Sunday, March 26, 2017

Book Thoughts - The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron

The Polygamist's Daughter The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron
published 3/21/17
272 pages

Synopsis - 

"My father had more than fifty children."So begins the haunting memoir of Anna LeBaron, daughter of the notorious polygamist and murderer Ervil LeBaron. With her father wanted by the FBI for killing anyone who tried to leave his cult--a radical branch of Mormonism--Anna and her siblings were constantly on the run with the other sister-wives. Often starving and always desperate, the children lived in terror. Even though there were dozens of them together, Anna always felt alone.She escaped when she was thirteen . . . but the nightmare was far from over. A shocking true story of murder, fear, and betrayal, The Polygamist's Daughter is also the heart-cry of a fatherless girl and her search for love, faith, and a safe place to call home.
My thoughts -

I feel like my heart was broken and stitched back together during the reading of this book.

Polygamy has been much in the news in the past few years, with the popularity of the TV show Sisterwives, and the widely-anticipated raid and subsequent imprisonment of cult leader Warren Jeffs. Memoirs of life inside these religious groups have been popular over the past years, and I've read a bunch of them. (In fact, last year I read The Sound of Gravel, a harrowing memoir by Anna's cousin, also raised in the same polygamist cult.) But I don't think I've read one that felt so deeply personal, and yet so universally hopeful.

I always find it difficult to read stories that include child abuse, and this book has it over and over again. As a mom, I find it difficult to understand how the adults in young Anna's life could have allowed such treatment to continue. I think it's impossible to read LeBaron's story without having your eyes opened - how often do I miss women and children who need help? How often do I cross paths with someone who just needs one little act of kindness to change their life?

The Polygamist's Daughter  reads  like a CSI case on steroids, and yet it's completely true - abuse, kidnapping, murder, all these were part of LeBaron's experience. And yet the author's ultimate message is freedom - it's not a story of how bad her life was, or how sorry we should all feel for her. It's a story of redemption - of overcoming - of walking a hard road, and coming out the other side truly free.

This is a hard, brutal, beautiful story. Don't miss it. Highest of recommendations.

Finished - 12/18/16
Source - review copy from publisher (Tyndale House) - but I pre-ordered my own copy because it's that good!
MPAA rating - PG-13. This is not easy to read.
My rating - 5/5

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Book Thoughts - Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory

Raising Stony Mayhall Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory 
published 2011
422 pages

Synopsis -

In 1968, after the first zombie outbreak, Wanda Mayhall and her three young daughters discover the body of a teenage mother during a snowstorm. Wrapped in the woman’s arms is a baby, stone-cold, not breathing, and without a pulse. But then his eyes open and look up at Wanda — and he begins to move.

The family hides the child — whom they name Stony — rather than turn him over to authorities that would destroy him. Against all scientific reason, the undead boy begins to grow. For years his adoptive mother and sisters manage to keep his existence a secret — until one terrifying night when Stony is forced to run and he learns that he is not the only living dead boy left in the world.

My thoughts -

This was, for me, quite a unique take on the zombie fiction genre. While it had a healthy dose of the blood & terror I expected, it also had a lighthearted sense of humor about itself that was really quite refreshing. Interesting musings on identity and discrimination and a setting in rural Iowa gave the book depth and value for me. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel, and I would definitely read more by this author.

Finished - 1/22/17
Source - my shelves
MPAA rating - R, because zombies
My rating - 4/5

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Book Thoughts: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
published 2015
392 pages

Synopsis -

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

My thoughts -

Well, this novel was a delightful surprise. I received it as a Christmas gift, and guessed from reading the synopsis that I would enjoy it. I was certainly right about that.

This book feels VERY French. Now, I've never been to France, so I could be very wrong about that - but reading this book felt like taking a trip across the ocean and experiencing life in a Paris apartment, and in the countryside of Provence. There was just something about the pace - the tone - the language that was slower, more deliberate than an American novel. This book was about the experience of reading as much as it was the story, and I loved the experience.

This book is, of course, a celebration of the love of reading. It was such fun to read the references peppered throughout to various great books of history. It is also a book for readers who love the written word, and the way a story looks and sounds on the page. I found myself purposefully reading slower, to savor the time I spent in this world.

I had not heard of this book before my friend gave it to me, so I likely would not have found it without her. I am thrilled The Little Paris Bookshop found it's way into my life. It was a lovely, heartbreaking, and spirit-lifting experience. Definitely recommended.

Finished - 1/29/17
Source - my shelves, via Maria Z.
MPAA rating - PG-13
My rating - 5/5