Monday, June 28, 2010

Secrets, Lies and My Sister Kate by Belinda Hollyer

Families have all sorts of secrets - some big and some small. Twelve year old Mini guards her biggest secret carefully. No one knows her true name - it's just too awful to share! But there is another family secret that is tearing apart her big sister Kate. A secret that Mini can't seem to unravel. But, it's a secret that is so big that Kate is changing into someone Mini doesn't know and understand.

And then Kate simply disappears.

This is a story of the choices parents make and the way they play out for the children - not always in the way that they expected. This is also a story of the depth of sister-friendships and the bonds that are created between sisters. And - what it takes to maintain those bonds.

Mini is the one family member who really doesn't know what is happening - but she is also the one who has the potential to find her lost sister.

This is a quick and easy read and is in the Middle School Library.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

I am not usually big on memoirs or autobiographies. They bug me because they often jump around and have that "I'm so important it doesn't matter that my writing is pathetic - you'll still read it anyway" attitude. But, this one was different. Maybe because Rhoda is already a writer and an editor - her PHD in poetry or writing or literary research of something like that gives her a pretty strong pedigree. Or maybe it's because her story is the memoir of pieces of my own history - I'm a Mennonite too. But, not a Russian descended, California raised, conservative, former General Conference Mennonite. To most of you that is just splitting hairs - but to this Old Mennonite, mid-western raised, German Mennonite - it's still a difference.

I really enjoyed this book. I guess I haven't said that yet. There is something deeply funny about irreverently poking fun at the heritage we all grew up with - no dancing, funny clothes, odd foods and a work ethic that simply never stops. There is also something interesting about reading the history of a woman who turned her back on the Mennonite world and chose a path to academia rather than Mennonite community connections, acts of service in the church and occupations that fit in the Menno framework. It is interesting that in all her expostulating about the benefits of turning her back - she certainly spends a lot of time noticing what is good about being a Mennonite. (Oh yeah - and she uses some really big words here and there)

So - how does this appeal to those of you who aren't Mennos? If you have lived near, worked with or been married to a menno you will probably understand a lot of what is being said. But, remember - all their weird foods are not ours. My family didn't grow up with such a love of cabbage! Thank goodness!!!

My recommendation...
This is a story of a 40 something woman on the wrong side of a marriage and a career who returns to her family to reconnect after a devastating car accident. She happens to be Mennonite. But, I think all of us in that time frame appreciate what it means to turn around and re-prioritize our lives! Her stories about camping with her family, her mom's odd conversation connections and the way the addition of in-laws both benefits and destroys a family are excellent and ring true no matter what your religious affiliation is.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

Another excellent read!!! Yippee...things are looking up!

This is the July book for our book club. It's the story of Sarah a 10-year-old French girl captured on an awful night in July of 1942, a truly horrible moment of French history. A moment that has been forgotten by many and that is why De Rosnay chose to tell this story!

On that night, the French police brought together thousands of Jewish families and eventually deported them to Auschwitz concentration camp. But it was not a straight deportation...instead the men were sent first, then the women and then...they didn't know what to do with the thousands of children...

De Rosnay tells this story through twin lenses. One is Sarah - the girl wakened from her bed that awful night and taken away. The other is Julia, an American journalist who has lived in France for 20+ years with her husband and daughter. Julia is assigned to write an article about the 60 year commemoration of that awful night. Through her research she discovers a connection between her husband's family and Sarah. You really care about the two characters! Sarah with a secret that drives her and tears her up and Julia caught on a path that wasn't at all what she expected.

Although the story is somewhat predictable, it doesn't keep you from rushing through the book. This is a story of layers of secrets spanning families, decades and oceans. The weight of those secrets is evident in their lives and attitudes. For some that weight is made heavier by the indifference of an entire population.

This book made me wonder at our ability to not care, our ability to turn a blind eye and choose to forget the unpleasant, and the darkness that forgetting invites into your life. It also made me wonder about how the ordinary and simple acts of people who care can have such a profound impact on those caught in tragedy!

Reminds me of Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum and The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff, with the strength of the female characters and time frame and the unexpected twists!

Read it!!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

image from LibraryThing

This is a great read! What a wonderful heroine and what an awful mom! Addie is a sweet 12-year old left in a ratty old trailer with her bipolar Mommers. Dwight her step dad has had enough of Mommers' unwillingness to change and has had to divorce her...but he was not able to keep Addie and her step sisters together since he was not Addie's real dad. So, Addie does what she always does and adapts - to the deserted parking lot surrounding her trailer, to Soula the owner of the gas station on the corner and most of all to hiding Mommers disappearances from Dwight and Grandio, her dead father's dad.

Addie believes she doesn't have the 'love of learning' that her little sisters and mom have and that's why school is so difficult for her. But, with the help of her Vocabulary book, her growing musical talent her honest and open personality - she makes the transition to her new school easily...and even makes the orchestra.

But, Addie's life is measured out in the number of meals she can eek from her Mommers infrequent grocery stops and even more infrequent stays at the trailer. She longs to belong to someone other than her hamster, Piccolo. Then...tragedy strikes.

This is a poignant story about the struggles of a child shouldering the responsibilities and heartache of a parent's mental illness. You want life to improve for Addie - but you walk with her through the understanding that that probably means she can't be with Mommers...