"The Mortifications", by Derek Palacio - Book Review

It’s 1980, and if you’re familiar at all with Florida, you remember well the Mariel boatlift, or at least the aftermath.  In case you’re not acquainted, it was an outpouring of over 100,000 Cuban refugees to Florida via harrowing seafaring voyages - dangerous and horrifying for those braving the conditions. But perhaps it was less so than remaining under the Castro regime in Cuba.

The Mortifications begins with a mother, a son, and a daughter making this trip, leaving behind their rebel father; seeking a better life in America - in Connecticut. Soledad becomes an accomplished stenographer at the county courthouse, rising through the ranks. Twins Ulises and Isabel attend catholic school; Ulises an awkward, bookish type, and Isabel poised and godly.  Soledad begins a long romance with Dutch tobacco farmer, Henri, for whom Ulises eventually works, managing his fields and laborers.

This tale encompasses the mysticism of the Encarnación family: Soledad’s insatiable sex drive during illness; Ulises’ dedication to Latin and farming; and Isabel’s unwavering loyalty to God, which she twists to conform to each unique situation in which she finds herself; and Uxbal, the father still in Cuba. It has all the makings of an epic family drama, including the weighty return to their homeland, with Henri, in search of each other and their father. All of which is where, author Derek Palacio tries to take us.

However, with all the theater and well-written prose, the story seemed lifeless, flat.  There was a third dimension - perhaps emotion - that was missing. I could neither connect with nor suspend my disbelief for each character’s unique supremacy. There were some poignant moments in the book, nonetheless - thoughtful musings at the right moments occasionally surfaced. In the end, I was left disappointed, yearning for the incontrovertible mysticism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or perhaps I’ll try something else altogether. 

Published: 2016
Publisher: Tim Duggan Books / Crown Publishing

Vickie’s rating: 2.5 stars 

Terrifying Truth in "A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy", by Sue Klebold - Book Review

This book is not a cautionary tale, it is a horror story. Not just because of the tragedy that unfolded at Columbine High School that fated day in 1999, but because of what was going on inside the Klebolds house up until then: NOTHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY. 

The pressing question in everyone’s mind when they think about the parents of Dylan Klebold is: How did they not know? The simple answer is: They didn’t.

In her gut wrenching new book, Sue Klebold will convince even the biggest of skeptics that neither she nor her husband, both actively involved parents in each of their sons’ lives, had a clue of what was going on inside their child’s mind and outside of their home. 

Klebold wrote this book as a warning. 

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True Story of an American and His Heroic Family in "Avenue of Spies", by Alex Kershaw - Book Review

An American doctor and his family live out Hitler’s destruction during WWII in Paris. Writer Alex Kershaw, a journalist and historical author has conducted a deep inquiry into a particular family’s involvement in the French Resistance in under German occupation.  Avenue of Spies is the completely absorbing result. 

American Sumner Jackson is a surgeon at the American Hospital in Paris and provided medical care during the first world war, so he is no stranger to combat wounds and care. His is married to Swiss-born Toquette, and they have a son, Phillip. They live on a very posh street in Paris - Foch Avenue. The street is an important setting, as many of the homes become the headquarters for Hitler’s SS, the Gestapo - spy hunters and gruesome torturers.

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Humor, Dysfunction and Scandal; a Great Memorial Day Read: "I Take You", by Eliza Kennedy - Book Review

Disclaimer: If you don’t like lawyers or graphic sex, you should skip this book. Post script: Read it anyway.

I Take You is set in Key West during the week leading up to Lily and Will’s whirlwind wedding. Lily, a New York lawyer, is having some serious doubts about the upcoming nuptials as evidenced by the fact she can’t stop sleeping with other men. Will, on the other hand, the nerdy anthropologist, appears steadfast and only more committed to Lily as the big day draws near.

The story heats up as the secondary characters, which really give the book its texture, begin arriving.  There are Lily’s “moms”, her real mom, her two ex step moms and her fierce grandmother, who band together to try to talk Lily out of the wedding. Lily’s dad, from whom she obviously inherited her wandering eye, shows up with very few helpful contributions other than to play the role of the old guy Lothario. And then there is Will’s acerbic politico mom, who has zero love for Lily and is determined to wreck the wedding. And finally, Freddy, Lily’s sexually confused loyal best friend, who will do anything to get Lily through the week, wedding or not. 

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