Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lake People by Abi Maxwell

Alice's narrative frames the story of the women who came before her.  Although many of the women are mysteriously drawn to die in the lake, those who resist the pull include Alice's great aunt Signe and her grandmother Sophie.

Moving from Alice's discovery of her true parents in 1982 back through time to her grandmother Sophie's childhood and forward again, the novel interweaves Alice's discovery of her family through a richly vibrant cast of characters. I wish I had thought to compile the following as I was reading instead of after:

Eleanora - mother to Ida and Signe
Ida- mother to Sophie
Signe - aunt and foster mother to Sophie
Sophie (m. Otto Wickholm) - mother to Malcolm and Karl
Karl - father to Alice (dies before she is born and his girlfriend Jennifer Hill abandons the baby in the Wickholm's boathouse)
Malcom - uncle to Alice (finds baby Alice in the boathouse)
Paul Thornton - foster father who adopts baby Alice
Clara Thornton (Cici) - foster mother who leaves when Alice is a baby (Alice later visits her as an adult)
Mike and June Shaw - professional ski racer and his wife (Mike befriends Malcolm and later Paul and Alice)
Josh - Alice's first husband
Simon - befriends Alice when she lives on the island
Rose - finds Alice's love letters and later plays matchmaker for Alice and Simon

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Word Gurrrl

I was browsing for books for my second grade bookworm when I came across a familiar name. Meg Wolitzer's  latest book - The Interestings - is on my to-read-list, so I was curious to see what a "Middle Zone" title of hers would be like in the meantime. 

Across the country, a loner, a skateboarder, and a black sheep find themselves preparing for the Youth Scrabble Tournament. Duncan has a unique power in his fingertips that his competitive teammate plans to exploit. Nate wants to skateboard and go to school like everyone else in his neighborhood. Instead, his father, once a finalist in the tournament, begins homeschooling him ... in Scrabble techniques. April sets out to prove to her athletic family that Scrabble is her sport. 

Wolitzer follows these kids from prep to game time and skillfully intersects their stories in the final tournament. Not only do they form friendships with their competitors, but they prove to themselves that they can succeed despite bullies, self-doubt, or parental pressure. 

While jumping from this book to Wolitzer's other fiction is not recommended for younger readers, they might enjoy this book by another favorite author.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Grammarian by Annapurna Potluri

The story opens in 1911. Carrying English and Hindi dictionaries, a book of Sanskrit roots, and this guide, a young French philologist is traveling by train in India. His mission is to write a book on the local language Telugu for a European audience. Excited by the prospect of expanding his knowledge of the language, Alexandre Lautens is also quite taken by the sights and smells around him - the smell of petrol, the taste of fresh jackfruit, the flash of a pink sari. Arriving at his destination, he finds his accommodations even more comfortable than expected as a guest of the Adivi family. 

While trying to make their guest feel at home, the various members of the Adivi family are also preparing for the wedding of their youngest daughter. The eldest daughter, Anjali, somewhat removed from the festivities, offers to help with Alexandre's study. Wanting to return the favor, Alexandre decides to take her swimming. Innocent in intent, Alexandre soon discovers the impropriety is enough to cast him and Anjali out of the household. Their paths must diverge. Alexandre seeks refuge with a fellow European before his return to Paris while Anjali turns to political protest. 

Potluri sprinkles nominative declensions into lush descriptions of ritual dinners, wedding preparations, and everyday breakfasts.  Her strength is setting the scene with not only the right flower arrangement and bird song, but with the proper tension of cultural misunderstanding, youthful rebellion, and regret.