Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

Kill Them & Save Them

Permanent Change of Station: Vietnam by Christopher Rector.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51PIZO485lLPermanent Change of Station: Vietnam is a well-informed blend of fiction, autobiography, and memoir. It gets under your skin, takes you back to the war, and brings to mind a number of scenes from films and other books about America’s political deception and the soldiers and families who paid the price for it. Some of the characters, such as General Abrams, are historical, and the rest appear to be fictional, though act and sound as if they are the real thing. The author is a retired army veteran and his knowledge and experience bleed throughout the pages. There is little preamble, as we follow a new arrival meeting his superiors at the 240th Intelligence Detachment based at the U.S installation of Long Binh.

Everyone in this story has their story, and personal view of how they got to Vietnam, what they believe, and/or what they are fighting for. Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Bull” Basham sees everything as fleeting, and lives for the momentary pleasure and profit. “Bull knew there was no permanence to any of this – the hotel, Lien (his mistress), or the war.” The primary protagonist, Adam Nussbaum, is an idealist from Manhattan, who works as an interrogator, and ends up in the field with First Lieutenant Mike Dempsey, and “Big” Ben Tenata SFC (Sergeant First Class). They end up developing a bond that only those who have fought and died together understand.

From beginning to end, readers can feel Mike’s perspectives, and feelings, evolve. His understanding, and respect, for his comrades (Peter Savory, Katie, Mike, and Major Tanaka) deepens, as his disgust and distrust of others grows. The men and women who are thrown in together in this mess of a war all have lengthy discussions about it – the Viet Cong (NVA), the South Vietnamese Army (AVRN), and the politics and demonstrations taking place in The States. The dialogue is congruent with each individual, and gives readers’ a lot of background about what was taking place at that time (in Vietnam and The States).

Aspects of this story remind me of the biography I wrote about a young Jewish doctor from Brooklyn, stationed at Udorn Air Force Base in Thailand during the war (Dr. Leff – Stepping Into The Fire), who begins to hear stories from CIA pilots about bombing villages in Cambodia and Laos. His patriotism is challenged when he fights to make this knowledge public. Permanent Change of Station: Vietnam is better written than my biography about Dr. Leff, and describes the futility and loss experienced by so many. Nurse Katie captures the essence of the war when she responds to something Adam says. “And you remember Adam we’re here in Vietnam because we’re trying to kill them, and save them from something I can’t even remember what.”

Advertisements

A Story to Savor

5168cuV1J3LMy White Dahlia (A Lesbian Romance) by C. M. Blackwood. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I’m bowing down with gratitude to the literary goddesses that brought this book to my attention. C. M. Blackwood is a damn good writer, and My White Dahlia is a hell of a good book. Weave together some of the best suspense and mystery novels with a first-rate romance, and you’ll end up with this gem, which takes place in 1949 England, in the town of Kingston. It doesn’t take long before you will understand and love these characters. It is with that knowledge, and the author’s ability to reveal their history and past experiences, that your own emotions will become entangled with theirs.

The heroine’s name is Adette Salazar. This tale is told from her point of view. While listening to her friend, Henry, drone on about what he knows about the famous novelist who just hired Adette to be her personal assistant, she realizes, “At the ring of that final word, I finally began to be curious. It was the first moment I market it. It was the moment I remembered as the starting point, through all those long months that followed.” As Adette becomes more familiar with her new surroundings, memories from the past threaten to diss-rail her and ruin all she has come to adore.

Flashes of Adette’s childhood in Georgia (USA), before she is taken to the UK to live with her Uncle Henry after her mother has died, arise at crucial moments within her caring for her now invalid uncle, her new job, and ever changing relationship with Dahlia Frobisher (her boss). Dhalia’s housekeeper, Edwina, and Dahlia’s literary agent, Archie Willoughby, are first-rate characters and supporting players in the drama, as are Susan Heyward and Jane Albright. Though the focus is on Adette and Dhalia, everyone makes a difference, and has an impact upon readers.

One of the reasons that Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time, is because she had a knack for understanding human emotion and motives, and was able to describe place, time, characteristics, thoughts, and actions, with such clarity and insight. Everything and everyone, seemed somewhat familiar, yet one never knew for sure who did what and why until the end. Ms. Blackwood is cut from the same cloth of storytellers. My White Dahlia should definitely be made into a film. When you read the story the reasons will become self evident.

 

The Kindness of Strangers

My Forgotten Path Home
41KTXR9-obLA Novel by Tim I Gurung
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This novel is all about the 2015 earthquake in Nepal that killed over 8000 people and injured over 20,000, and, it has very little to do with the earthquake. Mr. Gurung dedicates My Forgotten Path Home to the dead and survivor’s of the quake in the acknowledgments, and the story revolves around May Andrelina Applehouse, who is found in the rubble by an Australian couple, but the essence of the story is about Nepal, its people, and finding a “place” called home.

When May returns to Nepal at age 27, for the first time since leaving at age 3, she discovers that it is not what she had imagined, and finding her birth parents will be much more difficult than she had anticipated. Helping her in her search are Inspector Raj Komartamu and his assistant, Officer Mangale Magar. Even though she is not familiar with anyone or anything, May feels like she is “at home”. The journey begins in Kathmandu (the capital), and then extends to the countryside.

May is amazed with the beauty outside the city. “The morning fogs around the valley had not dissipated, cobwebs of gossamer and the nearby jungle were visible, and birds were still reluctant to fly away from their warm nest.” With the help of her new friends (Raj and Mangale) May looks near and far for her parents, and eventually makes a decision which brings her even closer to the Nepalese and her understanding of what life is like for those in the capital and farming the land in small villages.

My Forgotten Path Home is similar, in some respects, to the storyline for the wonderful film Lion, in which a young orphaned boy in India is adopted by an Australian couple, and then returns as an adult to try to find his mother. Mr. Gurung’s story however, takes place almost entirely in Nepal and feels almost like a personal memoir, though it is not in the least. My favorite aspect of this tale is the genuine kindness and gentleness of all those involved. Everyone treats one another as family, whether they are related biologically or not. This is a novel written with heart, that touches the heart.

Bees, Trees & Keys

The King’s Magnificent Sneeze. Written by Jane Elizabeth Habgood. Illustrated by Russell Ferrantti-Donavellas. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Love the preamble for this picture-book story for 4-8 year-olds, and the taller people that read it with them. “To all of the small people and tall people reading this book – please, always be kind.” That is one of the endearing aspects of this story – no matter how ridiculous, or strange, the behavior is by those involved, everyone accepts what is.

614EmitApzL._SX260_The King’s Magnificent Sneeze reminded me, in some ways, of the classic Goodnight Moon. It is similar in rhythm and rhyme, but different in the context and surroundings. This story takes place throughout the kingdom, whereas Goodnight Moon is all in one room. The tale opens with a humongous sneeze by the King of Snoffleguss.

The King’s sneeze effects some beings physically (such as birds that fall out of trees, and a pond to freeze) and others find their behavior to be quite odd. Even the unimaginable happens when, “Old people easily find their keys.” As expected, and which works perfectly, most every sentence ends with a word that rhymes with “sneeze”.

The writing by Ms. Habgood is just right for the audience, and the illustrations by Mr. Ferrantti-Donavellas are most fitting. Even though they are still drawings, they almost seem to come to life with the people, things, and actions taking place on each page. The King’s Magnificent Sneeze is funny, entertaining, and will delight one and all.

Lily’s Sexual Awakening

51p5FRVN5QLTea with Trina by Amber Skye
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This novella is a sweet treat and fun to eat (or better yet read). A nice afternoon delight, or nighttime rendezvous, to indulge your fantasies and romantic desires. Lily, who has just broken up with Jason, falls head over hills for Trina, and you will too. They are both caring people, who have experienced painful losses, and yet are unexpectedly confronted with love looking them right in the face (and elsewhere).

The scenes from Tea with Trina are a nice mix of generosity, emotion, thoughtfulness, and sex. There is a tenderness between the two women that is palpable and believable. Normally, it takes time for people to have a strong connection and sense of vulnerability with one another, yet it can happen all at once. Thus is the case within these pages. There is also a lovely erotic scene with Lily alone in the shower.

Expectations of what lies ahead (figuratively) are brimming from page to page. As Lilly approaches Trina’s room, “I walked slowly down the hall, holding my hands in front of me as I navigated the near darkness. A light shone through the little crack of a closed door at the end of the hallway. I tapped gently before entering, gasping at what appeared in front of me.”

I have written a few graphic lesbian love scenes, but none as good as those in Tea with Trina. You may want to have one hand free when reading Ms. Skye’s novella, or read it with your partner. If you’ve broken up with someone lately, had a loss in the past, or think you’ll never find love again, this book will give you hope, and wet your romantic whistle (figuratively and literally).

Enough Already

51HSavPMgQL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_

You’re Perfect the Way You Are.
Written by Richard Nelson
Illustrated by Evgenia Dolotovskaia.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Here is a good book with a vital message. Not only are the words used for this age group (4 and up) perfectly maintained throughout the story, but the illustrations also match on every page. Some kids books are either too wordy, and complicated, or so simple, as to be insulting. You’re Perfect the Way You Are found the perfect balance.

The young girl of the story asks her mother, father, brother, grandpa, grandma, and uncle, if various parts of her body are alright (hair, hands, nose, etc.). Unlike real life, they are all in unison and give her the same positive message. “Are my hands too small?” I asked my Grandma while she helped wash them for dinner. She just smiled and replied, “No honey. You’re perfect the way you are.”

Children hear what we say about ourselves (and others). They can also sense, even more deeply, what we are feeling when we say something. A mother worried about “looking good enough”, or a father wondering if he’s “gained too much weight”, can have a a big, and often long-lasting, effect on their children’s sense of themselves as well.

Young children, adolescents (and adults), often believe they “aren’t good enough”, and spend lots of money, time, and energy to try to be different. This is usually unconscious and habitual. It is frequently ingrained in our conditioning, and thoughts. You’re Perfect the Way You Are is a good reminder, and important story, to remind us all that we ARE ENOUGH just as we are.

To Be or Not To Be

41SUqh9JdSLNobody In the Box – A Poem by Soodabeh Saeidnia. Illustrated by Seyedeh Masoumeh Hosseini. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Nobody In the Box is completely outside the box (in English and Farsi). In fact, it is neither in nor out, of any sense of containment. The illustrations, by Ms. Hosseini, which accompany each section of the poem, brilliantly and beautifully compliment the words, and stand on their own as exquisite works of art. Ms. Saeidnia writes about emptiness within emptiness, and the friction between being and not being, with just a whiff of Persian poets Hafiz and Rumi’s insight into being something greater than ourselves, yet also completely within us.

Expecting no assistance
From the ocean, the sky, and the earth,
Even from the box itself,
I can only turn into an invisible Wish
Waiting for a special event,
A phenomenan, a moment,
In which “nothing” may turn into “something”

Reading this poetry is like hearing a melody, and reminds us that everything is nothing and nobody, until we give it (or them) labels and meaning. Dr. Saeidnia’s work in various countries around the world, with pharmacology and an array of compounds, informs her understanding of how interdependent things (and people) are and how they can appear and disappear.

The box’s sigh penetrated space,
Bent the contours of time,
Surged forward and touched the nothingness
Nobody heard the box’s sigh,
Felt the pain of missing,
And for the first time Nobody wished:
“I wish I was somebody”

Nobody In the Box brings attention to desire, wishes, moments – all temporary and which may, or may not arise; and if so, from where, who and/or what? What is our reality? Are our bodies and minds like a box, wanting to be acknowledged, labeled, noticed, or have “something” happen? Are we the same as everybody else, with nothing to distinguish us from others? What is the essence of matter, and does it matter?

Tag Cloud