Welcome to the Friday edition of the Cafe and Bookstore with recent reviews for authors on the shelves.
The first author is Cynthia Reyes with a recent review for her memoir A Good Home.
About the Book
A Good Home is an addictive read, a profoundly emotional book about the author’s early life in rural Jamaica, her move to urban North America, and her trips back home, all told through vivid descriptions of the unique homes she has lived in — from a tiny pink house in Jamaica and a mountainside cabin near Vancouver to the historic Victorian farmhouse she lives in today, surrounded by neighbors who share spicy Malaysian noodles and seafood, Greek pastries and roast lamb, and Italian tomato sauce and wine (really strong wine).
Full of lovingly drawn characters and vividly described places, A Good Home takes the reader through deeply moving stories of marriage, children, the death of parents, and an accident that takes its high-flying author down a humbling notch. Its pages sparkle with stories and reflections on home as:
A foundation on which to build connections with children, relatives, and friends
A place to celebrate the joys of elegant design, overflowing gardens (except for the wisteria vine, which cannot be coaxed into blooming), and the sharing of good food
A wise teacher, showing us who we really were — and who we really are
When this brave, clear-eyed, and honest book returns, full circle, to the way it began, readers will want to read it all over again.
One of the recent reviews for the book
This is the second of the author’s three non-fiction books purchased and read over the summer – what a gift!
There are three themes:
1. How your physical and emotional environment becomes you and vice versa
2. How one’s faith is messy at times – we are not promised an easy road, just company along the journey
3. How life’s trials do not come in neat little packages, but persistence and love will help you unwrap them
All three themes resonated with me. I loved learning about the author’s early days, family tales, homes, and gardening, some different from mine, many the same. I also love how she is candid about struggles with faith and openly expresses her questions, not suppressing them as most do. In turn, she is provided with candid responses that support her journey. I also read with tremendous interest the author’s experience with post-trauma recovery which is oftentimes messy and requires sheer persistence during the “going-through” phase until the light breaks through the clouds. I found myself cheering her on as she navigated and negotiated her recovery process!
Such rawness is rare and a sublime talent to do so with poignancy. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us!
Also by Cynthia Reyes
The next author is Harmony Kent with a review for her poetry collection Slices of Soul
About Slices of Soul
Slices of Soul is a collection of contemporary poetry from author Harmony Kent that will both delight and call for deeper reflection. ‘Phantoms’ gives a gritty account of pain that you can never catch. ‘Enough’ expresses the contentment of Zen. ‘Diamonds’ shows the beauty to be found on a drab and rainy day. While ‘The Alchemist’ shows you how a guitar can turn lead into gold. This wonderful arrangement of fifty poems takes you from the abstract of Zen to the melody of music, and will reach into your mind, your heart, and your soul.
One of the recent reviews for Slices of Soul
Slices of Soul is a compelling and unusual collection of poetry which certainly does give the reader glimpses into the complex soul and unusual life of the poet.
I think it is important to note that the poet spent 13 years living in a Zen Buddhist Temple and that the poems featured in this book were written, during and after this period in her life. I believe that her spiritualism and surroundings had a bearing on the thoughts and ideas expressed through the poems in this book.
The poems are divided into sections: Shaved Head, written during her time at the Zen Buddhist Temple, Short Hair, written during the transitional period of her changing life circumstances, and Long Hair which effectively covers all the remaining sections in the book and were written after she’d adjusted to her new life.
I felt the tone of the poems changed over the course of the book from intense reflections on life, to studies of nature, to fierce expressions of emotion, to gentler articulations of love and contentment.
The two poems that impacted me the most in this collection are from the first two sections of the book, Shaved Hair and Short Hair:
The ten directions all merge into one
this winding road leads nowhere
and goes straight there
Lost and Found
Deep dark depths
I got lost on purpose
this desolate place
the only way
to get my bearings
Poetry lovers who like poems that make you think about things and see them differently will appreciate this book.
Also by Harmony Kent
The final review is for Matilda Windsor is Coming Home a contemporary novel by Anne Goodwin.
About the book
“In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
A brother and sister separated for fifty years and the idealistic young social worker who tries to reunite them. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
Told with compassion and humour, Anne Goodwin’s third novel is a poignant, compelling and brilliantly authentic portrayal of asylum life, with a quirky protagonist you won’t easily forget. Published by Inspired Quill.”
One of the recent reviews for the book
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which is both entertaining and incredibly sad. It is set mostly in 1989/90, with flashbacks to the 1930s, and Matty Osborne, also known as Matilda Windsor, has been a resident in psychiatric hospitals for fifty years – since she was around twenty. The reason given at the time was ‘moral turpitude’ – in other words, becoming pregnant without being married. I remember seeing something on television once, a long time ago, about how, in the first half of this century, young girls who were committed to asylums for getting pregnant, and were never let out again. In this circumstance, Matty eventually lost her mind; her path to this state is not revealed until the end of the book.
She believes that she is in her own stately home – sometimes during the Great War, at other times during World War II – that the other residents are her guests, and the carers are her staff. The story weaves between three points of view: Matty, a young carer called Janice, and Matty’s younger half-brother Henry who doesn’t know where she is or why she left home. The staff of Tuke House have no idea whatsoever what goes on in Matty’s head, or probably within the head of any of the residents. Janice is likable and fun, and I enjoyed the portrayals of the people she worked with, most of them ghastly, grey jobsworths with limited imagination. She is very much a young woman of the Thatcher years with anti-Thatcher ideals; I felt such a sense of going back over 3 decades when I read about her.
I guessed early on what had led to Matty’s dreadful fate, but it’s not obvious, and I did change my mind a few times; either way, the fact that we don’t know ‘how, who and why’ adds to the page-turning quality of the book. When I got to the end of her 1930s story, I could have cried at how alone she was, how there was no-one, anywhere, who would listen to and believe her. It was so tragic, so shocking, made even more so because you know that this sort of thing happened to so many girls, never mind the stories of some of her friends in the unmarried mothers’ home.
Another element that adds to the suspense is Henry’s search for the long lost sister he hardly remembers, and all the near misses when he could have found her but didn’t. They’re frustrating; each time I though, oh, they’re going to find each other!
I found this book particularly interesting because I’ve worked at a psychiatric hospital in the past, and because I was reminded of my late mother, who had Alzheimer’s for eleven years and lived in a care home for the last seven or so years of her life. I visited her often; I remember her being under the impression that the place was a hotel, and the carers were waitresses.
Although this story has a certain amount of resolution, I gather there is to be a sequel. I admit to being a little disappointed as I expected to get to the end and have everything nicely wrapped up – but life isn’t like that, and the stories of Matty, Janice and Henry will continue. I look forward to reading the next book when it appears!
Also by Anne Goodwin
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books – Thanks Sally.