Saturday, January 19, 2019

sweet water

Sweet Water: A Novel

I have read a couple of books by Christina Baker Kline and when I saw sweet water at the used bookstore I decided to try it.  I'm glad I did, because I couldn't even put it down! I found it to be a very interesting story.
This story is told by two women...Cassie Simon and her grandmother, Clyde.  The women tell their stories to the reader alternately.

The book begins with the grandmother telling the story of the night her daughter, Cassie's mom Ellen, died. Cassie lost her mother when she was three years old.  She and her father moved from the Sweet Water, Tennessee area to the East coast right after that.  So Cassie did not know her mother's parents, Amory and Clyde.  Cassie worked in New York City at an art gallery. One day she received a call from Tennessee informing her that her grandfather had died and left her the old family home and some land.  Cassie decided to move there, sight unseen to try to get back on track with her sculpting.

When Cassie arrived in Sweet Water she went to her grandmother's newer home and attempted to get to know her, along with her aunts, uncles and cousins.  It was clear as soon as Cassie arrived that there was something going on.  Some of the family were welcoming, others were not.  As Cassie tried to learn more about her mother Ellen's life and her death, she encountered resistance and was aware that there seemed to be family secrets going on.

As Cassie attempted to learn more, she began to piece some things together and had to help her grandmother find some peace and acceptance.

There was a line in the book that was what was written on Ellen's tombstone:

"Memory believes before knowing remembers."
It is from Faulkner's book Light in August.  The full quote is:

 "Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. Knows, remembers, believes." 
 I had never read that before.  It really struck me.

This is a book that I will read again at some point.  I really liked it.

The Clock Dance

I love Ann Tyler's books and The Clock Dance was no exception.  It is a fairly new release and I was lucky enough to get it as a Christmas gift!
Clock Dance (The Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)
The book is divided into four sections of Willa Drake's life, with each section telling about major events in Willa's life.

The first section is 1967 when eleven year old Willa's mother disappeared for several days. Her mother had left home before in a rage, but never more than overnight.  Willa's father always excused his wife by saying she was overtired or high-strung.  Willa would often make excuses for her mother's rages, too. Willa would think:

"She wasn't always angry. She had lots of good days."

The next section is 1977.  Willa was in college, her boyfriend was good-looking and popular (the senior class president) and he wanted to go home with Willa over spring break to meet her parents.  As it turned out, he had Willa's life all planned out for her.

Next was 1997 and Willa's husband died in an accident, leaving her with their two high school age boys, trying to figure out her new life.

More than half of the book takes place in 2017.  Willa wasn't very close to her boys.  She and her new husband had moved to Arizona away from her friends and she, again, was trying to figure out her life.  One day she got a call from a stranger on the East coast. Her oldest son's ex-girlfriend was in the hospital and someone needed to come and care for the woman's nine year old daughter.  Willa had never met either one of them, but she somehow felt that she needed to go.  As she became involved in their lives and those of the neighbors, Willa experienced what real connection with others was like. And that is where Willa finally was able to become her true self.

This novel is a great story of finding oneself, hope and beginning again.

People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks was a book group choice.  I didn't really enjoy it all that much, but stuck with it.  I will admit that it got better by the end of the book.  It is a fictional novel based on a true story. 

The story is about an Australian rare book expert, Hannah, who is chosen to go to Sarajevo in 1996 to preserve the Sarajevo Haggadah.  It had been missing for the past hundred years.  This Haggadah was a bit different from others as it had survived since the 14th century in Spain.  The other striking thing was the illustrations in the Haggadah were stunningly beautiful.  While working on the book, Hannah discovered some clues as to where the book may have been at different times.

People of the Book: A Novel

The chapters of this novel are divided by person, place and time, with each chapter telling another piece of the mystery of where the Haggadah may have been hidden.  That's where I had the most trouble with the book.  The times of the chapters were not in chronological order and I found that quite confusing. There are also a large number of characters to try to keep straight in the reader's head.

I do think that the book was an excellent opportunity to learn more about history and what people might have done to keep the Haggadah from harm.

[SIDE NOTE: The Haggadah is a Jewish book that is read by Jewish families on the first night of Passover at the Seder meal, telling the stories of the survival of the Jewish people.]