Daily Archives: October 12, 2009

TLC Book Tour – Goldengrove

Goldengrove-large francine-prose-199x300

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours, Francine Prose and Harper Perennial for putting Goldengrove into my hands for review. I read this book the first part of this month (read my review) and was completely sucked into Prose’s beautiful writing and the story of Nico – a thirteen year old girl growing up in the wake of her older sister’s tragic death.

Goldengrove is about loss, grief and recovery. It struck me that readers who have lost a loved one from unexpected death, especially when that loved one is a child, might find this novel difficult to read. Below are a couple of links to organizations which provide support to individuals dealing with this kind of loss:

The Compassionate Friends

The mission of The Compassionate Friends is to assist families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child of any age and to provide information to help others be supportive.

Today more than 600 chapters serving all 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico offer friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members during the natural grieving process after a child has died. Around the world more than 30 countries have a Compassionate Friends presence, encircling the globe with support so desperately needed when the worst has happened.

Griefworks, BC

Griefworks BC exists through a partnership between Children’s & Women’s Health Centers of British Columbia and Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

Griefworks BC facilitates access to bereavement support when and where it is needed.

Book Information:

Title: Goldengrove, by Francine Prose
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060560029
ISBN-13: 978-0060560027
Available wherever books are sold, including Amazon.

A little about Francine Prose:

Francine Prose is the author of fifteen books of fiction, including A Changed Man and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. Her latest novel, Goldengrove, was published in September 2008. She is the president of PEN American Center. She lives in New York City.

Listen to Francine Prose on BlogTalk Radio (air date September 24, 2009)

To read more reviews of Goldengrove, visit the tour page on TLC Book Tours for links.


Goldengrove – Book Review

Goldengrove-largeI looked at myself in the mirror. And I saw her. With each step, Margaret’s ghost expanded. Gingerly, I touched the glass. I thought of those fairy-tale mirrors that show you your dearest wish in return for some terrible price. Mirror, mirror on the wall. Your firstborn son for straw woven into gold, a glimpse of your drowned sister for something more expensive. Margaret filled the mirror and floated off the edges, and by the time I’d backed away far enough for the glass to contain her, Margaret had vanished, and there I was, wearing her hula shirt. – from Goldengrove, page 50 –

People told us we looked alike, but I couldn’t see it. Margaret was the beautiful sister, willowy and blond. The lake breeze carried her perfect smell. She smelled like cookies baking. She claimed it wasn’t perfume. It was her essence, I guessed. I was the pudgy, awkward sister. I still smelled dusty, like a kid. – from Goldengrove, page 8 –

It was meant to be an idyllic summer – a summer like all the ones before it. But when thirteen year old Nico’s older sister Margaret dives into Mirror Lake and never surfaces, everything changes. Set in New England, Goldengrove is the story of that fateful summer. Narrated in the provocative and compelling voice of Nico, the novel reveals the cracks in a family which widen with the tragedy. Nico, on the cusp of womanhood, finds herself floating free without the sage advice of her sister. Nico connects with Margaret’s boyfriend, the artistic and slightly strange Aaron – a person whom she feels free to share her stories of Margaret and the pain of loss. But Aaron is also struggling with Margaret’s death…and in Nico he sees the young woman who he once loved.

I knew the reason Aaron liked being with me was that I reminded him of my sister. I’d catch him squinting at me, searching for traces of her. I knew it, and I didn’t. Some part of me believed that Aaron liked the part of me that was Nico, whoever that was. I felt as if Margaret were a plant inside me that, nurtured by Aaron, had begun to blossom. Mostly, it was fine with me, but sometimes – usually when I was tired or lonely – it scared me. I felt as if I, and not Margaret, was the one who had disappeared, or as if I’d become a petri dish in which my sister was growing. There were days when I wanted to say, “I’m the living sister.” – from Goldengrove, page 174 –

As the summer slips by, Aaron and Nico’s relationship inches towards a dangerous conclusion … and Nico must struggle to  move from adolescence into adulthood, and come to an understanding of her own needs in the wake of her sister’s death.

Francine Prose’s novel is that of grief, recovery, and the search for one’s identity. Tender, yet realistic, Goldengrove explores the impact of suddenly losing a child and a sibling. Although the story is told from Nico’s point of view, Prose gives the reader a glimpse into the devastation such a loss has on parents.

Margaret’s death had shaken us, like three dice in a cup, and spilled us out with new faces in unrecognizable combinations. We forgot how we used to live in our house, how we’d passed the time when we lived there. We could have been sea creatures stranded on the beach, puzzling over an empty shell that reminded us of the ocean. – from Goldengrove, page 50 –

Prose does a remarkable job building her characters. Nico’s father’s relationship with his youngest daughter is flawlessly portrayed. Nico clings to her father, wants the connection with him, but also pushes him away as she discovers her own sexuality and desires. Their love of art and reading binds them together, even when everything else seems to be changing.

We were silent for miles. How strange that my father was writing the book about the end of the world, when I was the one who believed that it was going to happen. – from Goldengrove, page 164 –

I read this novel late into the night – drawn to Nico and her journey through grief.  Prose writes radiantly and with a deep understanding of her characters. If there is a flaw in the novel, it is the ending when Prose lifts the reader away from Mirror Lake and the adolescent Nico, and transports us into Nico’s life as an adult. I would have preferred the book end on page 264 – still drenched in late summer sun with a hopeful glimpse into the future.

Despite this minor complaint, Goldengrove is a book I can recommend for its beautiful writing and tender look at a young girl growing up in the wake of tragedy.


Read more about the author on my TLC Book Tour.

Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same – Book Review

Sometimes We're Always Real Same-SameGo smiled, said, “When we see ourselves without judgment, then we’ll begin to see and accept others without judgment. We’ll turn the volume down on the external world, and we’ll see we’re all connected, we’re all same-same.” – from Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same, page 175 –

Cesar is a troubled seventeen year old, growing up on the streets of Los Angeles. His father is mostly absent. His older brother, Wicho, is serving time for the murder of two teenage boys. Cesar is fast following in his brother’s footsteps – a member of a gang whose violence is pulling Cesar into a world where there is no future. Concerned about her son, and wishing to start over, Cesar’s mother decides to move back to the small town of Unalakleet, Alaska – a fishing village where she grew up. Cesar at first believes the move to be temporary…and makes a bet with his cousin Go-boy that he will move back to LA within a year. But Cesar is unprepared for the power of his cousin’s optimism. Go-boy believes in a Good World Conspiracy…and he is ready to lead the way, sporting an Eskimo Jesus tattoo on one arm while philosophizing about the strength of goodness in their small town.

Go was the only person I’d ever known who could take a good perspective on anything, and the only person I knew who assumed I could and would do the right thing, the good thing. It was obvious that when Wicho told me he believed I would go to college and get him out of jail, he was just messing with a little kid, trying to cheer up his sorry- and lonely-ass little brother. But when Go-boy bet me I’d stay in Alaska, and when Go-boy encouraged me to pursue a hundred other interests and plans, even invited me to help him, it felt authentic. All of it. It was real. And I liked the version of myself that Go-boy saw. – from Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same, page 116 –

As Cesar adapts to life in Unalakleet, his vision of the world begins to change. Together, with Go-boy and Go-boy’s half sister Kiana, Cesar begins to envision a different future for himself.

I wrote that if we had grown up here, Wicho wouldn’t have shot anybody. There were no gangs on the tundra. Nobody was shooting to claim shoreline. Nobody was walking around town flashing anything but a wave. – from Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same, page 130 –

And when it was deep up here our boats didn’t get stuck, and when all of life’s shit landed on a single day, when the moment arose that we wanted to reach for our guns and spray a bullet or two through a couple people, instead we could drive up North River till we ran out of gas, sit on the shore, skip some rocks, and never see another person. Time was everywhere. We could wait anything out. – from Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same, page 130 –

Mattox Roesch’s debut novel is about hope born of our connectedness with others. Dark at times, the story explores the roots of despair and how easily an individual can choose the wrong path in their search for identity. Narrated in the original voice of seventeen-year-old Cesar, Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same reveals the struggle in choosing a moral path, the guilt of past actions which can not be undone, and the attempt to find meaning in one’s life.

Roesch’s prose is marked by breaks in the narrative, a shifting between past and present. This style did not always work for me, and although it did create a tension in the novel, I found it mostly annoying. Despite this, I thought Roesch got the voice of Cesar “right.” Tough and occasionally insensitive, Cesar was not always a likable character. Although the novel is about Cesar’s growth, I was more strongly drawn to Go-boy who is a quirky, sensitive guy wanting desperately to believe in the goodness of others. Go-boy’s decompensation, as Cesar becomes stronger, was a powerful aspect of the book.

I finished this book with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I loved the message of the book and the originality of the prose. On the other hand, I found Roesch’s style sometimes difficult to read. I believe young adults will be drawn to Roesch’s teenage narrator and Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same would make for an excellent book discussion. Readers looking to gain insight into a troubled teen’s thoughts will find this novel compelling.


Read-A-Thon Pile

24HourRead-A-ThonAs I posted yesterday, I will be participating in Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-A-Thon again on October 24th and 25th…and I have been contemplating which books I will read for the event. I’ve learned from past history that I need to read engaging, light books (novels usually in the mystery, thriller or chick-lit genres) or short stories. After about six hours of reading non-stop, my brain begins to feel like mush. Anything deep or thoughtful just doesn’t work at that point.

So after much thought, I’ve narrowed it down to the following stack of books from which to choose (subject to change depending on my mood on the morning of the event):

  • Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson
  • Bundle of Trouble by Diana Orgain
  • Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton
  • Reasons For and Advantages of Breathing: Stories by Lydia Peelle
  • The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano
  • The Cradle by Patrick Somerville
  • Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall

Others I am considering:

  • Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble
  • Driftwood Summer by Patti Callahan Henry
  • The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
  • Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
  • The Embers by Hyatt Bass
  • After You by Julie Buxbaum
  • No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

What do you think? Have you read any of these books? If you’re planning to participate in the Read-A-Thon, have you selected your books yet? If so, stop by the Read-A-Thon blog and leave a link to your list.

Mailbox Monday – October 12, 2009

mailboxMonday1Welcome to Mailbox Mondays, hosted by Marcia each week at The Printed Page.

My mailbox has not been running over with books these days – and for a good reason. I’ve decided to stop accepting and requesting books for review for the next six months… with the exception of books from TLC Book Tours (I consistently get awesome books from them and love their site), and an occasional book that just screams out to me. Why? Because I am way behind in my review books and need about 6 months to catch up!

Anyway, this week I got a book which I just couldn’t turn down:

CreedOfViolence The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran arrived from Jim Kelley at Kelley and Hall Book Publicity. Teran is an acclaimed author of four previous novels. God Is a Bullet was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Teran has also been nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and has won the John Creasey Award in England. His latest novel (due out the beginning of November) is set in 1910 Mexico. Press releases about the book read: ‘ Set against a backdrop of intrigue and corruption, The Creed of Violence is a saga about the scars of abandonment, the greed of war, and America’s history of foreign intervention for the sake of oil.” To read more about the Boston Teran and his work, visit the author’s website.

What arrived at YOUR house this week?