Other books we have been reading recently...

Man and Boy, by Tony Parsons.

30 year old Harry Silver appears to have it all – a beautiful wife, a four year old delightful young son , supportive parents and a successful job in media.
However one night he makes a bad decision which results in upheaval and the break-up of his family unit. His wife leaves him and he has to learn how to raise his son on his own. Harry loves his child and learns to make sacrifices for him while dealing with the hurt and the impact of the family breakdown on him.
At the same time Harry, realises the love and strength of his own father - son, father and grandfather become close and this shapes how Harry views the future.
We had a discussion about consequences of family breakdown, the fact that this was common in our society, the financial implication, the challenges of being a step-parent and trying to bring up children who are are not one’s own and the need for parents in this situation to receive emotional support from people who care about them.

he Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

Book coverThe book charts the story of two sisters, Kitty and Esme , children of wealthy British parents, whose early lives were spent in colonised India, looked after by native Ayahs until the death of their baby brother Hugo. The child contracted and died of Typhoid as did his Ayah and the family then returned to Scotland. The parents refuse to talk about Hugo or the unsettling circumstances of his death, and do not allow Esme to.

Kitty the elder sister is conventional and follows the rules of conduct expected by their tier of society at that time, whereas Esme is a free spirited child, an original thinker who does not enjoy the protocols and expectations placed on her by society and her parents.
Esme is clever, well read and because of her unwillingness to participate in society, her family is embarrassed by her and angry with her. Following a few incidences when she does not follow society’s rules, her family get her assessed and with the help of untruths, commit her to a life in a mental institution/asylum in the 1930s. Esme’s parents do not seem to care about her fate and none of them sought to rescue her. Esme herself was unable to convince the staff at the institution that she was not suffering from mental illness.
Many, many years later a young, clever and slightly eccentric young lady Iris Lockhart is contacted by the authorities of the institution and told that as the place has to be closed, she as a relative has to decide what is to be done with Esme. Iris has never heard of Esme and her mother denies any knowledge of her. The story develops further and exposes themes of loss, isolation, neglect, cruelty and betrayal but also endurance, self worth, love and nurture.
The book is written out of chronological order and is narrated by different voices and is without succinct chapters. This added to the interest and enhanced the unravelling of the story.
During our discussion, we felt this was a great work of fiction based on important times in the society of our country, which we now look back on and often criticise. There is no mention of faith or church and its relationship with those caught up in desperate plights like Esme.

The distant land of my father, by Bo Caldwell

dustabdt landThe book is narrated by Anna, the only child of wealthy expatriate American parents who have a comfortable life in Shanghai before the Second World War. Anna’s father Joseph loved China and taught his young daughter about the culture and architecture of the Shanghai. He believed in taking risks and assumed his luck would hold out even when China was invaded by the Japanese.

When his wife and daughter had to return to America for their safety, he refused to return with them and eventually became a prisoner of war.

Anna grows up in Los Angeles, hoping with her mother that Joseph would return.

The story is one of love, forgiveness and understanding.

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones 

Roy Othaniel Hamilton is an African-American who grows up in the South.americal marriage He is ambitious, clever and believes in the American dream. He marries Celestial who is an up and coming artists and their life together holds promise. But this dream is shattered when he is arrested and put in jail for 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit.

Celestial finds herself without her anchor and forms a closer alliance with Andre who was the best man at their wedding and their closest friend.

When Roy’s conviction is overturned after 5 years, he returns home to Atlanta expecting to resume his previous life. The three central characters are bound and separated by forces beyond their control. The story portrays the effects of wrongful arrest and its consequences on the victim and those close to them. 

Unexpected Healing, by Jennifer Rees Larcombe

Book Cover - Unexpected Healing

This book was written by a Christian woman whose ‘idyllic’ life was plagued by a terrible medical condition which changed her in every way, physically and mentally. It changed who she was as a person and virtually stripped her of her roles of wife and mother. Her caring husband had the impossible task of looking after her needs as well as those of their six children.

The book was written after she received God’s healing after much prayer and the book opens with the fact that she had been healed, so in a sense we read it knowing that this would happen at some point. Despite this it was quite a traumatic read, as we learned of the stages of deterioration she went through and the cost to those who loved her.

This book triggered much discussion about prayer and when it is answered and whether we get what we pray for. It made us think about the consequence of prayer being answered and healing being granted. It certainly got us thinking about how life can change very quickly and reinforced that we are ultimately not in control of our own lives.