Refuge by Dina Nayeri

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My Review:  

In the late 1980s, Niloo, then 8 years old, left Iran with her mother and brother, thinking her dentist father would meet up with them soon after.   As it turned out, this daddy’s girl only saw her father 4 times in a span of twenty years following their exodus.  In Refuge, Author Dina Nayeri follows Niloo as a young married, Iranian woman on a journey to find herself and establish roots.  Concurrently, through her father, Bahman’s experiences, we gain an understanding of their relationship and his attachment to home.

In her early 30s, Niloo is living in Amsterdam with her French husband.  At the same time, in Iran, her father is at the courthouse filing for a divorce from his third wife. She has not seen him in many years and although she feels betrayed and disappointed by him, and has tried to erase him from her memory, Niloo thinks of her father often and recalls their few visits and the precious time they had together when she was a child.  Niloo and her husband are working on their young marriage and establish a list of rules; one of them being to have more fun.  Attending an Iranian poetry night fits the bill and she meets a traditional older Iranian man, along with a bunch of refugees who she befriends, allowing her to feel comfortably connected and bringing her thoughts back to home and her father.

Because Niloo moved away from her country at an early age and has trouble finding her place in society, she lived like a vagabond, always establishing a “perimeter”; an area in her dwelling where all her most important items are kept; a temporary home.   Growing up as a poor refuge, ties she had to her culture were suppressed and although she had the desire to settle down, she seemed to have difficulty laying new roots…constantly being embarrassed by her mother’s stories and not feeling attached to Iran, Amsterdam or anywhere else.  Niloo becomes involved in the world of refugees, spending time developing friendships that feel natural, and helping these people in need seems to feed her soul and give her some clarity and insight into who she is and how she can establish a life with solid footing.

Nayeri guides us through each family visit, Brahman’s decisions to finally leave his beloved Iran, the ups and downs of Niloo’s marriage, and her continual search for purpose, identity and home.  Refuge highlights this special father-daughter relationship with the backdrop of immigration and the feelings of loss, pressures, uncertainty and bravery of all who are forced to leave their homes and plant roots to begin again.

As someone who lives in the same place I was raised, with at least 3 generations of  family nearby for over 100 years, I never struggle with who I am, where I come from or where I belong.   I deeply admire those who have left their country and persevered to make a life for themselves somewhere else: they deserve immense respect and support.  Niloo’s and Bahman’s stories in Refuge remind me of those struggles, from finances to getting an education to being part of a community and ultimately creating a place to call home.  I highly recommend this wonderful novel.

 

As seen in Goodreads:

An Iranian girl escapes to America as a child, but her father stays behind. Over twenty years, as she transforms from confused immigrant to overachieving Westerner to sophisticated European transplant, daughter and father know each other only from their visits: four crucial visits over two decades, each in a different international city. The longer they are apart, the more their lives diverge, but also the more each comes to need the other’s wisdom and, ultimately, rescue.

Meanwhile, refugees of all nationalities are flowing into Europe under troubling conditions. Wanting to help, but also looking for a lost sense of home, our grown-up transplant finds herself quickly entranced by a world that is at once everything she has missed and nothing that she has ever known. Will her immersion in the lives of these new refugees allow her the grace to save her father?

Refuge charts the deeply moving lifetime relationship between a father and a daughter, seen through the prism of global immigration. Beautifully written, full of insight, charm, and humor, the novel subtly exposes the parts of ourselves that get left behind in the wake of diaspora and ultimately asks: Must home always be a physical place, or can we find it in another person?

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Dina Nayeri is a graduate of Princeton, Harvard Business School, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. She spends her time in New York and Iowa City.

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A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass

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My Review:

In author Julia Glass’s latest, character driven novel, A House Among the Trees, Mort Lear, a famous children’s author, vaguely reminiscent of Maurice Sendak, unexpectedly falls to his death off the roof of his Connecticut home in a fluke accident.  His longtime, live-in assistant Tomasina (Tommy) is left to pick up the pieces, address his fortune, complete unfinished business and come to terms with their co-dependent relationship.  In addition, surprising details of Morty’s past surface causing Tommy to question how well she actually knew him.

When Tommy was a child she saw an eccentric man sketching pictures of her little brother as she watched over him on the playground.  She gave the man the ok to continue as long as her brother remained unaware, and years later she came across Mort Lear’s popular children’s book with those familiar illustrations from long ago.  As a favor, and to pay her back for allowing him to draw her brother, Mort gives Tommy a job working for him, and 40 years later after setting aside her personal needs and living with Morty in the country, Tommy is left alone.

Mort’s best-selling children’s book has a movie deal, and the unlikely famous, British actor, Nicholas Greene, cast to be the lead, had been in touch with Mort via email, sharing private stories and developing an unprecedented relationship.  Both had experienced loss, fame and loneliness in different ways and Nick had been looking forward to continuing to bond with Mort in person prior to his unexpected death.    As a courtesy, Tommy agrees to host Nick for a few days and help him get a feel for what Morty’s life was like.  Little did she know To her shock and surprise, Nick had learned some personal details of Morty’s past that were very different from what he had shared with her during their lifetime together.

Tommy is faced with processing upetting information about Morty’s youth while hosting Nick at the Connecticut home, giving Merry the museum curator some bad news about artwork she had been expecting to receive, and reconnecting with her estranged brother who was never publicly recognized as the model for Morty’s popular illustrations.

Julia Glass provides well written back story to enrich the detail and provide depth as she weaves her story around the characters.  She touches upon issues such as fame and loneliness, nontraditional relationships between adults and children, what we think is owed to us, family, legacy, loyalty and the individual quest for happiness.  I enjoyed A House Among the Trees and highly recommend it for book clubs.

 

 

As Seen on Goodreads:

From the beloved author of the National Book Award winning Three Junes. The unusual bond between a world-famous children’s author and his assistant sets the stage for a richly plotted novel of friendship and love, artistic ambition, and the power of an unexpected legacy.

When the revered children’s author Mort Lear dies accidentally at the Connecticut home he shares with Tomasina Daulair, his trusted assistant, she is stunned to be left the house and all its contents, as well as being named his literary executor. Though not quite his daughter or his wife, Tommy was nearly everything to the increasingly reclusive Lear, whom she knew for over forty years since meeting him as a child in a city playground where Lear was making sketches for Colorquake, a book that would become an instant classic.

Overwhelmed by the responsibility for Lear’s bequest, she must face the demands of all those affected by the sudden loss, including the lonely, outraged museum curator to whom Lear once promised his artistic estate; the beguiling British actor recently cast to play Lear in a movie; and her own estranged brother. She must also face the demons of Morty’s painful past the subject of that movie and a future that will no longer include him. A visit from the actor leads to revelations and confrontations that challenge much of what Tommy believed she knew about her boss’s life and work and, ultimately, about her own.”

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About the Author:

Julia Glass (born March 23, 1956) is an American novelist. Her debut novel, Three Junes, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2002.[1]

Glass followed Three Junes with a second novel, The Whole World Over, in 2006, set in the same Bank Street–Greenwich Village universe, with three interwoven stories featuring several characters from Three Junes.[2] Her third novel, I See You Everywhere, was published in 2008; her fourth, The Widower’s Tale, in 2010; and her fifth, And the Dark Sacred Night, in 2014.

Glass was born in Boston, grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and attended Concord Academy. She graduated from Yale in 1978. Intending to become a painter, she moved to New York City, where she lived for many years, painting in a small studio in Brooklyn and supporting herself as a free-lance editor and copy editor, including several years in the copy department of Cosmopolitan magazine. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with her partner, the photographer Dennis Cowley, and their two children, and works as a freelance journalist and editor. She is a previous winner of the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.

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The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

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My Review:

Nothing wrong with a quick departure from reality as you become wholeheartedly absorbed in the suspense of The Good Widow.  Jacks answers her front door to find two police officers telling her the shocking news that her husband is dead.    She knew he was on a business trip in Kansas…or was he?  The plot thickens when they tell her he was in an accident in Maui, Hawaii.  With another woman.  And so it begins…the unravelling of the truth behind their rocky marriage, the mother in law, fertility issues and unmet expectations.  Then there’s a visit from Nick, the fiancé of the woman Jacks’ husband had been traveling with. Nick, equally distraught due to the loss of his wife to be, wants to take a trip to Maui with Jacks to retrace the couple’s steps and learn the truth.  And so they go.  They discover unexpected details about their dead partners’ secret vacation, and as the two grieving travelers spend time together things between them get complicated.   Will they be able to gain closure, forgive their loved one and move on with their lives?  What really happened in Hawaii? Are they truly who they say they are?

Fenton and Steinke do a great job building suspense, with more questions developing as each new detail rises to the surface.  The flawed, yet likable characters kept me engaged and I thought I had it all figured out a few times before I finally saw the light; an enjoyable quick read while basking in the summer sun!

As seen on Goodreads:

Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…

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About the authors:

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been best friends for 25 years and survived high school and college together. Liz lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and two children. Lisa, a former talk show producer, now lives in Chicago, IL with her husband, daughter and two bonus children.

 

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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

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My Review:

I spent the entire time reading this book shaking my head. Wincing as one girl after another lost a tooth and another tooth and had jaw bones removed and suffered leg pain …limping, amputations, bedridden and then painful deaths. Radium poisoning that infiltrated the factory workers and slowly destroyed them from the inside out.  And for many years there was nobody to help them fight for their rights, nobody to stand up to big business, and weak men who hid the truth so business could prosper at the expense of The Radium Girls.  Uplifting book it is not….If only Erin Brockovich was alive in the early 1900s.

The Radium Girls were mostly teenagers and in their 20s; they were lucky enough to land well paying jobs in the factories painting numbers on watches out of radium paint.  They were told to put the brushes in their mouths to make it fine and pointy so unknowingly the girls were ingesting dangerous radium everyday.  The substance got on their clothes and made them glow; they were covered in it by days end everyday and never knew it was harmful.  The executives insisted the paint was safe and they repeatedly tested the women throughout the years to confirm they were all in good health.

Unfortunately, it was obvious their health was failing them and many of the test results did show the girls were radioactive but the businessmen covered it up and hid the reports so the lucrative watch dial business could continue.  Sadly for the girls, repercussions did not physically show up right away and many of them reported health issues years after they left the factory.

Some of the girls tried to hire lawyers and doctors to vouch for their claims that the job caused them to get sick but for a long time nobody really was able to take on the big company’s powerful legal and medical team, so one by one, girls were using all their family’s money for lawyers, healthcare and then ultimately dying, leaving their families destitute.

Author Kate Moore tells the tragic history of the Radium companies and the legal battles through stories of these important women who worked hard, cared for their families and friends, suffered the unthinkable health issues and experienced financial drain.  The Radium Girls deserve recognition for fighting the big companies who insisted Radium was safe and illegally covered up the truth as they knew it.  They fought for themselves,  and the women who would be exposed to toxic chemicals in the future.

The Radium Girls is a tribute to these hard working, strong women and the generous lawyer who fought hard for justice.  “Radium had been known to be harmful since 1901.  Every death since was unnecessary.”

I highly recommend this informative and thought provoking book.  Parallels can be drawn to current day when we look at the number of cases of cancer where we have not been able to connect them to any one instigating cause.  One big difference is our current ability to share information, research and case studies in real time via everyday technology so time is not lost.  With so many people suffering, there continues to be much to do.

As Seen in Goodreads:

The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

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About the Author:

My background is in book publishing; I worked in-house as an editor for twelve years, most recently as an editorial director at Penguin Random House, before going freelance as an editor and author in 2014. I discovered the girls’ story through directing These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich, which dramatizes the Ottawa dial-painters’ experiences. The story really resonated with me. Through my research to make my theatre production authentic, I realized no book existed that told the story from the girls’ perspective. I felt passionately about ensuring they were remembered and the individual women celebrated, which is how the book came to be.
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A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman

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My Review:

A Horse Walks Into a Bar, the 2017 Man Booker International Prize Winner, is a stunning account of a middle aged, washed up comedian’s stand up show, but there is so much more.  Taking place in the Israeli city of Netanya, Dovaleh Greenstein has invited a high school friend from military camp, Avishai Lavar, to watch the performance and then let him know what he sees…the person he really sees.  In the audience, in addition to Lavar, now a retired judge, there is an unusual woman from Dov’s old neighborhood in attendance, a little person who endured bullying all her life, and throughout the show interjects comments and contributes her recollections from childhood.

Dov starts out marginally funny, a bit mean with injected political commentary on the state of Israel and her relationship with surrounding countries.  As he feeds off the energy of the audience he gains confidence and becomes focused on telling stories of his youth. He reveals in a joking kind of way the pain he felt as a young boy, small in stature, walking on his hands to avoid getting beat up but enduring hurtful slaps kicks and punches anyway. The small odd woman from his past doesn’t approve of his self deprecating act and refuses eye contact. Meanwhile, as he sits silently during the performance, the judge recalls his brief time with Dov when they were young and how he just observed the bullying and abuse Dov painfully endured without standing up for his friend.

Dov tells stories of how he tried to protect his Holocaust surviving mother, how his father beat him, how he felt like an embarrassment.  The little woman reminded him of his kindness and strength as he goes down this depressing, yet life affirming path on stage and only a few of the diminishing crowd lingers.  The comedy show turns into an autobiographical one man show and the audience, not getting what they came for continually thins out, but there are some who cannot resist the “temptation to look into another man’s hell”.  This cathartic sharing of his background and past experiences allowed Dov to relive the pain and suffering he has endured over the years in front of an audience.

At times painful to read, Doveleh’s stories bring to light questions about being an active participant in advocacy or an ineffective observer.  From Middle East relations to the Holocaust to bullying vs. kindness; what is our responsibility as an audience, a friend, a citizen?  While some of the comedy club crowd questions the heavy performance that night, “People come here to have a good time, it’s the weekend, you wanna clear your head, and this guy gives us Yom Kippur.”, I believe Dov wants to be recognized for his suffering.

Author David Grossman does an exceptional job with his characters, giving the reader just enough to grasp who they are, flaws and all.  His insights about society, Israel and life choices provide food for thought; I could not put this book down and highly recommend it for book clubs.

 

As seen on Goodreads:

The award-winning and internationally acclaimed author of the To the End of the Land now gives us a searing short novel about the life of a stand-up comic, as revealed in the course of one evening’s performance. In the dance between comic and audience, with barbs flying back and forth, a deeper story begins to take shape–one that will alter the lives of many of those in attendance.

In a little dive in a small Israeli city, Dov Greenstein, a comedian a bit past his prime, is doing a night of stand-up. In the audience is a district court justice, Avishai Lazar, whom Dov knew as a boy, along with a few others who remember Dov as an awkward, scrawny kid who walked on his hands to confound the neighborhood bullies.

Gradually, as it teeters between hilarity and hysteria, Dov’s patter becomes a kind of memoir, taking us back into the terrors of his childhood: we meet his beautiful flower of a mother, a Holocaust survivor in need of constant monitoring, and his punishing father, a striver who had little understanding of his creative son. Finally, recalling his week at a military camp for youth–where Lazar witnessed what would become the central event of Dov’s childhood–Dov describes the indescribable while Lazar wrestles with his own part in the comedian’s story of loss and survival.

Continuing his investigations into how people confront life’s capricious battering, and how art may blossom from it, Grossman delivers a stunning performance in this memorable one-night engagement (jokes in questionable taste included).

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About the author:
Leading Israeli novelist David Grossman (b. 1954, Jerusalem) studied philosophy and drama at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and later worked as an editor and broadcaster at Israel Radio. Grossman has written seven novels, a play, a number of short stories and novellas, and a number of books for children and youth. He has also published several books of non-fiction, including interviews with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Among Grossman`s many literary awards: the Valumbrosa Prize (Italy), the Eliette von Karajan Prize (Austria), the Nelly Sachs Prize (1991), the Premio Grinzane and the Premio Mondelo for The Zig-Zag Kid (Italy, 1996), the Vittorio de Sica Prize (Italy), the Juliet Club Prize, the Marsh Award for Children`s Literature in Translation (UK, 1998), the Buxtehude Bulle (Germany, 2001), the Sapir Prize for Someone to Run With (2001), the Bialik Prize (2004), the Koret Jewish Book Award (USA, 2006), the Premio per la Pace e l`Azione Umanitaria 2006 (City of Rome/Italy), Onorificenza della Stella Solidarita Italiana 2007, Premio Ischia – International Award for Journalism 2007, the Geschwister Scholl Prize (Germany), the Emet Prize (Israel, 2007)and the Albatross Prize (Germany, 2009). He has also been awarded the Chevalier de l`Ordre des Arts et Belles Lettres (France, 1998) and an Honorary Doctorate by Florence University (2008). In 2007, his novels The Book of Internal Grammar and See Under: Love were named among the ten most important books since the creation of the State of Israel. His books have been translated into over 25 languages.
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The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

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My review:

How well do you really know someone?  After reading The Weight of Lies you may ask yourself that question!  Meg Ashley, daughter of Frances Ashley, the cult classic horror novelist, is fed up with the neglect and lack of interest her mother has had in her for so many years.  For revenge, she agrees to write a tell-all book, the truth about her mom, the famous author, and about her troubled childhood as she prepares to rid her life completely of her self centered mother.  While conducting research and digging into the past, Meg begins to uncover some information that has to do with a murder her mother had written about in her best-seller, Kitten, several decades ago.  The fictional novel was based on a real murder and actual people, and the cult followers had their theories about who committed the crime in real life.  Arriving on Bonny Island, where the murder took place, Meg meets some of the people who appeared as characters in her mother’s book, and while digging deeper she begins to uncover information that leads her to believe she had been told some lies about her younger years.  As Meg is trying to understand crucial details about her own past she is also learning particulars about the murder.  Everybody is telling lies and Meg is unsure of who to trust, if anyone.  When she receives warnings to back off she knew she was getting close to solving the murder mystery and learning the truth about her past but she was in danger.

The Weight of Lies keeps you on the edge of your seat, guessing every step of the way!

As seen in Goodreads:

In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

14681795-1.jpgAbout the author:

EMILY CARPENTER, a former actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in Georgia with her family. BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS, her first novel was published in 2016. THE WEIGHT OF LIES is her second novel.  You can visit Emily online at emilycarpenterauthor.com.

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I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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My Review:

I couldn’t help but get caught up in the nail-biting suspense and the misleading plot twists as the talented author, Lisa Jewell kept me guessing until the end in her latest novel, I Found You.
Present day Britain, Lily’s husband is missing; he went off to work in the morning and never returned.  Young and Ukrainian, Lily doesn’t know her surroundings and has little knowledge of her new husband’s friends and family.  She is extremely upset and worried and reports him missing to the police.   They don’t take her seriously and think he may have just decided to leave her. Lily is convinced he would never do that, she pushes them to look deeper,  and once the police inform her that his passport was fake, she is compelled to investigate his disappearance on her own.

Alice, a scattered, yet kind hearted mother lives by the beach with her 3 kids from different fathers.  She discovers a mysterious man sitting on the sand by the ocean for hours and once a storm moves in she cautiously approaches to give him a jacket.  He has lost his memory and has no idea who he is or how he got there.  Alice calls him “Frank” and she and her children welcome him in to their home while she tries to help him regain his memory.

In 1993, Kristy is on an annual family beach vacation with her parents and her older teenage brother, Gray.  They meet Mark, a nice young man, on the beach who is staying with his aunt.  Mark, 19 years old, shows interest in Kirsty and wants to spend more time with her.   Being 15 years old and having no dating experience, excited yet cautious, she agrees to go out with him. Things don’t go well…there is trauma, tragedy and heartbreak.

The missing husband, the unidentified stranger and the charming teenager,,,… these complex characters make you wonder how well do you really know someone.  Jewell keeps you guessing as the three stories get closer and closer to connecting, and what fun it is to try and solve all the mysteries before the truth is revealed.  An enjoyable literary escape!

93504.jpgAbout the author:

Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Lisa’s Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/LisaJewelloff…

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The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

Available June 13, 2017

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My review:

Author Jillian Cantor truly knows how to draw a reader in…I could not put down this beautifully written book!  At the end of every chapter my heart was pounding in anticipation.  The Lost Letter is two compelling stories artfully woven together and destined to intertwine at the end.  The first takes place in the late 1930s Austria, and is about the Fabers, a Jewish family.  The father is an engraver and he has a young, non Jewish apprentice, Kristoff, living with them to learn the trade. Kristoff becomes smitten with the older daughter, Elena, a bit of a rebel, who is secretly learning to engrave stamps in the night.  When the war reaches their small town, the Fabers are in danger and Elena along with Kristoff become part of the Austrian resistance, using stamps to communicate right under the noses of the Nazis.  The desperation of making it through this horrible time and the hopefulness of love are palpable as the characters secretly help others escape while biding their time.

In late 1980s Los Angeles, a philatelist (stamp collector) is battling dementia and is living in an Alzheimer’s memory unit.  His daughter, Katie, is going through a divorce, sorting through her dad’s belongings and is getting his stamp collection appraised with the hope of finding a hidden gem.   An unusual stamp is found on an unopened letter which leads her on a quest for answers.  This fascinating journey takes Kate back to the 1930s Austria as she learns about the war, Austrian resistance and her father’s past.

The Lost Letter is historical fiction at its best; dual storylines, wonderful relationships, information about use of the stamp during wartime, paired with incredible storytelling by author Jillian Cantor makes this one of my favorite books this year!  Order your copy on AMAZON today!  I am so thankful to have received an advance review copy of this book from the Great Thought’s Ninja Review Team. All opinions are my own.

 

As seen in Goodreads:

A heart-breaking, heart-warming historical novel of love and survival inspired by real resistance workers during World War II Austria, and the mysterious love letter that connects generations of Jewish families. For readers of The Nightingale, Lilac Girls, and Sarah’s Key.

Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. When his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, and simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher’s fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad’s collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

A beautiful, poignant and devastating novel, The Lost Letter shows the lasting power of love.

Image-1-1.jpgAbout the author:

Jillian Cantor has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from The University of Arizona. She is the author of award-winning novels for teens and adults including the critically acclaimed MARGOT, which was a Library Reads pick for September 2013 and also featured in O the Oprah Magazine, People, Ladies Home Journal, and Time.com. Her most recent book for teens, SEARCHING FOR SKY, (Bloomsbury US & UK, Scholastic book club) was nominated for the 2015 Carnegie Medal in the UK. Jillian’s next historical novel for adults, THE LOST LETTER, will be out 06/13/17 from Riverhead/Penguin. Born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, Jillian currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

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Option B is a heartbreaking story of loss as well as an inspirational guide to living.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam M. Grant.

“From Facebook’s COO and Wharton’s top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.” Goodreads.
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My review:

Sheryl Sandberg suffered a tragic and unthinkable loss when her husband died on vacation, and just like anyone else, she had to develop coping strategies and solutions to problems in order to work through her grief, comfort her children and get back to living.  Her personal story is honest, devastating and inspiring as she, along with her friend and co-writer, Adam Grant, present a lot of great information and ideas for those who have experienced a loss, also providing advice and suggestions for friends, family and coworkers on how to be supportive and understanding in Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

The book has expertly woven Sandberg’s personal stories with a more technical approach to grief.  Based on research, Sandberg and Grant suggest recovery from a tragedy can be stunted if you tend to think what happened is your fault, if you believe the bad thing that happened will affect all areas of your life and if you think the feelings of unhappiness will never end.  Once you realize none of these are true, you are better able to cope and are on the road to recovery.

They talk about the benefits of journaling to work through feelings and how to focus on the positives.  Sandberg says “Journaling helped me make sense of the past and rebuild my self confidence to navigate the present and future.”  “Adam suggested I write 3 things I have done well today”.  They suggest that “contributions are active” and they “remind us that we can make a difference”.   Also the suggestion of writing down 3 moments of joy experienced each day helps to remember there are still good things happening.

Another area of helpful advice revolves around building resilience in children and helping them develop 4 core beliefs: “1) they have some control over their lives, 2) they can learn from failure, 3) they matter as human beings, and 4) they have real strengths to rely on and share.”  Sheryl shares conversations with her children and although each person and situation is unique, it gives the reader ideas of how to help children process a death and cope with a painful situation.

In the wake of tragedy and loss we also learn about some possible positive repercussions.  At this crucial time there is opportunity to change your thought process and dig deep.  Post traumatic growth includes “finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life and seeing new possibilities.”

In Option B there are lots of great examples based on experts and research of how to face adversity head on and come out ok on the other side.  In addition, Sandberg talks about her experiences, how she made decisions about the children without her beloved partner, how humor is necessary and plays an important role in resilience and what is helpful to receive in terms of support and kind words from friends, coworkers and others.

This inspirational book is Sheryl Sandberg’s personal story along with fantastic suggestions for things to do and ways to think about life when faced with adversity.  It is a book everyone should read…a great gift as well.

 

As stated in Goodreads:

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.

Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart—and her journal—to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.

Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.

We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

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SHERYL SANDBERG is chief operating officer at Facebook, overseeing the firm’s business operations. Prior to Facebook, Sheryl was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Clinton, a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and an economist with the World Bank.

Sheryl received a BA summa cum laude from Harvard University and an MBA with highest distinction from Harvard Business School.

Sheryl is the co-author of Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resillience, and Finding Joy with Wharton professor and bestselling author Adam Grant, which will be released April 24, 2017. She is also the author of the bestsellers Lean In: Women, Work,  and the Will to Lead and Lean In for Graduates. She is the founder of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to build a more equal and resilient world through two key initiatives, LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org (launching April 2017). Sheryl serves on the boards of Facebook, the Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, ONE, and SurveyMonkey.

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To learn more about Adam Grant click HERE.

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