Tag Archives: self realization

For You Blue

Up From the Blue: A Novel by Susan Henderson (Harper; $13.99; 317 pages)

Warning: You should not take a glance at Up From the Blue, the debut novel from Susan Henderson, while you’re reading another book.   I did and found it was impossible to return to the other book until I’d completely finished this well-told and very different story.   It is the tale of Tillie Harris, an eight-year-old girl, whose mother disappears during a family move in 1975.   Tillie’s mother has been depressed and disturbed, but never suicidal.

Tillie herself is a free spirit, a younger version of her mother who should never have married an uptight Air Force officer-engineer who designs war missiles for the Pentagon.   We first meet Tillie as a pregnant adult woman who, because of some unique circumstances, must rely on her estranged father to help her get through the early delivery of her first child.   Her father’s presence at the George Washington University Hospital in D.C. is the last thing Tillie wants but time and fate deprive her of other options.   We start the story in present times before retreating to the nightmare that began in ’75.

This is not a horror story, but it is a story of a monster – the man who is Tillie’s father.   He is a cold quasi-human being, controlling and calculating, but one who people mysteriously defer to:

Even when he’s not wearing his uniform, my dad is giving orders and people just carry them out.

This is the man who supervised the dropping of almost 90,000 tons of bombs during the Persian Gulf War, but it is his actions at home that destroyed both a family and Tillie’s hope.   The young Tillie grew up wondering, “Where were the police asking if I wanted to keep my father with us or send him to jail?”

Little else of the storyline can be divulged without giving away too much.   Henderson offers the reader a highly original voice.   Once you identify with and latch on to the character of Tillie, you simply want to know what happens next in her troubled but realistic life.   Interestingly and ironically, the one recent novel with a similar voice shares the word Blue in its title – The Truth About Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen.   Cohen’s novel is one that can’t be put down and is one that approaches a seemingly predictable ending before the apple cart is upset.   The same may be said about Up From the Blue.

“Sometimes what you fear, what you spend all your energy avoiding or pushing down, is not as terrifying as you thought.”

As a public service, we repeat the warning given earlier.   Do not pick up this novel unless you have time in your busy life to read it all the way through.   But if you don’t have the time, make the time.   Henderson is an author to watch and you’ll want to brag that you read her back when she was just starting out.

Highly recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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After the Goldrush

The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby (Avon; $14.99; 339 pages)

“I was thinking about what a friend had said, I was hoping it was a lie…”   Neil Young

“I could always heal the birds,” he admits…  Echo takes his hand, “Joseph says that birds are the only creatures that have blind faith.   This is why they are able to fly.”

Ilie Ruby has crafted a magically moving novel composed of disparate elements: a tragic childhood death, a kidnapped woman, American Indian (Seneca) ghosts and spirits, wolves that interact with humans, unrequited love, and a parent’s illness.   The book is also replete with dysfunctional families who, sadly, may represent normality in American life.   Dysfunctional families are fueled by shame and secrets, and the secrets are kept until they must be divulged in order to save lives.

Two of the key characters in The Language of Trees are Grant Shongo and Echo O’Connell.   Grant is a half-blooded Seneca with the power to cure sick and wounded birds and animals.   He is also a person who cannot cure himself.   Then there’s Echo, who feels that she is lost in her life in spite of the fact that she’s true to herself.   Echo is the one person in the story who is free, except that she’s not aware of it.   And, except for Echo, the book is populated with characters that are haunted by the past – literally and figuratively – as they search for peace and redemption.

“Happiness is just as hard to get used to as anything else.”

The Language of Trees is written in a cinematic style.   It begins slowly and it takes the reader some time to absorb all of the many characters and to understand the personal issues affecting them all.   There’s also more than a touch of mysticism and magic to the story.   There are unique and spiritual events that will seem almost commonplace to those with even a touch of Native American blood.   (The author demonstrates a great deal of respect for Indian folklore and beliefs.)

What is initially calm builds to a highly dramatic and satisfying conclusion.   Coming to the final pages, I was reminded of the style of Pat Conroy in The Prince of Tides, which found this reader both excited and sad that the journey was about to end.   As with Conroy’s novels, Ruby leaves us with a life’s lesson, which is that one must let go of the demons of the past in order to “not (be) afraid of the future anymore.”   Once the nightmares of the past have been left behind, we are free to soar like birds.

At its conclusion, this novel has the power to transport the reader to a better place.

“Well, I dreamed I saw the silver space ships flying in the yellow haze of the sun.”   (N. Young)

The Language of Trees is nothing less than masterful and transformational.   Let’s hope that we will not have to wait too long for Ms. Ruby’s next novel.   Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.

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Running On Empty

She’s Gone Country: A Novel by Jane Porter (5 Spot; $13.99; 384 pages)

Coping with imposed life changes is the main theme for Jane Porter’s new novel, She’s Gone Country.   The central character, Shey Darcy, is an almost-forty-year-old former fashion model whose image appeared in Vogue and in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.   Shey’s glamorous life in New York City is cut short when her husband declares that he’s gay and wants a divorce.  

What follows is a sprint back to Shey’s roots in Texas.   She takes her two sons to live in her mom’s house on a sprawling family-owned ranch in a bid to feel more secure.   This is a tale of growing up to reality and grasping a sense of how to navigate life when the veneer of New York life’s distractions is peeling away.

Author Jane Porter presents the story in a stream of consciousness first person narrative in the present tense.   Shey is stuck in her feelings about the life she has been forced to leave behind.   She dwells on her husband’s betrayal, the trials of motherhood and her very shaky self-image.   Shey’s monologue is often repetitive, and it is a perfect example of self-talk by the mind vs. being in the now, as detailed in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.   Shey loses her way, her sense of now and she’s stuck trying to cope with her brain chatter.

An odd combination of contrasts crop up throughout the story.   Men are generally described as hunky or highly attractive, and comfortable with old cars and the peeling paint on the Texas ranch house where Shey lives.   Women are depicted less charitably.   Porter describes their actions and fashion choices in a way that is just shy of brutal.

The notion of raising boys is foreign to this reviewer, but Jane Porter is the mother of three boys.   She makes it seem like a lot more work than having girls.   Even though the story is told in the first person, the feelings and actions of the other characters are well-developed.   This is especially true for Shey’s two sons.   Each has his own personality and needs as together they struggle with having been uprooted from post private school city life and plopped down onto a small country setting.

Since this book is clearly of the chic lit genre, it was amazing to this reviewer that the most sympathy and tears were brought out by someone other than the main character – who knew?

This is a most enjoyable read for women of a certain age.   Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Hachette Book Group U.S.A.   She’s Gone Country was released by 5 Spot on August 23, 2010.

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She’s Gone Country

Jane Porter is the author of several successful popular fiction books including Easy on the Eyes, Flirting with Forty, Mrs. Perfect and Odd Man Out.   Her next book, She’s Gone Country, will be released on August 23, 2010.   Thanks to the folks at five spot and Hachette Book Group, we’re giving you a sneak peek right now.   The following is an excerpt from Chapter One.

Brick calls me on his cell about an hour later.   “That was the most boring sermon ever, Shey.   You owe me.”

I grin at the misery in his deep voice.   He might be the oldest and I might be the youngest but we’ve always been tight.   “You don’t have to pretend to like church just because she’s here,” I answer, taking a step outside the house to stretch and stand on the screened porch with its view of the oak lined drive.   More oak trees dot the pasture between the house and the six stall barn.   There’s not a lot else to see but trees, cows, and land.   Mama and Pop lived here for fifty-some years, and Pop’s parents before that.

“If it makes her happy,” he says.

“That’s why you’ll go to heaven and I won’t,” I laugh and ruffle my hair.   I’ve always gotten along well with all my brothers, but I enjoy teasing Brick the most, probably because he takes his job as the oldest so damn seriously.   “You all on your way home now?”

“No.   We’re going for breakfast.   Mama’s still worked up, and Charlotte thought a good hot meal would put her in a better mood, especially when she’s driving back to Jefferson this afternoon.   Don’t want her on the road when she’s in a mood.”

“No, we certainly don’t.   So where are you going, and are we invited?”

“Um, Shey, you’re the reason Mama’s in a bad mood.   You’re probably better off staying at the house.”

“Gotcha.”   My lips twist in a rueful smile.   My mother and I have a funny relationship.   Given that I’m the only daughter and the baby of the family, you’d think we would have been close.   Only it didn’t work out that way.   Mama prefers boys.   But I can’t complain.   I certainly wasn’t neglected growing up.   I had three brothers to chase after and always was the apple of my Daddy’s eye.   “We’ll see you later, then, and don’t rush your meal.   We’ll be here when you return.”

(Used by permission.)

 

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