Wanderers: Stories – Book Review and Giveaway

Wanderers

Wanderers: Stories by Edward Belfar
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: Stephen F. Austin University Press (June 5, 2012)

Edward Belfar’s collection of stories takes readers to dusty towns in Africa, on a honeymoon in Rome, and to Yankee Stadium, among other places. The characters who people these stories include a man who chooses the wrong wife, a woman who returns to her childhood home just outside Nairobi, a former pro baseball player who lives in squalor after missing a fly ball in a championship game, a man who seems to have lost it all and resists his brother’s offer of assistance, a Kenyan man desperate to provide for his wife and child, and a Greek Orthodox woman who moves from one lawsuit to the next. All of Belfar’s characters seem to find themselves disillusioned, failing at marriage or jobs or relationships, and searching for some kind of redemption and hope.

Mwangi, a Kenyan man is struggling with poverty and exhaustion in Something Small. He loves his wife and child, but feels hopeless to provide them with an adequate home.

For a moment, Mwangi, still a bit lightheaded, flirted with the idea of calling out sick and crawling into bed beside her. Today, Sunday, was his day of rest, when he worked only in the evening. Tomorrow – and countless more tomorrows – would bring fourteen hours of toil, the day spent at a downtown Barclay’s branch, where he labored as a teller, handling other people’s money, and the evening at the airport. It seemed to him that he lived only to work – to work without end and without reward, save the ability to sustain himself so that he could work some more. – from Something Small, page 123 -

It is no wonder then, when faced with a chance to make some extra money, that Mwangi is tempted to abandon his moral beliefs. This short story was perhaps my favorite of the collection because Belfar so clearly sets Mwangi’s life out for the reader and then places an ethical dilemma in his path.

Two of the stories in Belfar’s collection are connected by characters. In Roman Honeymoon, David and Salma travel to Rome for their honeymoon where David seems to regret his decision to marry, and Selma appears completely unhappy with not only David, but life in general. Later in Visitations, the reader gets to see the couple years later while David is recovering from an accident in hospital. I quite enjoyed this “fast forward” where questions which arose in Roman Honeymoon are answered in Visitations.

Belfar’s writing is vivid and character driven while anchored in a firm sense of place. The reader feels like a bit of a voyeur, peering into the lives of these troubled characters and hoping for them to find redemption.

This is not a feel good collection of stories. Often I found myself feeling nearly as hopeless as the characters, wishing them a better life, or a break, or a glimmer of happiness. The Ruined House was able to offer me a small light of hope. Njeri leaves her home in America to return to Nairobi where she grew up in a small village outside the city. At first she is dismayed at the changes to the area, then she is reminded of the beauty still present in the countryside.

Njeri exulted as the rich, undulant landscape that she remembered so well spread itself before her once again. Sisal plants that had taken root in the red soil by the roadside stretched out their broad, flat leaves to catch the sun. To the right, at the bottom of a gentle declivity, lay vast fields of maize, and every now and then, Njeri could discern the outlines of a human form hunched over amid the stalks. To her left, she saw banana orchards. – from The Ruined House, page 69 -

Despite finding her family home in disrepair, Njeri is able to find a trickle of hope for her country as she watches the caretaker’s son dash through a newly raked pile of leave and scatters them to the wind. “Things will get better,” reminds her brother.

After finishing these stories, I found myself thinking of the characters at odd times. The fact that I felt their despair and worried about them speaks well of Belfar’s ability to pull the reader into their lives.

Wanderers: Stories is a book which will appeal to readers who enjoy well-written short stories, especially those set in foreign lands.

3hstars

Read more reviews of this book by visiting the TLC Book Tour page and following the links.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EdwardBelfarEdward Belfar is a Long Island native who now lives with his wife in Maryland and works as a writer and editor. His fiction has appeared in ShenandoahTampa ReviewConfrontationNatural Bridge, and numerous other publications. His short story “Errors” was chosen as the winning entry in the Sport Literature Association’s 2008 fiction competition. Wanderers is his first book. Learn more about Belfar and his work by visiting the author’s website or his author page on Goodreads.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the author via TLC Book Tours for review on my blog.

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Want to Win a Copy of this Book?

  • Giveaway open from January 21 – January 28, 2013 (at 5:00 pm PST).
  • Entrants must have a US or Canada mailing address.
  • One entry per person please!
  • Complete the survey to enter: Click here to take survey
  • Winner will be announced here on my blog on January 29th. I will also contact the winner by email. Books will be mailed from the author/publisher.


Mailbox Monday – January 21, 2013

mailboxsqurrielWelcome to this week’s Mailbox Monday and which is hosted by Lori at Lori’s Reading Corner this month. Visit the dedicated blog for the  meme to see the complete tour schedule in the right sidebar.

Here is what showed up at my house this week:

RiverOfDustUnbridled Books sent me an Advance Readers Edition of River of Dust by Virginia Pye (May 14, 2013). This debut novel is set in northwestern China not long after the Boxer Rebellion. Mongol bandits swoop down upon an American missionary couple and kidnap their small child. On a  search for the boy, the Reverend quickly loses himself in the corrupt and drought-stricken countryside while Grace, his young wife who is pregnant with their second child, takes to her sick bed in the mission compound. “With their Christian beliefs sorely tested, their concept of fate expanded, and their physical health rapidly deteriorating, the Reverend and Grace may finally discover an understanding between them that is greater than the vast distance they have come.” The author was inspired, in part, by journals of her grandfather, who was himself an early missionary in China.

Virginia Pye holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and has taught writing at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University. A three-term president of James River Writers, a literary non-profit in Richmond, Virginia, she writes award-winning short stories that have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including The North American Review, Tampa Review and The Baltimore Review. She currently lives in Richmond. River of Dust is her first novel. Learn more about Pye and her work by visiting the author’s website.

BraceletFrom FSB Associates came a copy of The Bracelet by Roberta Gately (Simon & Schuster, November 2012). Gately’s second novel is set in Peshawar, Pakistan and centers around protagonist Abby Monroe who is determined to make her mark as a UN worker in one of the world’s most unstable cities. After witnessing the brutal murder of a woman thrown from a building, she is haunted by the memory of an intricate and sparkling bracelet that adorned the victim’s wrist. Abby meets former sex slaves at a woman’s shelter who have escaped their captors. Gradually, she gains the  girls’ trust. Joined by a dashing New York Times reporter and inspired by the women’s remarkable bravery, Abby traces evidence that spreads from remote villages of South Asia to the most powerful corners of the West, risking her life to offer a voice to the countless innocents in bondage.

A nurse, humanitarian aid worker, and writer, Roberta Gately has served in war zones ranging from Africa to Afghanistan. She has written extensively on the subject of refugees for the Journal of Emergency Nursing, as well as a series of articles for the BBC Worlds News Online. She speaks regularly on the plight of the world’s refugees and displaced. She is also the author of the novel Lipstick in Afghanistan. Learn more about Gately and her work by visiting the author’s website.

FrozenThe good folks from Tor Forge sent me a copy of Frozen by Kate Watterson (January 2013) which is the first book in a new series featuring Detective Ellie MacIntosch. Set in Northern Wisconsin, the novel opens as Bryce Grantham goes to his family’s cabin for a quiet vacation. But, when on his first night in town, he meets a lovely girl at a bar and gives her a ride home his vacation takes a turn for the worst. When Bryce tries to return the woman’s cell phone the next day, he discovers she has vanished, leaving behind only a bloody shoe. Ellie MacIntosch has a serial killer on her hands, but without a body, she has few leads and the stalled investigation has her on edge. Bryce Grantham seems to be the perfect suspect…but Ellie believes in his innocence. Will Ellie compromises the investigation, her career, and possibly her life in order to prove Bryce is not guilty? But first she must determine whether he is a manipulative, cold-blooded killer…or the victim of a madman playing a sickening game.

Kate Watterson has over thirty published books to her credit, plus five Eppie nominations, one Eppie win for best historical erotic in 2007, a RWA Lories win, WisRWA 2005 final for best historical romance, and is a CAPA nominee. She also writes under the pseudonyms Emma Wildes and Katherine Smith.  Learn more about Watterson and her work by visiting the author’s website.

ScentOfDarknessPantheon/Random House sent me a copy of Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin (February 2013). Set deep in the bayous of Louisiana, Berwin’s novel introduces readers to a world of fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and potent elixirs. This book  is described as “a magical, seductive story about the power of scent, and about what happens when a perfume renders a young woman irresistible.” When Evangeline is eighteen, her grandmother Louise (a gifted aromata) leaves her the ultimate gift—a scent created just for her. The small perfume vial is accompanied by a note from Louise: “Do not remove the stopper, Evangeline, unless you want everything in your life to change.” Here is a novel which promises to be “a bewitching tale of love, blood, power, and magic.

Margo Berwin is the author of the best-selling novel Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire. Her work has been translated into nineteen languages. She earned her MFA from the New School in 2005 and lives in New York City.

Did any wonderful books arrive at YOUR house this week?

 

 


Sunday Salon – January 20, 2013

Sunday Salon

January 20, 2013

Good morning and welcome to The Sunday Salon where bloggers share their love of books. To get more links for this weekly event, visit the Facebook Page.

A reminder for those of you planning on joining us for the Chunky Book Club in 2013 – today is the last day to vote for the four books we’ll be reading. I will be closing the poll at 5:00 pm PST today!

4RunnerMitchandWendy.020001This was a busy week for me. Kip and I finally decided it was time to buy a new car after eleven years and 250,000 miles. We’re keeping the old car as a commuter vehicle, but it has become rather untrustworthy for longer trips. After several days of research, we decided to buy a Toyota 4 Runner SR5 4WD – something that will get us into those wilderness areas we love, but also drive well in city traffic. Now that the stress of buying a new car is over, I feel like I can finally relax a little! For those of you who do not know Kip, that is NOT him in the photo – it is the salesman at our local Toyota dealer (who, by the way, was fabulous).

WanderersSo what was I reading this past week? Well, I finished a collection of short stories by Edward Belfar for a TLC Book Tour this week. I won’t say too much about the book because I’ll be reviewing it tomorrow, but I will say that the writing was good.

DeathOfBeesMy current read is a bit dark. The Death of Bees is a debut novel by Scottish writer Lisa O’Donnell. The main protagonists are Marnie, a nearly 16 year old girl who has seen her fair share of dysfunction, and her twelve year old sister Nelly. The girls’ next door neighbor, Lennie, also takes a lead role in the book…and he comes with his own emotional baggage. The novel opens with the reader learning that Marnie and Nelly’s parents are dead and buried in the back yard. Yup. Not pretty. I’m about 80 pages into the book and the jury is still out, not because the writing is poor (it is not), but because the subject matter is so bleak that I am not sure if I can keep reading. Stay tuned – I’ll be posting a review by mid-week most likely.

ColourOfMilkI think I’m going to read The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon next. Beth Kephart, who I love and admire and completely respect when it comes to literature, has been raving about this novel. That’s all I need to pick it up soon.

Today a good friend is coming over to sew with me and I am really looking forward to that! How about you? What are your plans for this Sunday in January? Whatever they are, I hope (at some point) you will have time to sit down with a great book!