Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA by Dorothy Allison

My mom introduced me to Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel.  She had seen the movie on Lifetime and loved it so much that she told me about it and I then bought the book.  I saw some parts of the film a long time ago.  From what I remember the girl is beaten and raped continuously by her dad and her mother watches and doesn’t do anything about it.  She believes her husband when he tells her that the girl made him mad and that it is the girl’s fault and she needed punishment.  The book, however, is different than the movie. This abuse does happen in the story, but it also includes so many other family dynamics.   Subsequently, I kept waiting for the bad stuff to come, but it never did.  Well, at least not as consistently as the abuse was in the movie.

SYNOPSIS

Bone tells her life story in Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel.  Her birth name is Ruth Anne but has been called Bone all of her life by her family.  The book starts with her birth.  Since Bone’s family did not name her father on her birth certificate, she was labeled a bastard in the state of South Carolina. This girl’s story starts from her birth and goes until she is almost thirteen years old.  She has a hard life growing up poor, but it is also a normal life for everyone that grew up around her and same kind of life that her aunts and uncle had too.

Bone had a younger sister and now has a step dad, which she calls Daddy Glen.  Bone’s mom, Anney, and Daddy Glen both worked but still didn’t make much money.  Growing up as ‘white trash’ in South Carolina was not easy.  Her family often moved because they were so poor that they could not afford the rent.  The family often had things repossessed from their homes.  All of her extended family was poor too.

FAMILY LOVE

One thing the family had was lots of love.  Bone would often spend time at her aunt’s houses for weeks at a time.  Her aunts and uncles loved to tell stories.  The family was always reminiscing about things like when the guys came to repossess everything from their house for nonpayment.   One story that the whole town repeated often was when her aunt threw everything out the window, including her underwear, and told them just to take it all.

Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel exhibits many emotions. There is lots of love in the family, along with poverty, heartaches, and abuse.

Aunt Raylene chose never to get married nor have any children.  However, she wasn’t lonely at all and enjoyed her life.

“Well, for not birthing any, it sure feels like I’ve raised a crowd.  Seems like I’ve had somebody’s kids under my feet for years now.  An’t nobody in this family ever been selfish with their children.  Why, I’ve got up many a morning to find a porch full of young’uns somebody’s dropped off in the night.” (p. 189)

DADDY GLEN IS AN ABUSIVE STEP DAD

The only place Bone didn’t get love was from Daddy Glen.  He started beating her and touching her inappropriately. Anney knew what he was doing to her daughter.  But she took her husband’s side and told Bone to don’t make him mad.

“Mama thought that keeping me out of the house and away from Daddy Glen was the answer, that being patient, loving him, and making him feel strong and important would fix everything in time.  But nothing changed and nothing was really fixed, everything was only delayed.  Every time his daddy spoke harshly to him, every time he couldn’t pay the bills, every time Mama was too tired to flatter or tease him out of his moods, Daddy Glen’s eyes would turn to me, and my blood would turn to ice.” (p. 233)

Everyone is just trying to get through life the best they can.  Bone is always feeling angry.  She didn’t like being poor and moving all the time.  Also, Bone felt that she was a bad person and ugly, that is why Daddy Glen beat her.

MY REVIEW

I enjoyed the escape to this little girls life in Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel.  Feelings I got from reading the book during that time period were sadness, happiness, love, and adventure.  This story is real life for some people.

If the book did just focus on the rape and beatings Daddy Glen did to Bone, I would have been angry the whole way through the book, as I was during the movie.  I would have had hatred towards the dad and angry with the mother for not saving her daughter.

I loved how the author took the readers to the 1950s and let us experience what life was like growing up poor during that time in the south.  My mother grew up in the 1950s, and as I was reading, I imagined what it was like for my mom growing up.  I wished I could have asked her about her childhood, compared to what was in the book.  Sadly, she died two years ago, so there is no more asking her questions.  The story gave me a glimpse of what it was like growing up poor in the 1950s as my mom did.

Another blog I wrote about child abuse was a book review of Damaged: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Forgotten Child.  I highly recommend this book.

Rushing Waters by Danielle Steel

Rushing Waters by Danielle Steel

RUSHING WATERS by Danielle Steel

Rushing Waters is a novel about the changes Hurricane Ophelia makes in the character’s lives.  From the title, I thought the book would be about people surviving the flood and how it destroyed their property and lives.  The sad story where people overcome tragedy. This story was different.  The focus wasn’t on the devastation of the storm, but on circumstances that lead to relationships which would not have happened if there was not a hurricane.

SYNOPSIS

Hurricane Ophelia is approaching New York when Ellen Wharton is preparing to visit her mother, Grace.   While in New York, she will also meet with two clients and visit a doctor that may be able to help her have kids.  She is living in London with her husband of ten years and desperately wants to have children.  For the past four years, they have tried IVF with no full term pregnancies.  She did, however, had six miscarriages.  At 38 years old and running out of time to have children, she made one last attempt to get pregnant by making an appoint with a specialist in New York.

Visiting her mother is a yearly trip for Ellen.  She grew up in New York and loves to visit her mom.  Neither Ellen nor her mother is afraid of the approaching hurricane since they have been through two other hurricanes.

The flood does come and destroys her mother’s house.  During the storm, they stayed at a shelter, then moved into a friend’s house until her mother can find an apartment to rent until her apartment is cleaned up and reconstructed.  It’s no big deal since she has been through it before and she has lots of money that it is easy for her to buy new things.

4 MINOR STORYLINES IN RUSHING WATERS

There are four other small story lines in Rushing Waters.  They are as follows.

  1. Grace  –  She is 74 years old and still works as a successful architect in New York.  She lives alone, except when her daughter visits her.  Neither of them is worried about Hurricane Ophelia.  Grace has lived through two other hurricanes and knew the drill.  She won’t evacuate her upscale apartment until she has to and is told to leave.
  2. Charles – On the plane from London to New York, Ellen met Charles, who was going on a business trip.  During his stay in New York, he also wanted to take the time to see his two daughters who live with their mother in New York.  It wasn’t his choice to get a divorce.  His wife is younger and was not ready to settle down with a family.  So she ran off with a photographer to pursue her modeling career, and she took the kids with her.  He still loves his wife though and wants to be with her.
  3. Juliette – She is an Emergency Room doctor who has also lived through Hurricane Sandy.  She was calm when Hurricane Ophelia came since she knew what to do.  As soon as the storm came and the electricity went out at the hospital, she took charge and told people what to do to save the patients in the hospital.  They needed to be removed and transported to another hospital.  The emergency generator at the hospital didn’t work.  The same thing happened while she was working at another hospital during Hurricane Sandy five years prior.
  4. Peter – He is a college student living in an apartment with his friend who also goes to NYU.  They lived on the sixth floor and wasn’t worried about the flood hitting them.  They thought they would be safe and they prepared by buying enough food to last them through the storm.

The hurricane indirectly affected these character’s lives.  Ellen and Charles meet and keep their friendship throughout the story.  However, the other storylines do not intersect with Ellen’s life.  The only common element with all the people in the book is they all dealt with Hurricane Ophelia in New York.  

MY REVIEW

Rushing Waters is more about relationships before and after Hurricane Ophelia.  The author doesn’t write too much about the destruction or ruined lives.  None of the characters in New York seemed to care about the damage the storm caused, except for Ellen because she has expensive furniture and other items which she would like to save.

I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t what I expected.  I thought the story would be more about how people survived Hurricane Ophelia and the devastation it caused in their lives.  Characters didn’t care about the storm.  However, because of the storm relationships changed and that is the focus of the book.  It’s not a romance novel either, even though there is some in the book.

I was getting to the end of the book, about the last 80 pages, and didn’t feel there was much new to read.  Relationships were forming or ending, and I felt there was nothing more to add to the story.  The author wraps the stories up and reveals the new direction the characters will take in their life.

I did like that there were different stories to follow which the characters did not intersect.  Getting different perspectives

 

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue Book Review

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue Book Review

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue Book Review

 THE WONDER

The Wonder is a fiction novel about a young girl who voluntarily stopped eating, claiming that she hasn’t eaten in four months.  A mystery is entered into the story when a nurse is hired to watch over her.  It is the nurse’s job to find out how the girl is living without food.  Is this a hoax?

The author, Emma Donoghue, also wrote Room, which is another excellent book.

THE WONDER SYNOPSIS

Anna, an eleven-year-old girl from a small Irish village, claims to have not eaten any food in the last four months.  Her parents are convinced that the child can live without food.   People outside of Anna’s village are calling them fools for believing that the child is living without food.

Consequently, a committee was formed and decided to mount a watch over the child to determine if it is a hoax. Dr. Brearty, the O’Donnell’s family physician, headed the committee.  They wanted only the best nurse, so they sent for one that Florence Nightingale trained.  They chose Lib Wright, who was young and widowed.  Living in London, Lib had travel expenses paid to come to Ireland where the O’Donnell’s reside. Another person hired for the watch was a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Michael.  The parents insisted upon someone with the same religious denomination and nationality be one of the people hired.  Both Sister Michael and the O’Donnell’s live in Ireland.

Upon arriving, Lib found out that the family was poor.  She had believed that they had money since they paid for all of her expenses while traveling from England to Ireland.  The family wasn’t spending their money, the committee was.  The family lived in a small cabin.  The maid in the O’Donnell household is Anna’s cousin, Kitty.  Malachy and Rosaleen O’Donnell had another child, a son named Pat, who died last November.  Anna is their only child now.

Lib’s length of employment was for a fortnight (14 days) to report if Anna ingests any food.  However, she thought after hearing her duties that she would be back home in a few days.  It wouldn’t take that long to find out the hoax because surely the girl is getting food from somewhere.  Lib’s only job was to find out where Anna was obtaining her nourishment.

Lib and Sister Michael were alternating eight-hour shifts to watch Anna nonstop for two weeks.  Lib just needs to figure out how the child is getting food secretly.  She monitors her the entire time during her shift and insists that there be no visitors.  She thought that it would only take one or two days to see how Anna was eating.

ANNA AND LIB

During her shift, Lib develops a friendship with Anna.  All day long Anna recites prayers and sings hymns.  The whole family, along with Sister Michael when she is there, prays on their knees several times a day.  Since Lib isn’t from the same religion, she is not aware of the traditions. From the very first day Lib met Anna, the child had recited the Dorothy prayer many times every day. Lib did not know the significance of it.

Anna tells Lib that she eats manna, which is sustaining her.  Rosaleen’s lack of worry about her daughter’s health dumbfounded Lib.  How can she allow her daughter to keep on fasting when it is diminishing her life?  Her mother comes in to see Anna twice a day.

Leave her be, Lib wanted to say.  But she held her tongue while Rosaleen bent down to rouse her daughter with a long embrace and murmured prayers.  Like something out of grand opera, the way she barged in to make a show of her maternal feelings twice a day.

COULD ANNA BE A MIRACLE CHILD?

The last thing Anna ate was the sacrament she had on her first Communion on her eleventh birthday.  She was the talk of the town being the amazing girl that doesn’t eat. Some people in the village says that it is a miracle that the girl can subsist on air.

Some people thought it was true that Anna was The Wonder and believed that it was a miracle that she could live on air.  After reading articles in the paper about it, visitors came from around the world just to see her.  Not everyone believed it, though.  One doctor came to the house to do an exam on Anna to check for himself if it was true.

“It’s Just as I suspected when I read about the case in the paper.”  The words sprayed from Standish’s mouth.  “In taking up this chit of a girl – and dignifying this charade by setting a formal watch – McBrearty’s made himself a laughingstock.  No, made this whole unfortunate nation a laughingstock!”

Turning away all visitors, including doctors and reporters from visiting Anna.  Lib didn’t want any interruptions because she needed to make sure no one secretly gave Anna food.

The time span for the whole book is two weeks, but every day is crucial.  The reader needs to read until the very end to find out what happens.

MY REVIEW

After reading Room, I immediately wanted to read Emma Donoghue’s other books. Room book review.  Her stories are entertaining to read.  The endings are unexpected, and yet so perfect.

The end of The Wonder emotes both sadness and joy to the reader.  In the beginning, I thought the story was over, and I knew how it was going to end, so what could fill 200 more pages?  I didn’t want to put the book down.  There was a lot of twists in the book, and I had no idea what was coming next.  I would read again.

Great Escape from Room

Great Escape from Room

Five-Year-Old Boy Braves Great Escape from Room

FIVE-YEAR-OLD BOY BRAVES GREAT ESCAPE FROM ROOM

Room, authored by Emma Donoghue, is a story that captured my heart.  A Five-Year-Old Boy Braves Great Escape from Room.  What makes it unique is told from a five-year-old boy’s perspective.  If it had been told from the mother’s perspective, it would have been a sad story and one that has been written many times before based on actual events.  The story is sad because we know the circumstances, but the boy does not see it that way.  We see how a little boy looks at the world and what he is thinking.

GREAT ESCAPE FROM ROOM SYNOPSIS

The story starts with Jack’s birthday when he turns five years old.  It’s only him and his mother living in an 11 sq ft room, which Jack just calls Room. They are being held captive by a man that kidnapped his mother seven years ago when she was nineteen years old. His mother tries to make life as normal as possible by creating routines.  Jack learned what time they ate dinner, took a bath, and went to bed.  He could read a digital clock.   

Since he could never leave the Room and has only a small skylight to look out, Jack had never seen the outside world.  They do have a small TV to pass the time.  He thinks that everything in the TV is not real.

Jack is an intelligent boy.  Although he doesn’t have many books, he loves to read.  Often his mother will read him the books. Watching TV taught him a lot of things too.  His mother taught him to write his name and sentences.  

 

MY REVIEW

Room is an adorable and heart-wrenching story.  I didn’t want it to end. Coming to the end of the book, I wondered how it was going to finish.  It doesn’t wrap up like in a crime or a romance book.  Nonetheless, the ending is touching and perfect.  I don’t give five stars to many books, but this one deserves it.  It captured my attention from beginning to end.  

I like how Jack says that his Ma unlies to him when she told him lies but now she is telling him the truth.  There are so many words in the book that reflects how young children speak.  

“When I was four I thought everything in TV was just TV, then I was five and Ma unlied about lots of it being pitures of real and Outside being totally real.  Now I’m in Outside but it turns out lots of it isn’t real at all.” (p. 277)

Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the made up words  Jack and his mother would create.  They used ‘scave‘ to mean both scared and brave. Jack came up with a lot of word sandwiches, as they called them, throughout the book.  The reader is glimpsing into a young child’s mind.  

Room

Murder Mystery Solved by The Girl On The Train

Murder Mystery Solved by The Girl On The Train

MURDER MYSTERY SOLVED BY THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

The Girl on the Train is about a girl who rides the same train every day going to work and coming home.  Rachel searches for answers to the murder mystery of Megan.  Consequently, she also figures out the truth about her marriage.  The story enticed me to keep on reading to the end so that I can find out what happened to Megan.

SYNOPSIS OF THE MURDER MYSTERY

All the chapters, which are short, are titled by the character who is telling the story from their perspective.  The three characters are Rachel, Megan, and Anna.  Furthermore, each chapter includes the date which the events in that section took place.  Megan’s story lags behind those of Rachel’s and Anna’s. Rachel is the girl on the train who is infatuated with a husband and wife, Megan and Scott.   They live on the same street as she used to live on when she was married.  However, Rachel does not know them since they moved into their house after her departure.  However, she can see their house from the train and takes an interest in their life from afar.

Rachel’s husband, Tom,  still lives in the house they bought when they got married.  He has a new wife, Anna, and a baby girl.

Every day Rachel looks out the train’s window at the stop where she can see the street where she used to live and to watch Megan and Scott.  Since she didn’t know their real names,  she made up names for them and fantasized about the perfect life that they have.

Rachel is an alcoholic.  One day she drank too much and blacked out while visiting her old neighborhood.  The next day she couldn’t remember anything that happened.  Alarmingly, on that same night, Megan went missing.  Throughout the rest of the book, Rachel searches for answers to what happened that night.  She tries desperately to recall the events of that night, along with the mystery of what happened to Megan.  She knows there is a link between the two.

MY REVIEW

I liked this story, and can’t wait to see the movie coming out based on this book.  The book is an easy read and a page turner.  I didn’t want to stop reading.  At the end of some chapters, the author inserted suspense where I had to keep reading so I would find out the answer. This murder mystery is different than other crime books since an unreliable witness, not a detective, solves the case.

 

Murder Investigation Up Country

Murder Investigation Up Country

MURDER INVESTIGATION UP COUNTRY

The head of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Army assigns Paul Brenner to a murder investigation Up Country.  The novel tells of an army investigator who revisits Vietnam where his army unit fought during the war in 1968 and 1972.

I’ve read several books by Nelson DeMille, including The Gold Coast and The General’s Daughter.  I especially loved The Lion’s Game, which I read several times.  Nelson DeMille usually writes novels about actual events that happened in history.  The fictional part is the main characters of the story which are detectives trying to discover the truth.  It is fascinating to hear the details of what happened.  Although, the author does not reveal what parts are correct and what he made up in the book.

Similarly, Up Country depicts many actual events.

Nelson DeMille served in the army during the Vietnam war in 1967-68 in Quang Tri Province, where this story takes place.  Before writing and in preparation for writing Up Country, he returned to Vietnam to visit the places where his army unit fought during the war.  This novel came from that experience in 1997.

WHAT DOES THE TITLE MEAN?

“The Westerners use it here [Vietnam].  Up Country.  Means someplace out of Saigon or any major city – usually someplace that you’d rather not be – like in the wilds.” (p. 183)

Paul Brenner ultimately wants to go Up Country to find the witness to the murder that he is investigating.  The author describes this location, who lives there, and how to travel.

SYNOPSIS OF UP COUNTRY

Paul Brenner, a retired Army investigator, is called back on a case that involves a murder that happened 30 years ago in Vietnam during the war in 1968.  He was also the main character in another novel by Nelson DeMille, The General’s Daughter.

The majority of this story takes place in Vietnam where Paul Brenner remembers his time in the army during the war.  The main reason the Criminal Investigation Division of the Army sent him to Vietnam was to talk to the witness of the 30-year-old murder and gather some evidence.  Since this conversation happens at the end of the book, there is not much investigating happening.  However, there is a lot of adventure to keep the story interesting.  And, of course, there are love and sex scenes in the book.  Paul’s lover, Susan Weber, becomes his partner in the investigation.

MY REVIEW OF UP COUNTRY

I enjoyed this book, as I have all of the author’s other books.  Although I was disappointed that there wasn’t more written about the investigation, I enjoyed Paul Brenner’s reminiscing about his events that happened to him in the war, especially since I knew that much of the information came from Nelson DeMille’s personal experiences.  Furthermore, the author filled the pages with many dangerous scenes.  There was never a dull moment.  I recommend this book readers who like murder mysteries.

 

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