Tag Archives: Women’s Roles

HER LAST FLIGHT

Beatrix Williams won’t disappoint her fans with this latest book when it hits the shelves in June of 2020. She has all her trademark elements – strong women, mystery, plot twists, historical time frames, and in her own words “sexual power”.

“Sexual power is something I deal with in every single book because it’s so fascinating and essential to the process of becoming an adult and the power negotiation between men and women.”

Her Last Flight captures the spitfire spirit of the early aviatrixes like Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols and Louise Thadon. Although there are strong inferences to Amelia Earhart, this is not a fictional accounting of her life. References to lead character, Irene Foster’s interest in surfing is likely modeled after surfers like Isabel Lethan.

Bardenas Reales, Spain. January 1947.
War correspondent, Janey Everett, stands alone in the desolate whipping desert sands next to the remains of a Spanish military aircraft.  A clue has led her here. She has been on the search for the whereabouts of a daredevil stunt pilot, Sam Mallory, who disappeared in 1937. Inside the cockpit, she finds human remains and Sam Mallory’s personal journal. The discovery of Sam’s journal is invaluable for the completion of  her current literary project; a Sam Mallory biography.

Reading the dusty journal, Everett is startled to find a clue about Sam Mallory’s most famous aviation student, Irene Foster, who also disappeared in flight. Foster and Mallory, in 1928, were the most famous aviators with a history of flying together on long distance rallies. By 1937, Irene Foster was flying solo. On a flight circumnavigating the globe, she failed to arrive at a planned stop to meet up with her husband, George Morrow. Extensive searches concluded she was lost at sea. Yet, Sam’s last journal entry from 1937 was a scrawled message – GM to rescue at last thank God She will live.  Could Irene Foster have left her husband and traveled to Spain to be with Sam? Was she with Sam when his plane crashed? Is she alive?

Janey Everett, hungry for first-hand knowledge about Sam Mallory, employs all her investigative skills to unearth clues to Irene’s whereabouts. Skills that include employing her supersized libido to seduce information from Sam and Irene’s closest past associates.  Irene, indeed, survived and has living the past ten years as a recluse in a small Hawaiian ocean-side town.

Hanalei, Hawai’i October 1947
The day comes that the two women meet face to face. The lionesses circle each other cautiously. Each has carefully guarded secrets. They meet, alone, at the ocean where Irene has been surfing. They parry. Janey plays her trump card – Sam’s journal. Stone-faced, Irene tells her, “Come with me.”

We know that Janey is successful in discovering Irene’s secrets but we are dealt them out like bits of a Hershey bar – bite by bite.  Irene’s story, told from her perspective, appears in excerpts from Janey’s book, the Aviatrix. that begins with a timeline of 1928. 

Alternate chapters are written present day that begins in 1947 as the two women leave the beach together.

The two story lines have just the right tension and plot twists to keep the reader guessing the ending. The astute reader might spot clues; but not everything is as it first seems. What I liked in particular was the historical coverage of the early aviation. The bravery of those early aviators barnstorming in planes  that were as safe as running a soapbox car in a NASCAR race. And who can not love Sandy, Sam’s cat who travels through the book showering love and contentment to soften the often highly charged scenes.

Nice read during these turbulent times.
Thank you, LibraryThing.com Early Readers for selecting me to read an ARC of the book.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS: a novel

 

 

 

He said he heard rumblings inside me while I slept, a sound of thunder . . . All my life, longings lived inside me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night . . . What he heard was my life begging to be born.

Book Summary:
The Book of Longings is a work of fiction.

Ana, the daughter of the chief scribe to Herod expresses her longings to be remembered throughout time in this pseudo-diary account of her life. She wants the world to know what life was like for a woman in the time of Herod and Pontius Pilate – and what  life would look like if you buck the system.

Her story is a simple but harsh one. Women, in general, had no rights. They’re property to use and misuse. Wealthy men use their daughters as bargaining chips to enhance their wealth and power. The lower class women live lives of arduous physical labor while bearing child after child.

Sue Monk Kidd has chosen to present Ana as representative of all women – rich and poor- who dare to speak out, who seek recognition to make an impact on their own as  individuals; women with the right to chose their own futures and live their own dreams.

Ana’s early childhood in an upper class home was unorthodox. She preferred learning foreign languages and idles away time in her father’s library developing talents as a scribe. Her relationship with her mother is contentious as Ana refuses to learn skills necessary to become a subservient wife. Her relationship with her father is distant. He doesn’t so much indulge Ana as overlook her quirky behavior with disinterest.

When Ana is fourteen-years-old, she begins her menses, and is quickly betrothed by her father to an old beetle-eyed and cruel landowner. Ana’s introduction to her betrothed is a public spectacle in the heart of the marketplace intended to highlight the high status of both families. Her reaction upon meeting her intended was to faint dead-away. She is rescued from her fall by a young bearded man who visage brings on “odd smelting” in her thighs.

The old goat croaks before the marriage takes place. And more importantly before it is consummated. The death marks Ana’s future as it is assumed that the betrothed Ana is no longer a virgin thus useless baggage to society. Ana at fourteen-years-old, is seen as a widow facing a bleak future through no fault of her own.

Ana defies social custom and wanders the forest and hills nearby for solace and discovers a cave – and in the cave she discovers the kind savior from the market, the young peasant, praying. They introduce themselves and she learns his name is Jesus. This unlikely duo form a close friendship that ultimately leads to marriage.

There is no doubt that Ana and Jesus love each other unconditionally. In one touching scene, Ana earns the endearing nickname “Little Thunder” as Jesus overhears some internal struggle occurring inside her gut while she slept. She, expresses her love, by calling him Beloved.

For Ana, moving to Jesus’s family compound filled with siblings and their spouses is a shock. She has to partake in harsh physical tasks that she assumes to the best of her ability. In time, their marriage is strained as Jesus begins to realize that he has a mission from God that he must fulfill and begins to spend massive amounts of time away from Ana. The day arrives that Jesus tells Ana that he must go on alone to discover what he must do to fulfill his predestined future.

Ana never gives up on Jesus. Her life, after he leaves her, is one tragic day after another. With the help of other enlightened people, she is provided the means to document her story returning to her own passion as a scribe. Through Ana we follow the final days of Jesus concluding with his death. We feel her agony as she witnesses his final steps burdened with the weight of the cross. We cry with her as she stands at the foot of the cross.

Reviewer’s Note:
Phew. This was a hard one. It took me a couple of weeks to address this review. Here is it is, Easter weekend 2020, sheltering in my home. Ana’s story is powerful but being married to our Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth will always beg top billing.

The book, well-researched, at times felt stilted and started out slowly in my estimation. Things did speed up as familiar Biblical names and scenes entered the story line. By the end of the book, I was in tears.

Now with the world crushed by Covid-19, and several of my family valiantly serving on the medical front lines, my nerves are on edge and affects how I perceive or react to things. This prickly reaction to things, that in the past would roll off my back like water off a duck, most certainly affected my review of this fiction that touches sensitive religious topics.

Ana’s need for her husband, Jesus, to be “just a man” bumps up against his insatiable need to serve his God. After years of my viewing Jesus in stained glass windows rocking a halo it felt, at times, strange to see him described as a plain and simple man, just like the rest of us poor souls. Vulnerable and weak. I am not a deeply religious person so my discomfort was surprising to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

THE SECRETS WE KEPT : a novel

THE SECRETS WE KEPT: a novel

Lara Prescott
Knoff 2019
Historical Fiction

★★★☆☆ 

When the men in black came, my daughter offered them tea. The men accepted… when they began emptying my desk drawers onto the floor… Ira… put the teacups back in the cupboard… One of the men… said, “it is time to go.”

“Have a seat, Olga Vsevolodovna… I am your humble interrogator… “Tell me,” he said. “What is this Doctor Zhivago about?”  – Excerpt from the opening chapter of The Secrets We Kept.

It’s shortly after the Second World War. The improbable and wary relationship of WWII allies, America and the Soviet Union, further sours in the post-War years entering a period now known as The Cold War. The US diplomat, George Kennan, declared before Congress in 1947, “It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation… by outside pressures.” One of the policies to achieve that end was called Cultural Diplomacy; a fancy term for a propaganda campaign to promote American values over tyranny and Communism.

In 2014, the CIA revealed a successful mid-century project of “cultural diplomacy” to disrupt the Kremlin’s message and to encourage American values in the post-war world using the power of the arts. Word had reached America that the beloved Russian poet, Boris Pasternak, was working on his first novel entitled Doctor Zhivago. The Kremlin, aware of Pasternak’s popularity and anti-communist politics, was doing everything in its power to suppress the much anticipated book without even knowing what the book was about. The US set about disrupting their plans.

Lara Prescott, in her novel, The Secrets We Kept, opens a window in the look-back machine to reveal what political and life altering machinations took place to bring Doctor Zhivago to the world.  The story told in multiple voices; several points of view.

The most compelling story line belongs to Boris Pasternak and his twenty-two-years younger mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya. Their love/hate story is based on fact. Loving an already married man and living in a repressed country was costly to Olga in so many ways. She was used by the Kremlin to weaken Pasternak’s resolve to finish his decades long work on Doctor Zhivago. The Soviet strategy was to learn the subject of the novel by leaning on Olga Ivinskaya. After weeks of harsh interrogation and failing to learn the substance of the novel from Olga, sentenced her to five years of hard labor at a Siberian gulag. Pasternak found that leading a duplicitous life, Olga’s years of incarceration, and the torture and deaths of friends and fellow colleagues of Pasternak, exacerbated his heart problems. He retreated with his wife, Zinaida, to the comfort of his remote dacha to finish his book. Upon Olga’s release from the Gulag, he bought her a small home nearby. (The Doctor Zhivago movie depicting these days at the snowy fictional dacha, Varinkino.)

Meanwhile, over in America, former members of the WWII Office of Strategic Services (OSS) regrouped and became the Central Intelligence Agency. Women who had served their country during the war in OSS clandestine activities, with some exceptions, found themselves reassigned to a typing pool. Fact. The characters in the typing pool are fiction. They were depicted as a giddy bunch consumed with marriage, the latest fashions and lunch dates. Cloistered within their ranks were women who were typists by day and secret “carriers” of sensitive material by night.

One of the typists, Irina, a daughter of a Russian émigré and an accomplished “carrier” is selected for further espionage training. Irina, quiet and introspective, had the ability to be overlooked in a crowd. She was assigned to an experienced spy for training. Sally, a flamboyant femme fatale was Irina’s polar opposite. In time, the two fell madly in love. Their lesbian love dangerous to the future of their careers.

The filler story becomes the actions of the CIA to receive a copy of the completed Doctor Zhivago from the Italian publisher who was able to secret out the original draft from Pasternak. After negotiating a copy from the Italian press, it was translated back into Russian. The final and dangerous step was smuggling the banned book back into Russia. It was accomplished, in the book with the help of the fictional Irina, by brave recruited Russians attending the Vienna World’s Fair.

It was a hard book for me to rate. The Boris and Olga story was my favorite. Their relationship was complex and left me wishing I could have asked Pasternak – Was the book worth the hell you put your family and Olga’s through?

The story of the CIA and the sacrifices and dangers faced by the clandestine workers was fascinating. But the book was billed as a thriller and I never got chills up my spine. I did get my feathers ruffled over the sexual bigotry; especially as women proved so admirably throughout WWII that they were more than airheads.

Finally the long drawn out lesbian affair between Sally and Irina was interesting but unnecessary to the book in my opinion. A worthy topic for sure, but seem to detract from the purpose of this story.

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. But with the comment that this is a love story overall;  not a “deep-throat” spy novel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

BOY ERASED: a memoir of identity, faith, and family

[T]he American Psychiatric Association [in 1973] had removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [as a mental disorder] . . .

[Frank] Worthen disagreed, and started Love in Action [after hearing the voice of God] . . . “It was God’s answer to the APA saying homosexuality was normal. And God is saying, ‘not really.’”

I have now lived geographically in the heart of the Bible Belt for thirty-three years. I was permanently transplanted here quite by accident from northern New York State. The very first question I was asked by the very first person I met was, “Are you saved?” It was news to me that I was in danger and my immediate reply was – From What?

Now that I have been here over a quarter of a century, I still don’t understand how my upbringing as a member of a large Roman Catholic community who believes in the Holy Trinity -Father, Son and Holy Spirit should be considered a non-Christian cult. How does it differ so radically from my evangelical neighbors? My only hope, I’ve been told, is to accept Jesus as my personal Savior. Since I thought I have all along, I still can’t figure out what I am doing wrong.

My book club selected Boy Erased for last month’s discussion. As I read the book and smashed into the inner struggles of Garrard Conley’s life, I felt like I was dropped from 35,000 feet into Dante’s inferno.

Garrard was raised, much like myself, in a religious vacuum. There is comfort in a community that sees themselves as the one true religion. Everyone knows the rules and the dangers of violating them. Rule by fear. For me, there was weekly confession where I could profess my dastardly sins. For Garrard, there was no one to  help him understand his unsettling nature. There was no one to help him see deep into his troubled soul to see that a loving God accepts you just as you are; not as you are judged by men.

Garrard knew at an early age he was a miss-matched fork in the silverware drawer. Different, somehow. He knew his parents loved him dearly and he knew that what ever made him different inside, if exposed, would threaten his relationship with them and, more importantly, his salvation. As he matured, he realized that he preferred boys to girls and his internal conflicts accelerated; he had a name now for his disquiet – gay.

At age 19, Garrard broke tradition within his family and left for a secular education at a “liberal” college. Although his parents were concerned that his relationship with God would be affected by exposure to secular education, they paid his tuition.

At this time, his father, a successful businessman in his work life, decided that it was time for him to become a fundamentalist preacher and like, Jesus, become a fisher of men. While Garrard struggled with his identity, his father was asked by the elders responsible for approving his ordination if he would advocate for intolerance of the LGBTQ community; sinners living this lifestyle by choice – a giving in to the Devil.

Garrard was raped by a male college classmate; someone he considered a friend. For whatever evil purpose, this “friend” revealed to Garrard’s mother that her son was gay. This information began a cataclysm within his family and within himself.

After consulting their church pastor, Garrard’s parents were convinced to send him to a strict gay conversion therapy group known as Love in Action. Nip things in the bud, so to speak. As I read the horrors that occurred in the name of God by the counselors in this reclusive organization, I became furious and physically sick forcing me to put the book down now and then and step outside for a breath of fresh air.

Garrard hasn’t lost his parents’ love but their relationship has forever been altered by the conflicts between their vision of God and sexuality. As he feared, exposure of his secret affected his parents within their religious community. His father became tainted for having a gay son. Along the way, he lost God’s voice in his life. He affirms it may be irretrievable.

As the step-mother to a gay man and enjoying friendships with several members of the LGBTQ community, I needed this book. Please be patient as you read Garrard’s story. Within the chapters, his story flips erratically from past, present and future showing his inner struggle. Anyone wanting a glimpse of what it is like, at the individual level, to feel different.  To live in the shadows. Always fearful of losing your job or even your life because society disapproves of you and who you choose to love. Read this book.

As I write this today, our national leaders are pushing hard to remove safe-guards to eliminate discrimination and actually condoning outright violence against the LGBTQ community. My heart breaks at the cruelty done in the name of religion.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

LOLA: a novel

I am a country girl where the biggest fight I saw growing up was between the neighbor’s dog and a skunk. Therefore, my review of LOLA should be taken with that knowledge in mind. I know as much about city gangs, illegal drug sales, and ghetto living as they do about milking cows. Hard to assess what you know nothing about.
Huntington Park is a ghetto suburb of Los Angeles, home to the Crenshaw Six, a small-time drug-running gang. Within that community, Garcia is known as the gang leader and strong man but in reality he hides behind, Lola, the anonymous Mexican-American “Khaleesi”.

Lola is more than happy to be seen as Garcia’s girlfriend; it’s the perfect set-up for now. Lola is hungry for more power and territory but she must wait for the right time and place to make her move – always trying to stay in the background – using her dismissive and meek womanly demeanor to disarm and misdirect.

Her chance arrives when El Coleccioista, The Collector for the Los Liones cartel, interrupts Garcia’s community barbecue. Lola, playing the meek and mild woman, dares to enter the room where Garcia and The Collector are talking to offer refreshments as an excuse to learn what’s going on. She gets away with it because, she, a mere woman, is about as important to The Collector as a floor mat.

Several months earlier, the Los Liones cartel’s largest drug middleman, Darrell King, had his warehouse targeted for a LAPD drug raid. Darrell, alerted in time, was able to empty the warehouse but he was too hot to continue business. Los Liones had turned to the small-time Crensaw Six to pickup up some of Darrell’s territory to keep their drugs flowing to their customers. Now The Collector was back with another “request”. Darrell King is back in business. The problem? He  found himself another drug supplier. Los Liones spies have learned the time and place where Darrell’s courier will be for the first drop with this new supplier. The Crensaw Six must stop it and capture the couriers.

“There will be  two million in product, a corresponding two million in cash. We want your organization to make sure Darrell King never gets his product… and that his new supplier never gets his money.
‘That it?’ Garcia asks?
“We would like you to use whatever means at your disposal to uncover the identity of Mr. King’s new supplier. You will be wondering about compensation. Succeed, you will receive ten percent of the product and Mr. King’s territory. You fail, We take Lola, we will open up her stomach, and we will pull out her guts until she dies.

The Crensaw Six fails to intercept the money and drugs thanks to Lola’s brother’s screw up. When Lola metes out gang justice to her brother by viciously cutting off his trigger finger, Huntington Park now knows who is really the gang leader.

El Liones gives Lola a brief extension on her death sentence to make things right. You would think that Lola would buckle under pressure but Lola thrives. She faces a gauntlet of problems that pop up like whack-a-mole.

Her immature brother, continues to defy her leadership seeing her more as his substitute mother growing up. Her inability to administer the painful death gang justice demands for her brother, threatens her role in the Crenshaw Six. Her drug addicted mother is kidnapped.  Her boyfriend begins to whimper, uncertain of his place in her new world and loss of his stature in the community. Amid all that, she takes time to battle a drug addictive mother with a pedophile boyfriend for custody of her five year old girl.

What did I learn? Everyone has potty mouth. The life of a drug addict is no picnic. Gang members have a very short life span and have developed horrifying forms of torture.  It was a rough book to read. I have great respect for anyone able to find their way out of the line of gang warfare and illegal drug culture.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

SOLD ON A MONDAY

2 children for sale sign

SOLD ON A MONDAY

by KRISTINA MCMORRIS

depression era childrengreen quote markSometimes we have to make sacrifices for the ones we love…

sold on a monday cover[The detective pulled a chair over to me in the hospital.] I heard, “Can you tell me how it all started?” The reporter in my head blended with the detective before me. I wasn’t entirely sure which of them had asked…
1930s cameraI nodded at him slowly, remembering as I replied.
“It started with a picture.”

Sold on a Monday, like many popular works of historical fiction set in the 1930’s Great Depression is based on an iconic photograph. My favorite being, Mary Coin by Marissa Silver based on Dorothy Lange’s photograph entitled, Migrant Mother. four children for saleSold on a Monday was inspired by a photograph (later questioned as authentic) of a mother and four children on a porch. A sign near them reads – 4 children for sale, inquire within.

sold on a monday graphic.pngAuthor, Kristina McMorris, nudged by the writer’s innate question…what if… has created a world where a dramatic photograph, taken for personal use by a newspaper reporter on his own time, is found drying in the darkroom by the editor’s secretary, Lily Palmer. The moving picture shows two children near a sign reading – “2 children for sale. Recognizing the work of Ellis Reed, Lily shows the photo to the editor.

1930s reporter.jpgThe editor, recognizing the dramatic impact the picture will have on newspaper readers, instructs Ellis to write a story about it. Sniffing a chance to advance himself, perhaps leading to his own column, Ellis obliges. Puffed up proud, Ellis is brought down quickly when he is told that the negative and photo have been damaged and he must replace it immediately. Returning to the house, he finds the sign leaning against the porch and the family gone. (We never learn what happened to the original family; something that nagged at me long after I finished the book.)

ARC NetGalleyIn that instant he panics. He spots 2 children playing nearby at another house. Grabbing the “children for sale” sign, and with their mother’s reluctant permission along with a handful of money, Ellis stages a new photo. Thus begins a spiral of disquiet that follows Ellis into his new career at a larger newspaper; a success launched by this story. As he rises in notoriety, he is constantly aware it is based on a lie. Lily, also observes, he has lost that special something that reaches the common man.

Lily Palmer, harboring a deep secret of her own, is reminded time and again of the deception when letters and gifts continually arrive at her newspaper for the exposed children. The gifts and letters are placed on the porch in the dead of night, the deliverers unable to face the family. The innocent children were never for sale.

After a time, and independently, Ellis and Lily seek to find out what consequences their individual actions have had on that misused family. They are both rocked to learn that the mother has been confined to a sanitarium and has died. The children were placed in an orphanage. The now infamous photograph led to the sale of the two children to a wealthy family.

Using his newspaper network, Ellis finds the family and scouts the new home. Peering through a window, he spots the young girl, Ruby, neatly dressed, and sitting near a smiling woman. He believes he hears a young a boy giggling in another room.

He tells Lily that all seems wonderful at first glance. But further efforts reveal that appearances don’t necessarily define reality. Ellis and Lily set out to right their consciences and dredge up darkness they never dreamed possible. Their lives and the lives of the children are in danger.

Sold on a Monday is a fabulous 1930’s era “Agatha Christie” mystery with some really sharp edges. The suspense moves slowly at first, careers sputter, personal relationships simmer, and all along we are aware that this is the Great Depression. Desperate times where desperation can lead a person to the “Dark Side.”  The novel does come to a spectacular moment that then settles down to a “happily-ever-after” finish.

Good read for a rainy day!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews