Compassionate story of maternal love

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The Caregiver by Samuel Park

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Ana and her little girl, Mara, take care of each other in their home in Copacabana, Brazil.   Ana works as a voice-over actress but her job brings in little money.  In desperation, she agrees to take a job posing as a citizen with information about student guerillas in an attempt to lure the violent Police Chief Lima from his post.  Ana then makes a decision that tears their lives apart.

Years later when Mara comes to America undocumented, she takes a job as a caregiver to a woman, Kathryn, who is suffering from stomach cancer.  Caring for Kathryn brings up memories of Mara’s mother and Mara struggles to come to terms with her past.

This is a beautifully written book about the relationship between a mother and daughter and what lengths a mother would be willing to go for her daughter.  The characters are very well developed and the book is full of heart and compassion.

The author, Samuel Parks, passed away from stomach cancer shortly after writing this book.  At the end of the book, his essay that was published in the New York Times is shared.  It’s called “I Had a 9 Percent Chance, Plus Hope” and it’s a must read for all.  After reading this book, I’m even more anxious to read “This Burns My Heart”.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Exquisitely written, intense and profound

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The Water Thief by Claire Hajaj

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Nick’s father has died and it has caused him to take a hard look at his life.  He’s living in London, works as an engineer and is engaged to the lovely Kate.  Yet he decides to leave that safe life and go off to a poor village in Africa to help build a children’s hospital.  He hopes to absolve his long-time guilt over an incident involving a childhood friend.  He stays at the home of Dr. Ahmed, his wife Margaret, and their children JoJo and Nagode.  There he’s faced with a moral dilemma.  The people are dying from a lack of water.  The Governor is charging exorbitant fees for water delivery.  Nick learns that there is a solution to the village’s problem – a water well can be dug.  But the Governor won’t consider it.  Nick so desperately wants to help these people that he makes a decision that will impact all.

This book completely tore my heart open and made me take a hard look at my own life.  I so admired Nick’s determination to help these people.   He wants to do the right thing and truly doesn’t understand why those in power wouldn’t feel the same.  He’s so torn by his love for Margaret and his respect for her husband.  And JoJo, this young boy on the edge of manhood who longs to become an engineer like Nick, absolutely broke my heart.  The author does an amazing job of bringing JoJo alive and detailing his descent into hopelessness.  The characters in this book will long live in my heart and memory.  This is one of the most thought-provoking, soul searching books I’ve ever read.

This is a masterpiece of a novel, exquisitely written, intense and profound, a book that should be required reading for all.  It should be given every prestigious award for literary excellence.  I most highly recommend it.

This book was given to me by the publicist in return for an honest review.

An emotional roller coaster

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Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

7-year-old Hanna is such a good little girl for her father.  But things are much different when she’s with her mother.  The little girl loves her father and feels he understands her.  She wants her mother out of the way – permanently.   Hanna has never spoken and though her parents have had many medical tests done, no reason for her muteness has been discovered.  Hanna’s mother, Suzette, has had a hard life.  Her mother was not the best to her and Suzette has vowed to do better with Hanna.  Suzette has also had a lot of medical issues and the stress due to difficulties with Hanna has brought Suzette to the breaking point.

This book is labeled as a thriller and at times I thought it was spreading into the supernatural genre and/or the horror genre.  But my take on the book is that the situation this family found themselves in was all too real, which made it all the more frightening.  This is a shocking story and at times it felt like it couldn’t possibly happen.  The battle of wits between this fragile mother and her young child was truly cringe inducing.   There is a scene towards the end of the book that completely brought me to tears.  The author does a fabulous job of keeping readers on an emotional seesaw.  One chapter had me thinking, oh, the poor little girl, and the next chapter had me thinking oh, the poor mother.  This was quite an emotional roller coaster of an experience.

This isn’t going to be for everyone and at times I wasn’t sure it was for me but then I’d start enjoying it again.  There are times when I felt like the young girl’s ability to manipulate and plan was unbelievable and I didn’t care at all for the foul language the mother used.  But it certainly kept up the tension and suspense.  Apparently the book has caused quite a bit of controversy and people are talking about it – a lot – so that’s certainly a plus for it.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Feeling a bit duped by advertising

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Red Leaves by Paullina Simons

Book Review:  2 out of 5 stars

I really had a difficult time getting through this book. The reason I chose it was that it was compared to Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History”.  There is no comparison other than the fact that the book involves a group of college friends.  There were several times when I wished I could just DNR this book but since I received a free copy from the publisher, I felt obligated to read the whole book in order to review it.  Apparently, this book was published by St. Martin’s in 1996 but has been out of print for many years and now William Morrow is re-publishing five of the author’s books over the next three years.  The author has received awards for her work so maybe it’s just me.

This story involves a young woman, Kristina Kim, and her very convoluted relationships with Connie, Jim and Albert. You know from the media’s blurbs that Kristina is going to be murdered.  She’s the narrator in the first section of the book, which consists mostly of repetitive conversations between the four “friends” about this one loves that one and that one loves this one and that one is cheating and that one wants the relationship to end, over and over and over again.  At one point, Kristina meets a policeman, Spencer O’Malley, with whom she has a flirtation.  It’s O’Malley who is assigned her murder investigation and he’s determined to find her killer.

There were so many times throughout this book when I thought “What??” Conversations were consistently a bit off, contradictory, stilted and unrealistic.  Events just didn’t fit together for me.   I didn’t find the end big reveal that shocking.  I did enjoy a few small sections of the book but then it would fall apart for me again.  I feel the story wasn’t a bad one but it was very poorly written.  My apologies to the publisher and author but truly, this book isn’t on par with “The Secret History” and shouldn’t be compared to it as it’s misleading.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.