Monday, January 9, 2017

The Mothers

Life has a way of surprising us - rocking our routine, challenging our stability and sending us off on new, sometimes unsettling adventures.  Life also occasionally sucker punches us - rocking our routine, challenging our stabiilty and sending us off on new, sometimes unsettling adventures.  The difference between surprise and sucker punch is what we do when it happens.

Brit Bennett's book places mothers at the eye of the whirlwind that spins and comforts us during various stages in our lives.  My mother was 53 when she died; too young.  Nadia Turner's mother was even younger, and although the circumstances were different, the emotions ring true.  Days, months, years of asking "Why?" and "What if..."  

Attempting to numb the pain of her mother's death, Nadia makes choices that she cannot shake even though she attempts to by leaving home and only returning on rare occasions when she feels obliged.  No spoiler here, but I will say that when Nadia chooses to remain silent about one of her choices, that very silence spreads like a thick, slow moving poison through many, many lives.

Sounds a bit soap opera-ish.  Not at all.  This is a skillful first novel.  Bennett uses the popular technique of alternating chapter narration, but again, it is not sloppy or distracting as with many current novels.  One chapter is narrated in third person by a limited omniscient narrator.  Alternating chapters are voiced by elderly women, the mothers, of the church Nadia attends.  The mothers gather daily to honor prayer requests they receive through various means.  They share the stories of those they pray for, and, from afar, they watch Nadia and reflect on her actions.  In doing so, they share their wisdom with us.  

The book is simple and smooth.  Once opened, I only put it down once.  I believe I would have stay curled up in my chair by the window and read my Sunday afternoon away even if the temperatures were not sub zero.  

Just for kicks I also flew through one of Carolin Carlson's swashbuckling adventures for the 8-12 year old set.  Did you know that pirates have a code of conduct?  Me neither.  Here's what I learned...

A pirate must...
Be twice as bold as he is daring
Be handy with a cannon and handier with a sword
Appreciate the finer things in life: treasure, parrots, grog
Mind his manners only when it suits him
Be very nearly honorable
Enjoy a bit of plundering...

A pirate must not...
Attempt to sing if he cannot carry a tune
Displease his fellow scallywags
Forget to be fearsome

I say pirating for all in 2017.
Thanks for stopping by.