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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

This is a book about maternal need, motherly love, and unimaginable loss.. Two mothers, one child, so many lies and secrets.

When my daughter was about three years old, I read a book on child abduction. I was an emotional wreck for months and I vowed to never read another book on the subject. For over 40 years I kept that pledge. Then along came What Was Mine. For some unknown reason, the materials that came with this book did not leave me weak with fear or unable to continue. This promised to be a story of child abduction that, perhaps, I could read.

I read the book in two days. It was interesting, not overly emotional, and beacause it was simply told in all the best ways, a fast read. It was a book about a seemingly unforgivable act, but after 21 years could the unforgivable actually be forgiven? By some, perhaps, but, as in real life, not by all.

Lucy, one of our mothers, never meant to commit a crime, but she did.
Marilyn, our other mother never meant to lose the treasure adored by herself and her husband, but she did. Lives changed, worlds came apart, and worlds came together.

The beauty of this book is the changing points of views. It was good to get into Lucy's mind, Marilyn's heart, and Mia/Natalie's head. It was good to learn to care about the three major characters through their feelings. I think this made the resolution, or non-resolution, more acceptable.

I don't want to give the story away, so suffice it to say there is a baby abduction that goes unsolved for 21 years, then suddenly through actions of the abductor, the crime is solved. So often the story would end here, but it did not. The action continues long enough for us to see how this crime and the solving of it affected the baby, who is a baby no longer. She now has the chance to make some decisions, to decide for herself what is and is not forgivable.

There is no happy, group hug solution. Neither is there a 'thank goodness, she's finally getting what she deserves' solution, but the child, the one most affected has the power to decide the outcome of this crime. How will she decide? Will she choose one over the other? Will she walk away from both and get on with her life.

This was an unexpectedly good read. I recommend it.
I received an ebook of this novel from New Galley.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND......Delilghtful, fun reading that reminds us of why we have read certain books.

Delightful. Delightful. Delightful!
I loved this book!

{Discloser: I first read this book as an e-book. Recently I received a review copy of the January 2016 paperback edition. I was happy to renew my acquaintance with the characters in this fun book.}

My review:
Sara loves books. Sara hates her mundane life in Sweden. Sara's dearest friend is her pen pal Amy, a single elderly lady living in Broken Wheel, Iowa. Broken Wheel is a sad broken town with little to recommend it except its characters, er...residents. What a group!

Sara saves her money and accepts pen pal Amy's invitation to visit Broken Wheel. The fun begins upon her arrival which happens on the day of Amy's funeral...oh my, what to do?

Sara has a visa for 2 months and finds that she doesn't want to return home.  The town jumps in and works feverishly to help her remain for that time or even longer. That is, after all, "what Amy would want."

It was through their mutual love of books that they became pen pals. Amy was a book collector; Sara, much younger, a book lover.  Everyone and everything in the book is related to literature, to books most of us have read. I loved that.

 Sara has magically 'inherited' anything that was Amy's, but doesn't feel it is truly hers. It belongs, she feels, to the town which Amy loved and which loved her in return. What to do? Open a bookstore in one of the vacant buildings in 'downtown' Broken Wheel using Amy's many books as stock, of course.

Certainly, something needs to be done to help Broken Wheel which is dying quickly, but a book store? One problem, now that Amy is dead, is that NO ONE in Broken Wheel reads or wants to read. As a former indie book store owner in a small town, I know that can be a huge problem. Never, fear. Sara is determined!

This book is a great character study for we get to know almost every character in town and Sara works feverishly to connect them to a piece of literature, to introduce them to the wonderful world of reading. This determination on Sara's part and the resistance on the townspeople's part is charmingly humorous. You'll love sad, scruffy George reading Kinsella's books, and Jen being introduced to Idgie because they are both strong women.

It took me a couple of chapters to become involved with the characters, but once that happened, I couldn't put it down. I loved the development of the characters and the rebirth of the town. At times, one storyline or another is drawn out a little too long, but those instances are minimal.

Mixed with the character development is a hint at many issues causing dissention in today's society. There is nothing heavy handed here and the issues are handled beautifully.

Finally, there is Tom. Sara's biggest challenge.

                "Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen..."

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend  was written by  Katarina Bivalk, a Swedish author who lives outside of Stockholm and grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Obviously, she had time to do a lot of reading, and we are the beneficiaries of her passion. This is her first novel. I hope it will not be her last.

I recommend The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend to those who love soft, easy reading. It is not quite a chick-lit, but close. Read it and see if any of your favorite books are mentioned, many are.

What other say:

"The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is one of the more surprisingly improbable and delightful books I've read in years.  What begins as an unlikely international friendship based on a mutual love of books becomes a sweet and soulful discovery of America.  Quirky, unpredictable, funny, and fresh – a wonderful book." - Nickolas Butler, internationally bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire

"Heartwarming and utterly charming...will captivate fans of ...Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry." Library Journal, Starred Review

"This classic fish-out-of-water story will steal your heart. It's smart, sweet, absorbing and endearing, just like the town of Broken Wheel. It's a story for everyone who believes in the magic of books to enlighten, heal and restore. A treat for readers everywhere!" - Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author of Starlight on Willow Lake

Join us, read and enjoy The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.