Tag Archives: Family Life

Review: Connected Underneath by Linda Legters


About Connected Underneath

Madena, upstate New York. Like any other small town, everybody keeps an eye on everybody else’s business without recognizing the secrets that connect them. The wheelchair-bound Celeste conjures up lives from what she sees and thinks she sees while peering through binoculars from her kitchen fan vent. Fifteen-year old Persephone trades sex for tattoo sessions that get her high and help her forget her girlfriend doesn’t love her. Theo was the high-school bad boy who couldn’t have the respectable girl he adored from afar, but now, sitting behind the counter of the last video store in town, worries wretchedly about the restless daughter he never understood. Natalie, trying to grasp the last shreds of respectability, would do anything to forget the baby she gave up long ago, including betray her husband and son. Celeste, longing to connect, combines truth with fantasy, intervenes and interferes, finally understanding that things have gone terribly wrong and that she stands at the heart of disaster.

Connected Underneath is a lyrical, scalpel-keen dissection of the ties that bind and of those that dissolve.

My Review

An emotional read exploring the dangers of harboring secrets, adoption and single parenting of a teen, relationships.

Theo and Seph are on the verge of a major collision. Theo desperate to mend rents in the relationship with his daughter as he achingly tries to figure out how along with what’s eating her alive, clawing at maintaining the thin tether of connection. Parents will be able to relate to Theo’s dilemma and conundrum. His pain, confusion and love for Seph is evident, I thoroughly empathized with his struggle. Natalie and Celeste frustrated me to no end, selfish troublemakers period. I felt for Seph, confused, wounded, lost. Interesting perspectives from protagonists, truly reveling their inner thoughts and feelings, no doubt all the characters are seriously flawed with yearnings for more as they flounder.

A glimpse into small town life full of suspense, moments of tenderness, leaving the reader with lots to contemplate, plenty avenues open for deep discussion. Understatedly moving story.

About Linda LegtersLinda-Legters-AP

Linda Legters was born in the far western reaches of New York State. She earned her B.A. from the University of New Hampshire and her MFA from Vermont College. She lived in Boston and New York before settling in Connecticut to raise her three sons. She currently teaches at Norwalk Community College and at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio.

Her short stories are about people from across the social spectrum and have appeared in literary journals such as Glimmer Train and Alaska Quarterly Review. She is passionate about art and music in addition to literature, and is at work on her second novel.

Find out more about Linda at her website.

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Publisher: Lethe Press (April 4, 2016)



Filed under 2016, Fiction, May, Review

Review: Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman


About Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo

The author of the critically admired, award-winning A Replacement Life turns to a different kind of story—an evocative, nuanced portrait of marriage and family, a woman reckoning with what she’s given up to make both work, and the universal question of how we reconcile who we are and whom the world wants us to be.

Maya Shulman and Alex Rubin met in 1992, when she was a Ukrainian exchange student with “a devil in [her] head” about becoming a chef instead of a medical worker, and he the coddled son of Russian immigrants wanting to toe the water of a less predictable life.

Twenty years later, Maya Rubin is a medical worker in suburban New Jersey, and Alex his father’s second in the family business. The great dislocation of their lives is their eight-year-old son Max—adopted from two teenagers in Montana despite Alex’s view that “adopted children are second-class.”

At once a salvation and a mystery to his parents—with whom Max’s biological mother left the child with the cryptic exhortation “don’t let my baby do rodeo”—Max suddenly turns feral, consorting with wild animals, eating grass, and running away to sit face down in a river.

Searching for answers, Maya convinces Alex to embark on a cross-country trip to Montana to track down Max’s birth parents—the first drive west of New Jersey of their American lives. But it’s Maya who’s illuminated by the journey, her own erstwhile wildness summoned for a reckoning by the unsparing landscape, with seismic consequences for herself and her family.

Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo is a novel about the mystery of inheritance and what exactly it means to belong.

My Review

Fishman returns with his outstanding writing, gift of satire and meaningful narrative with a fairly intricate and complex main protagonist. A story cleverly addressing identity, happiness, loneliness, love and more.

Despite the heavy satire the reader will ferret among the comedic veil to discover a staid plot which cannot go unnoticed. Fishman artfully blends his sold writing with satire deftly. Frustrating at times but rewarding in the end, evocative.

Maya is a strong character. She’s dealing with her identity. Her plans, dreams derailed and now she’s questioning her life and how she ended up in her current state. She doesn’t exude warmth and I certainly didn’t agree with her methods of discovery but I understood her predicament and Maya ultimately made her choices and actions for herself. Her road to discovery is risky, impulsive and rewarding. Journeying with her to the end was a mystery and a subtle emotional thrill ride.

I’m not a fan of satire, however, I appreciate Fishman’s skilled writing and intelligent narrative. An elevated plot softened with plenty of smart lampoon smatterings derailing what would be a head on collision to an impactful fender bender, bruised but not broken. Fishman possesses a gift no doubt envied by many.

About Boris FishmanBoris-Fishman-photo-credit-Stephanie-Kaltsas

Boris Fishman was born in Minsk, Belarus, and immigrated to the United States in 1988 at the age of nine. His journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. His first novel, A Replacement Life won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, was one of The New York Times‘ 100 Notable Books, and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. He lives in New York.

Find out more about Boris at his website, and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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Publisher: Harper (March 1, 2016)


Filed under 2016, Fiction, March, Review

Review: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer


About The Girl in the Red Coat

Costa Book Award for First Novel finalist
Dagger Award finalist

Newly single mom Beth has one constant, gnawing worry: that her dreamy eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go

And then one day, it happens: On a Saturday morning thick with fog, Beth takes Carmel to a local outdoor festival, they get separated in the crowd, and Carmel is gone.

Shattered, Beth sets herself on the grim and lonely mission to find her daughter, keeping on relentlessly even as the authorities tell her that Carmel may be gone for good.

Carmel, meanwhile, is on a strange and harrowing journey of her own—to a totally
unexpected place that requires her to live by her wits, while trying desperately to
keep in her head, at all times, a vision of her mother …

Alternating between Beth’s story and Carmel’s, and written in gripping prose that
won’t let go, The Girl in the Red Coat—like Emma Donoghue’s Room and M. L.
Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans—is an utterly immersive story that’s
impossible to put down . . . and impossible to forget.

My Review

Engaging read from the start. I was flipping through pages to reach the end, to read more of Carmel as well as the final outcome.

Beth and Carmel are compelling characters, I was invested immediately. Beth’s anguish, guilt, her emotional rollercoaster tore at my heart. I cannot fathom grappling with a missing child, I would be shattered. I admired her strength and hope. Carmel, her courage, precociousness served as tools to her survival. I do wish her ‘specialness’ was handled differently. Both protagonists felt authentic as did their emotions.

The narrative left several unanswered questions, too many for my liking. Alternating from Beth to Carmel possessed depth although further ferreting would have been appreciated, at times it seemed as if vital pieces were missing. Not much of a thriller, the plot explores the emotional damage and turmoil spectrum mother and daughter endure. The plot ebbs and flows, the ending felt wildly rushed.

Well written magnetic read in need of a slight nudge with the potential for more, nonetheless worthy of your reading time.

About Kate HamerKate.Hamer_

KATE HAMER is a winner of the Rhys Davies Short Story Prize. Girl in the Red Coat is her first novel. It is shortlisted for the Costa Book Award for First Novel and a finalist for The Dagger Award. She lives in Cardiff, Wales with her husband and two children.

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Publisher: Melville House (February 16, 2016)


Filed under 2016, Fiction, March, Review

Review: The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley


About The Ramblers

Set in the most magical parts of Manhattan—the Upper West Side, Central Park, Greenwich Village—The Ramblers explores the lives of three lost souls, bound together by friendship and family. During the course of one fateful Thanksgiving week, a time when emotions run high and being with family can be a mixed blessing, Rowley’s sharply defined characters explore the moments when decisions are deliberately made, choices accepted, and pasts reconciled.

Clio Marsh, whose bird-watching walks through Central Park are mentioned in New York Magazine, is taking her first tentative steps towards a relationship while also looking back to the secrets of her broken childhood. Her best friend, Smith Anderson, the seemingly-perfect daughter of one of New York’s wealthiest families, organizes the lives of others as her own has fallen apart. And Tate Pennington has returned to the city, heartbroken but determined to move ahead with his artistic dreams.

Rambling through the emotional chaos of their lives, this trio learns to let go of the past, to make room for the future and the uncertainty and promise that it holds. The Ramblers is a love letter to New York City—an accomplished, sumptuous novel about fate, loss, hope, birds, friendship, love, the wonders of the natural world and the mysteries of the human spirit.

My Review

A few standouts I want to acknowledge during my reading journey, the fantastic writing, solid framework of narrative, gently detailed characterization, ornithology elements, Rowley deserves a nod for her arduous effort.

Clio’s story was compelling, a lot was explored but I felt more could have been expanded upon. Her struggles felt real, her anguish heartbreaking. Peeling her numerous layers away was well done, tossing gamophibia in the mix was brilliant. When all was said and done I felt Clio was rushed along, sure she was on the road to healing but it sure felt like a well paved road to a tidy miraculous recovery in a small span of time. Smith and Tate felt weak, vapid, privileged, so opposite Clio. The protagonists felt immature and entitled, I shudder to think of when life really delivers uppercuts how will Smith and Tate react or cope.

Enmeshing Smith and Tate into the plot plunged it south rapidly, never quite regaining control. Their two storylines detracted from the depth of Clio’s tale. Rowley should have focused on Clio with Smith and Tate’s challenges as very distant threads IF included at all. For me the plot was unbalanced given the seriousness of Clio’s issues and family ordeal while sharing the narrative with Smith and Tate.

The messages of loyalty, friendship, support, love, hope and healing all very lovely, clearly present despite the messiness of the triple storylines.

I understand what Rowley was ultimately conveying, for me it was too foggy and misplaced with the end result jagged. I will read more from this talented authoress, her writing is too well-formed to deny further probing. Rowley possesses a slice of originality, very invigorating.

About Aidan Donnelley RowleyAidanDonnelleyRowley_AuthorPhoto2_creditElenaSeibert

Born and raised in New York City, Aidan Donnelley Rowley graduated from Yale University and received her law degree from Columbia University.  She is the author of a previous novel, Life After Yes, and the creator of the Happier Hour Literary Salon.  She lives in Manhattan with her husband and three daughters.

Expected publication: February 9th 2016 by William Morrow

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Filed under 2016, February, Fiction, Review