Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

G.P. Putnam’s Sons (May 15, 2018)

Review copy provided by Putnam

Description:

Ellis and Michael are twelve-year-old boys when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.

But then we fast-forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question: What happened in the years between?

With beautiful prose and characters that are so real they jump off the page, Tin Man is a love letter to human kindness and friendship, and to loss and living. (publisher)

My take: Tin Man is a slim novel (224 pages) that made me overflow with emotions (yes, it really did) as I read the story of Ellis, Michael and Annie. It is about loss, betrayal, unconditional acceptance and, ultimately, love – in many forms.  It was sad and lovely and filled with lush (yet spare) descriptions that easily pulled me into each scene. From now on I’ll think of Tin Man when I see Vincent van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. Read the publisher’s description – if it sounds like a book you might like to try I think you should. I’m so glad I did. Book groups would find it a good discussion book. Many thanks to Putnam for sending a review copy.


Praise for TIN MAN:

“A beautiful book—pared back and unsentimental, assured, full of warmth, and told with a kind of tenderness that makes you ache.” —Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

“This is an astoundingly beautiful book. It drips with tenderness. It breaks your heart and warms it all at once.” —Matt Haig, author of How to Stop Time

“Such an exquisite package of literary merit.”—Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books

“Winman is a master storyteller…”—Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands Bookstore

“…one of the most loving stories of our time.”—Luisa Smith of Book Passage

“Subtle, piercing, achingly beautiful…”—Marion Abbott of Mrs. Dalloways

Tin Man is a perfect read.” —Alison Reid of Diesel, A Bookstore

“A beautiful little book…”—Kurestin Armada of Little City Books

“It’s just perfect in every way.”—Maria Roden of Orinda Books

“I didn’t cry, but I ached.” —Todd Miller of Arcadia Books


About the author:

Sarah Winman is the author of two novels, When God Was a Rabbit and A Year of Marvelous Ways. She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film, and television. Sarah grew up in Essex and now lives in London.


 

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Absalom’s Daughters by Suzanne Feldman

  • Absalom's DaughtersTitle:  Absalom’s Daughters: A Novel
  • Author:  Suzanne Feldman
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  272
  • Published:  July 2016 – Henry Holt & Co.
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Self-educated and brown-skinned, Cassie works full-time in her grandmother’s laundry in rural Mississippi. Illiterate and white, Judith falls for “colored music” and dreams of life as a big city radio star. These teenaged girls are half-sisters. And when they catch wind of their wayward father’s inheritance coming down in Virginia, they hitch their hopes to a road trip together to claim what’s rightly theirs.

In an old junk car, with a frying pan, a ham, and a few dollars hidden in a shoe, they set off through the American Deep South of the 1950s, a bewitchingly beautiful landscape as well as one bedeviled by racial striving and violence. Absalom’s Daughters combines the buddy movie, the coming-of-age tale, and a dash of magical realism to enthrall and move us with an unforgettable, illuminating novel.  (publisher)

My take:  Cassie grew up with her mother (Lil Ma) and grandmother in a small Mississippi town. Their walls were papered with magazine pages and that’s how Cassie learned how to read.  One day she learned about her father – a man she’d never met. He was white and her grandmother, wanting a grandchild who could pass for white, had encouraged Lil Ma to let him father her child. But Grandmother’s idea didn’t work –  Cassie’s skin wasn’t light enough. When Cassie meets her father’s white daughter, Judith, the two form an initially uneasy alliance.

After a few years Judith finds out her father (who left his white family) is set to receive an inheritance. She’s going to find him, get some of his inheritance so she can go to New York City and become a star. Since Cassie is also his progeny she convinces her to come with Judith to make her claim. They set off on a road trip that was at times funny, frightening, and magical. The girls learn life lessons along the way – two being to never give up on your dreams and never forget the past.

While I liked the novel it seemed like a book that would be read in a high school literature class. Nothing wrong with that, just thought I’d mention my impression. I think readers in that age group would especially enjoy Absalom’s Daughters.


About the author:

Feldman, Suzanne (Tim Stephens)Suzanne Feldman, a recipient of the Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize and a finalist for the Bakeless Prize in fiction, holds an MA in fiction from Johns Hopkins University and a BFA in art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is the author of award-winning science fiction titles like Speaking Dreams and The Annunciate, published under the pen name Severna Park. Her short fiction has appeared in NarrativeThe Missouri ReviewGargoyle, and other literary journals. She lives in Frederick, Maryland.

Saturday Spotlight: Absalom’s Daughters by Suzanne Feldman

Today I want to shine the spotlight on a new novel by Suzanne Feldman. I hope you’ll take time to read the excerpt.

Absalom's Daughters

Description:

Self-educated and brown-skinned, Cassie works full time in her grandmother’s laundry in rural Mississippi. Illiterate and white, Judith falls for “colored music” and dreams of life as a big city radio star. These teenaged girls are half-sisters. And when they catch wind of their wayward father’s inheritance coming down in Virginia, they hitch their hopes to a road trip together to claim what’s rightly theirs.

In an old junk car, with a frying pan, a ham, and a few dollars hidden in a shoe, they set off through the American Deep South of the 1950s, a bewitchingly beautiful landscape as well as one bedeviled by racial strife and violence. Suzanne Feldman’s Absalom’s Daughters combines the buddy movie, the coming-of-age tale, and a dash of magical realism to enthrall and move us with an unforgettable, illuminating novel.


Chapter 1:

Cassie and Lil Ma and Grandmother lived in a house at the far end of Negro Street in two rooms over the laundry that they ran in Heron-Neck. Whoever had lived there before had papered the walls of the upstairs rooms, every inch of them, with newspapers, spread-out magazine pages, and letters. One crumbling page of newspaper showed a white man with a rifle standing over an animal, which Lil Ma said was a lion, which Grandmother said was a wild animal from Africa that would eat you in one bite. Below the lion a page torn from a magazine showed a rabbit eating a head of lettuce. Underneath the rabbit the words said, Ridding your garden of pests. Over by the back window were pictures of ladies in beautiful dresses, all tall and slender, like Lil Ma. There were no pictures that looked like Grandmother, who was short and round. None of the ladies on the walls were colored either.

Lil Ma taught Cassie to read by showing her the words on the walls and making her say them properly. Before bed, she and Cassie would find a patch of wall and sound out the letters. There was a picture of an elephant by one of the front windows with words underneath that said, Tuska Lives on Coney Island. Coney Island was a long way from Heron-Neck, Mississippi, Lil Ma said. One summer when the circus came to town, Lil Ma took Cassie down to the other end of Negro Street and across the railroad tracks to see the animals, but said Grandmother wouldn’t want them to spend the nickel to see the show. They watched an elephant sway in its chains and a lion pace in a cage. Clowns sang a funny song; a monkey in a little suit danced and caught peanuts in its mouth. Music started inside the tent, and the white people went in with their ice cream cones. Cassie and Lil Ma went home, across the tracks and back to the laundry, where Grandmother was waiting with a stack of linens to be pressed. Continue reading.


Feldman, Suzanne (Tim Stephens)About the author:

Suzanne Feldman, a recipient of The Missouri Review’s Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize and a finalist for the Bakeless Prize in fiction, holds an MA in fiction from Johns Hopkins University and a BFA in art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is the author of award-winning science fiction titles such as Speaking Dreams and The Annunciate, published under the pen name Severna Park. Her short fiction has appeared in NarrativeThe Missouri ReviewGargoyle, and other literary journals. She lives in Frederick, Maryland.

Suzanne Feldman Facebook Suzanne Feldman Facebook

Photo credit: Tim Stephens


Absalom's Daughters

“Magnificent…. reminiscent of both William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, but her voice is entirely her own and utterly original… a monumental new talent.”

KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW)

BUY THE BOOK:
Buy Absalom's Daughters by Suzanne Feldman at Amazon Buy Absalom's Daughters by Suzanne Feldman at Barnes & Noble Buy Absalom's Daughters by Suzanne Feldman at Indiebound Buy the ebook edition of Absalom's Daughters by Suzanne Feldman at the Apple iBookstore

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • Eligible (4:19:16 RH)Title:  Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice
  • Author:  Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Genre:  Literary Fiction
  • Pages:  512
  • Publish date:  April 19, 2016 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher/NetGalley

Description:  From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century.
 
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
 
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
 
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . 
 
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.   (publisher)

My take: I don’t consider myself an Austen scholar – not even close! – but I love her books. Even if you’re not a fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I would recommend Eligible based on my enjoyment from reading it. It’s highly readable – addictive, I’d say. I was very happy I’d tossed it in my bag when I went on vacation.

I loved thoroughly modern Lizzie and her endearing sister Jane. Her other siblings added to the plot, for sure. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett were similar in temperament to the parents in P&P. I loved the occupations held by Darcy and Bingley and how the modern predicaments of all characters moved the plot.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s retelling of P&P is fun yet addresses the same basic issues as the original. There are distinct differences but I was happy about them – most made me laugh in a good way. I won’t spoil with specifics but I’ll recommend Eligible to anyone looking for an entertaining novel.

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

evergreen (July8)

  • Title:  Evergreen
  • Author:  Rebecca Rasmussen
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  July 15, 2014 – Knopf
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  It is 1938 when Eveline, a young bride, follows her husband into the wilderness of Minnesota. Though their cabin is rundown, they have a river full of fish, a garden out back, and a new baby boy named Hux. But when Emil leaves to take care of his sick father, the unthinkable happens: a stranger arrives, and Eveline becomes pregnant. She gives the child away, and while Hux grows up hunting and fishing in the woods with his parents, his sister, Naamah, is raised an orphan. Years later, haunted by the knowledge of this forsaken girl, Hux decides to find his sister and bring her home to the cabin. But Naamah, even wilder than the wilderness that surrounds them, may make it impossible for Hux to ever tame her, to ever make up for all that she, and they, have lost. Set before a backdrop of vanishing forest, this is a luminous novel of love, regret, and hope.  (publisher)

My brief take:  Oh, Rebecca Rasmussen, you did it again. You reached in and wrapped your hand around my heart with your lovely but heart-breaking story. I loved most of the characters – and the ones I didn’t you made me understand why. These characters leapt off the pages as did the settings (which played as big a part as the main characters). I should have been tipped off by the quote before the story begins: “Tell me the landscape in which you live, and I will tell you who you are”.

It’s a story about the need for love and acceptance, and what happens when those are missing in one’s life. The question of ‘nature versus nurture’ ran through my mind with each generation. I loved what a minor character says at one point in the story:  “Every time you think you need to hold on, let go“. Without spoiling the story I’ll just say I think book clubs would find a lot to discuss with Evergreen.

Earlier I mentioned the story is lovely but heart-breaking. I turned the final page feeling uplifted and hopeful and so glad to have read Evergreen.