The Dangers of Superstition

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The Good People by Hannah Kent

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Troubles have arrived at the Leahy home. When Nora and Martin Leahy’s daughter, Johanna, dies, they are left with their 4-year-old grandson to care for.  But Micheal is not as he was when they last saw him two years ago.  At that time, he was talking and walking and a normal little boy.  Now he’s unable to walk or even stand and he doesn’t talk.  He screams out in the night and flails his bent arms.  Nora sees nothing of her grandson in him but with Martin’s help, they care for him as best as they can.  But when Martin dies suddenly, Nora has difficulty dealing with her grandson and all of the other work now on her shoulders.  She hires a young woman, Mary, to come and help with the house and Micheal.

The entire town starts to have troubles. The cows aren’t producing much milk and the hens aren’t laying many eggs.  Could it be the fairy people (the Good People as they are known) who are causing their troubles?  Or is it the odd little boy, Micheal?  Is he a changeling left by the fairies?  Nora takes Micheal to Nance, the old woman who is known to have “knowledge” of the fairy world in the hope that she can bring back her “real” grandson who has been changed for this distorted version of Micheal.

I enjoyed this book very much. The author quickly creates a tense, unsettled atmosphere.  This Irish community in the 1820’s is inundated with superstition and folk lore.  They see signs in everything and their fears grow out of control.  The book is actually based on a real-life incident.

I’ve had the author’s first book, “Burial Rites”, on my TBR list for quite a long time but just have never gotten to it. I definitely will now.  This author reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Sharyn McCrumb, who writes of the people of the Appalachian Mountains with their own superstitions and knowings.

Recommended.

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

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Packed with emotion

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The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

This book is based on the real-fire catastrophic wildfire that took place in 1947 in Maine. There’s been a very long drought and Grace Holland and her best friend, Rosie, long for rain.  But the lack of water isn’t the only drought Grace is facing.  From what she hears from Rosie, Grace knows that her marriage bed is not what it should be.  A violent night with her husband leaves her pregnant with her third child.  This is her third pregnancy in less than two years and she’s exhausted.

When Grace is five months pregnant, the wildfires start to rage out of control. Her husband, Greg, leaves her with their two very young children to join the firefighters. The fires wreak havoc upon the homes and lives of Grace and Rosie.  But Grace’s tragedy doesn’t end the day of the fires.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Anita Shreve and she has surpassed herself with this book. I’ve read reviews saying that it’s too slow moving but I thought it was just perfect.  This is a complex plot that only begins with the tragic fires.  The author has done a masterful job of depicting the difficulties of this marriage, its effect on Grace and her longing for a better life.   I was glued to each page of this book and had no idea what was going on around me while I was reading it.  The day of the fire is edge of your seat suspenseful.  The story of Grace and her marriage and the time following the fire is so gorgeously written.   The ending brought tears to my eyes.

Most highly recommended.