and I had exchanged a few conversations ahead of the chats beginning, and during one of those lovely moments she had mentioned to me about how she met Mr. Dexter (the writer behind Inspector Morse). I had an inkling I would appreciate reading this novel ahead of her mentioning that story to me, but afterwards, I knew I wanted to read this sooner rather than later! The fact that this story centers around an adoption story solidified my interest, as I will be adopting in the future myself.

Similar to my previous thoughts I shared about Ms. Courtenay, I have come to appreciate chatting with Ms. Harris, either through #ChocLitSaturdays chats or privately. She is most giving of her time and I have appreciated the opportunity to know the writer behind the stories I enjoy reading! She always shares her happy spirit in the chats too, and her insights into why she enjoys writing the books that speak to her the most.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Harris through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst I host #ChocLitSaturdays the chat as well as privately; I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Book Synopsis: 

When Patricia accompanies her father, Major George Carstairs, on a trip to Ladakh, north of the Himalayas, in the early 1960s, she sees it as a chance to finally win his love. What she could never have foreseen is meeting Kalden – a local man destined by circumstances beyond his control to be a monk, but fated to be the love of her life.

Despite her father’s fury, the lovers are determined to be together, but can their forbidden love survive?

A wonderful story about a passion that crosses cultures, a love that endures for a lifetime, and the hope that can only come from revisiting the past.

Author Biography:Liz Harris

Liz was born in London and now lives in South Oxfordshire with her husband. After graduating from university with a Law degree, she moved to California where she led a varied life, trying her hand at everything from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company, not to mention a stint as ‘resident starlet’ at MGM. On returning to England, Liz completed a degree in English and taught for a number of years before developing her writing career.

Liz’s debut novel, The Road Back, won a 2012 Book of the Year Award from Coffee Time Romance in the USA and her second novel A Bargain Struck was highly praised by the Daily Mail in the UK.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comGeographically Specific: Ladakh (north of the Himalaya Mountains):

Ms. Harris has a way of capturing the scenery and the depth of locale in such a beautiful scale of visual fortitude! As I was reading the passages expressing the angst and anguish of Patricia’s life in London, England and then, juxtapositioned that life against the life of Kalden in Ladakh, and the imagery is quite startling! She gives the reader such a window into their everyday worlds as if to breathe in a piece of that scenery for the very first time and know that you’ve gone to the location rather than merely ‘visiting’ the locale off the printed page. For Ladakh, she even used local words which would make sense from the character’s point of view to be authentic and true to his identity, as much as writing in the everyday elements I have always appreciated which are stitched into the fabric of the background.

I love how through Kalden’s eyes we are seeing the lush beauty of the glaciers within the Himalayan mountains, as much as we see the stark isolating quiet of being present in a place that has more silence than sound. She gives you the essence of being in Kalden’s shoes, and for that I am celebrating ‘going somewhere’ quite different and alluring from what I have previously read. I love Eastern Religions and Spirituality, and having this story set in a mystical place as a backdrop to the enveloping story was a very special treat.

My Review of The Road Back:

Grabbing you in the heart with her opening bits of narrative to explain the journey Amy is about to embark on to seek out her birth parents now that her adoptive parents have passed on is gripping to say the least! The fact that I am reading this novel as a Prospective Adoptive Mum, of whom is planning to adopt children out of foster care in the future puts the story firmly in the forefront of my mind and heart. I have always had a strong empathic heart for children who either do not know their birth families if removed from their homes as infants or young toddlers, or children who know of their birth families but have been removed as school-aged children. The connective ties of family stitched together become fragmented memories and a heartache of ambiguous loss for the ones who never knew them at all. My heart went out to Amy as she’s on the brink of breaching back into her past, uncovering the secreted mysteries of her birth mother, and wondering if she is brave enough to handle what she discovers.

Patricia is the elder sister of a special needs brother, who was physically affected by the siege of war; her childhood is altered the day her father chooses him over her in his affection. For a young child to realise how a father can choose which child to adore, dot, and love more than the other, has ramifications as the child grows. I felt for her in the sequences where not even her mother was strong enough to stand against her father when he was in the wrong. And, how disconcerting it was to watch as he did not realise how he was affecting his daughter.

Kalden’s entrance into the story is heart-wretching as his position in his family is that of the fourth son, a designation that has him sentenced towards being a monk rather than a husband and father. In his culture, a fourth son cannot inherit land at least not in his family, where the land is divided by three and unable to be partitioned off into fourths. For such a young lad to enter the story, the weight of his heart bleds out of his scenes, giving us a heartfelt grasp of his reality despite the youth of his eight years.

The beautiful irony is that both Patricia and Kalden’s upbringings were a bit similar to each other, in that neither of their families elected to place their needs first or in any measure of importance. They were each self-reliant at a young age, and they each treasured their family’s affection but knew that for whichever reason, they were not the children in the family of whom theirs would consider had worth. Their lifepaths were already on a route towards convergence long before their encounter in Ladakh. Two souls from two very different worlds, and yet on the heart level, their spirits were entwined by the circumstances of their lives.

Tragedy affects people in different ways, and the unique twist in the story for me was in realising that out of the grief for her brother, Patricia turnt her full attention to her father rather than drawing closer to her Mum. Whereas Kalden’s world was tethered and tied to a missionary family whose only hope in life was to bring education to his village; yet the prejudice his village gave them in return shattered his hopes for a familial connection. Each of them were searching for something outside the tangible and outside the scope of what they fully understood. Life is lived forward and understood only in the hours in which we truly take a pause to resolve the angst of our souls.

An emotionally gutting story about two entwined soul mates who are magnetically connected to each other despite distance and circumstances attempting to separate them. My heart was full, my head was wrenched with a desire to know the ending, but it is not an ending you want to rush. You have to go through each step of the narrative, allowing their story (Patricia & Kalden) to absorb into you and become a part of you. Theirs is a love story that lifts up your own soul as you read the passages, and gives new meaning of hope through the transcendence of love set against the greatest odds two people could ever want to survive. This started out as an adopted daughter seeking her birth parents, but in the end, it is about a romance between two people who were forbidden from being together and found solace in their union.

Time Shift rather than Time Slip:

I appreciated the flow of the story being encapsulated inside of a ‘time shift’ rather than a ‘time slip’ sequencing, as it gave a strong sense of each character’s reality as the story was told. The start of the novel itself was with a proposition of unearthing information about Amy’s birth parents, yet it is where her journey takes her to find her birth mother & birth father that has such a confluence of drama and heart;  you will find that you do not want to put the book down! The pacing is set to its own rhythm as each chapter unfolds a new piece of either Patricia or Kalden’s lives, taking us one step closer to understanding who they were as adults. The novel is also broken into two distinctive parts, where the latter of the two is the summation of the whole.

A Note of Appreciation on behalf of the writing style of Ms. Harris:

This is the second novel I have read on behalf of Ms. Harris, and it is her début novel! I am thankful that I have had the honour to read two of her novels now, as her writing style within the heart of the narrative is fully conjoined, as she is a writer who puts her heart into her pen. She writes her heart out, and I will always appreciate that style, as it mirrors my own. I even appreciate the fact that she can move and shift through locations, time sequences, and elements of distinction between where her characters and story are set alive. She has the ability to become a chameleon as she writes one story to the next. This is a quality that is appreciated because she gives us such an intense view of her worlds and characters, with a pulse on who they are and how they lived that each story becomes an experience your willingly thankful to have had afterwards.Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

This book review is courtesy of ChocLitUK,

ChocLitUK Reviewer

Previously I have happily hosted Ms. Harris three times on Jorie Loves A Story:

a book review of A Bargain Struck,

an Author Guest Post on behalf of writing Western Fiction,

and an Author Guest Post on behalf of The Road Back.

check out my upcoming bookish events and mark your calendars!

#ChocLitSaturdays | a feature exclusive to Jorie Loves A Story

*NEWSFLASH* : Each Saturday henceforth onward from here in July shall feature a new ChocLit book review! For the updated schedule, please visit my Bookish Events page! The next novel I will be reading & sharing my thoughts on will be “Flight to Coorah Creek” by Janet Gover!

For those who are unware of #ChocLitSaturdays, the chat, we meet regular @ 11am EST / 4pm London! I created the chat to encourage new readers to discover not only the ChocLit novels I am showcasing & reading through my blog feature of the same name, but to help draw a close knit group of Romance booklovers, writers, and appreciators together for an hour of solid friendship and wicked sweet conversation!

All are welcome to attend! Tweet me or leave a comment in this thread for further details!

{SOURCES: Author photograph, Author Biography, Book Synopsis, and Book Cover were provided by ChocLitUK and were used by permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Jorie Loves A Story badge created by Ravven with edits by Jorie in FotoFlexer. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Saturday, 5 July, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Adoption, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, ChocLitSaturdays, ChocLitUK, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Equality In Literature, Family Life, Father-Daughter Relationships, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Indie Author, Modern British Literature, Monastery, Monk, Mother-Son Relationships, Passionate Researcher, Psychological Abuse, Religious Orders, Romance Fiction, Time Shift, Writing Style & Voice

+Blog Book Tour+ Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan

Posted Wednesday, 18 June, 2014 by jorielov , , 5 Comments

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Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan

Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan

Published By: UpStart Press (), 15 May, 2014
Official Publisher Sites: Press on Etsy | Blog | Founder  
Official Author Websites Site | Facebook | GoodReads
Available Formats: Softcover & Ebook
Page Count: 191

Converse on Twitter via: #BeeSummers

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Bee Summers” virtual book tour through TLC  Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Melanie Dugan, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

This particular book spoke to me when I first signed up to participate on the blog tour, there was something about the premise of the story and the way in which the story ‘sounded’ to me off the page; inspired my interest in reading the book. There are times when books whisper a thought of interest inside me, and those are the books I am always striving to discover because they tend to unlock a new way of story-telling and/or they create an individual experience of story craft that is not quite like other books you might pick up. I like delving outside my regular reading adventures, always seeking to not only expand my literary horizons, but to enjoy the bliss of discovery of new authors I might not have had the pleasure of knowing otherwise. Bee Summers is the kind of story that settles into your heart and your whet with anxious anticipation to read once the book is alighted in your hands!

I am always so happily curious about how a book will arrive in the Post, as oft-times I receive books for review direct from publishers, but evenso, there are sometimes a surprise of two in store for me! When I opened the book parcel for Bee Summers, a lovely little postcard featuring the cover art and the synopsis on the reverse side smiled up at me as I discovered it inside the novel itself! On the reverse side, a lovely handwritten note from the author graced the open space which reminded me of a postcard! I did not want to have the ink bleed or smudge whilst reading the novel, which is why I used one of the lovely double-sided bookmarks Ms. Astie sent me with her novels French Twist & French Toast! I never expect little extras with the books I receive, but oh! How my heart is filt with joy when I find something the author has tucked into the book! I appreciate their words enscribed on the postcard / notecards as much as words inked directly onto the books themselves! Little pieces of whispered joy ahead of reading their stories!

I must confess, part of my interest in Bee Summers lies within the fact beekeeping is included as part of the story’s arc! I have been an appreciator of bees for quite a long while, but when their fate and ours as a whole became entwined to the other, I daresay, I rally behind anyone who will have the kind grace to place a shining light on their culture and their significance of worth. The bees need us more than ever, and I am thankful to find their essence is still being included in fiction in a positive way.

Book Synopsis:

The spring she is eleven years old, Melissa Singer’s mother walks out of the house and never returns. That summer her father, a migratory beekeeper, takes her along with him on his travels. The trip and the people she meets change her life. Over the years that follow, Melissa tries to unlock the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and struggles to come to terms with her loss.

Author Biography:

Melanie DuganMelanie Dugan is the author of Dead Beautiful (“the writing is gorgeous,” A Soul Unsung), Revising Romance, and Sometime Daughter.

Born in San Francisco, Dugan has lived in Boston, Toronto, and London, England, and has worked in almost every part of the book world: in libraries and bookstores, as a book reviewer; she was Associate Publisher at Quarry Press, where she also served as managing editor of Poetry Canada Review and Quarry Magazine. She has worked in journalism, as a freelancer, and as visual arts columnist. Dugan studied at the University of Toronto Writers Workshop and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and has a post-graduate degree in Creative Writing from Humber College. She has done numerous public readings.

Her short stories have been shortlisted for several awards. She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her partner and their two sons.

 

The voice of Melissa Singer reminds me of Calpurnia Tate:

As I opened the first page into Chapter One, I was acutely aware of the voice of Melissa Singer reminding me of one of my most earnestly beloved re-reads this year, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate! A novel I discovered through my local library and had in effect read whilst I had a journal off-line yet never had the chance to properly stitch my thoughts together after reading its mirth of gentle wisdom. As soon as you step inside the first paragraph of Bee Summers you know in your heart your settling in for a gentle whisper of a story which is going to tug at your heart-strings and be as gentle as sitting on a gliding swing on a Southern front porch whilst the fireflies dance in front of your eyes. I loved seeing the grace of acknowledging the intimate details of her surroundings through the eyes of an innocent young girl who still could see the beauty in the ordinary and how the ordinary can be quite extraordinary.

I also felt a kinship of her intuitiveness stemming out of the character of Opal from Because of Winn-Dixie. Although mind you, dear hearts, I have only seen the motion picture and am bent on reading the lovely hardback copy I have at some point in the future! It was simply one of those things where the film dropped ahead of my ability to read the novel, but within the motion picture I found a setting, a towne, and a unconventional family that all of us can appreciate wanting to curate in our own lives. The film had a heart pulse all of its own, and whose essence I am sure mirrored the story within the novel.

My review of Bee Summers:

It is not often that a story starts off by placing you full center on the plight of little house guests who are growing in numbers each day they visit the central lead character! The bees in the kitchen had me wondering about the larger scope of the story gently unfolding in front of my heart. Dugan has the grace of acknowledging how you can be a caretaker of a species but also how you have to take care of yourself if the species you are looking after starts to take up residence in a place that is not conducive to communal living. She does not shy away from showing how even those who protect bees sometimes have to make choices where you have to divide the territory between the bees and their beekeepers.

The eccentrically loveable Aunt Hetty is quite the charming character who not only entered Melissa’s life at a crucial moment of her eleventh summer, but she helped changed the direction of the family’s life. I appreciated seeing how the care and concern of a widow the father knew, strengthened the father’s resolve to relocate to the small towne she lived in. A towne that gave his daughter Melissa a new freedom of living outside of a city and the joy of exploring the bliss of childhood outside the confines of a city block. Aunt Hetty has the classic house which is overflowing in life spilt into corners, nooks, and crannies to where stepping through her house is a bit of a labyrinth of a maze! The amassed collection of items were not only a wonderment to Melissa but to the reader who reads the story! Such a diverse collection of knickknacks and odd objects!

On the fringes of understanding her world is about to change Lissy (Melissa’s pet name by her father), decides to embrace the changes a bit at a time, and take her father up on his suggestion of an adventure. Travel as he takes the bees on their pollination runs and study on the road instead of finishing out the school year at home. In her own quiet way, Lissy is fusing together the pieces of what is and what is not yet said aloud to her. She is growing in her awareness of the world outside the sphere of her childhood, as much as she is not yet ready to accept the reality of where her Mom has walked off too. The story yields to her sense of direction and of her ability to adapt to how life evolves as she greets each day anew.

Once out on the road, Lissy’s world starts to expand in new ways, as she starts to meet the customers her father is hired to help with his bees. My favourite of all the stops was actually her first encounter at Earl’s house. He had this beautiful laid back manner about him which made you feel warm and comfortable in his presence. His house was on the modest side, but his farm meant the world to him, which you could tell from the passages where Lissy and her father spent helping him about the place. They encountered a lonely husband longing for his wife to return from being away on the second leg, and by the time they reached the farm for Opal and Les, Lissy was starting to realise just how different each family in the world could be. Her first impression of Opal was of a woman who was trying a bit too hard to be friends, but as time eased throughout the week of her stay it is what she observed that changed her opinion about her. I liked how each transition on the road trip provided keen insights into the ways of the world as much as the juxtaposition of how Lissy was raised by her parents. She was starting to put the pieces together on how she viewed life and the world around her; which is why the trip was having such an effect on her thought processes.

By the time I reached Chapter 12, my heart’s emotional keel was eclipsed as the truth of the distances which had spread between Lissy and her father came to startling reality of truth. As the tears slipped through my eyes, I realised that the jutting punch of the story is held within the in-between hours of the character’s lives. Those little moments where as they are lived feel indifferent to the whole of what they mean to the person who is living them, yet when reflected upon later are full of warmth and remembrance. The little moments of each of our lives are what gives our tapestry its glistening edge. The foundation of every family is communication and within Lissy’s years of maturing youth, the fragmented hours where her ability to communicate with her father broke down the wall of love which used to encase them with a fierce grip of strength.

Her mother’s absence in her life and the years of silent questionings therein, left a chasm of indifference and swelling anguish intermixed with anger towards her father’s lack of explanations. Her choice was to mirror her mother’s, exiting her father’s life as easily and as seamlessly as her mother had many years before her to the brink that she quite literally managed to erase him out of her mind and heart. And, like real life’s counterpart to the story, by the time Lissy is a married wife and mother herself, learnt all to late how ill-comforting it is to realise the mistakes you’ve made in the past cannot be easily mended in the future. Regrets fuse together, and lost hours stack against the timeclock of your life. It is only how you can choose to accept the path you’ve walked and the lessons you’ve learnt along the corridor of your life, that can truly set you free. Allowing you to let go of your past ghosts and step into the light of the morning with a sense of renewal for where you’ve been.

The bees | secondary characters:

One of the pure delights of the novel are the bees themselves, as they take on the role as secondary characters and in some places, nearly felt as a narrator as to precognitively alert the reader of where the story might head next. I like the subtle inclusions of their hive’s presence, as much as their bee attributes being quite stellar in showcasing their bee qualities of personality! I enjoyed learning a bit about their flying patterns, walking statures of dance, and how in effect, the bees take to their keepers as much as their keepers enjoy watching over their bees! They were a delightful inclusion, and perhaps a bit of a metaphoric undertone to the key bits of the story as well. Bees by nature align and live by a certain code of curious ambiguity as for as much as we know about their culture within the hive and their interactions with the natural environment, there is a larger number of unknowns. Perhaps in this way, the bees were as much as a viewing of transitions in the seasons of life that are not readily explained nor understood could occupy the backdrop of a young girl whose growing-up realising her mother left her without the blessing of an explanation.

I liked how the sequences with the bees were as innocent and lovely as the observations of Lissy inside the narrative of her younger years. Each of them were a bit in tune with the innocent side of life, as the bees went about their duties as pollinators to encourage the growth of the fruit and veg that needed their assistance. Likewise, Lissy looked out at her road adventure with a fresh pair of eyes ready to embrace what came her way with a joyful heart, if a tender one full of concern for her mother.

Ms. Dugan’s gift for story-telling within notes of grace:

In the back of the novel, there is a stamp of acknowledgement from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, as the author received Creative Writing Grant from the Ontario Arts Council and a Work in Progress Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. Two grants I had not known about previously, and felt were given to a writer who deserved the recognition of what the awarding of them could gain her writing. I have heard of writing grants previously, but as far as I’m aware of, I have not yet read a writer who used them to finish a novel I’ve read. How wonderful there are creative ways to pursue one’s love of writing and of setting one’s stories free to fly into the world, where readers like I feel not only blessed but honoured to have made their acquaintance!

She gave the father a wicked sense of logic in the story, such as resolving the issue of a ‘suitcase’ for their impromptu adventure on the road by using brown paper bags! I had a good chucklement on this scene, because it showed how the father wanted to solve the issue at hand but not show his uncertainty in how to go about it. She etched into Bee Summers an honest impression of how a father deals with the sudden exit of a wife and how he must choose how to face the reality of being a single father without a net of protection to see them both through to the next tomorrow. She guides the reader through the motions of their lives with such a flickerment of subtle acknowledgements of seasons and life moments, that by the time you alight in a harder hitting moment of clarity, the emotional conviction hits you front and center, and you feel appreciative that you were being guided by a steady hand and keen observer of the way in which an emotional drama can be told with a deft eye for grace.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThis Blog Tour Stop is courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

Bee Summers
by Melanie Dugan
Source: Direct from Author

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

Genres: Literary Fiction


Published by Upstart Press

on 15th May, 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 191

TLC Book Tours | Tour HostFun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comVirtual Road Map of “Bee Summers” Blog Tour:

Monday, May 19th: Review @ Sara’s Organized Chaos

Tuesday, May 20th: Review @ BookNAround

Thursday, May 22nd: Review @ Book Dilettante

Friday, May 23rd: Review @ Open Book Society

Tuesday, May 27th: Review @ A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 28th: Review @ Literally Jen

Monday, June 2nd: Review @ Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, June 3rd: Review @ Forever Obsession

Wednesday, June 4th: Review @ Karen’s Korner Blog

Tuesday, June 10th: Review @ Bibliotica

Monday, June 16th: The Most Happy Reader

Tuesday, June 17th: Review @ Every Free Chance Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 18th: Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, June 25th: She’s God Books On Her Mind

Thursday, June 26th: The Road to Here

TBD: Karen’s Korner

TBD: Giraffe Days

Please visit my Bookish Events page to stay in the know for upcoming events!

{SOURCES: Book cover for “Bee Summers”, Author Biography, Author Photograph, and Book Synopsis  were provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Wednesday, 18 June, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Apiculture, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Coming-Of Age, Family Life, Father-Daughter Relationships, Honeybees, Indie Art, Indie Author, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Philosophical Intuitiveness, Small Towne Fiction, Sudden Absence of Parent, The Natural World, The Sixties, TLC Book Tours