Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Now Reading: August, 2011

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If I had known that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was so funny, I would have picked up Love in the Time of Cholera ages ago. During a key moment in the first physical seduction of Fermina Daza by her husband Dr. Juvenal Urbino in this love story set in an unnamed Caribbean city, Marquez describes, "he knew that he had rounded the cape of good hope." So far, it's one of my favorite lines from the novel, which traces the more than fifty-one year-long unrequited love story of Fermina and her suitor Florentino Ariza.

Below, our editors share what they are currently reading and take us from memoirs set in Kenya, novels about awkward marriages, and works of non-fiction about Israeli and Palestinian families.

Suzanne Kamata, Fiction Co-Editor, writes, "I'm reading The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin, a novel which takes place on the shores of Lake Superior. The book is divided into three narratives: that of an Objiwe woman in 1622, mother of two young sons; Berit, a Norwegian woman in 1902 mourning a miscarriage; and Nora, a bar-owner and grandmother, in 2000. The fourth main character in this novel is the lake itself, ever vibrant, often dangerous, always mysterious, rendered in Sosin's gorgeous, sensuous prose."

Katherine J. Barrett, Reviews Co-Editor and Mother City Mama Columnist, shares, "I am reading the memoir, My Maasai Life, by Robin Wiszowaty. She tells of growing up, angsty and rebellious, in suburban Illinois. After a short trip to Israel, she decides to leave everything behind, move to rural Kenya, and live with a Maasai family. Early in the book, Wiszowaty seems headlong and naive. She brings a Maasai friend, one who had never left the village, to a cinema in Nairobi. As the book progresses (I'm halfway through), her insights deepen, she discusses difficult topics like female circumcision and HIV, and she questions her role in Kenya and in the world."

Christina Marie Speed, Literary Reflections Co Editor, contributes, "I am absorbed in the last chapters of Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone. I doubted this, with its over 650 pages, as a successful summer read with two young sons at home, but the characters and rich sensory description have left me sneaking pages from morning coffee to turning out the light. The story, set in Ethiopia in the 1950s, is centered around a set of twins conceived by a nun and (we presume) the doctor she assists at the local hospital. The mother dies during childbirth and the assumed father flees in fear. Two doctors at the same hospital adopt the twins, and raise them with the support of a cast of other hospital workers and friends. I find I am emotionally tied to Marion, the main character, and his life as he comes of age during a revolutionary period in Ethiopia's history; to his connections with his twin brother; to his unending curiosity about his father's story. The prose is at once lyrical and spare, evoking a range of feelings at every turn. Do not be put off by its length -- the reward is in the pages, all the way to the very last one."

Caroline M. Grant, Editor-in-Chief, reflects, "I was completely charmed by Drew Perry's funny and honest first novel, This Is Just Exactly Like You. It's the story of a married couple, Jack and Beth, their autistic son, and a whole lot of mulch. Perry's writing is so true about the ways couples communicate -- or fail to -- and about the ways marriage is changed by children, but these truths don't come like lightning flashes of insight but more quietly, shruggingly, leaving the characters still a bit puzzled, but awkwardly trying to make things better. Jack accidentally buys the house across the street and his wife, frustrated by one more unfinished project, moves in with Jack's best friend; later, Jack moves an ocean-themed miniature golf course into the backyard and builds a tricycle racetrack around the giant, fishy mini golf figures for his son. Will this bring Beth back to him? It seems unlikely, really, and I'm glad not to be married to Jack myself, but he's a well-meaning guy, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading his story."

Karna Converse, Blog Co-Editor, tells us, "I just finished The Lemon Tree, a work of nonfiction by Sandy Tolan, and recommend it to anyone interested in the personal stories of those affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Al-Khairi family was forced to flee their home during the formation of Israel in 1948, and the stone house they had built a decade earlier became home for the Eshkenazis, Holocaust survivors from Bulgaria. Nineteen years later, just days after the end of the Six Day War, Dalia Eshkenazis opens the door to see Bashir Khairi on the steps. He simply wants to see the home he remembers from his childhood, and in particular, the lemon tree his father had planted in the back yard. His request and Dalia's welcoming response is the beginning of a 35-year conversation. Tolan uses each family's story to trace the history of the land and the governments that have ruled it, and in doing so, reveals why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved today. I appreciated Tolan's even-tempered, in-depth narration; my only regret is that I didn't read it when it was first published in 2007."

Rhena Tantisunthorn received her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University in 2007. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter and is currently working on a book about her experiences working with Karenni refugees on the Thai-Burma border. You can find her blog here: Rhena Tan.

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