Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Now Reading: June 2012

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Editor-In-Chief Caroline M. Grant writes, "I am halfway through Turkish Nobel Laureate Orham Pamuk's 500-page novel of obsessive love, The Museum of Innocence . The book, which opens in 1975, is the strange but utterly compelling story of Kemal, an Istanbul businessman, and how his passion for a much-younger woman of a different social class destroys his engagement to a more appropriate woman. As Kemal narrates his story, he also makes reference to objects he collects, souvenirs of both his torturous affair and broken engagement; he is a tour guide of his own personal 'Museum of Innocence.' Earlier this year, Pamuk opened a real-life Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, bringing the self-absorbed story full circle. The novel is a fascinating look at Turkish culture, and also, somewhat like Madame Bovary or Tess of the D'Ubervilles, an exploration of how women become objects in love stories."

Birthing the Mother Writer Columnist Cassie Premo Steele shares, "I am riveted and fascinated by J. Courtney Sullivan's new novel, Maine. I enjoyed Commencement, but this is really leagues better. Switching points of view between very different women in an Irish Catholic family, Sullivan manages to give us intimate insights into each character while also showing how members of the same family can see each other-- and fail to see each other-- in heartbreaking ways."

Blog Editor Karna Converse just finished People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks, which she describes as "intriguing fiction based on the true story of a Hebrew codex that's become known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. (A haggadah is a book of readings for the Jewish seder. The Sarajevo Haggadah is of particular note because of its artwork, which is highly unusual for the time periodin which it is believed to have been created.)

"The Sarajevo Haggadah, a prized possession of the National Museum of Bosnia, went missing during the 1990s Bosnian war. Intrigued by the fact that the haggadah was saved from destruction by a Muslim librarian, Brooks, a former journalist for the Wall Street Journal, learned that this was not the first time a Muslim had saved the Jewish text. An Islamic scholar saved it from Nazi soldiers during World War II.

"Brooks' fascination with the book's history creates a vivid picture for the reader. Not only do we learn that the book survived possible destruction twice during the 20th century, but we learn that its existence may have also been threatened in Venice, by the pope's Inquisition of the early 1600s, and in Spain, during the 1492 Spanish Inquisition.

"As fiction, Brooks has created a world for each time period and immerses readers in its culture and people and characters and plots:

'Hanna Heath, an expert in rare books preservation, is asked to analyze the Sarajevo Haggadah. She discovers four artifacts in its pages which send her searching to trace the steps of the manuscript's past - from 1940 to 1894, to 1609, and to 1492 and 1480. Her findings fuel her passion and she becomes one of the "people of the book" who fights for, and contributes to, the haggadah's continuing history and survival.'"

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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