Tag Archives: two review

The Mother, by Yvvette Edwards

themother

The Mother

Yvvette Edwards

Amistad, 2016

256 pages

Yvvette Edwards’ A Cupboard Full of Coats is a favorite debut. I reviewed it back in 2013. It’s a novel about family and loss, and I blew through the book, while treasuring her writing and insights. It was a book that should have gotten more attention than it did.

Last year, Edwards published her second novel, The Mother. It is as moving as the first. Writing again about family and loss, The Mother focuses on Marcia Williams, a mother whose son was murdered and how she comes to terms with his death. I was riveted.

Set in London, Ryan Williams was a successful and responsible 16-year old boy who was stabbed to death by another teen, Tyson Manley, after school. The book recounts Tyson’s trial. Told in a close first-person point of view, the book recounts Marcia’s grief as she sits through the trial and learns the details of her son’s relationship with Tyson; they were connected though a girl, Sweetie.

As the trial progresses, Marcia becomes increasingly alienated from her husband, Lloydie, who is in such denial about his son’s death that he can’t attend the trial nor talk to Marcia about it. This novel is a powerful look at how a mother who tried to provide all he could for her son realizes that she ultimately couldn’t keep him safe, and how she begins to rebuild her life in the wake of this terrible loss.

I was so moved by this story and the way Edwards grapples with themes of race, crime and loss. This is a sad book, but deeply engrossing.

Edwards lives in London and is working on her next book. Waterstones published an interview with her about the book and her process of writing it.

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Cartwheel, by Jennifer duBois, a two review

Cartwheel_approved cover

Cartwheel

By Jennifer duBois

Random House, 2013

385 pages

Inspired by the Amanda Knox case, this novel (the author’s second) tells the story of an American foreign student accused of murdering another American while studying abroad in Buenos Aires for a semester.

Lily Hayes and Katy Kellers are roommates with a host family, the Carrizos, and while they get along well enough, they are mildly competitive. Katy is the “good” girl, who studies at night, charms the host mother and is getting over a recent break up. Lily is wilder. She bonds with the father of the host family more than the mother, she gets involved with an American boy who is the Carrizos’s neighbor and works at a local club. Five weeks in to their stay in Argentina, while the Carrizos are out of town for a baptism, Katy is murdered. Lily is one of the main suspects. Lily’s family (divorced parents and a younger sister) come to Buenos Aires to support her and come to terms with the fact that Lily is incarcerated in a foreign country. Told in alternating chapters the book recounts the weeks before and after Katy’s murder, exploring the question: could Lily have killed Katy?

This is a well-crafted book with great character explorations. I was very drawn to Lily’s dad, who is open and genuine, and to Lily herself. However, the scenes of Lily and Katy arriving in Buenos Aires were less compelling to me, than the scenes after the murder. The girls didn’t seem as curious about their new culture as I thought they might be. However, duBois does a great job exploring the connections between characters and in particular draws an interesting portrait of Lily’s family. Her parents lost a child before Lily and her sister were born and it is harrowing to think that they could lose another child to a Latin American jail sentence. I really enjoyed the themes explored in this book, in particular the idea that could Lily, a well-bred white girl attending a liberal arts college with well-meaning law abiding parents, commit murder in another country? DuBois examines Lily from multiple angles, including the view of the Argentinean prosecutor, Eduardo Campo. Cartwheel is a good read and an interesting look at how females can subvert each other.

DuBois teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University-San Marcos. She recently won a Whiting Writers’ Award. Congrats!

I received an e-book copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley.

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Introducing the “two review,” The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner

When I started this blog, I toyed between writing about first or second books and decided to go with debut novels and memoirs, as they are easier to find (debut usually being noted in an ad or review) and debuts are often overlooked by traditional reviewers. But in the last few months, I’ve read about second books that look intriguing and I decided that on occasion I will write about one that seems particularly notable. Hence, the “two review.”

Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers has gotten wide spread critical acclaim and is full of themes I like to read about – art, politics and female identity, and is set in New York and Italy, two places I am fond of. So I picked it up and found myself immediately draw to the hardback cover:

9781439142004

Reno is a young woman, just out of college with an art degree, who moves to New York in 1975 to pursue her photography and filmmaking. Living in SoHo she meets a diverse range of people — artists, art dealers, filmmakers, a diner waitress and your general art world tag-alongs. As the story unfolds she falls for Sandro Valera, an older Italian artist from a wealthy family, goes to Nevada, where she rides a motorcycle in a time trial across the desert, and then to Italy. Interspersed with her story is the back-story of the Valera family, starting with Sandro’s father who founded a motorcycle business in Milan.

There are moments of sublime beauty in this book. Kushner’s writing is elegant and moving. Reno finds her way in a new world and there are insightful lines about art, art creation, intimacy and human connection. Kushner has been called one of the best writers of this century for this book, and for the most part she comes through. But while she has garnered a lot of critical success, I noted that on Good Reads her reviews were more mixed. And I think that is because this book is more about a place (NYC) and a time period (the late 70s), than it is about a character or a personal journey. It is a beautifully rendered book, with compelling and unique characters, but without a strong, linear plot.

Kushner is from Oregon and now lives in LA. The Paris Review has a nice interview with her about the book. She also wrote in that journal about the images and artifacts that inspired the book.

I was happy to find a first edition of this book at a new independent bookstore that recently opened in my neighborhood, PowerHouse on 8th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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