Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Absalom's Daughters

26792275Self-educated and brown-skinned, Cassie works full time in her grandmother’s laundry in rural Mississippi. Illiterate and white, Judith falls for “colored music” and dreams of life as a big city radio star. These teenaged girls are half-sisters. And when they catch wind of their wayward father’s inheritance coming down in Virginia, they hitch their hopes to a road trip together to claim what’s rightly theirs.

In an old junk car, with a frying pan, a ham, and a few dollars hidden in a shoe, they set off through the American Deep South of the 1950s, a bewitchingly beautiful landscape as well as one bedeviled by racial strife and violence. Suzanne Feldman's Absalom’s Daughters combines the buddy movie, the coming-of-age tale, and a dash of magical realism to enthrall and move us with an unforgettable, illuminating novel.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Absalom's Daughters is the debut novel of Suzanne Feldman, containing beautiful prose that is laced with mysticism. Two girls, Cassie and Judith, discover they're half-sisters and are pushed into finding their father in order to claim an inheritance after a death in the family. They escape rural Mississippi in a junked, and stolen, car, traveling to Virginia where their father resides. With equal doses of help and prejudice, Cassie and Judith have the adventure of a lifetime, learning about the importance of the past and how it lives in the present. 

Cassie, with cinnamon colored skin, has grown up working with her mother and grandmother in the laundry business on Negro Street. She's heard the rumors that her father is a white man and knows that Judith is her sister. At first, the two girls don't exactly get along but there's something that ties them together. After she learns of the inheritance, Cassie's mother tells her to go, escape Mississippi and find something better. Cassie is an open-minded character who grows into her past as she travels. She discovers her history and learns to accept it. She's a brave girl, setting off for Virginia with only a few dollars. Cassie is cautious but friendly, with an air of naivety and hope. Though she's uncertain about what an inheritance really means to her, Cassie takes the chance that the road trip will lead her somewhere better. 

Though Cassie is the main focus of the novel, Judith plays an important role. Judith is the force that moves Cassie forward. Even though she's constantly making up stories and really only dreams of becoming a famous singer, she provides a way for Cassie to grow. Judith isn't the most likeable character at first, but she becomes more understandable as the novel progresses. Struggling with the idea that her father abandoned her and experiencing a miscarriage along the way, Judith is revealed as a strong character who doesn't let anything stop her from dreaming. 

My favorite thing about this book is the dialect. Feldman uses this tool to really bring the characters to life. I always love when an author represents a culture through speech, especially when they're successful. It pulls readers deeper into the story, immersing them in the time period and making the story more realistic. 

In the afterword, Feldman thanks William Faulkner as man of inspiration, the title of this book echoing Absalom! Absalom! The name Absalom comes from a biblical story in which Absalom, son of David, rebelled against his father and went to war. In the war he was killed by one of his father's generals. Absalom was said to have a daughter in the bible, though he did not have two. However, this novel echoes the themes of rising up against familial wishes and becoming something more. Another common theme is that the past is part of the present and Feldman demonstrates that belief through the use of mysticism and myth. She allows her characters to grow into the past as they learn to understand it, ultimately giving Cassie a new life, a life she can be proud of. 

Rating: 5/5 Cups

(Note: The information about Faulkner's Absalom! Absalom! and the biblical stories are available on Wikipedia at the following pages: Absalom! Absalom! and Absalom.)

What's Next, Wednesday (26)

  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.


I'm looking forward to...

Lights by Kaye Thornbrugh. I've been waiting very patiently to read this next installment in the Flicker series. Absolutely love these characters and all the fantastical creatures and situations they encounter. In this book, the main characters have been arrested for practicing magic and must serve the Guild or go to prison. And then Lee finds herself in the middle of an ancient feud that threatens everything. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Teaser Tuesday (234)

Teaser Tuesday |

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm/Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers


Absalom's Daughters (p. 176)
   - Suzanne Feldman

She looked out the window and noted with surprise that the trees were covered with blossoms, so thick and white they shone in the dark, lit by the passing train. To regular travelers this might not be remarkable, but only yesterday afternoon, in Porterville, the flowers had been frail and rotten, falling to the ground. Fresh white blossoms rushed past the train window, a second chance at the change of the season.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

She Runs Away (Sheridan Hall #2)

27150209After tragedy strikes New Jersey University's Sheridan Hall, freshman quarterback Ben Riley’s stable, normal life is turned upside down. Sidelined from playing the game he loves and on the verge of losing his scholarship, Ben wants nothing more than to escape the chaos of college and return home to rural Pennsylvania and his family.

Yet, there is something that keeps him from running. Or someone. A cute blonde he had a chance with but blew off for all the wrong reasons.

Megan Smith has secrets. Secrets that have burned her in the past. Secrets she’s unwilling to share with anyone at Sheridan Hall—especially Ben, her sexy, rough around the edges floormate who broke her heart in a matter of days after moving into Sheridan. Meg decided early on that it’s easier to live life on her own than to share her secrets and let people in.

Meg runs and Ben follows, but sooner or later the clock on their chance at love will expire. With inner demons dragging them both down, they must find a way to stop running and trust one another, or risk losing their perfectly-matched love forever.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Jessica Calla shares a contemporary college-aged romance with readers in She Runs Away, the second book in the Sheridan Hall series. I haven't read the first installment, but from the details of book two it seems that there was a shooting in a dorm at NJU and Frank, a friend of many, was killed and Ben was shot in the shoulder. This book takes place a few months later, when the students of Sheridan Hall are trying to rebuild their lives. 

Megan and Ben are the main characters of this book and share the title of first-person narrator. As they switch back and forth, readers get an inside look at what each character is thinking and feeling. 

Megan has liked Ben since she met him, but he broke her trust instantly when he dumped Megan on their first date. When Ben comes up with a sex contract, Meg believes that she can have physical intimacy without putting her heart at risk again. Of course... she is terribly mistaken. Megan's life shifts into chaotic mode when Ben starts wanting more than just sex and her presumably dead mother turns out to be alive which means her father has been lying to her. Readers will connect with Megan on her uncertainty and hesitant nature, but even readers will get a little tired of her running away all the time. Megan needs to take a chance on life, and readers will hope she can get there before it's too late. As readers watch Megan grow and open herself up, it's amazing how the negative aspects in her life seem to want to work themselves out. It's also great to witness a girl who feels so alone be supported by so many people. 

Ben is the protector of Sheridan Hall. He's seen as a hero since the shooting, but that doesn't make him feel like one. Ben wants to keep everyone safe because he blames himself for Frank's death. He especially wants to keep Megan safe and take back everything that happened on their first date - specifically the part where he blew it. Ben is a nice guy who people can depend on and trust. He's always worried about others and wondering what he could do to help. However, putting that much focus on other people has caused him to slide into a bit of a depression. He doesn't know what to do about football, he grows a beard so he can hide behind it, and he feels like giving up and going home. But then there's Megan, giving him a reason to keep trying as he tries to gain back her trust and earn her love. She makes him incredibly happy and it's enjoyable to read their battles and banter. Readers will emotionally connect with Ben based on his history with the shooting, but they'll also see that he's a kind-hearted man who is in need of some guidance. 

The plot of She Runs Away is focused on Megan and Ben's relationship. However, there are a few side plots that also move the story forward. Other character relationships show up and bring a little drama with them, like Juliet and Chase who are the main lovebirds of the basement dorms in Sheridan, and the break-up between Winston and Mags. There's also a very interesting storyline with Megan's dad who was a Pro-football player. Though, the main suspense includes Megan's mother who suddenly shows up in Megan's life. Megan's dad tells her to stay away because her mother's a bad person, but Megan is willing to take that chance. She Runs Away is a book about healing and opening up. It does have quite a bit of cursing and sex, but I think it works well for the college aged characters. 

The ending also has a little hint of something coming next... perhaps a third installment with Maggie as the main character?

Rating: 3.5/5 Cups