"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you
and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Skulduggery Pleasant

HarperCollins Publishers
Skulduggery Pleasant
Derek Landy

The Summary
Stephanie Edgeley has lived a rather quiet, normal life with a rather quiet, normal family in a rather quiet, normal town.  Very little changes, until the death of her uncle Gordon turns her world on its head and throws her into some strange company.  You see, Gordon made some very unusual friends, friends who have suddenly become Stephanie's very unusual friends.

Enter one Skulduggery Pleasant.

Skulduggery Pleasant is a sorcerer, a detective - and he's also a skeleton.  Stephanie, now involved in his line of work, must confront an ancient evil and stop a malevolent necromancer from wreaking utter havoc upon the world.

The Good
Witty.  Charming.  Endearing.  Smart. All words that Skulduggery would use to describe himself (if you were to ask), but I find they apply nicely to Derek Landy's novel.  Skulduggery Pleasant is a real treat.

Although I believe it falls on the spectrum of children's/adolescent fiction, I truly enjoyed this novel for its wit and its captivating characters.  It's made for a younger audience, of course, so the language and difficulty follow suit, but it's a well-written novel and it's lively, entertaining, and unique.

Why "unique"?  Skulduggery Pleasant falls under paranormal fiction, which, at one time, saw a very large surge of interest; however, it isn't the same cookie-cutter paranormal fiction you might usually find.  Landy manages to put an entirely new spin on fairy tales, myths, and paranormal creatures, making his novel unique and thoroughly enjoyable.

First and foremost, I should point out that I absolutely love Skulduggery Pleasant.  Stephanie is a clever, quirky character and she makes one heck of a heroine - she's a tough girl who manages to take the idea of magic and animated skeletons in stride - but, let's be honest, it's hard to top a walking, talking, flame-throwing magical skeleton like Skulduggery.

Especially with him being such a snappy dresser and witty conversationalist and what not.

The Bad
Personally, I have no complaints about Skulduggery Pleasant.

It's a novel built for a younger audience, so if you aren't interested in such fiction or you're looking for something particularly challenging, I might not recommended it.  However, if you're looking to branch out into something different with snappy dialogue, magical creatures and characters, and plenty of adventure, I would definitely recommend taking Skulduggery Pleasant for a spin.

The Ugly
Skulduggery is a skeleton, so it wouldn't be a great leap in logic to come to the conclusion that something very bad, very tragic happened in his past.  (When you finally learn his back story, you'll see exactly what I mean.)

Furthermore, the villain named Serpine (even his name seems evil) is a necromancer.  He works with death and dead things, so it's almost guaranteed that there will surely be some blood, gore, violence and, yes, death involved as Serpine becomes a more frequent visitor.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bonus: The Red Tent

Picador USA
The Red Tent
Anita Diamant

The Summary
In the Book of Genesis, Dinah is a forgotten story.  Except for a brief and bloody chapter, in which Dinah is only mentioned in passing, she never acts or speaks on her own.  She has no story to tell, no history to relate, no memories to share:  she is merely a tool used by her brothers.

Until now.

Now, Dinah has a voice.  Now, Dinah - daughter of Jacob and Leah, sister of Joseph, wife of Shalem - has a story that is uniquely, singularly her own.

The Good
Rich in storytelling and tradition, Anita Diamant weaves a tale that is both provoking and intimate  - and, if I may say so, utterly captivating.  As I described in other posts (read:  In Progress), I found Dinah's story thoroughly engrossing and wonderful.

The Red Tent is beautiful in a way that only books are beautiful:  it is a window to a world we wouldn't otherwise see, it is the culmination of thoughts, ideas, traditions and experiences that weave their way into our lives unexpectedly.  Although Diamant's novel is entirely fictive, there's an element of history and memory that makes it incredibly real.

The Bad
The Red Tent is a heady story.  Without some prior biblical knowledge, Diamant's novel can occasionally be confusing; however, the author does a competent job of explaining and describing enough of the religious and social context to properly flesh out her story and that of Genesis.

The Ugly
From the first page, Dinah alludes to her future, to the tragedies that are sure to come, but when it comes to pass, it's like a thunderbolt - fast, sudden, and agonizing.  Dinah faces loss like she's never known, and it's a heart-wrenching thing to witness.

I should also point out that The Red Tent is not for the faint of heart.  It's a story about memory and tradition, but it's also a story about mankind's faults, child-birth, death and loss.  Dinah does not conceal the truth.  She tells all from her first menstrual cycle to the rituals of womanhood to the trials of childbirth.  Some of it is shocking and some of it is stomach-turning, but it's all a part of her life, which she isn't afraid to lay bare.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Speaks the Nightbird

Speaks the Nightbird
Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster)
Speaks the Nightbird
Robert McCammon

The Summary
Matthew Corbett, following Magistrate Woodward as his duly devoted clerk, arrives in Fount Royal under the unenviable duty of investigating witchcraft.  Rachel Howarth has been accused of murder, witchcraft and other sundry crimes, and she is all but sentenced for her perceived crimes; however, a greater evil lurks in Fount Royal - one that will test Matthew's resolve to seek truth and endanger the very foundation of his faith.

The Good
For the most part, I really enjoyed Speaks the Nightbird.  It's incredibly precise and beautifully detailed, depicting Fount Royal and Matthew's subsequent exploration with such grace and detail as to make it feel real.  I simply love the realism Robert McCammon affords his novel:  it gives Speaks the Nightbird a life entirely of its own.

While I can't say it's a lovely tale - in fact, it's filled with cruelty, danger, murder, violence, abuse and tragedy (among other grotesque things).  It isn't a novel for the faint of heart, that's certainly assured - it has been so lovingly crafted that it creates a unique experience.  It's not necessarily a thrill-a-minute, but it keeps a decent pace and lays out enough bread crumbs as to entice readers.

Additionally, I like that McCammon makes careful note of of Matthew's emotional and physical state as his investigation proceeds, pinpointing great moments of change, remarking on his intellectual and emotional evolution.  Matthew is such a critical character to Speaks the Nightbird.  You spend so much time dedicated to his investigation, watching as he searches for answers and asks just the right questions, that it feels appropriate that we, as readers, get to see the full range of his growth.

Full of adventure, intrigue, suspense and mystery, Speaks the Nightbird is truly an amazing piece of work.  It's a massive undertaking, but I've found that finishing it brings a feeling of accomplishment that rivals that of Matthew's by the end.

The Bad
Truthfully, I have no real complaints about McCammon's stylistic approach or his choice of literary subjects.  McCammon is an excellent writer, fully immersing his readers in the world he seeks to create; however, I found that Speaks the Nightbird does broach subjects of an unsavory origin and touches upon the incredible cultural differences between the modern world and Carolina Territory in 1699.

For instance, I discovered mention of wasps used as pest control.  Wasps were allowed to build nests in homes, in order to control the population of mosquitoes and other insects, which I find incredibly terrifying - and, of course, mystifying.  Likewise, I stumbled upon instances of bloodletting and "blistering" (don't ask) in medical treatments.  It's difficult, almost frustrating when presented with such things when we have the benefit of modern medicine.

You'll find a bevy of similar and strange cultural differences that range from superstitions that make no sense to judicial proceedings and decisions that seem agonizingly arbitrary and medical advances that serve little good except to prolong suffering.

The Ugly
Let me say up front that Speaks the Nightbird is not an excellent choice if you find yourself made squeamish by blood or if you find you dislike any number of unpleasant things, including but not limited to murder, brutality, bestiality, abuse, lust, sexual depravity, greed, torture, or any number of scandalously terrible things.

I'll be honest, I was scandalized by Fount Royal and its superstitious citizenry.  Surprised, horrified, disgusted, sickened - scarred may even be accurate - just to name a few.  I mean, certainly you have the utterly horrible dean of the almshouse where Matthew lived as a child and you have Shawcomb, neither of whom is technically a citizen of Fount Royal; however, I think that is beside the point.  There really is no respite from the terrible things that just seem to keep happening.

Speaks the Nightbird is an excellent book.  I was emotionally invested for so long that I simply had to find out the truth, like Matthew; however, I would recommend reading this novel in moderation and keeping one warning in mind:  expect the absolute worst to happen, because it will.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

And Another Thing...

This week, I tried an experiment with The Red Tent.  I thought I might work on something that I have in progress rather than wait until I've finished the book to write a review.  It's an interesting concept to test, and I've certainly enjoyed being able to list my thoughts as they occur and express my interests in the book as they arise.

I think this is one experiment I'll keep trying.  For the time being, at least.

I'll certainly keep posting reviews.  I'll have the individual reviews I have planned for my list, and I'll provide further reviews and extras, or whatever comes to mind, but I think I'll keep the "in progress" idea.  It's been fun to play with it.

Any comments or complaints or ideas?  As always, feel free to leave a comment below and feel free to offer suggestions.  I'm up for almost any reading challenge.  In fact, I'm currently working on a reading challenge over at my other blog, Thoughts in Process.  It's called the "Read Harder Challenge of 2015."

Join me, won't you?

Happy reading.

- The Scrivener

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Postscript: The Red Tent

Picador USA
Upon finishing The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, I discovered a "reading group guide" provided by the publisher, which includes a short paragraph detailing the motivation behind Diamant's The Red Tent:
"The biblical story that pits the two sisters [Leah and Rachel] against one another never sat right with me.  The traditional view of Leah as the ugly and/or spiteful sister, and of Jacob as indifferent to her, seemed odd in light of the fact that the Bible gives them nine children together.  As I re-read Genesis over the years, I settled on the story of Dinah, their daughter.  The drama and her total silence...cried out for explanation, and I decided to imagine one."
Her argument, I think, makes sense.  When observing the relationship between Jacob and his wives, when reading over Dinah's story in the Bible, Diamant's explanation of events in The Red Tent is logical and thoughtful.  She admits that her novel is "not a translation but a work of fiction" and it is a "radical departure from the historical text," but her book, regardless, raises questions about events in the Bible:  what happened to Dinah and her mothers?

As you might expect, The Red Tent begins with Dinah's mothers - Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah - and explains their relationship to one another, to Jacob, and to Dinah.  Considering the evidence (i.e. Leah had eight sons and one daughter by Jacob), Diamant's assertion that Jacob may not have been so indifferent to Leah, that he simply favored Rachel for her beauty and youth, seems plausible.  Their relationships are framed with human interaction, thus they are not easily discounted in my mind.

Additionally, if you compare The Red Tent to Genesis 34, as the reading guide suggests, you see how well Diamant parallels events from the Bible in her novel and, more importantly, breathes life into Dinah's story when she has no voice of her own.  She draws a spotlight to events, proposes questions that suggest her novel has an element of plausibility.

For instance, Shalem (named Shechem in the Bible) falls in love with Dinah and intends to marry her.  Diamant proposes a mutual attraction between Dinah and Shalem, which isn't a far-fetched assertion when you read:  "And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and he spake kindly unto the damsel. / And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife" (Genesis 34:3-4).

Although the word "defiled" is thrown about, Shalem loved Dinah and he had ever intention to marry her.  More importantly, he agreed to some very strict stipulations to accomplish this, which certainly proves his commitment to Dinah (Genesis 34:11-24).  Could not Dinah have reciprocated, since her father ultimately agreed?

Furthermore, Diamant's characterizations of Simon and Levi as power-hungry, violent, and temperamental are not far off from the mark.  Simon and Levi murder every man in the city of Shechem and, furthermore, pillage and enslave (Genesis 34:25-31).  They are said to treat Shalem and Hamor deceitfully when negotiating marriage, when deciding upon a truce between the families of Hamor and Jacob (Genesis 34:13).

But what happened to Dinah after she was taken from Shechem?

Diamant may certainly have had resources at her disposal that I do not, which may explain how and why she decides to link Dinah to Egypt; however, I suppose the link could be natural.  If Dinah stayed with her family, she would probably be mentioned again.  Since she isn't found again in Genesis (at least, not as far as I've read), she could have made her way to Egypt.  The journey wouldn't be far, as attested by Joseph's appearance in Egypt, thus Dinah could have made the journey.

I do, however, find it interesting that Dinah meets her brother Joseph after so many years of separation from her family.  I like that Diamant does forge a small link back to Dinah's past and, more importantly, allows Dinah to recognize that her name will be remembered in some context:  "The story of Dinah was too terrible to be forgotten.  As long as the memory of Jacob lived, my name would be remembered.  The past had done its worst to me, and I had nothing to fear of the future."

I realize The Red Tent is a work of fiction.  It isn't meant to stand alone as a religious text, despite its link to the Bible, despite the biblical characters that appear in it; however, I also recognize that Diamant certainly did her research in imagining Dinah's story.  As the reading guide points out, "midrash" - an ancient literary form, which investigates or "searches" for answers outside of the typical range of the Bible - was a critical element:
"Historically, the rabbis used this highly imaginative form of storytelling to make sense of the elliptical nature of the Bible - to explain, for example, why Cain killed Abel.  The compressed stories and images in the Bible are rather like photographs.  They don't tell us everything we want or need to know.  Midrash is the story about what happened before and after the photographic flash."
Diamant, in my opinion, successfully combines biblical knowledge, historical fact, and imaginative fiction to create an intriguing and compelling story.

Monday, February 9, 2015

In Progress: The Red Tent (Completed)

Picador Publishing
I have finished reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and, let me simply say, I've found it to be one of the most exceptional novels I've read.  So much of this book appealed to me - Dinah's voice, her history, her life - and spoke to my reader's heart.

The Red Tent is a perfect combination of storytelling and history and, more importantly, memory.  In fact, I wouldn't hesitate to say that's one of the most important aspects of Diamant's novel:  memory.

And love.

Leading up to her journey to Egypt, Dinah's life is painfully tragic.  She's witnessed so much death, so much bloodshed, and she's endured so much pain.  However, despite her terrible losses, Dinah manages to survive and she recovers or, more accurately, discovers herself.  She regains love, which she thought lost with her first husband, which she finds with Benia, and she grows into her calling as a midwife.

Although it may sound contrived, love helps her heal.  Love for her son, love for Benia, brings her back from the brink.  Love for her dear friend, Meryt, and love for human life, her power as midwife to save the lives of mothers and children, gives her a renewed purpose.  And she has so much to tell, so much knowledge to share with those who would listen.
Earlier in her story, Dinah proclaims:
"You come hungry for the story that was lost.  You crave words to fill the great silence that swallowed me, and my mothers, and my grandmothers before them.  [...]  I am so grateful that you have come.  I will pour out everything inside me so you may leave this table satisfied and fortified."
Indeed, she pours out her story.  She fills that "great silence" with her memories and her knowledge, what she knows to be true and what she will pass to the next generation.  Her story, as I've mentioned in previous posts, is another link in the chain of mothers and daughters.

There's a longevity in the words of Dinah - the words that Diamant has so carefully grafted - and they linger, they live on.  By the end of the book, Dinah has gained a kind of immortality, like the lotus flower she mentions:
"Egypt loved the lotus because it never dies.  It is the same for people who are loved.  Thus can something insignificant as a name - two syllables, one high, one sweet - summon up the innumerable smiles and tears, sighs and dreams of a human life."
You can find a certain poetry in her words that makes them undeniably, irrevocably true.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

In Progress: The Red Tent (Continued)

Picador Publishers
I've nearly finished The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  So far, I have learned of the fate of Dinah, learned the tragedy of her life and, furthermore, the fate of Shechem.  Oh, it's a hard thing to watch as Dinah's story unfolds and her life seems to unravel.

She continues along her route as storyteller, but her tale is no longer the tale of a young girl growing into her maidenhood but a woman who has suffered loss and endured unspeakable things.  You share her agony, you share her worry and her fear and her sorrow.  You see as she sees that some hope may endure, and you feel as she feels whens he turns her back upon the tribe of Jacob.

It's well and truly heart-breaking.

I still enjoy the familiar treats of Diamant's novel:  Dinah's voice, her strength and her sadness and her character, as she weaves an unfamiliar and intimate story.  It's her voice that continues to capture me, to keep me riveted even after I have had my heart broken with her.

And I've learned to enjoy the traditions of the women of her family.  I like that Dinah upholds the unbroken line of mothers.  I like that she has such a link from mother to daughter and so on and so forth into an indeterminate future.  While I cannot say I understand the traditions of the red tent, the traditions of her mother and her mother's mother, I find Dinah's connection to the past and family a reassuring thought.

Her traditions give her depth.  Her traditions give her purpose.  Her traditions give her hope.

Perhaps, that is why I've enjoyed Dinah and her story so completely.  I realize she is a fictional character, a creation woven from one small mention in another greater text, but I find that doesn't matter.  She's so real and raw, and she has a place.

Some element of Dinah does exist, she perseveres in a strange immortality of the written word.  Fictional or not, Dinah lives and breathes on the page as surely as if she had lived and breathed in the lands of her father or the banks of the Egyptian river.

I continue to love Dinah's story.  I continue to love her voice, her tale of girlhood and womanhood and, finally, motherhood.  I continue to enjoy The Red Tent with unabated ardor, and I have a feeling I will continue to do so.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

In Progress: The Red Tent (Continued)

Image courtesy of Barnes and Noble
I've managed to make it midway through The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  So far, I'm enjoying the journey.  I love the story that Dinah has to tell; more accurately, I love the way in which she tells it.  Dinah has such a unique perspective, an almost poetic way of telling her story that's absolutely enchanting.

For instance, I love her descriptions of her mother, Leah:  "Leah's scent was no mystery.  She smelled of the yeast she handled daily, brewing and baking.  She reeked of bread and comfort..."  Likewise, her description of Rachel is enchanting:  "Rachel smelled like water.  Really!  Wherever my aunt walked, there was the scent of fresh water.  It was an impossible smell, green and delightful and in those dusty hills the smell of life and wealth."

And, if this makes sense, I like how Diamant manages to make Dinah's analogies realistic, reasonable for its context in the ancient world.  For example, when Dinah describes Bilhah as being good - "good the way milk is good, the way rain is good" - her description makes perfect sense.  Both milk and water were necessary for survival in such a harsh landscape, thus they were good.

Furthermore, I like the way that Dinah explains their beliefs.  Their world is one of gods and spirits and demons, so it's intriguing to see the ways in which Dinah describes her mothers' religious beliefs and her own, as they're shaped by the singular god of Jacob's tribe - El, Jehovah, God - and the multitude of gods of her mothers' tribe.

Their time was not as it is now, in which we have explanations for diseases, mathematics and physics to explain natural phenomenon.  So it's interesting to see how their world works and how they worship their gods, looking to them for explanations.  There are so many cultures and ideals clashing, crashing together to form something entirely unique to Dinah.

And that's what I like about Dinah, I think.  I like that Diamant shapes her character to the fullest extent, taking into consideration her heritage and her upbringing and her environment.  Dinah is truly given a life of her own within the pages of The Red Tent.

Oh, and I found a wonderful passage in my reading:
"The women sang like birds, only more sweetly.  They sounded like the wind in the trees, but louder.  Their voices were like the rush of the river's water, but with meaning.  Then their words cease and they began to sing with sound that meant nothing at all, yet gave new voice to joy, to pleasure, to longing, to peace."
Now, after I started reading The Red Tent, I did a little research on its reception in the literary community.  Diamant's novel has received some very high praise and, nearly 18 years later, has managed to maintain a respectable 4 of 5 stars on most websites which use that sort of rating (Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.).  However, I've stumbled across some comments that denounce it for its imperfections and question its accuracy.

The Red Tent is a work of fiction.  It's based on biblical characters about whom we know very little, thus it's hard to say it would be completely accurate.  We have no way of knowing how these people truly lived or worked or worshiped.  We can only guess - and, personally, I think that Diamant does a spectacular job of guessing.

As for the biblical integrity of The Red Tent, I can't really speak to that either, but I feel that Diamant does a decent job of paralleling the story in Genesis.  Complaints that Diamant simply tried to vilify individuals in the Bible, attempted to debase them, are weak at best.

For instance, Jacob, regardless of his exalted position in the Bible, had four wives and he begot several children (twelve, to be precise).  More to the point, I think it important to remember that he's only human.  You can't tell me he didn't have some kind of carnal desires.  Likewise, the Bible is filled with indiscretions.  You don't even have to look out of the first book of the Bible to find that Lot, even unintentionally, impregnates his daughters (Genesis 19), or Tamar tricks her father-in-law into having sex with her (Genesis 38).

The list goes on.

If you're going to say the Bible doesn't include sex and debauchery, murderers and liars and thieves, quintessential sin, you obviously haven't read very far or you've found a sanitized version.  The Bible doesn't conceal humankind's faults.  There's no two ways about it, people are sinners and they are going to do bad things.

Diamant, I think, just isn't afraid to point it out.

Friday, February 6, 2015

In Progress: The Red Tent

The Red Tent
Image courtesy of
I recently picked up a book called The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  I found a used copy for a bargain after I saw commercials for a serialized television show on Lifetime, a short series by the same name.  I was intrigued, of course, so I thought, "Why not?"

Turns out, I found an unexpected gem.

So far, I've only managed to slip into the first couple of chapters, in which Dinah tells the stories of her mothers, the wives of Jacob, but I have enjoyed this book immensely.  I like the depth and the detail of it, the way it reaches into the past to bring forth a story that I admit, I hadn't realized existed.  It's a riveting story.

And Diamant has given Dinah such a unique voice.  She is a daughter, a mother, a midwife, a caretaker, and a storyteller, and I find that in her is some ancient female wisdom, some link to a history that is sometimes overlooked and often forgotten.  She brings memories back from the brink, gives them life again.  "It is terrible how much as been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing."

So much of the Old Testament is patriarchal.  Sons become fathers who beget more sons, and so on and so forth in an unbroken line.  Women, however, are fewer and farther in between these great men who appear in the Bible.  I'm not saying there aren't great women, but so many are the mothers or lovers of great men, rather than individuals in their own right.

Dinah holds in her a link from mother to daughter and beyond, a record-keeping of female knowledge and trust and secrets.  From the beginning, her story seems important - feels important, regardless that it's a work of fiction.  She's a storyteller who is ready to lay her life out before you:
"I am so grateful that you have come.  I will pour out everything inside me so you may leave this table satisfied and fortified.  Blessings on your eyes.  Blessings on your children.  Blessings on the ground beneath you.  My heart is a ladle of sweet water, brimming over."
Confidentially, I love it already.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Place at the Table

Image courtesy of
A Place at the Table
Susan Rebecca White

The Summary
Following the lives of Alice Stone, Bobby Banks, and Amelia Brighton, Susan Rebecca White weaves a subtle tale of loss, acceptance, and life in general as her characters cross paths in the unexpectedly popular Café Andres.

The Good
To be perfectly honest, A Place at the Table is something of a heartbreaker.  Alice Stone, Amelia Brighton, and Bobby Banks all struggle with individual trials as they seek to find themselves and redefine themselves.  Whether its familial turmoil, divorce, or personal loss, Amelia and Alice and Bobby each face tragic circumstances that they must surmount and, in time, accept.

I will say, however, I loved Bobby's story.

Alice's tale comes in bits and pieces, through hints and recollections she sparingly supplies to Bobby and Amelia when they meet, so I didn't really have the opportunity to fully embrace her as a character.  I liked her, but I didn't have much invested in her.

Likewise, I liked and enjoyed Amelia's story.  As a woman who's recently undergone a rocky divorce, Amelia is on a quest to recover herself and uncover who she is and where she comes from.  I really enjoyed reading about how she changed, how she grows into her own and, more importantly, how she learns to love and accept herself after being emotionally devastated by her husband.

However, I simply have a special place in my heart for Bobby.

Maybe, I liked his story best because it came first in the book.  Maybe, I liked his story because he grows up in the southern United States.  Either way, I latched onto his story as my favorite.  As his story progressed, I couldn't help wishing the best for him - and I was infinitely grateful for his Meemaw, who decided, "Your meemaw is not going to let anyone throw you to the wolves.  Your meemaw is going to keep you loved and safe."

That was it for me.  I needed a box of Kleenex.

The Bad
I found very few negatives in A Place at the Table.  I mean, certainly nothing worth pointing out as a major deterrent.

I would like to have read more about Bobby and I would like to have found more of his story further into the book; however, I was suitably captivated by Amelia's story in the latter half of the book that it isn't really a major complaint.  I'll get over it, you know.

The Ugly
Alice faces segregation and prejudice, sometimes blatant racism, and endures a terrible schism in her family.  Bobby finds himself ostracized for his homosexuality and faces further tragedy in losing two of the most important people in his life.  Amelia endures a messy, terrifying divorce, which leaves her to pick up the pieces of her life and put them back together again, and struggles to find her own identity when her family has no past - and no apparent future.

Let me put it bluntly:  it's emotionally draining.