The silent sister

From  Andrea  Kalinowski

Author:  Diane  Chamberlain

Title:  The silent sister

“I know that the lies in our family hurt all of us, especially Danny and myself. Growing up in a household where something is terribly wrong, you feel the weight of that mysterious something even though it’s unspoken. It eats at you. Confuses you. It leaves you wondering if your view of the world will ever make sense.” The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain was an unexpected surprise hit with me. It was recommended to me by my sister-in-law. She could not stop reading the book and neither could I.

A young woman returns to her father’s house to clean out his home and to settle his estate. She thinks her only relative is her brother, who is perceived, by her and others, as being mentally ill. In the cleaning process, secrets of her sister’s suicide are unearthed and shed new light on the family dynamics. Lisa was seventeen when she committed “suicide” and it was this “suicide” which changed the family’s dynamic from a cohesive functioning family unit to a dysfunctional mishmash. Danny harbors his own resentments about Lisa’s familial role and the transformation that is wrought by her “suicide.” The discovery of newspaper articles detailing the real story behind the “suicide” set Riley off in search of the real story. The full scope of the deception forces Riley and Danny into a new and uncertain familial future. Our choices today really do have a ripple effect even though we may not perceive them clearly at the moment of decision. The Silent Sister was an excellent, suspenseful read. I give it four stars.

Necessary Lies

From Robin McCracken

Title:  Necessary Lies

Author:  Diane Chamberlain

In 1929 to 1975 a North Carolina Eugenics Sterilization Program was put into place for “Mental Defective” as they put it, a newly hired social worker finds it hard to the follow the rules and encounters many detours in helping the families she promised to do right by.

Diane Chamberlain writes the character of Jane Forrester to be a kind, compassionate person who cares very much about her job and the values of others.  When she decides to act against the system, all hell breaks out for her and the families’ she is working with. A must read.

 

Vinegar Hill

From Mahnaz K.

Title:  Vinegar Hill

Author:  A. Manette Ansay

A young family is forced to move back from Ohio to their hometown in Holly’s Field, Wisconsin for economic reasons. Life with her in-laws proves to be stifling for the young mother as she tries to raise her family under the critical eye of her in-laws who are very much hardened by the rigid Midwestern farm life of Wisconsin. Ansay portrays the emotional and psychological abuse people sometimes experience in close relationships with honesty and compassion.

Mockingbird

From Andrea Kalinowski

Author:  Kathryn  Erskine

Title:  Mockingbird

Just this past year, I have been reading some of the titles my nephew has been reading and, boy, was I pleasantly surprised by the advanced themes they tackled. My nephew is eleven and his recommendations have included Dave at night by Gail Carson Levine, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, Out of my mind by Sharon M. Draper, and Wonder by RJ Palacio. All of these books deal with children in unique situations. Out of my mind is an expose of a young girl trapped by cerebral palsy in a silent world while Wonder deals with a young boy with two facial deformities. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine was my latest read of his recommendations and it was terrific. A young girl, suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome, is forced to come to terms with her brother’s death. Asperger’s Syndrome can be characterized by problems with social skills and communication difficulties. The main character, Caitlin, struggles to show empathy and make friends. She has difficulty understanding why her brother’s death is so hard for her father. Devon was Caitlin’s main instructor in how to cope with life and she now needs to learn new coping techniques. Caitlin and her father, according to Caitlin’s research in her best resource, a dictionary, need to find “closure.”  Caitlin is not sure how to attain closure but she and her father triumph in the end and attain their goal of closure.

Chestnut Street

From Margaret Mezzacapo
Author:  Maeve  Binchy
Title:  Chestnut Street 
Chestnut Street is a collection of short stories published posthumously. The common thread is that all of the characters live on the same street, albeit with different lives and circumstances, and serve as proof that appearances can be deceiving. People can differ significantly from the images they project (although you’ve never met such a large cast of philandering husbands and deserting fathers in any of Binchy’s prior works). The stories seem a little disjointed at times, yet you’ll still hear the lilt of the characters’ accents as you read along, and you’ll still wish that there would be more Maeve Binchy books to come.

My Mother’s Secret

From Ginny Pisciotta
Author:  J.L. Witterick
Title:  My Mother’s Secret 
My mother’s secret is a gripping story of a Polish woman and her daughter during the Nazi invasion of Poland.  Franciszka and her daughter, Helena, live in a tiny 2 room house but somehow manage to simultaneously hide 2 Jewish families, and a defecting German soldier. One family is hidden in the loft above the pigsty,the other  in a makeshift cellar,and the soldier in a tiny attic where he must lay down to fit.  Franciszka and Helena need to be extremely careful and clever to outsmart their neighbors and the Germans. One mistake or misfortune would cost all of them their lives.

The writing is simple and concise. The chapters are very short. The story is  told from 4 perspectives – Helena’s, one of the Jewish fathers, one of the Jewish sons, and the defecting soldier.  The account was both horrifying because of the circumstances and the cruelty of some people, and heartwarming because of the kindness and bravery of others.

This novel is based on a true story.

The corpse reader

From Andrea Kalinowski
Author:  Antonio Garrido
Title:  The corpse reader
Just imagine, if you will, being gathered in a crowd of peasants, sickle in hand, waiting impatiently for the official to pronounce sentence. The official scans the crowd, looking for his witness, and finally spots him. The witness is indicating “Yes, this is the sickle that slew the peasant.” The official beckons forth the peasant holding the sickle and pointing to the witness, a fly, on his blade, pronounces sentence. When the peasant inquires as to how the official knew, the official points to the fly and his brethren. The fly would not sit on your blade without something to attract it and so even though you cleaned the blade, the fly knew there had been blood on the blade. Now imagine you are in China and this is really happening to you. The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido is a novel based on an actual Chinese personage, Ci Song.  Ci Song was the father of Chinese Forensic Sciences and the official who used a fly as a witness. The beginning of the novel was a little slow but soon enough it caught me in its web. From that moment on, I could not put the book aside. Ci Song experiences many moments of pain but is always moving forward. He exemplifies strength in the face of adversity and always attempts to honor his family ties.

The descendants: a novel

From Catherine Given
Author:  Kaui Hart  Hemmings
The descendants: a novel
By now you’ve probably seen either The Descendants’ promos or the movie featuring George Clooney and Beau Bridges. In the novel it’s based on, Hemmings provides a sensitive account of the dealings of a comfortably numb man. Matthew, the mostly emotionally absent father of a  wacky,disconnected family, along with daughters Alex, a scornful young adult, and Scottie, who’s ten going on 30, have  just suffered a great shock.  His wife, Joanie, has had a boat-racing accident, leaving the threesome in limbo, for the first time totally dependent on each other.

Matthew hasn’t spent any time with the girls as they were too young to relate to. He’s been so busy preserving his founding Hawaiian family’s legacy that he and his kids are strangers to each other.  “I come from the school of thought where a dad’s absence is something to be counted on,” he says.  . . . “I remember the girls sort of bothered me as babies, the way everyone raced around to accommodate them. . . .It felt like I was living with royalty.”

These characters are beautifully delineated, realistically flawed and out of necessity, it seems, eventually nurturing to one another. You’ll feel you know them well by the time a few plot twists have churned and settled to momentary stillness, like a surge of Hawaiian surf. Their newly-reconstituted family’s warm but bumpy ride has just begun.