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Posts tagged ‘woman’

Rites of Passage

41uBGeLbd8L._SY346_Midnight and Holding by Joyce DeBacco.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Midnight and Holding is a lovely collection of stories that include a woman daydreaming about the past, which helps her see the present clearly (Rubies and Other Gems); a shed which brings together a husband and wife (The Shed); a carefree youth who awakens dreams and desires of an older woman (Rainbow Years); a humorous account of a wife’s suggestion being taken to extremes (Mad Dogs and Fisherman); a parent’s rite of passage (Midnight and Holding); and a woman who buys her husband a new suit for his last big occasion (Harvey’s New Suit).

Ms. DeBacco has a wonderful sense of home, place, family, marriage, and a life of raising children. Themes of loss, living for others, and losing one’s self, run throughout these tales. In Midnight and Holding a mother speaks about waking up in the middle of the night to a quiet house, once the children are gone away to college. “It’s the middle of the night and, unable to sleep, I wander through the quiet house. Unshackled from the invisible chains tethering me between laundry room and kitchen, I now seek to busy myself with something, anything to keep my mind from dwelling on their absence. Reluctantly, I strip the beds on which they’d slept, my fingers pausing over the deep indentations in the pillows. The neatness of their naked dressers and floors assaults my eyes.”

It is a rare writer that can take the ordinary, and everyday family life, and stretch it just enough to be familiar, yet daring and different from our daily routines and expectations. The author of Midnight and Holding has this ability – the ability to nurture reality, blur the lines and witness characters gaining insight and/or having a transformative experience in the process. At first glance, this collection of stories is about the mundane, but upon reading it becomes clear that each one is a unique creation. They feel authentic and take one to the core of time passing, and the impact those in our lives have upon us.

Wash, Rinse and Repeat

51azfjj8D1LDeath by Corporate America: Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Murder at a Time by Lex Ramsay. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A great murder-mystery where the murderess is known from the start. Death by Corporate America turns this genre around by showing clearly who the perpetrator is of a series of murders at the fictional San Francisco conglomerate Mondrian Corporation (Mondo). There is no doubt that Adrian Banner, a 44-year-old African-American business geek, who is temporarily made an Executive Secretary on the companies board when one of their members dies in a balloon accident, is the culprit.

Adrian has had her fill of sexism, racism, and invisibility, by the board members of this company and decides to make the initial death just the beginning. “Commute, meetings, con calls, emails, IMs, PowerPoints and a hurried lunch eaten at her desk… wash, rinse and repeat. This was death by Corporate America, and she was one of the walking dead.” Ms. Ramsay has created a character that you root for, and hope she succeeds. The question isn’t did she do it, but how is she going to do it, and will she get away with it?

Ms. Banner is one smart woman. She learns about everyone’s vulnerabilities, what methods will work and how, and the means to have them go undetected. She is a mastermind in business. Everyone diminishes and dismisses her, assuming she is not the culprit and not able to have carried out such murders. The people she kills are assholes, and deserve to die (especially in her mind). There is also a homeless man, Jerome, who gives her ideas (unknowingly) about how to vanquish her business foes.

Death by Corporate America is rich in possibility for a good screenwriter and producer to bring the story to the screen. It is suspenseful, well-plotted, and never stops. Lex Ramsay has made revenge seem possible and satisfying, while also creating a character that you want to succeed, even though she is a cold-blooded killer. That is a hard feat to carry off, but she does it with class. This is not the kind of story I usually read, or enjoy, but there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

No Other Choice

Secrets: In the shadows lurks the truth by Judith Barrow.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51GqVk8eBwLEach of the eight short stories in Secrets are very well written, and involve characters from Ms. Barrow’s novels. They include Nelly’s attempt to escape a convent with her baby, before it is given away; a nurse (Hilda) who has cared for her cantankerous mother for many years; Edith, who has been abused by her husband one to many times; Gwyneth, whose previous husband shows up unwanted, and unexpectedly at her new home; the fate of Alun Thomas, and his brother, who are conscientious objects during the first world war; Hannah and her son, reacting to the death of Hannah’s father; a fourteen-year-old and his friend joining the army during “the war to end all wars”; and Doreen, who has a baby during an air raid.

Most of these tales show the lives of women who have few options, or choices in their lives, and the extreme measures they take to be set free, and/or have some freedom (no matter how momentary it may be). Though the characters are taken from the author’s novels, each short story stands on its own, and could be a book entirely unto itself. The description of each individual, and their situations, are done with precision and care. By the end of the first paragraph readers have a good sense of who is who, what is going on, and the dilemma that is presented. This is no small feat. To weave together such a tight narrative is not an easy task for most writers. Ms. Barrow seems to do it with ease, and presents the primary protagonist with honesty, and empathy.

Having sympathy, and understanding, for the main character of a novel usually takes some time. To create an instant connection between the reader and the woman, or man, in a short story is even more difficult to do. I felt such a connection, regardless of the acts, or actions, they took, with every person in this collection. Doreen, Stan, Hannah, Alun, Gwyneth, Edith, Hilda, and Nelly, each had me rooting for them to triumph, get away from, or take whatever action was needed, to survive, or make sense of the world within which they lived. There are also a number of surprise endings.  Secrets is a book I recommend, without hesitation. Without a doubt, Ms. Barrow’s novels are just as well written, and well worth your time and attention.

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.

Learning to Love

41RQ8k1nItL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Transitioning into Womanhood: Journey to Self-Realization by Codisha R. Matthews. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Ms. Matthews, “There is a huge difference between the woman I am today and who I was five years ago. Today, my smile has depth, and I am confident in who I am and who I can be.” In Transitioning into Womanhood we discover not only what Codisha experienced, and learned from those experiences, but also a step by step guide on how to make that transition and become a kind, giving, loving, woman of principal. Though this is written by a woman, for women, every aspect of it’s insights and life-principals apply to both genders.

The depth to which the terms, concepts, and themes, are defined and explained, make it easy to understand and follow in one’s own life. For instance, everyone talks about “loving oneself”, but few tell us what that means, how to do it, or acknowledge the difficulty in doing so. “Loving oneself means caring for, taking responsibility for, respecting, and knowing ones self. Self-love sets the standard for how you are loved and treated by others.” Loving yourself includes honest self-reflection, self-respect, self-acceptance, responsibility, and self-empowerment. Being honest with one’s self is where we must all begin, and is often the most painful.

With chapters about personal morals and values, financial growth, maintaining relationships, managing stress, and love and sex, Ms. Matthews addresses each and every elephant in the room with clarity and honesty. Though she doesn’t prescribe her personal religious beliefs for anyone else, she clearly states what hers are and has an entire chapter called “Exploring the Spiritual You – Getting In Touch With God”. The epilogue does a good job of bringing every aspect of Transitioning into Womanhood into focus by reviewing the importance of believing in “something”, loving yourself, caring for your body, keep challenging yourself, the vital importance of relationships, celebrating others, and that every day is a new opportunity on the path to self-realization.

Who is it this morning?

51hmYNSvtFLMagnetic Reverie (The Reverie Book 1) by Nico J. Genes. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This wonderful story gives the film Inception a run for its money. Lana keeps waking up in two different countries, with two different lovers, not knowing which is a dream and which is real. Is she with Claire, in Slovenia, or her husband Greg, in the U.S? Lana’s dreams about Claire seem as real as her life in Washington, D.C., with her husband Greg. When she’s with Greg all she thinks about is going back to sleep to be with Claire. “It was the morning and it was time to wake up. I looked around to see which bedroom I was in.”

No mistake about it, Lana is in completely new territory, as she has never been with a woman before her “dreams” began. She is not familiar with the attraction, sensations and feelings that Claire arouses, though she is quite familiar with the language, city, and less-openly expressive country in which she was raised (Slovenia). The two women eventually go on holiday around the country, fall deeply in love, and Lana is overwhelmed with her reactions. “Her eyes were amazing. Her voice was such a pleasant melody to the ear. I kept thinking about her in a way I never thought of any other woman. Was I feeling butterflies?”

Lana is torn between both worlds, and people, not wishing to deceive the other, and not knowing how to explain or deal with either. Definitely read this story to the end, as there are a number of realizations, events, and decisions that Lana makes in the final pages which provide new perspectives and open’s the door for other possibilities. Look for the line, “I felt like she was my ____________ while Greg was my ____________.” This line helps to understand how Lana reconciles the two worlds. Magnetic Reverie is a convincing bi-sexual romance, with shades of surrealism and mystery. After reading this story by Ms. Genes, I wanted to go take a nap and see if there were any unknown loves waiting for me in my dreams.

 

Say It Outloud

51TNQTUdZkLThe Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name – Short Stories by Fiza Pathan. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Confession time. When I saw that this collection of short stories was over 450 pages long, I planned to skim over them and write a brief overview. After reading the first one, The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, I was hooked and ended up reading each story from start to finish. They are all excellent, different and well written. They take place in different countries (India, Canada, United States, Iran, Syria, un-named South American country, Thailand, and the United Kingdom). What they all have in common is the portrayal of someone who is not part of the stereotyped heterosexual majority.

Each person must deal with the prejudice, religious intolerance, and/or ignorance, of their family, community, friends, culture, and/or government. Oscar Wilde quotes are also part of many of the stories, and match each perfectly. Each tale in The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name begins with the primary characters name as the first word of the story, thus speaking there name out loud, and validating who they are.

Sreekanth declares his love for another man to his father. Stanford’s father is outraged when he finds out who his son is friends with. Mrs. Almeida has to deal with her ex-principal who is outraged when she hears that one of her children was born biologically a boy and changed to a girl. Salman secretly lives with his boyfriend and wife, fearing the ISIS leaders will discover them at any time and put them to death. Melody discovers that she doesn’t fit into the sexual stereotype she expected. Five-year-old Ken wants to be Wonder Woman, and starts to take drastic measures to make it so, much to the dismay of his parents.

Another confession. Being the parent of a daughter who married her long-time girlfriend, a son who married another man, and some long-time friends who are transgender, as well as living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 40 years, made it difficult to accept all of the violence, hatred, and mis-understanding portrayed in these stories. The longer I read however, the more I realized how much of a bubble I’m in, and that many parts of the U.S. and other parts of the world still have intense prejudice, fear, and anger, towards people who are gay, lesbian, transgender, born intersex, pansexual, bi-sexual, transvestite, or anything that is not the “norm”.

It is sad, but vital, that The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name was written. Giving a voice to those who cannot speak, who are shunned, dismissed, minimized, degraded, chided, threatened, misunderstood, and sometimes killed, just for being themselves, is proudly proclaimed with each tale. Though this is a work of fiction, many of the events, and reactions within this collection have, and are, taking place throughout the world. Ms. Pathan not only understands these realities, but is also able to share them with splendid prose, insight, and dramatic effect. It is one thing to aware of others lives, and another to be able to write about them so eloquently.

Each story in Ms. Pathan’s collection of shorts could be part of its own novella, but they stand on there own just as they are. The theme of acceptance, being true to oneself, and the possibility for change, is the constant between them all. As Oscar Wilde states so knowingly, On an occasion of this kind, it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one’s mind. It becomes a pleasure.

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