Wantin by Truth Devour

wantin

 

Wantin by Truth Devour is the story of the physical and emotional journey of Talia Temperance. Devour begins the novel with a powerful, emotional, and evocative scene between two lovers that sets the stage for a poignant story about a young woman trying to figure out where she belongs.

At six years old, Talia lives in Haiti while her parents are traveling. She is left in the care of a nanny. One day, Talia learns through an intense, religious, voodoo ceremony that her parents have died. She finds out from the authorities some days later and is handed over to her Aunt Runt and Uncle Shane. At such a young age, Talia never knew her parents, so she feels adrift without familial connection. She does feel emotionally connected to Ruth, Shane, and their children, but does not know her foundations.

After falling in love with someone she cannot have and then finding out her parents left her independently wealthy, at the age of twenty-one, Talia begins to travel the world—to run away from her feelings, to escape emotional pain, but also to learn of her ancestry and find a connection to her parents.

Devour writes a novel that is visually striking without using visuals. Her words paint vivid pictures of the numerous places Talia visits, as well as her emotional state of mind. The formatting and editing of the book are up to par, meaning that the reader can be drawn into the prose without being confused as to who is speaking and about what. The cover lends to the visual, visceral nature of the novel. It is visually striking, beautiful, as well as enigmatic. From the cover, the reader knows as little about Talia as she seems to know about herself.

If the reader is looking for a novel for purely entertainment purposes, she will not be let down. The story is interesting and the characters are engaging. If the reader is looking for a novel that provides insight into life, love, and self-awareness, she will get that as well. Wantin is all-around enjoyable.

Effed Up by Russ Woody

EFFED UP CoverEffed Up by Russ Woody is a first-person narrative starring Robert and his dysfunctional family. The reader enters Robert’s life as he is getting up-close-and-personal with a woman named Becky, who is apparently turned on by trauma scenes. While Robert is trying to block out the juxtaposition of pleasure and disgust and enjoy the moment, he receives a phone call that his mother is in the hospital. From Robert’s reaction and subsequent actions, it is clear that he despises his mother and is not close with his siblings or his father.

Through present moments and past recollections, Robert paints a clear picture of his effed up family. His mother is a manipulative, psychopath, his brother is a loser stoner, and his sister is a raging alcoholic. The only sane one, he thinks, is his father, who he doesn’t even know well because his mother never allowed the spotlight to be shown on anyone but herself. In the wake of tragedy, Robert must piece together the kind of man his father was, thus learning more about himself.

Effed Up is so humorous, it will make the reader laugh out loud. The characters are so absurd, so flawed, and yet so real, that the story is both completely fantastical and chillingly realistic.  As much as the reader will laugh, she will also cry—tears of outrage, sorrow, frustration (at how dense Robert’s family is about their ridiculousness), and finally, joy. There are aspects of the characters and moments in the family dynamic that are guaranteed to ring true to everyone at one point or another.

While situations may be drastically different, the emotions Woody invokes about love, family, and friends will resonate with readers from all walks of life. In the end, the story is about one man’s journey to finding himself and learning what true family means.

Split at the Root by Catana Tully

Book Cover (3)Split at the Root by Catana Tully is an intricate study of self-identity, social influences, and familial ties. The first story Catana can remember is one Mutti, her German mother, tells about her “birth.” Mutti tells Catana that she floated down the river on a leaf, and that, in that moment, Mutti knew Catana was hers to keep. This is just one of many “fairytales” that Mutti tells Catana about her life (and her history).

Catana was born to Rosa, a Black woman, in Livingston. However, she was raised by a White, German woman, who called her “Mohrle,” or “little Moor.” Catana grows up in a White household, treated as a privileged White. As such, she is uncomfortable around people of color and even begins to hate her birth mother. Throughout her life, she struggles with issues of race, identity, and prejudice. Mutti refuses to acknowledge the deeper issues, preferring to mold Catana into a likable, competent woman, who has “the right frame.”

Catana decides to flout her education and become an actress. Along the way, she meets Fred, and they fall in love and marry. All her life, Catana has been surrounded by White people. She knows next to nothing about her birth mother and even less about her father and the rest of her biological family. On a trip back to her birth village, she begins to get hints that Mutti may not have been telling her the whole truth—words like “stolen child” are thrown around in context to Mutti and Catana’s relationship. As Catana digs deeper, she uncovers secrets about her heritage and her upbringing. Along the way, she must confront her racial identity and all that goes with it.

Tully’s memoir is extremely detailed. She begins with her first memories and continues to the present day. By the end of the tale, it is as if the reader is a part of the family that Catana is trying to piece together. Her story is emotional—full of love, laughter, and even fear. The reader will watch Catana grow up and find her own identity. The story is impossible to put down as Catana attempts to unravel the complicated mystery that surrounds her biological family. It takes many years for her to learn the truth and just as long, maybe longer, for her to know herself. It may be a memoir, but at points, it reads like a detective novel. Even though it is one woman’s life and history, it touches on important racial, societal, and personal identity issues.

Kaylee’s Ghost by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Book Cover Image-1Kaylee’s Ghost by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is a tale full of emotion, history, love, loss, and family. It begins with Miriam awaiting the birth of her first grandchild, Violet. Miriam is a psychic who longs for someone with which to share her gifts. She was incredibly close to her Bubbie because her own mother did not accept Miriam’s abilities. Now, she hopes that Violet will connect with her, as her daughter Cara also shuns her talents.

Violet is born with incredible psychic faculties. Miriam is overjoyed by this and immediately begins to nurture Violet’s premonitions and mind-reading skills. At the same time, however, Miriam is devastated because Cara, her daughter and Violet’s mother, pushes her further and further away. Their disagreement over whether psychic abilities are a gift or a curse causes a huge rift between not only these two, but also the entire family. To make matters worse for Miriam, she must make some tough decisions surrounding a long-time client, which ultimately affects the family as well.

Shapiro writes characters in incredible detail. The reader will be extremely engrossed in these people’s lives.  Their relationships are real, complex, and fraught with such emotion that the reader will be deeply carried along in the story. The reader will laugh, cry, and heave a huge sigh when all is said and done.

Along with intricate characters and relationships, the story is intense and constantly evolving. Will Miriam be able to mend the rift between her daughter and herself? Will Violet be able to live a normal life? How does Kaylee fit into all of this? These questions will not be answered until the very last page and beyond. The reader should carve out a significant chunk of time if she decides to begin this book because she will not be able to put it down!

Kaylee’s Ghost

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Copyright 2012

He Called Her “Hat” by Myron McDonald

He Called Her ‘Hat’…is the transcription of a memoir by Myron McDonald that he wrote about his childhood, but most importantly, his grandmother.  It begins with a foreward by the editor, Dorothy May Mercer, who explains that she left most of the manuscript as she found it because she did not want to destroy Myron’s voice.  This memoir is a first-hand account of life in a different era as well as a character description of one of the strongest women in Myron’s life.

Each chapter of the book describes a different aspect or different event in Myron’s life…all related to his grandmother.  He describes life on the farm during the harvest, the first appearance of the Model T, and even some social aspects of his grandmother’s time, the early 1900s.  His portrait of Hattie is one of deference, love, and humor.  He describes her as a woman whose second husband is twenty years her junior, and yet she has the vitality to not only keep pace with him, but surpass him a time or two.  Throughout Myron’s tale, the reader learns that his grandmother is full of strength and dedication; she is a woman who was brought up to take care of herself and those around her.

The stories that Myron relate are varied. Some are humorous tales, some are descriptions of hardships, and some are downright emotional.  Although it is a short novel, by the end, the reader is so familiar with Hattie that Myron’s last chapter provokes a strong reaction.

He Called Her ‘Hat’…is not a traditional novel.  It reads as a memoir, but the stories do not seem to be in any sort of chronological order.  It is not a narrative per se, but a character study of Myron’s grandmother and an account of her life as it intertwined with his.  As a result, the novel is choppy and sometimes hard to follow because the reader wonders what pertinent details he may have missed between years.  Also, some of the vocabulary is old-fashioned, which can be difficult to understand, but ultimately adds to the feel of the piece.  Overall, the reader will enjoy this manuscript as it is a first-hand historical account with a vivacious, strong female lead.

…And The Whippoorwill Sang by Micki Peluso

Image…And The Whippoorwill Sang by Micki Peluso is so many things: at times a personal memoir, at others a social and cultural commentary; it sometimes reads like a relationship advice column, and yet it is also a dramatic story with an extremely moving and emotional ending.  In telling her family’s story of love and loss, Micki provides an in-depth look into her personal life that is framed by the cultural backdrop of the times, so that her story becomes as impressive and as important to the reader as events such as the assassination of Present Kennedy. 

 Micki begins her tale with a prologue that captures the reader’s attention and immediately causes her to start asking questions as to what has transpired.  The first scene is of a mother dealing with the reality that her daughter has been in a serious, and probably fatal, accident—with her husband five hours away and the doctors urging her to accept defeat.  The horror of the emergency room is juxtaposed in the next chapter with Micki’s wedding 22 years earlier to the love of her life.  As her tale continues, the terror of the present is dispersed throughout a retelling of the past.  Micki recounts her elopement to Butch and her mother’s subsequent move to Florida.   She tells of her happiness in marrying Butch, but that his parents did not approve because she was not Catholic and, therefore, their baby was illegitimate. Because they had to stay with Butch’s parents, Micki tells of how she went through a four-week Catholic indoctrination in order to marry Butch in a “real ceremony.”  The first touch of humor enters the story when Micki confesses to sending the priest to a rest home for frazzled priests after dealing with her religious debates.

The book continues in this fashion: Micki tells her family’s history, interspersed with humor, cultural commentary, and personal opinions while constantly reminding the reader that the focus of the tale is her daughter who is hovering between this life and the next and how the family deals with this situation and its aftermath.  Micki tells the reader that as she sits in the ICU, she is “grabbing onto the past in an effort to block out the future.”

From the get-go, Micki’s honesty about herself and her family is refreshing and leads the reader to truly care for the people she writes about.  Throughout the book, the reader will laugh, cry, yell in anger, and sometimes cry out a righteous “amen, sister!”  Her story is so detailed and told with such emotion that by the end of the novel, the reader feels as if she is part of her family and dealing with the same emotions.  She definitely keeps her promise…

 

And The Whippoorwill Sang

Micki Peluso

Light Sword Publishing

Copyright 2007