Monday 12 March 2018

Books and treats on a March Break Monday morning...

It’s a chilly, overcast morning, but I’m enjoying a steaming cup of tea and a butter tart from the bakery in Erin, Ontario, which we picked up on the way home from visiting family this past weekend.  Snow is drifting down gently, a quiet reminder that it is still winter for a few more weeks.
I finished reading a book last week that is one of the Forest of Reading Evergreen Award nominees for this year, The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan.  I am no longer on the this award’s selection committee, but I’ve joined its newly formed steering committee, and this is one of the books for which I am responsible in terms of creating resources such as book club questions, readalike lists, etc.  This book is told in the form of stories that make up each chapter, stories that are told by one man, the hakawati (storyteller), a Syrian refugee living in Vancouver, to his dying partner, in the hopes that these stories will keep Death at bay for just a little longer.  These stories tell of the turbulent history of Syria, the hakawati’s troubled childhood growing up in Damascus and the cruelty he faced trying to hiding his budding sexuality while also struggling to embrace it, his moves from one city and country to another before finally meeting his life’s partner and moving to Canada, which, they discovered, was not as friendly and open an environment as they were led to believe.  Death is also a character in this novel, observing the storytelling and participating in the conversation at different points throughout the novel. It was an interesting novel, one which made me consider the power of storytelling and the reliability of memory. These are not happy stories, but Ramadan’s imagery and use of language are striking, and we are somehow left with a cautious sense of hope as we reach the final pages.  This novel, Ramadan’s debut in English, offers us stories from his own life as a gay man growing up in a dying Syria, which makes the emotional responses to these stories even more poignant because they are true. I found the novel difficult to follow at first, particularly the timeline of the stories in relation to the present (several decades from now), but after a few chapters, I realized that this wasn’t really as important as the stories themselves, and I just let this go.  While not an easy read, I think this is an important one, that these stories needs to be shared.
And I finished listening to an audiobook last week, Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger, featuring the improbably named Jones Cooper as a retired detective-turned-private-investigator.  The Hollows is a sleepy little town just outside of New York City, where mystery writer Bethany Graves and her teenaged daughter Willow move following an incident that makes Bethany fear for her daughter’s safety.  But Willow is different, more intelligent that the average teen, and this invites trouble in the form of truancy and poor choices in friends. During one such incident, Willow stumbles upon a man digging in the woods, placing her and her mother at the centre of a cold case, the disappearance of Marla Holt more than twenty years ago, a case that her grown son Michael wants reopened following the death of his father Mack.  With the help of Cooper and psychic Eloise Montgomery, The Hollows' police race to uncover the shocking truth behind Marla's disappearance and close this case once and for all. This book was all plot and no character development, but it was an OK listening experience. I don’t think I would rush out to download other books by this author, as her books are not really my style, but in a pinch I could listen to another if I had nothing else available.  It was a page-turner for sure, and would be a quick read, so if this is what you want, it might be a good option.

That’s all for today.  Enjoy the day, whether you are off for the Break or at work for the start of a new week.

Bye for now…

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