For a book to focus so intently upon the personal struggle and growth of the main character, one could be forgiven for thinking it’d be boring. But Red Clover is anything but.
Florence’s writing lures the reader into its murky depths with a siren song of beautifully engaging prose, fully formed and believable characters, and a twisting plot. She wraps it up in a way akin to the tender loving care of a mother with a new born babe.
Red Clover encourages the reader to firstly lose themselves, and then find themselves again. A little wiser and perhaps a little more whole for having experienced Lee’s story.
Witness the complex social rules and run the family gamut of the high-class Winekoop’s and experience the feeling of isolation, lack of belonging and crippling social anxiety issues Lee faces from his early years right throughout his life.
Engaging too is the twisting plot. The way new truths are discovered, unearthed and thrust upon the characters, it leaves the reader guessing as to how things will work out. Some twists are more obvious than others, but their guess-ability lends itself to drawing the reader in rather than boot them out.
Lee is a likeable character, he grows with the reader, and the gaggle of supporting cast is just as likeable. Florence caters to all tastes. Be they kooky, rough, highbrow or anything in between. You’re sure to find a character to like.
This story encourages the reader to look at themselves and check to see if they’re whole, or merely existing to please others. It lends its strength to the reader too in a way I can’t do justice to in this review. It’s just something you have to experience for yourself. 5 stars.
The beginning of Red Clover reminded me a lot of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which I know many people enjoyed, so if you liked Chabon’s book, you might enjoy Red Clover. Unfortunately, I did not like Kavalier and Clay and this story ended up not working for me on many levels. I never connected with the main characters because their actions, and the consequences of those actions, often did not make sense. From the implausible ignorance of the main character to the bizarre behaviors of his family and friends, the story did not come together. There were many places I felt that small changes in character behavior would have strengthened the story by making the character more compelling, and therefore, the story more engaging.
I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.
The AI Seal of Excellence for Outstanding Independent Literature has been awarded to The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire by Sandra Hutchison. Read our brand new five-star review of the book below!
A coming-of-age novel set in America in the late 70s, Sandra Hutchison’s The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire centers on the relationship between David, a physics professor in his 30s, and Molly, the teenage girl who used to babysit his daughter. Molly doesn’t babysit for David anymore because his wife and daughter recently perished in a plane crash. He is too overwhelmed by grief to take care of himself, so his estranged sister hires Molly to keep house for him.
Molly has problems of her own. Her parents are divorced. Her father loves her but now has another wife and children, a family where she has a marginal place. She mostly lives with her mother, a notorious and uninhibited artist who commemorates Molly’s first period by constructing the figure of a girl with tampons and, of course, exhibiting it publicly. Molly’s schoolmates call her Tampon Girl.
The physics professor doesn’t seduce or become obsessed with the teenager, nor does she have a girlish crush on him. While David struggles with grief and survivor’s guilt and Molly negotiates the minefield of adolescence in the 70s, they develop a friendship that’s hard to categorize but easy for people in their small town to misinterpret and condemn.
Sandra Hutchison writes beautifully transparent and unpretentious prose. She creates complex characters and a vivid sense of place. Most of all, she tells a compelling story full of sorrow and humor with a benign detachment that leaves room for readers to draw their own conclusions. In other words, she’s a first-rate writer.
Some readers might be offended by Hutchison’s frank depiction of sexual situations and nonjudgmental treatment of behavior that is usually condemned. They may dislike the somewhat open ending. But if you don’t read fiction to find emotional security and have your beliefs validated, if you’re just looking for an excellent book, I strongly recommend The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire.
Recovering both physically and mentally from a plane crash that took the lives of his wife and daughter, college professor David Asken is a mess. His sister hires 16-year-old Molly from across the street to help out with cooking, cleaning and making sure David takes his meds, eats, pays bills, etc. Due to David’s depressed state of mind and Molly’s somewhat neglectful parents, the two form an unconventional and rather controversial relationship. But the development of their relationship is only one of many thought-provoking topics covered in this novel.
The attraction David and Molly feel for one another is made obvious through their actions and inner dialogue. While I knew it would be wrong for a man in his thirties to hook up with a teenager, the prospect became more acceptable to me as their relationship deepened. Aw hell, I’ll just admit it, by the end I was rooting for a romantic HEA for the two of them. But before you judge me or the author for crafting a story filled with such taboo, read the book to find out why the idea of them being together didn’t disgust me.
Kudos to Hutchison for tackling several delicate subjects with candor, realism and punches of humor. Also, her writing is smart and seamless
David survives a plane crash that killed his wife and daughter. Molly, his next door neighbor and his daughter’s babysitter, is hired by his sister to be his housekeeper. Like most survivors, David is struggling with guilt and is even contemplating suicide. Molly, aside from dealing with the grief over the death of David’s daughter Emily, is dealing with issues of her own – one of them being the daughter of a sexually uninhibited artist. The title of this book would probably make you think this is some sexy explicit romance of sorts – that was my first impression until I read the summary – but it’s really not.
The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire is an interesting book about a teenage girl dealing with issues that come when you’re just starting to cross over from being a child to a young woman, and a young man dealing with the tragic loss of his family. Life throws them into each other’s lives and they develop a strange relationship. The book is essentially about how they deal with their circumstances and how one significantly figures in the healing of the other.
The book is well-written and is actually not too difficult to read. It’s not a light read, by all means, and it may be hard to read for some because of the sensitive topics that it touches on, but it doesn’t go over the top or becomes too graphic. It doesn’t sugar-coat either and sometimes you have to read between the lines. The characters are interesting, are not one-sided, and work well together. The story also flows comfortably – it didn’t feel too slow or rushed. By the way, the title is a line taken from a work by Virginia Woolf and is mentioned in the book. The ending doesn’t exactly give straight-up answers and may even leave you with more questions, but I find that it’s just fitting to the story.
Overall, this book is a good read and I think anybody who likes unique stories and likes to keep an open mind would appreciate this book.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review. I was not compensated nor was I required to provide a positive review. All views are my own.
Painfully real, very well crafted, beautifully written. I really liked the hero, which was great. Many times the hero is just a jerk.
Yes, I too rooted for an HEA for the unlikely couple. To be honest I didn’t find see much of a taboo in the relationship.
According to conventional wisdom novels and short stories are completely different species, and never the twain shall meet. In To Do the Deal: A Novel in Stories, Cathy Baker shows us that, in the hands of a master craftsman, conventional wisdom is wrong.
To Do the Deal is the story – actually ten stories – of Kenneth Bodine, a man in search of himself. It starts in 1991, when Ken breaks up with his girlfriend, known only as Watermelon, and meets Jodine, who is about to break up with her boyfriend. After the two successfully break off their unfortunate hookups and end up with each other, what follows is a series of ten stand-alone short stories that take us to the year 2000 – as Ken moves from job to job, eventually ending up in sales, where he shines, despite his absolute lack of people skills.
Each story is a self-contained episode in Ken’s increasingly chaotic life, but each also segues seamlessly into the next. Baker has created the perfect born loser in Ken, the model put upon housewife/mother in Jodi, and a cast of supporting characters that, if you’ve ever experienced the suburbs of Washington, DC, you’ll swear you’ve lived next door to them. The humor in To Do the Deal is understated, tongue-in-cheek, that sneaks up on you, gently grabs your funny bone, and before you know it, has you clutching your sides and blinking back tears. At times you feel sorry for Ken, and at others, you want to give him a solid kick in the rear – all the while, you’re chuckling at the predicaments he manages to get himself into.
There are no surprises in this book, but it is not predictable. It ends in the best possible way, given the state of mind of the main character and the effect he has on everyone with whom he comes into contact. Despite the lack of surprise, it is satisfying because you find yourself saying, ‘but for the grace of God, that’s where I’d be.’ Baker’s use of domestic banter between Ken and Jodi (which, given the last name she acquired at marriage, is what Jodine prefers to be called) is so realistic, you feel like a voyeur reading it. She does a particularly good job in describing the relationship Ken and Jodi have with their children – just ask anyone who has had to raise kids in today’s economy. Between episodes of humor, the author also describes human relationships in a way that is so spot on, you wonder if she wasn’t a psychologist in another life.
If you want a good weekend read, this is a definite ‘must-read.’ One of the best books I’ve read this year.
“The Sicilian Defence is a collection of short stories based on characters who live in or around Sicily. The stories are varied in topic, but all written in a very literary style. Each story is independent of the others, making this an easy book to pick up, read for a bit and feel satisfied that you have read a good story.
The voice is decidedly European, but interesting. The observations and characters are so real, so true to life that they’re unsettling. The endings are enigmatic but they stay with the reader in their possibilities. I am enthralled by these stories. They are of a style and quality that should do the same for many readers in many parts of the world. Overall, this is a well written collection with varied stories. However, some may find the pace of the stories a little too slow.