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.
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Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor
June 26, 2014
‘Pieces of Love’ by PJ Sharon is the story of a grief-stricken, grumpy and slightly wayward teen sent to her grandmothers for the summer to keep her out of trouble. Lexi has been busted twice for weed possession and her mother is in hospital due to a nervous breakdown, so her stepfather sends her off to give the couple time to get things on an even keel without having to worry about her.
Grandma decides to take Lexi on a cruise around the Mediterranean, and Lexi isn’t pleased about it, not only because she’s going to be stuck on a ship with a bunch of old people, but also because she suffers from motion sickness. But this is a romance, so, enter the handsome young man and things turn out better than expected.
This is a character driven story. Unlike Sharon’s dystopian series, you’ll not find much action, but you’ll find character depth and growth, as Lexi’s relationship with Ethan and her don’t-call-me-grandma-call-me-Maddie grandmother deepens, forcing Lexi to face things she’s buried in a haze of pot smoke.
Lexi’s family has been shattered by two deaths, her father and her sister, both for alcohol-related reasons, and—though not to blame—Lexi carries a lot of guilt over her sister’s death. She needs to move on and the events in the book help her to do this. This is a teen romance, so expect the usual sensuality in the descriptions of the kiss and their physical attraction, but it is not overdone.
PJ Sharon has great expertise in portraying young people and the issues facing them. This is a very real story. It doesn’t skirt the difficulties, but it does leave readers with a sense of hope. The author has the confidence that comes from authors with several books under their belt and knows how to pull together the elements required for a good read. Though not racy, the pacing keeps you reading by doling out just enough tension in the relationships at the right time. The cruise ship setting also adds an exotic touch and the drama at the end is a clever and very realistic catapult for Lexi’s growth.
Overall, the book is well enough written in plain language very suitable for the young adult reader, and it deals with relevant issues in a skilful way. Highly recommended.
The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren is a Southern USA coming of age story about a boy called Jason Lee who lives with his widowed mother and his uncle, who was injured in Vietnam and still suffers from the remains of shrapnel in his brain. The book details Jason Lee’s emergence from innocence as he finds out the truth about his father’s death in the Vietnam war and, more significantly, about his civil rights activities in the sixties.
The story begins in 1974 when Jason Lee begins school. He meets his best-friend-to-be Samson, an African American boy, and Culver and Eugene Chubb call him a nigger-lover for the first, and not the last, time. J.L soon becomes aware of the racial prejudice that surrounds him and of its damaging effects on people. When he discovers his father’s journal about his role in the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march, he feels a sense of pride and rightness in his father’s actions. His father’s story helps to give him the courage to stand up for what is right and is the beginning of J.L working out what he believes is important and what he wants to do with his life.
The story takes a leisurely pace but moves steadily, building up the background of and our connection with the characters. J.L narrates his story in a simple, matter-of-fact way so that we get a real sense of him and his life and, in particular, how he is changed by what happens to him. He doesn’t tell us about the characters around him, he shows their characters by describing what they do and say. I felt as if I sat on that porch with him and his Uncle Mooks. J.L’s life seems very ordinary, so when the unthinkable shatters it, the event has more power than it would in a story full of dramatic events.
The story is unassuming but powerful. It shows the continuing ravages of the Vietnam war on those who fought in it and on the wives and children of those who died in it. Uncle Mooks says they called the Vietnam war a conflict, but conflicts are for solving by talking through, not by fighting. This simple but profound statement by Mooks is characteristic of this otherwise damaged man, and the book has many little gems like this. J.L has always thought of his father as a Vietnam hero, but he comes to see that the more important fight was and still is the one for civil rights and racial equality. He realises that his father’s action in marching with his black brothers is what makes him the real hero.
As his mother says, his father fought so that Jason Lee and Samson could be friends. This honoring of the bravery of those early civil rights activists and drawing inspiration from their actions is the second theme that weaves through the pages of this fine novel.
Technically, as far as I could see, this novel is flawless. It has a strong voice, well-drawn characters, a realistic and moving plot, and important, well-expressed themes. The editing is of a high standard, and the writing has the occasional gem like this one: Her handwriting looked like a delicate thread had broken off its spool and spilled onto the paper.
The story is enjoyable, moving and informative, shedding light on a period of US history as experienced by those who were either directly involved or who lives were affected by the events both at the time and for years after.
All up, this is a truly excellent and thought-provoking book. I highly recommend it.
This was an enjoyable book for the most part – it made me laugh and smile a fair amount. It’s very light – not for someone looking for deep subject matter.
This story at first reminded me of K.M. Shea’s “My Life at the Magical Beings’ Rehabilitation Center” because of the age of the main character, the light/witty inner commentary, and having to learn the rules of a magical society. But that similarity only lasted so long – my one complaint about the book is that it quickly becomes focused almost solely on which guy the heroine will choose….there’s not much else driving the plot. Which is disappointing because I think there’s a lot that could have been made of this set up. That said, I truly did enjoy it. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next one or not.
Note – I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.
The writing is exceptional. Pavarti Tyler brings the main character, Chelle, a thirteen year old girl from a dysfunctional family, who turns fourteen during the book, to life in this disturbing novel told from her point of view. She bares her soul in this book, and I really felt for her as she struggled to navigate an existence that no one would wish on any teenage girl, yet is undeniably real for some. This is not a book for the faint-hearted. It deals with complex, tough, even taboo subjects, and it does so extremely realistically. Chelle makes some bad choices, but from her viewpoint, her emotional outlook and need, they make sense in a rather disturbing way. That made White Chalk a compelling read, and a story and character I won’t ever forget.
The other characters in the book are also well-portrayed, and as the story is from Chelle’s point of view, the reader must wonder at their motivations. Some of them take advantage of her; some seem to want to befriend and help her. It all adds to Chelle’s emotional confusion and self-doubt, and to my experience as a reader, because I had strong feelings about some of them.
I do not want to add any detail of the plot because that would spoil the story. White Chalk is for readers who want to be challenged emotionally and idealistically, mesmerized by great writing and a unforgettable characters, and be drawn deeply into a disturbed teenage girl’s life as it falls apart around her. I highly recommend it.
Lethal Inheritance is an action-packed YA fantasy adventure. The action and tension in the story start quickly with the abduction of Ariel’s mother by a demon, and her own narrow escape, followed by her quest to rescue her mother. She is guided by knowledgeable and likeable characters who teach her ways to learn self-control and master physical and mental techniques to find and overcome the demon who kidnapped her mother, Nadima. Along the way on this journey of self-discovery, she and her companions / guides meet with various adventures and a variety of the demon’s minions, leading to plenty of action, great interaction between the characters themselves, and a bit of romance. Most of the story is told from Ariel’s point of view, but in other places, the point of view switches to one of her companions, Nick.
Reading this story reminded me of two other books in particular (both very good ones): Running With The Demon by Terry Brooks, because that also has a young female protagonist hunting a demon and other similarities, and The Lord of the Rings, because of the fantasy quest and the good against evil theme. However, Lethal Inheritance has a unique blend of spirituality, philosophy and magical realism (or realistic magic) that the author has used to great effect in other books such as You Can’t Shatter Me. It is these elements that make the story different and engaging to read.
The book was a fun read, seamlessly layered with philosophical themes adding depth to the adventure, with engaging characters and evil antagonists, a bit of humour and romance and great action sequences.
Lethal Inheritance is the first of a series, and I look forward to reading the others.
Putting on young shoes, this is definitely a 5 star. Slopping in my comfy middle-aged slippers, this is definitely a 5 star. The writing is every bit as good as any hunk of Rowling’s fantasy, and if anything the plot has more originality. I have to admit to being a bit of a long-term fan of books that can mysteriously pluck me from everyday life and plunge me into the realms of fantasy. The escape into otherness, away from this all too real existence, to weird places that night’s illusions so often strive to go, is done very well in “Lethal Inheritance”.
If we wish we can explain everything as delusion, or the stuff of nightmare, or of chemical concoction, possibly as shadows on the edge of perception, or simply consider this fantasy as metaphor for some deep, private, spirituality. I can’t be bothered to dwell for long on such particulars, preferring to just get on with enjoying a very good tale told very well. Newland effortlessly draws us out of a suburban bedroom window to follow Ariel on the quest demanded by her destiny. Mental strength is the key to success, belief in one’s self, the learning to live with one’s fears and succeed despite them. The Serpentine, the snaking “river” of evil, may well have flowed into Australia through a gap in understanding that separates the land of “Dreamtime” from “La Serpentine” Mountain in the distant European Alps. Certainly the story, the invention, comes from a breadth of cultural mythology as wide as the physical distances between the Earth’s diverse landscapes. We all have to fight the snaking terrors that pollute life, some are fantasy and some real. Newland had my attention, possibly spellbound, held down by the demons, to the very last words, and now I have a sequel nipping at my ankle like a gimp. I don’t thing anyone is ever tot old and not for long too young,to enjoy this fantasy. We have romance, the swish of swords, the light of wands, the chill of fear, heroes and heroines, monsters in the dark, and always a connection to the city we know, just down the hill.
I can’t post my review here because it has gifs in it. If you want to see my review: click here