Sunday, July 14, 2013

HOME – Toni Morrison

No one tells a story like Toni Morrison. While not reading all of her books, I have read many and loved them all, some more that others. She can write heart-wrenching and mind shattering scenes exquisitely beautifully. Home a novella of 147 pages is no exception and if you read it you will be thinking about Frank and Cece for many days after.

The book begins with two small black children witnessing an unspeakable act perpetrated by white men in the nineteen twenties. In 1951, 24 year old Frank Money is an emotionally broken, out of money, out of luck, homeless, and loveless, returned Korean War veteran. Wandering the streets of Seattle he wrestles with the violence raging inside of himself. He fights, gambles, loses all his money, his girlfriend, and his home. He has avoided going home to Georgia because he is the lone survivor of the homeboys who went away to war, and he cannot face the bereaved families or the sister he feels he abandoned when he left. But when he gets a message that his sister, Cece is in great need and may be dying he has to go home. Finding herself abused and abandoned Cece has taken a live-in job for a doctor. The doctor, however is experimenting with eugenics and Cece becomes his victim. Frank retrieves her from the doctor's but it is the women of home who perform the miracle and return Cece to the living with their folk cures, food, and love. Frank and Cece eventually end up in the same field under the same tree where years before they witnessed a murder.

Of course Morrison cannot have a story without ghosts or visions and so we have a phantom man in a zoot suit dancing on the edges of the story and flashbacks to war horrors in Korea and the death of a child. The book is rich in language and content. The theme of the lost man, finding his worth, his home, and his manhood intertwined with that of racism in the 1900s works and works well in Home.

Knowing I would love this book, and thus wishing to have a good copy to place in my library, I acquired a nice hard copy from AbeBooks online. It is a lovely hardcopy with a thick dust cover in white having a raised illustration of a tree on the front. (sigh) I would love a reason to read it again. Wait... do I need a reason?



Monday, July 1, 2013

PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE – Katherine Howe

Thinking about my herbs, thinning them, replanting some, drying others makes me hearken back to the days when I loved to read a good witchy book. So, in the mood for a little escape fiction, maybe a little intrigue, sorcery or magic I picked up this lovely little item in a local used book store. Mostly I was drawn to the beautiful dust cover thinking even if I don't get to it right away it will be beautiful on my bookshelf. The spine illustration alone would make me buy this book. Opening it made me happy also, the end pages are reproductions of a witches spell book which begins, “To determine if a man's mortal suffering be caused by bewitchment, catch his water in a witch bottel and throw in some pins or nayles and boil it upon a very hot fire,” in elegant script. Ok, gotta have it. There is a nice book trailer at http://www.physickbook.com/.

If you like a bit of romance with your magic, which I do, you've got it here. Connie Goodwin needs some peace and quiet to finish her research for her doctoral dissertation. So, when her mother asks her to check on things in the old house left them by her grandmother and maybe clean it out a bit, she sees an opportunity to have a respite to do her work. She finds the house neglected and in disrepair. When she finds a strange key in an old Bible she starts on a journey connecting the key to the Salem witch trials, to her family, and to herself. She also meets a hunky man to hang around with for the summer.

I can't imagine how it would feel to have family connections to people who were actually Salem witches but it is fun to go on this quest through the house, through archives, and through time with Connie and Deliverance. Then there is also her nefarious advisor who adds creepiness and intrigue to the story. The search for the physick book or herbal recipe, incantation, spell-making book that Connie remembers from childhood is an excellent plot line and the shift into the past of 1692-1725 was well executed. The Deliverance Dane story was my favorite as I didn't feel I got to know Connie as well as I wanted to. Following a doomed family, seeing how the charges and trials unfolded, and then watching the family orchestrate a way for some to escape felt real and believable. Having Connie come to the realization that she inherited some of those magical gifts worked well too, even though it was a bit predictable at times.


The author's postscript is delicious! And, if I understand the author information correctly Howe has ancestors who were witches in Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials. I would like to see a real Physick book, heck I actually want one! Not a deep or philosophical read and probably not one for book groups to ponder but fun. A really good magical-mystery-love-historical fiction romp.