Category Archives: Novels

To the Edge of Sorrow

To the Edge of Sorrow, by Aharon Appelfeld, is a profound book, in many aspects.

Appelfeld leaves nothing to the imagination, as far as word-imagery, illuminating not only the physical horrors, losses, and sorrows of war, but also the emotional perceptions, repressions, and ability to forge through each day, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour.

Jewish partisans struggle from hunger, extreme cold temperatures, living in trenches, life on the run, living in a Ukrainian forest, during World War II. They are adamant about fighting the Nazis.

Judaism is a central theme, within the pages, and how it’s education is part of the partisans’ daily ritual. Whether believers, or not, it is expected that the entire group participates, because their leader is determined that morality will survive the horrors thrust upon them.

Through this daily aspect, some of the group are able to cope better, with their difficult situation.  Others are impacted more emotionally, causing them to reflect on their life, their loved ones, the comforts of home.  The effects, and how each person is affected, is important in the context of the group, as a whole.

The story, with its characters, and depictions, still lingers within me, and will, for quite some time. It is one of those books, that for me, is difficult to let go of.

I have been an avid reader of Aharon Appelfeld’s books. Sadly, this was his last one, as he died in 2018.

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Review: The Overstory

Overstory

I was thoroughly captivated by the beautiful, impactful, stunning, and breathtaking writing by Richard Powers, in The Overstory.  The prose was poetic, within its strong statements, and with the vivid word imagery.

forest

Trees and their beauty, their communal ways of being and protecting not only the earth, man, and their own kind, are memorialized within the pages, and given high honor, within the deep tribute.  Their connection to the earth goes beyond any visual, or perception, or preconceived idea that we have of them.  Powers brings a realized aspect in defining their power, power lasting over 370 million years.

dormant

Trees, although cut down by man, himself, still hold powers of positivity that reign supreme within the landscapes of earth and time.  Their ability to shape so many unseen lives, literally, within the scope of their very being is an amazing feat, not only of nature, but of perseverance within the realms of their very essence.  They are a treasure, and should be held on a pedestal.

trunks

There are basically two stories within the novel, each one affecting the other, dramatically, with activism towards the living world of trees.  The characters weave their own connections, networks, within their staunch beliefs.  Those beliefs eventually branch out to other individuals, and extend to various communities.  The trees, themselves, become strong forces, within the focus of man’s destruction, and also of man’s determination to save them, resisting corporate financial strength and power.

wooded

Trees, living forms, in their own right, have been diminished by man, used, abused, and handled without care.  Their story needed to be told, in a humanistic manner, yet not sugar-coated.  Richard Powers masterfully depicted, with amazing prose and imagery, the magnificence, devotion to man, and power of trees, within the scheme of human need, connectivity, and also man’s love and devotion towards them.

The Overstory won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in fiction.

thecalm2

Copyright Lorri M.

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Aliz E. Harrow, is a magical story, and I almost want to define it as an adult fairy tale.

It is so much more than a fantasy, magical, or a folk tale, or an old wive’s tale, or a depiction of impossible realms.  The story has depth, meaning and substance, pertaining to time, itself, doors we encounter on our journeys in life, identity, assimilation, freedom, and familial relationships.

Most of us are searching, seeking answers to complex questions, and we walk through many doors in our life, such as the doors which were entered within the pages of this illuminating novel.

And, within the confines of the pages is prose so masterfully and beautifully written, so vivid, and breathtaking.  The portals, doors, entrances and exits all came together magnificently, and believably.

-Copyright Lorri M.

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Review: Kaddish for an Unborn Child

Kaddish for an Unborn Child, by Imre Kertesz, was a difficult book, in the sense that the narrator was rambling, repetitiously, due to his stream of consciousness.

The novel opens with the word ‘No!’  It is an answer to a question asked him, the question being did he have a child.   He also answered his wife the same way, when she wanted a child.  From there the reader is led through the narrator’s bleak, dark and depressed outlook on life and living.

The narrator is a writer.  Within the ramblings the sentences run into each other, as his thoughts unfold on the pages.  He tries to illuminate all of his thoughts and feelings, often repeating what he has just stated.  This is due to the workings of his mind, and the fact he has an urgency to get it all out in the open.  This urgency is what keeps him alive, literally.  He has much to criticize regarding his life, including his childhood.

The narrator compares his abusive and restricted childhood to his existence in Auschwitz.  Rules and the oppressive environment almost seem normal to him, coming from his controlled adolescent upbringing.  Once liberated his perceptions regarding daily life continue in the same vein.  He encloses himself within the walls of isolation.

His routine continues to be a somewhat confined existence, as he transcends from being a Holocaust camp prisoner, to living for years sheltered from life in a rented room.  He compares his living arrangement to that of the camps, in the sense that he has been restricted and limited in space, and therefore in daily life.

Of course, much of his limitations have been self-induced repercussions and extensions of the Holocaust.  Once he marries, he ponders the issues of an apartment with his wife, and how he has never thought of spaciousness, furniture, this or that.  The rented room was self-contained, with all of the essentials provided.  His pen was his life’s companion.  He had need for nothing else.

I won’t delve into the story line any further.  It was enough to get through the novel in its entirety.  It was an emotionally, laborious read in many aspects, reinforcing the Holocaust and its mental and emotional effects and affects on those who survive, those who are generational survivors, and on those who are victims of a survivor’s bleak and dark mindset.  In this case, his wife was a victim of the narrator’s mindset and his demons.

Within the darkness, I found Kaddish for an Unborn Child to be an excellent resource on the philosophical and psychological aspects of humanity’s, Holocaust nightmare.

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Book Review: In the Image

In The Image, by Dara Horn is one of those books that evolves through the characters’ coming of age, journeying towards peace and acceptance, and sojourning towards spiritual identity. One young girl (Leora)l learns to accept the death of her best friend, through the slide images of her best friend’s grandfather. Leora learns to overcome her fear of loss and allows herself to fall in love.

“Accidents of fate are rarely fatal accidents, but once in a while they are.”

The grandfather (Bill Landsmann) learns to accept his own life, which is built frame by frame, upon his slides, through the images he has photographed during his travels. His life has been preserved on film slides. Landsmann has to learn to leave his past behind, including his childhood and his abusive father. He must learn to accept, and to let go, and not just assimilate within the fabrics of New York City. For him the images represent his life, concrete proof of his childhood in Europe, and proof he existed (We all want validation of our existence). Landsmann has to learn to move forward, in order to find the spiritual identity and peace he is searching for.

Bill’s frames are also subjects that entwine good and evil entwine within the pages, as Bill recalls incidents of his life through his slides.

Leora and Landsmann lean on each other, each one helping the other to overcome their fears, each one helping to free the other from their self-imposed emotional isolation.

I will not write any more on the story line, as you should read it for yourself.

The symbolism and undertones within In the Image are strong, and leave one amazed at the masterful writing and story line. The word visuals and images are clearly defined through Dara Horn’s words. The novel is brilliant and vibrant with imagery. Age is a state of mind, a number we define ourselves with, but one can be 70 and still be coming of age.

In the Image, by Dara Horn, touches on coming of age, for all age groups, as most of us are in a constant state of growth and coming of age, no matter what year or stage of life we are in.

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Review: Visible City

Visible City, by Tova Mirvis, is a predictable story in many aspects, but I still am glad that I read it. I found the almost “voyeur” aspect to be interesting, and the thoughts that are dreamed up while one person stares out of their window, with their own set of passions, desires and loyalties.

Nina is that person, and stare she does, at every given opportunity.  If it is during the night, she turns off the lights so as not to attract attention. What she sees happening in an apartment across the way, enhances her imagination, and her perception of what the individuals are like.  As the reader reads on, they realize that not everything is as it appears to be.  In fact, the couple who live in the apartment are not so different from Nina and her family, in the sense that their married life seems to be complacent. Nina desires more in life, yet doesn’t have the ambition to seek it.

The novel gives a wonderful overview of New York City, its brilliant architecture, some modern, some old and abandoned.  We are given snippets of the exteriors and interiors of the abandoned buildings, as some of the characters skulk through them out of a passionate desire to learn about them. We are also taken into the world of stained-glass art and all of its illuminations.  Through this examination, we are seen how the passions, desires and loyalties flare up from the deep-set goals that some of the characters hold.

Six individuals meet in various places where they normally go to spend some time away from their homes.  Some of them end up living on the edge, merging their connections into areas better left undone.

Passionate moments are strong within the pages, and by that I mean passionate in every sense, including one’s drives, dreams and life accomplishments.  What one views as important and a driving force is not necessarily so for another person.  In relationships each person should accept the other for their own interests and goals, whether the interests and goals are theirs, or not.  They should offer encouragement, and not discouragement.

The urban aspect is strongly illuminated. Mirvis’ word-images are depicted quite vividly. This reader could envision everything she painted with her prose.  All of my senses were filled as my own imagination took hold.

I enjoyed how each character was somewhat flawed, as we all are, in reality.  I enjoyed the city tour through their eyes, and enjoyed the human perspectives, and how we see people. We are not the sum of what others see in us, or think about us.  In fact, most of us are usually much different than how a stranger might view us.  This was quite true in Visible City.  What Nina saw, is not the actual person, but a person who she encapsulated from a distance, from a view out of a window.

The emotional aspect was a major underlying issue, as most of the characters found it difficult to relate to their family members on a deep level.  They also portrayed superficiality when in the presence of others, outside of their familial and friendship realm.  Even within those realms, feelings were not always touched upon.

I did not like all the characters, but that is okay. In reality, do we all like everyone we encounter?  I did like how life, seen through various city windows, was depicted, and how the characters were eventually connected.  Mirvis was masterful in her depictions and her prose.  I felt as if I was given a personal tour of various aspects of New York City and its urban character, from architectural exteriors to individual’s projections of themselves.  It almost felt as if I were looking out of a window into the lives of others. Maybe that was one of Tova Mirvis’ intentions.

This was my second reading of this novel.  I reread it for a book club.

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