Elsewhere (A Book Review)

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Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin is a fiction feast of horror, fantasy, and mystery. After reading her previous novel, Saint X, it is clear that Schaitkin knows how to convey a strong sense of place and write about disappearances.

The story is told from the perspective of Vera, a woman who grows from childhood to womanhood within a strange, closed community set in the mountains, possibly the Alps. Everything has German-sounding names.

These people are afraid of anything or anyone from “elsewhere”, as they refer to the rest of the world. Not only people, animals too. They’re afraid of the clouds. And they live under an affliction: the mysterious disappearances of mothers. They never know when “the clouds” will take a mother, and they know how to erase her from the community’s memory once she is gone. You can feel the heavy menace of the townsfolk appearing to support mothers, yet completely judging them for every perceived misstep.

Follow Vera from before her mother disappears, till afterward when she lives alone with her father, the troubling relationship with a stranger, Ruth, and then on to her marriage and motherhood. We really feel all the deep emotions that accompany becoming a mother and loving one’s child, the temptation of allowing oneself to be absorbed by, and to lose one’s sense of self, to be replaced by a non-entity that only serves the child.

This is a hauntingly beautiful story of mothers and daughters, of all the phases of becoming, holding on, and letting go that accompany parenthood. I highly recommend that anyone who read or watched ‘The Lost Daughter’ read Elsewhere as well. (Also, as someone married to an illustrator, kudos to Celadon for what appears to be an illustrated rather than a photoshopped cover.) Publishing date is June 28, 2022, so preorder yours wherever you order books.

*I received an Advanced Reading Copy of ‘Elsewhere’ from Celadon Books in exchange for my honest review.

Memphis (A Book Review)

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This richly beautiful novel, Memphis, by Tara Stringfellow tells the stories of three generations of Black women living in the South.

It weaves back and forth from the 1930s to the present day to unfold the lives of Hazel, her daughters Miriam and August, and Miriam’s daughter, Joan. (Her younger daughter Mya is a supporting character.)
It opens with Miriam, Joan, and Mya returning to live with her sister August in their mother’s home.

Miriam’s marriage has fallen apart and now she must find a way forward, make a new life for herself and her girls. August has been on her own for many years, raising her troubled son alone, supporting herself with the beauty salon she owns and runs from her basement. Joan is an artist and a dreamer who experienced trauma at age three and hasn’t recovered. And eventually the story winds back to Hazel, how she fell in love and married, and how she carried on after white violence changes her life forever.

One of the assets of this family is the Black community who know and love “the North women” and rally around them whenever they need it. Throughout the book, Black women and men are talked down to, mistreated, abused, and even killed by white people. The only white person the North women consider a friend is the Jewish deli owner.

There are tough circumstances, tragedy, traumas, and hardships but these women each find their strength, lean on one another, and keep living. Through the years, they support themselves, raise their children, reach for their dreams and let some go, lose and find love, and continue to discover truths about themselves and each other.

I highly recommend Memphis to everyone! The release date is March 8, 2022.

*I received a free e-copy from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.

The Magic of Found Objects, a book review

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

The Magic of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson is a heartwarming tale of a woman becoming herself, of discovering what she really wanted in life, who was important to her. It’s a love story and a family story and I found it captivating

Phronsie grew up with a troubled home life, idolizing her hippie mom who she didn’t get to see, despising her dedicated, caring stepmom who she thought was an interfering control freak, and trying to stay on the good side of her bad-tempered father.

Now a successful career woman in her thirties wanting to settle down and start a family, Phronsie still hasn’t dealt with the pain from her growing up years.

And speaking of settling down, her best friend thinks that since they each haven’t found suitable mates they should marry each other. They do get along so well after all.

Is this what love is supposed to be–comfortable, dependable, stable? Is there more?

Read what Phronsie discovers about true love, parenting, responsibility, following one’s heart, and more in The Magic of Found Objects. Highly recommended!

I received a free e-copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls (A Review)

Like many other Liz Gilbert readers, I couldn’t wait for the release of the novel City of Girls. Whenever Liz mentioned City of Girls on Instagram, she said it was going to be lighthearted and fun; she said it was going to involve theatre and showgirls; she said it would involve plenty of sex.

City of Girls has all of those elements and much more. The novel is written from the perspective of Vivian, a woman in her nineties, who looks back over her life from age nineteen and on. She writes about arriving in New York City in 1940 and experiencing a very different kind of life from the one she had previously known: sheltered, stuffy, unimaginative. She gets to know all sorts of colorful characters and lives wild and carefree for a time.

As the story unfolds, she makes and loses friends, survives scandal, lives through WW2, fashions a successful and creative career for herself, and, as she lives all these experiences, she learns to know who she is.

I loved the descriptions of old theaters and night clubs, the fashion of the various decades in which Vivian lives, the energy of New York City and how it changed over the years. Overall, the tone is positive, light, and joyful. But, if you’re worried, as I was, that the book is just fluff, think again. There is substance here. There are passages that I will read and reread. Oprah read one during her interview with Liz Gilbert on Super Soul Sunday. And here is words of wisdom from Vivian’s aunt, Peg, that resonated with me: (on page 327)

“You must learn in life to take things more lightly, my dear. The world is always changing. Learn how to allow for it. Someone makes a promise, and then they break it. A play gets good notices, and then it folds. A marriage looks strong, and then they divorce. For a while there’s no war, and then there’s another war. If you get too upset about it all, you become a stupid, unhappy person—and where’s the good in that?”

So, am I going to recommend this novel? Yes! If you’re a reader of fiction, add this to your TBR. Buy a copy or place a hold at your library, but definitely read it. Particularly, I think it’s an important read for women because it’s a story of strong women who lived unusual, successful, and satisfying lives.

And when you read it, comment here, send me an email or DM me on Instagram and let me know what you think!