The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin (Algonquin)
“Fikry is a bookseller with a small shop in a sleepy island resort town off the coast of Massachusetts. He’s a bit cantankerous, but with good reason: his wife, the ‘people person’ of the relationship, has recently died and his prized possession, a rare copy of Tamerlane, has gone missing. Despite those losses, there’s one strange addition, a baby girl left on his doorstep with an explicit request for Fikry to take her in. Zevin’s novel offers the reality of both death and rebirth, held together by the spirit of the bookstore. It’s a romantic comedy, a spiritual journey, and if you include the chapter openings, a collection of short story criticisms as well. In short, it’s a celebration of books and the people who read them, write them, and sell them.”
— Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
Tag Archives: Book
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Review by Josh Poppie (Jan. 2014)
I am reviewing A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck. I consider it a historical fiction or humorous book with several themes.
This book is a compilation of several stories about two kids, Joey and Mary Alice Dowdel, going to see their grandma for a week during every summer for seven years. Each visit is different in its own special way. Some of the stories include: the catching-in-the-act and revenge on four prankster kids; an illegal fishing trip; and, a wrestling match between two of the oldest men alive. Joey, the narrator, says Grandma Dowdel becomes a different woman every year.
The book takes place in Illinois’ Piatt County. I like the writing style especially because it involves a lot of funny similes and interesting vocabulary. Although it takes place in the Midwest, it has a very Southern feel to it.
I’d recommend A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, to anyone who likes humor or old-time stories from the Great Depression era.
Please watch for our new reviews in 2014!
The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to adulthood as she reckons with her need to break from society’s limitations and learns to reconcile with her fate and transcend the past.
“Can this wise, funny, quirky, poignant novel really be Dale Kushner’s debut? She got everything just right—characters who you will never forget and a palpable yearning for love that you will feel in your gut. Bravo!“
-Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread
“An immaculately written, enthralling and passionate debut.“
-Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and Eva Moves The Furniture
Kushner has a divine understanding of the ties that bind people in relationships.The Conditions of Love is rife with truths about man’s equally selfish and selfless need to experience love in its many forms. Eunice might be the central player, but the hero of this tale is Love. Eunice experiences many kinds of loss. Before and after each misadventure she seeks solace in the stable relationships of her past and present: Mr. Tabachnik, a kind neighbor; her adopted guardian, Rose; Sam, a misguided role model. Although she may often be lonely, Eunice does not experience the destitution of abandonment.Kushner’s writing consists of equal parts reverence for the human condition and sympathy for the pain that is a necessary part of that condition. This novel is an engrossing read and difficult to put down.—Kitty Drexel, EDGE (full review » )
With her debut novel, The Conditions of Love, poet Dale M. Kushner has created a layered examination of love in all its forms and how it impacts and shapes one girl in the late 1950s and early 1960s from childhood to maturity.. . .This is a book that begs to be read slowly. Kushner’s history with poetry serves her well. Her prose causes the reader to slow down and relish the words. She utilizes the five senses throughout the book, which gives the reader a sense of real intimacy with Eunice. She beautifully recounts the physical act of Eunice’s neighbor, Mr. Tabachnik, putting on an opera record, and then she tops it by describing the powerful music washing over a young Eunice.The Conditions of Love is an engaging story written in a lyrical style. It’s a stunningly self-assured novel for a debut, and it leaves the reader hoping that Kushner will write a second.—Josh Mallory, Bookreporter (full review » )
The Conditions of Love is the debut novel of Dale M. Kushner, a poet and writer in Wisconsin. It moves slowly and gingerly during its opening section when Eunice is a preteen, and it might easily be viewed at the start as a coming-of-age book for a younger set of readers. But by the end of that section, when facts-of-life shocks begin to strike, it turns into a moving, at times jolting, saga.Kushner’s scenes, like her characters, are expertly sketched, vivid and memorable. . . . Engrossing to the end, this is a fine first novel.—Kendall Weaver, The Associated Press (full review » )
Eunice grows up fighting for love from the people who should love her unconditionally but is bolstered by love from unexpected sources…Eunice is a lonely, artistic girl who grows into a temperamental young woman whose strength and capacity for love belie her tough upbringing. This is poet Kushner’s first novel, and her roots show; passages describing even the bleakest Midwestern landscapes are artfully drawn. A coming-of-age story that wonderfully combines literary style with heartbreaking plot twists and still manages to be uplifting——Booklist
A teenage girl endures fire, flood and the loss of her parents in this bracing, oddly uplifting debut.Kushner seems to have taken more than a few lessons from Joyce Carol Oates about both crafting a novel with a broad scope and putting female characters through the wringer. But there’s also a lightness to Eunice’s narration that keeps the Job-ian incidents from feeling oppressive—she’s observant, witty and genuinely matures across the nine years in which the novel is set… Kushner is remarkably poised for a first-time novelist, offering an interesting adolescent who’s possessed of more than a little of Huck Finn’s pioneer spirit.A fine exploration of growing up, weathering heartbreak and picking oneself up over and over.—Kirkus Reviews
“Can this wise, funny, quirky, poignant novel really be Dale Kushner’s debut? She got everything just right–characters who you will never forget and a palpable yearning for love that you will feel in your gut. Bravo!”—Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread
“In The Conditions of Love Dale Kushner portrays with wonderful empathy a young girl’s journey towards adulthood. Kushner has an amazing sense of character and not only her heroine, the fearless Eunice, but everyone that Eunice encounters comes vividly to life as she struggles first to accommodate herself to her mother’s tumultuous feelings and then to make her own way in the world. An immaculately written, enthralling and passionate debut.”—Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and The House on Fortune Street
“Dale Kushner’s novel The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to young adulthood as she reckons with her parents’ abandonment, her need to break from society’s limitations, and her overwhelming desire for spiritual and erotic love. At an early age Eunice encounters the difficult truths of loss and disappointment, and through an innate sense of her own worth, she perseveres. At once a fable and a realistic portrait of a sensitive and determined young girl, The Conditions of Love is funny, heartbreaking, and gorgeously rendered. In Kushner’s storytelling readers will find the wisdom of an author who has considered both the formidable depths and the transcendent potential of the human spirit.”—Janet Steen
“Dale Kushner is a remarkable mix of passion and perception. As a storyteller, she has the ability to let the mysterious force of life show itself through the smallest piece of dirt or doubt. Her depth and experience surface through her writing as a wise companion to help us on our way.”—Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening and As Far As the Heart Can See
“I’ve already praised Dale Kushner’s novel to so many friends that they keep asking why they can’t find it in the bookstores yet. I would tell you that it’s the next Housekeeping, but that might imply The Conditions of Love is derivative in some way, which it most certainly is not. Kushner’s novel offers what most readers crave—characters about whom we care very, very deeply, emotions conveyed without irony or shame, beautifully lyric prose, a strong sense of place… and wisdom, that very rare thing in a novel – or real life – wisdom. Even in the toughest market, this book is sure to find many loyal and loving readers.”—Eileen Pollack, Zell Professor and Director of the MFA Program at the University of Michigan, author of Paradise, New York and Breaking and Entering
By K.P. Kollenborn (Lulu.com, 2011)
In Caddis Wood by Mary François Rockcastle
Published by Graywolf Press, 2011
Forgiveness and letter pancakes. Without forgiveness families shatter. With forgiveness and well-worn traditions like letter pancakes for breakfast – they can survive the most excruciating betrayals and tragedies. In Caddis Wood is the intimate story of a 35-year marriage and the delicate state of human nature juxtaposed with the natural landscape that cradles the home of Hallie and Carl Fens.
Mary Rockcastle took more than 10 years to string together the life of a marriage rocked by disappointment and buttressed by love (author appearance, 12/13/2011, The Bookcase, Wayzata, MN). The story is written in third person allowing the distinct perspectives of Hallie and Carl to resonate through the narrator. Their life flows from present truths that are both bridged and shored up by a history that has eroded the family on some fronts and at the same time has reinforced the most critical parts of its foundations. The story is perfectly paced and, like a deeply rooted marriage, difficult to see end under any circumstance.
In Caddis Wood is a beautifully crafted novel. Taking the time to experience it ~ is time well spent.
Reviewed by Krystal Brown, St. Bride’s Literary Group