Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.
This is a story of emotional, and at times, even physical survival. Two orphans, one who is now 91 and the other 17, cautiously reveal their life experiences to each other and find healing and transformation through the sharing. Each has been wounded by a series of cruel life events that have left them both feeling at times alone and vulnerable in life. Each has gone through childhood experiences that left them feeling at the mercy of others, not daring to trust that they could be loved just for being themselves.
91 year old Vivian was a young girl who was put on the train of orphans taken to be resettled in the Midwest just prior to the Great Depression. She must endure many harrowing events before finding any security in life. 17 year old Molly is in the foster care system and has frequently been victimized by her treatment in various homes. She goes to Vivian's house to help her as a condition of working off community service hours rather than go to "Juvie." In the beginning neither can imagine the transformation that will occur as they start going through Vivian's stored possessions, which both hold and evoke the memories of a life she has largely put behind her. Molly, who is at first a prickly, resentful teen, suspicious of anyone who seems to offer her a kindness is slow to warm to Vivian's genuine generosity. This is the story of two women, who on the surface could not be more different, finding the deepest sort of connection through their recognition of similar experiences.
This is a beautiful, touching book, filled with gripping emotional scenes that make it hard to put down. The writing is deeply evocative of the shifts of fortune each young girl is going through, and draws the reader right into the book. I almost felt I would know any of the characters if I were to meet them somewhere. Their courage is inspirational. More than this, though, this book forces the questions of how do we really care for and about those less fortunate? How often do we do things to salve own our conscience without deeply asking what is truly needed by others? This book raises all kinds of social questions about the role of the care and protection of children, and is, in one way, as unsettling at that level as it is heart-warming at another. The narrator is excellent, doing the voice of 91 year old Vivian or 17 year old Molly with equal ease. Such a wonderful listen. Highly recommend!
This is a story of two wives who have to share the shock and grief of learning something that unexpectedly impacts both their lives and that of their families. At first I wasn't very sure I liked the book, thought I had stumbled into some lightweight Chick Lit (and I still think it leans that way), but eventually I became engrossed in listening to the story, feeling I had to hear how it all worked itself out.
Although there is this secret that dominates the book, it is far from what I found most compelling. On several levels and generations there were mother-daughter stories that stretched throughout the book (and even, briefly, a mother-son one). Also the relationships among women as friends (or not friends) dominated much of it as well. Oddly, I found the "secret" that ties the two families together to have been less powerful than the individual portraits (the "family pictures" that give the book it's title, even though it also refers to a specific key incident within the story) to have been what made it worth listening to.
For reasons I did not understand, everything about Sylvie and her family life was told in third person, while Maggie's world was all described in first person. Maggie was the more self-absorbed of the two, while Sylvie was more concerned with others, so it could have been that, or it could simply have been a means of pointing to which woman was being focused upon at different times in the book.
I almost gave this story fewer stars based on what seemed to me to have been way too many and too blatant sex conversations between characters at various times. Either I'm so old that I'm out of touch with what younger people talk about, or else this was just inserted to make the book "hot enough" to appeal to some people. Whichever, it detracted from the story so much I almost put this book down several times. The author needed to decide if this was a steamy romance novel, or a serious book that explored the lives and emotions and psychological dynamics of people living their lives together. I decided in the end that the author's intent was to present an otherwise good and well-woven story of how people met and coped with a tragedy that affected two families, and must have felt some need, which somehow escaped me, to have inserted women having lurid conversations about sex here and there to give it an (unneeded) extra punch. Since the story was intriguing regardless, I recommend the book!
Edie Kiglatuk is an interesting and different sort of protagonist. She is half Inuit and half white, living in an extreme northern part of Canada, close to Greenland. The story depicts this community inhabiting an environment that is almost beyond my imagining, so harsh are the sub-zero temperatures, 24 hour dark (or daylight) for half the year, and conditions of poverty and tradition that have kept this area remote from the progress farther south. Though perhaps this proud people do not feel that a lack, but rather prefer to live with the lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and spirit closeness that they have always had.
Edie is a rare female guide. So when a man is murdered on an expedition she is leading, there is concern at first that she could lose her permit to be a guide. But that worry quickly drops behind other, more important elements, as her beloved step son is found, assumed to have committed suicide. She knows he would never do that, and that realization triggers her entrance into a dangerous adventure in conditions that are frightening in many dimensions. She believes the two deaths are related and feels she must investigate on her own. Edie proves to be a courageous and strong woman, who turns for some help to the police sergeant, who is dealing with his own emotional conflicts.
The narration is good, the story builds in suspense, and there are never any lags that have "filler" added to pad the book (or not in my opinion). Although it is rather a long book, there are no dull stretches at all, and the level of interest for the lore and information about the area was fascinating.