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review 2017-04-26 04:27
Anything is Possible
Anything Is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

By: Elizabeth Strout

ISBN: 9780812989403

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 4/25/2017  

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars +

 
From the author of My Name is Lucy Barton and the smashing hit Olive Kitteridge the HBO mini-series starring Frances McDormand (I loved) — Elizabeth Strout once again "wows" readers and her avid fans, with her insights into the human psyche — when ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Extraordinary novels, deftly combining lyrical prose with heartrending subject matter. A desperate need to be understood and accepted.

Compelling! Nine powerful and emotional stories. Grace and forgiveness. Flawed people who have experienced tragedy and haunting childhoods, abuse, mental illness, injustice, poverty, bullying, regrets, torment, war trauma, imploding lives, marriage problems, and severe loss.

People who hide behind social status. A sense of entitlement. Those who have survived and yet still remain with their own scars. There have been deep fissures in each of these families. The cracks. Some have been pushed to the breaking point, with shattering, unforeseeable consequences.

If you read My Name Is Lucy Barton (highly recommend), you may be rushing back to the title to refresh yourself, as I found myself doing.

Lucy came from a poor and dysfunctional family. She was determined and managed to escape the small town of Amgash, IL. She was diligent and became a successful author. She ultimately forgave her parents.

However, the scars of her past and the people who shaped her life, and the way she was treated by her family, siblings, and people of this town have haunted her.

Strout takes us back to some of the characters, cousins, family members, neighbors, school classmates, and siblings. We learn of the heartaches and fears, the narrow-minded thinking of these people. Where are these people today? Discovering how harsh words and actions stay with people. A profound message.

Even when someone succeeds, there are those who try and tear down the things we are most proud of. Each story sends a powerful message. Who do they blame? Are they accountable for their actions?

Broken people. Such hope for us all if only can learn to communicate. Not only with our families but the people whom we come in contact with on a daily basis. Intuitive. Being able to help those who need someone to care.

We can see from the outside a dysfunctional family can fall prey to those in a small town who do not really understand what's going on with the family as a whole, or those that make up the family (s).

We each have our own favorite stories in the collection. I enjoyed the story of Tommy, Pete, Patty, and Lucy’s return to town which did not go as expected when Vicky (sister) brings up the horrors of the past and Lucy has a panic attack driving her away. I also enjoyed the people from her past which showed up at her book signing.

Family dysfunction, problems, and crossing social classes; people are mean and they are ugly. A cruel world and Strout does not hold back. A reminder to us all. One act of compassion, caring, or kindness can make all the difference in the word.

The characters in the nine stories are shaped and at the same time, haunted by their past. They still feel trapped by the difficulties in their present day relationships and their inability to say how they truly feel. The author is a master at drawing you into the lives of her characters as she weaves in her powerful observations of human complexities and interactions. From anger, frustration, and bullying mixed with fear and cruelty.

I love this stand-out author! Her writing just keeps getting better and betters. Beautifully written, with each book I read, it makes me return to re-read or perhaps one I missed. Strout is authentic, prolific, and has mastered her skilled craft at getting inside her character’s heads, heart, and soul. They come alive on the page. ?

If you come from a small town and you happen to be the one who left and got away (I am) and became successful— you will resonate with these stories. Often those left behind are often bitter and resentful, and lash out in hateful ways and try to destroy another’s happiness when they do not have the facts. Their views are narrow and they do not think big and wide outside the box. They could have made the choice to leave. Everyone has choices. How hard do we want to strive for a better life is the question.

If you have not watched Olive Kitteridge I highly recommend. I want to watch it over and over. It stays with you. I am hoping we will get to see Anything is Possible and My Name is Lucy Barton, will be played out on the big screen. These are powerful stories that people can connect with on many levels.

There is always hope, forgiveness, and love amidst the imperfections. We are reminded that in life Anything is Possible!

For me the Washington Post article by Susan Scarf Merrell offers the perfect summary of ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE:

. . . “These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else, which is to render quiet portraits of the indignities and disappointments of normal life, and the moments of grace and kindness we are gifted in response.

Such a simple goal, so difficult to achieve. Each of these stories stands alone, but they are richer in juxtaposition to the others. And that’s because over the years, from angle after angle, Strout has been packing and unpacking how silence works — between people, within a single person, on the page, in the spaces between stories.

Omission is where you find what makes a writer a writer; it is in the silences where forgiveness and wisdom grow, and it is where Strout’s art flourishes. This new book pushes that endeavor even further.” . . . Read More


Well said. I just purchased Amy and Isabelle and Abide with Me audiobooks, I missed along the way. Highly recommend this author.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in." —Leonard Cohen

This book reminds me of a plaque I have on my desk:
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
I am reminded of this each time I return to my small hometown and family. Fans of Fredrik Backman will enjoy the exploration of small town characters and the examination of the fragile human spirit.

A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/01/Anything-Is-Possible
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review 2017-04-26 00:12
Alas, She Drowned
Alas, She Drowned (The Stratford Upon Avondale Mysteries) (Volume 1) - Monica Knightley

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises."
William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well.

I had really high hopes for this book, it started out as a promising mystery. Set in a charming Shakespearean-themed village, it had a great plot; an odious and unpleasant theater critic is murdered (always enjoyable when that happens!) and lots of suspects to muddy the waters. It really kept me guessing (and turning pages) and I didn't suspect the murderer at all.

But that's pretty much all the book has going for it. I really wish I could've rated this higher than 2 stars because the plot was a lot better than 2 stars but it came down to the unlikable characters. I thought Nick was an obnoxious bull's pizzle (Thank the bard himself for that one!) and Maggie's not much better. I really wanted more out of her character - she had a lot of potential in her back story but ended up a two-dimensional chatterbox with poor judgment skills.

Sigh.

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review 2017-04-25 16:46
Love, love, love
Aquaman Vol. 2: Black Manta Rising (Rebirth) - Dan Abnett,Brad Walker,Phillipe Briones

Love this continuation.   Black Manta is broken out of prison - a theme in this series? - and is recruited into N.E.M.O, an invisible organization of super-evil that controls the world from behind the scenes.   Black Manta proceeds to take control of N.E.M.O and to make taking down Aquaman - something they'd wanted him to do anyway - his first priority and lifelong obsession.  So, really, nothing's changed for him.  

 

Black Manta raises the stakes on the war bubbling between Atlantis and the US, and forces Curry into quicker action.   He has to hold the US at bay, while figuring out who's sabotaging his country.   While dealing with extremists, terrorists, and his own people who are newly disillusioned about the surface dwellers. 

 

It's a lot to throw at him, and it's one of the reasons he can handle the Justice League in my opinion.  He keeps a cool head, and juggles all of this imminent problems, and he deals with them personally whenever possible. 

 

I'm kinda starting to love this character.  I'll be on the lookout for volume three. 

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review 2017-04-25 14:30
Setup
Aquaman, Volume 1: The Drowning - Dan Abnett,Brad Walker,Philippe Briones,Gabe Eltaeb,Pat Brosseau

This is setup for the Rebirth series, which has to balance new readers like me, old readers, and actually set up the story.   It does fantastically.   It sets up the conflict between Atlantis, the surface world and the fact that Arthur Curry straddles the line: he's Atlantean on his mother's side, and human on his father's.   He also happens to be the King of Atlantis.   

 

He's known as a joke sometimes.   The man who talks to fish.  Less powerful than the rest of the Justice League.   The truth is he's on the Justice League because he has more powers, and doesn't talk to fish.   This series is quick to disabuse us of that notion.   Fish aren't able to hold a conversation; he telepathically controls fish, and other sea life, to do his bidding.   He is super strong, and has a will of steel.  He's a powerhouse in his own right, and that doesn't even count his girlfriend Mera, who can control water, or his people - or as the US counts them a rogue state.  

 

This series ratchets up the action by having an invisible party try to make the US, or the surface world, and Atlantis.   When an extremist group of Atlanteans seem to take out a US ship, the US sees it as an act of war.   The Justice League are forced to get involved: they can't have one of their own members allowing, much less condoning, this, and they can't even allow it to seem that way.   Arthur Curry promises he'll go after the extremists, and disavows any knowledge of this, but it might not be enough.   It makes him question if he can be part of the Justice League and King of Atlantis.   And if he can call upon his friends in the Justice League in his time of need.   He does everything he can to deescalate: he turns himself in, to be imprisoned until everyone is comfortable he's not to blame, and when an officer offers to uncut him, he points out he could have done that himself.   No, he'll allow himself to stay cuffed so that it's clear he's being cooperative.

 

By the way, Arthur takes a punch from Superman and Mera hits big blue right back.  Neither of them are lightweights by any means.    This is due to Atlantis' distrust of the surface world: no one is comfortable with Curry in cuffs, and more than that, they need him to lead Atlantis and also to find out who's really at fault for the sinking of the ship.   He doesn't see it that way and insists that Mera made things worse by breaking him out, although she will never agree. 

 

Plenty of action, plenty of friction between the characters, and I'm hooked.

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review 2017-04-25 14:02
Beautiful, hopeful, with a good dose of heartbreak
The Prey of Gods - Nicky Drayden

First of all: thank you to the publisher for the ARC.   This hasn't changed how I feel about this book.   

 

I don't even know where to start reviewing this.   The bizarre sex?   The mythological pantheon that seems to have a basis in real mythology, but is cobbled together into something new and fascinating?   The theme of tradition versus modernity?   The LGBT themes running throughout this?   I mean, this thing is jam-packed.   What's truly impressive is that you add a plot and fleshed out characters on top of all this, and it doesn't feel too busy.   No, it's just busy enough, just as busy as the characters and world call for it to be and no more. 

 

Drayden doesn't limit herself to a page count, either.   At a sprawling 400 pages - although keep in mind this covers the afterward, she gives herself plenty of space to add in all these elements.   This is also her debut novel, although she has collections of short stories out.   I've seen first time authors pack close this much into shorter novels, but it's tricky to pull off.   I've seen a lot of first time authors go at a more leisurely pace, too.   Could Drayden have pulled this off without spending as much time she does on this novel?   Perhaps, but I think she'd have to lose the multiple point of view chapters.

 

And disclaimer, I hate this technique most times.   It doesn't give you enough time to get to really settle with the characters most times, and I found myself questioning if I remembered Sydney correctly in her second chapter.   (I'd had to put the book down and came back and scratched my head.   It was only once, however, but shows at least one potential flaw of this device.)   This book tells you who the chapter will be sticking with, and does do third person but sticks with that character for the chapter.   The writing, characters and world building were strong enough for me to stop caring at all and just enjoy this book, too, which is why I didn't knock stars off at all.   

 

This is a look at a possible future for South Africa.   Drayden acknowledges it can't be the story of South Africa in her afterward, but rather is the story of her relationship with South Africa.   (I'm not sure how to pare that, as I didn't get that personal feel from this book: it seems to me that Drayden had a story to tell, did a lot of research into South Africa, and decided to set it there.   While some of the aspects - the dik-dik, the mythology, and the traditions versus modernity - are specific to the country, or even continent, a good deal feels like it could have taken place anywhere.   Then again, this author is compared to Lauren Beukes and Nnedi Okorafor on the back of the book, which sets up unrealistic expectations.   Those two authors steep their books - or the ones I've read - in African culture, and in Beukes case South African Culture.   Beukes is a white woman who is South African, though, so she's lived in that culture.)

 

So to me it was a look at the possibilities of the world in the future.   Or at least some of it is; the mythological aspects are there, and seem more unlikely than the cloning, the robots, or the hybridization of species that are rooted in scientific advances that we're making today.    And no, the mythological is never truly explained; it simply lives beside the science.   And I was okay with that.   It was far better than an explanation that didn't make sense, or was too complex to be coherent, which I've also seen done.   Drayden also writes with a sharp confidence, not needing to explain and simply writing as if we'll accept these two elements side by side.   She assumes we do, and I found it worked for me: I didn't question why there were gods among labs that were built upon genetic modifications. 

 

It's a bit of a slow start as Drayden sets up her characters, but not a page is wasted: she does immediately start setting up plot points, particularly with Sydney, and Muzi.  I feel like Nomvula's setup was a little slower than the rest, but it all makes sense at the end: Nomvula's insecurities, her abilities, all had to be revealed slowly for the best effect.   Even the ways that some stories seem to take an odd, or even unnecessary turn, end up feeling necessary at the end.   They're there to show why the characters could act in no other way than how they do. 

 

And, yes, I loved the robots.   Loved them so much!   

 

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