The Hate U Give – Review: Library

the hate u give coverThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – 5/ 5 stars

This book, The Hate U Give, has forever changed me. It is an incredibly powerful story, yet it is written in straightforward language, making it accessible to anyone. I read this book faster than nearly any other book I’ve read, partly because of this straightforward language and partly because I could not stop reading it. Every time I stopped to do something else, I found my mind coming back to this storyline, trying to process and cope with what had just happened while also trying to figure out what happens next.

It’s description is accurate and lays out the general progression of what will happen next, but it did not capture the intensity of this book. I went into this book knowing that Khalil was going to die and yet, when he was killed early in the book, I found myself crying. It was not the last time I cried either. Starr lives a life no child should be asked to live, balancing race, navigating gang politics, learning now to stay safe, and recovering from tragedy and trauma. Yet, she takes much of it in stride and still lives and enjoys life. She is an amazing narrator and captures the essence of the world around her in a way that transports the reader. She is an objective narrator while also feeling the effects of the world around her. She is raw and poignant and brave. She is the perfect young adult narrator.

The description also does not capture the breadth of this book. The Hate U Give covers many issues around race and racism, but often in a subtle way, which is integrated into the story. It covers cultural differences between white and black people, but in a way in which it does not overly highlight them or shut the reader down. The Hate U Give discusses all of these in a disarming way, allowing the reader to see their own mistakes, self-reflect, and decide if and how they want to make a change. In addition, the book does not over explain concepts, sometimes not explaining them at all and allowing the context to speak for itself. Other times, Starr explains the concepts in a way in which it seems natural conversation. Thomas’s amazing writing style gives the reader the chance to learn and grow without feeling ignorant or racist, which is a true gift.

I need to point out that I am not a typical fan of YA. While I have enjoyed a few YA books, for the most part, there are two things about them that I routinely dislike: love triangles and simplistic, non-descriptive writing. This book lacked both. Yes, there is a romance, but there is no triangle, at least not for Starr. And yes, the writing is straightforward, but it is not dumbed down and even though it is told in the first person, a style I typically do not like, the narrator captures so many details, emotions, connections, understandings, well, just everything. I lived this book, and now it is my proof that both YA books and first person narratives can to better than they typically do when it comes to providing depth.

I loved that Starr’s boyfriend was the role model of healthy relationships, even though the books starts with a moment where he was not the ideal boyfriend. Yet, he is not perfect. He grows and develops and is willing to learn. He makes mistakes, but works through them, and by the end is a great example of not only what a great boyfriend is, but also a great human being. We need more characters like this in books, especially YA books.

I do not know how to do this book justice, even though I so very much want to do it justice. Some reviewers find it more challenging to review a book they do not like, but I struggle with reviewing a book I love. I do not know how to capture the essence of the book, how it conveyed to me its secrets, how it moved me to a whole different place on my journey, how it will stick with me like a memory I actually experienced, or how much I want everyone else to read it. Some books speak to the soul, but that is a deeply intimate conversation which is hard to relay to others, or at least it is for me. This book not only spoke to my soul; it changed it. I can never look at the world the same way again and I am better for it. The hype for this book is not overrated and this is definitely a must read book. It will likely be in my top five reads of the year and has already made my favorite list. I likely will read this again, something I very rarely do, and I will devour everything else Angie Thomas writes. This is an incredible novel on its own, but to then realize that it is a debut speaks volumes to the quality of Thomas’s writing. Read this book; you will not regret it.

Add to Goodreads! The Hate U Give

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com and BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

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The Shadow of the Wind – Review: Library

The Shadow of the Wind coverThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – 3.5/ 5 stars

When I walked into my library and saw this book on display, I immediately wanted to read it. I took it home and had to convince myself I needed to wait to read it until I finished the book I was currently reading. It’s not often that a book calls to me in such a way that I want to drop everything to start it, but The Shadow of the Wind called to me, which is a bit poetic since the entire premise of the book is that a book called to Daniel and led him down a path of mystery, intrigue, and danger. I wish this book had been as compelling for me as Daniel’s was for him. While I started with really high hopes, those hopes crumbled throughout the book.

In The Shadow of the Wind, a young son of a bookstore owner, Daniel, comes across the book, The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Yes, both the actual book and the fictitious book have the same name. Daniel devours the book and then seeks to learn more about the author. What he learns is that there are no other books by Julián Carax left in print because someone has been systematically destroying them. I found this to be an intriguing premise and to a certain extent I was captivated by its slow reveal, but there were several aspects which left me unsatisfied.

The first was how Daniel responded to this information. While the book blurb seems to indicate that Daniel will set out immediately to solve this mystery, actually, he is much more focused on a girl than the book or the story around the author of that book. While there is value in this story line, it drags on for entirely too long. In addition, this is where I stopped having a great affinity for Daniel. Like his father, I was incredibly disappointed with a choice that Daniel makes and honestly, it made much of the rest of the book unbelievable to me. This one action greatly shows who Daniel is and it isn’t a kind of person who would much care about unraveling a mystery, especially at great cost. While I enjoyed the unfolding of the mystery, I struggled to understand why Daniel was a central figure in it or why there was no movement on the mystery for many, many years and pages. My loss of affection for Daniel was a serious blow to the book as I care much more about characters than I do plot and this ended up costing the book a full star.

I also had problems with Daniel’s love interest. Unfortunately, it is challenging for me to say much about my problems without possibly spoiling the book. Suffice it to say that one love interest is better developed and makes much more sense in the context of the book and what the author is trying to accomplish where the other one is annoying instalove with little development and does not fit well within the broader story. Add to the top of that the constant, horrible, unnecessary sexism and it was hard to read much of the plot on the love interest at all. Of course, the sexism was not only towards Daniel’s love interests, but nearly every female character in the book. Yes, I understand that during the time period the book is set in, there was significant sexism and also that there may be differences in cultural views on women, but in the end, much of this commentary was strictly unnecessary and simply detracted from the enjoyment of the book. Again, I care much more about characters than I do about plot and these comments prevented me from having great affinity for nearly any male character in the book.

Since I found myself unable to connect to male characters, I pretty much was unable to connect with any character as nearly all female characters were background characters used to drive the story along. The most depth we get from female characters is from two different women who reveal much of the solution to the mystery. Whether men or women tell these stories, the characters always know significantly more than is possible for them to know. Their stories are told to other characters in the books, but yet they are written as simply another narrator, who is privy to personal thoughts, feelings, and background information of other characters in the story. This was unbelievable as some of these characters did not have the connections necessary to possibly know these things, let alone access to the internal struggles of characters outside themselves. This was a significant detractor from the book. Even Daniel, the main narrator and written from his point of view in the first person, knows things he cannot possibly know and the book is written as though it was in the third person, but since there are endless I’s throughout the book, it was instead written in the first person. I honestly found myself thinking it was written in the third person throughout the book and thinking that it made sense to know this much information, but then I would see the use of I and remember that Daniel cannot possibly know all of this information. This book would have been much more effective if it had been written in the third person, possibly from the point of view of more than one character, but only in the author would have been able to make those points of view distinctive, which I suspect would not have happened since the few moments we get of perspectives from other characters sound just like Daniel.

The final point of disappointment with this book is the ending, which is a little bit too perfect and covers too much ground. It was these last chapters that ruined the story for me as again I found it unbelievable and hard to connect with the characters. I do not understand why there are so many highly positive reviews and endorsements for this book, except for the fact that it is a book about books. As a avid reader, of course am intrigued by books about books, but I also know that it is simply a device to get more readers to read the book, so there better be something substantial to the book. There were several plot points I figured out less than halfway through the book, yet they weren’t revealed until the end of the book. In my opinion, the book was simply too long. Yes, it was incredibly well written and that matters greatly to me, but there needs to be more than simply well written sentences to push a book to a 4 or 5 star rating. There needs to be well developed characters the reader can connect with and this book lacked that for me. Without that, then it falls back on the plot and there was too much time spent on irrelevant plot, not enough time spent on relevant plot (though this is dangerously close to the lack of character development I mentioned before), too many unbelievable elements (not magical realism unbelievable – that was fine – but as discussed above), and too much unnecessary sexism to make this plot enough to carry the book. There are great lines in this book and those lines pushed me to continue the book in hopes that the final plot reveal would make up for the frustrations that worsened throughout the book, but in the end, the ending sealed for me that this was not the book for me. I wanted to love this book, but I simply could not. It was vastly better than Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which seems to want to be this book, but it was not on par with 4 star books, though it had potential to be. If you are interested in reading a mystery about books and know that is sufficient for you or you really love gothic books, than this is a definite read. If gothic books aren’t really your thing or you prioritize characters over plot, then I would suggest passing on this book, mostly because it is so very long.

Add on Goodreads! The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books,  #1)

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com and BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

Still Here – Reflection: Social Media

5209796269_3b538042c8_oPhoto credit: Social Media | Sean MacEntee | CC 2.0

I thought I’d do something different for this reflection. My copy of Still Here came with Extra Libris: A Reader’s Guide and I’m hoping it will spark discussion. I write reflections as a way to engage dialogue on books and I’m hopeful that this topic will spark lots of discussion. The question is:

How did reading Still Here and watching these characters interact with social media change the way you look at you own life online? Did you see any similarities or differences?

For those of you who have not yet read the book, here’s the relevant, non-spoiler quotes on how the characters interact with social media. From page 60, Regina is the lurker or someone who “rarely posted anything herself and almost never commented or liked.” From page 61, Vica is the affirmer and “‘liked’ everything and posted all these uplifting photos of their family trips.” The narrator forgets the name type for Sergey, but explains his type as one who “never posted anything himself, but would often butt in on his friends’ discussions with an especially lengthy intellectual comment, and then comment on his own comment.” Finally, Vadik thrived on social media as it “allowed him to try all those different personalities,” with a different personality for each platform.

What is your online presence like? Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions?

Starting around Thanksgiving 2016, I stopped checking Facebook. I haven’t actively checked since, though I log on every so often when I get an email that I was tagged in something or when I know pictures have been posted. I was an early adopter of Facebook (I signed up in 2004 when it still was The Facebook), but I didn’t ever quite figure out how to use it in a way that fit me. I want Facebook and social media to be another way to deeply connect with people, but that’s not how it works in practice. If one shares deeply personal things, it comes across as an overshare. Yet, at least for me, surface sharing just feels fake. I’m a person who strongly dislikes surface, how’s the weather kind of conversations, even with good friends. Social media feels more like these surface conversations, where people try to show the best version of themselves, but aren’t really connecting.

I thought I would really miss being on social and feel less connected to the world, but I don’t. Every so often, I think about going back to Facebook, but I never quite see the point. It would absolutely be different if I still lived far away from my family as seeing pictures of my nephew brought me endless joy, but now that I see him regularly, I don’t need other people’s pictures. I do have a Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr page for this blog, but things are automatically posted to those accounts, though I do go on them to interact with followers. I’m fine with this level of interaction with social media, but I don’t have much desire to engage more fully than that. I had gotten to a point where it consumed too much of my life and I’m glad I didn’t put the apps on the phone I bought last December.

I do see the value of social media and I understand how people different from me would love it. I usually post on Facebook whenever there is a crisis in my life; but I have yet to post about the current crisis. I’ve preferred to directly reach out to friends for support. Sometimes I feel obligated to post on social media to inform everyone what is going on, but this time, I do not. I need to deal with this in whatever way keeps me sane and not being on social media does that for me.

While Still Here didn’t go as deeply into the concept of an app that would preserve someone’s online presence after death as I was hoping, I did ponder whether I would want it to appear I was still there, reaching out from the beyond. I do not think I do. I find it a bit unsettling to have thoughts attributed to me after death and I’m not that bothered by not having a legacy. I do like the memorial page concept and I have found that helpful for the grieving process when I’ve lost friends. I don’t feel the need for more. All the things that went unsaid will forever be unsaid and no app can remedy that.

Interestingly, I just finished reading The Circle which take social media to a different extreme. It was an interesting contrast to read these books essentially back to back. There are so many aspects of social media we often do not take the time to think about, but as the technology continues to advance at an alarming rate, it’s not a bad idea to stop and think about who you want to be and what you want to share on social media.

What social media type are you? What are your thoughts on social media? Would you be interested in an app that maintained your online presence after death?

Still Here – Review: ARC

Still Here coverStill Here by Lara Vapnyar – 4/ 5 stars

The book blurb seems to imply the book will spend a significant amount of time on the “app designed to preserve a person’s online presence after death” which will “[spur] questions about the changing perception of death and the future of our virtual selves.” But this story isn’t really about the app, nor is does it set out to answer the questions “how do our online personas define us, and what will they say about us when we’re gone?” Instead, the description that is most accurate is that Still Here “follows the intertwined lives of four immigrants as they grapple with love, a new home, and the absurdities of the digital age.” It reminded me of a Seinfeld episode where nothing really happens, yet something does happen, all the while being amusing, with the added bonus of being about Russian immigrants.

This is an amusing tale about four Russian immigrants whose lives intersect in intricate ways, which is made all the more complex by the emerging situations they must confront. This is not a typical immigrant story as all four characters have all been in the United States for some length of time, but they do discuss current and previous struggles with how to fit in in New York City. These struggles to adapt to NYC are partly general identity struggles and ones which come up in a city with vast diversity in terms of income and ethnicity. I found myself relating to their struggles as I myself had struggled to find my place in NYC when I moved there. Still Here is a book about general life struggles and how four friends work on addressing those struggles. The struggles range from motherhood, employment, dating, housing, marriage, money, identity, among other things.Thus this is a story where everyone will have something to relate to.

While it took me awhile to get into Still Here, in the end, I found myself greatly enjoying it and I devoured it over two days. I found the story drew me in, though it is challenging to pinpoint exactly what this book is about or what it was that drew me in. The first four chapters are devoted to each of the four main characters: Vica, Vadik, Sergey, and Regina. While I was reading those chapters, they felt a bit like excessive backstory, but it becomes clear soon after that instead of being excessive, it’s the exact right amount of information needed in order to move the story forward while letting the reader understand the complexity of their relationships and the story unfolding. Their complex interconnectedness is what holds the book together throughout the novel and it is also is the heart of why this is such an intriguing story.

The most significant criticism is that the memory of this book is already failing. The feeling remains, but the details, the specific plot points, almost seemed to fade as soon as I finished the novel. While I greatly enjoyed the book, I struggle now to pinpoint why I enjoyed it or why I won’t remember it. In addition, while I enjoyed the prose, I won’t be running out to read another book by Lara Vapnar. I do hope to read some of her other books, but they will likely get buried on my to-be-read list. Maybe this is partly me; after all, I do not remember most Seinfeld episodes either, though I enjoyed everyone. Plus, it is not as though every book needs to stay with me. Entertainment is sometimes just that and like Seinfeld for me, this entertained, but won’t make a lasting impression.

If you are a reader who greatly prefers books with clear plots that have arches and end up resolved, this may not be the book for you. There are things that happen in the book and it is mostly wrapped up at the end, but the book also ends a bit open-ended while also not having strong plot points which drive the story. Instead, there are philosophical conversations and inner dialogues. There are personal internal struggles and misunderstandings. Much of what happens feels a bit like what happens in their everyday lives, though some of the events are not something which would occur every day. For me, this is what made the story so powerful. While not much happens, one becomes apart of their lives and ends up reflecting on death and social media.

I greatly enjoy books with strong character development and which make me think, especially along the lines of philosophy. This made Still Here a perfect novel for me. While it is less dark than many other novels I have read by Russian authors, it does have some elements of this; there is a decent amount of discussion about death after all. This novel also carries the tradition of philosophical and metaphysical questions which I love in Russian novels. If you also greatly enjoy Russian novels, than this book is for you. It is much more accessible than classical Russian novels and likely has a way of conveying its intended meaning better than them since there is no translator involved. If you enjoy literary fiction, you will also greatly enjoy this as it does an excellent job of transporting the reader through descriptive language. This is a book I would love for everyone to read, but I know there is a group of readers out there that strongly dislike books without strong plot and so I caution those readers before picking up this novel. But outside that, I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading. It’s deep and yet light; it’s literary and yet an easy read; it’s about nothing and yet it is about something. I encourage you to pick this book up as it may be interestingly different from the books you tend to read.

I received this book from Blogging For Books and Hogarth in exchange for an honest review.

Add on Goodreads! Still Here

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Ready to buy? Purchase on Amazon or Book Depository. Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Book Depository Affiliates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com and BookDepository.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

The Hour of Daydreams – Bookish: Author Interview

AuthorPic_RiverMs. Rutledge, thank you so very much for taking the time for this interview. When I finished The Hour of Daydreams, I had questions about the context around the book which I did not quite know how to seek out an answer to, so I was delighted when you agreed to talk with me. I have since searched through your website and discovered a few other Q&As in which you talk about the folk tale this book is a retelling of, but for my readers that have not seen those interviews,

1) do you mind sharing again the name and details for that folk tale? What was it about this folk tale that inspired you to write a novel based on it?

See below.

2) In your interview on What the Log had to Say, you state that you gave the character, Tala, agency in her story. Why did you make that choice? Is it important to you for female characters to have agency?

In the folktale, a man falls in love with a star maiden. His father plots a way to entrap her. The man steals her wings and hides them. She moves into their home and becomes his bride. Through this, her side of the story is left unspoken. It’s taken for granted that she’s passive, a prize, an object. I couldn’t trust such a story as complete. My novel turns those assumptions on their head. Tala is in more control over the turn of events than the man who stole from her. To me, the maiden in the story is a main character, a powerful but vulnerable being, but not someone whose destiny is solely in the hands of the men around her. At the same time, the men in the folktale felt one-dimensional too. Manolo is much more conflicted. One could even say his love is genuine.

3) I am still fascinated by this idea that a folk tale could be based on real people. I saw the creation of the folk tale as a way for the characters to cope with a painful truth, about Tala’s background as well as her departure. In The Hour of Daydreams, the truth and the folk tale are so seamlessly interwoven, I felt the book spoke to a larger philosophical topic on the concept of reality – this question of where is the line between truth and tale. Was the book intended to speak to the concept of reality as shifting? What are your thoughts on reality and that line between truth and tale?

Truth is always changing and revealing itself. One person’s truth may be different from another’s. And even our own truths, about others, about ourselves, can fluctuate and deepen over time. The folktale reveals a snapshot of one truth. It is limited and designed to close the story, as if the one truth is all there is to tell.

I recreated the river scene in the folktale to show simultaneous truths from each character experiencing that moment in their own way. From the river scene, the novel branches off from the folktale to explore my unanswered questions about this marriage on new ground. Because of the nature of truth, learning about the characters’ past requires detective work. History is dependent on the historian. This is why both Manolo, and then Malaya, must seek out the answers about Tala for themselves.

4) Why did you choose the setting of the Philippines and use one of its folk tales? Is it important for you to share Filipino culture with an American English speaking audience? Is there anything you hope the readers gain from reading The Hour of Daydreams?

I chose to base the novel in the Philippines because that is where the folktale, The Star Maidens, comes from. However, there are many different versions of a similar folktale from other cultures. I’ve read one from Africa, where sky women come down from the sky via a rope that a man cuts in order to keep one of them grounded. And an Incan version where a sun goddess loses her golden dress so she cannot fly, and marries the man who hid it from her. These many shared tales suggest a link between cultures; there are universal themes that we are all invested in. More often than not, however, someone else’s version of a story is told. It means a lot to me that more people are seeking to learn about The Star Maidens and Filipino books/culture as a result of reading The Hour of Daydreams.

5) For me, this story was lyrical, poetic, magical, mystical, and vague. Even the setting felt a bit surreal. The truth was not laid out in a clear way and I am not certain I fully understand the truth of Tala. Was this intentional and if so, to what purpose? Why leave the truth a bit unresolved and hard to grasp?

The novel tells two parallel stories. Because of this, some people interpret the novel as saying that two things are always happening at once, both in the story, and in life; that the real world has a magical parallel. However, it was not possible for me to write two stories and make them both true. Early on, I had to decide which story I believed in order to continue the book. In other words, one of the plots is false. This was a great challenge, so to me, one of the greatest testaments to the novel’s success is the fact many readers have made far different conclusions from my own.

6) Would you say this book falls within modern Filipino literature, Filipino-American literature, or does it defy such categories? For readers of the The Hour of Daydreams who want to read more Filipino literature, Filipino-American literature, and/ or #ownvoices stories, do you have recommendations of fiction and/or nonfiction authors?

I’m proud to be an author, period. It’s a tough industry. I don’t know what category the book falls under, I myself am a Filipino American. I recently did the keynote speech for an awards ceremony honoring outstanding Filipino students in my community, and it was a privilege to learn how proud the students and their parents were to have me as a role model. While there are few nationally published authors in my city, there are even fewer of Filipino descent. I think the same can be said of most places. I’m happy I was able to write a book based on my own vision; not that of an editor or publisher who has their idea of what a book by a Filipino author should look like. I’d like to hope industry standards are changing; that publishers are responding to readers who seek authenticity in diverse stories.

Thank you so much for the questions, for reading and for connecting. I highly recommend Deceit and Other Possibilities, by Vanessa Hua;Monstress, by Lysley Tenorio; Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi; Queen of Spades, by Michael Shum; A Cup of Water Under My Bed, by Daisy Hernandez; and Marriage of a Thousand Lies, by SJ Sindu. I’m currently reading Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, and have Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizers and Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness waiting on my nightstand.

7) Do you plan to write more folk tale retellings? Retellings is a particular favorite genre of mine.

More and more, I feel another folktale retelling will happen. I’m getting excited for that time to come, when I’ve wrapped up my current projects. This is a matter of years from now; if you have the same email address then I’ll be sure to get in touch!

For more author interviews, press releases, and book reviews, check out: https://www.reneerutledge.com/

The Hour of Daydreams – Reflection: Reality

2793296695_f70d459f60_zWhile most of us prefer to think that reality is fixed and we all see the same reality, numerous scholars have argued and demonstrated that in fact, reality is shifting. What is real for me may not be real for you. We have all experienced this when we share a story about something that happened in a group and someone else interjects, that’s not what happened! What did in fact happen? That question is harder to answer than we like to admit.

The Hour of Daydreams is a story of a reality that was mixed with cultural beliefs and norms, myth and fantasy, and a desire for reality to be better than the truth. It is a folktale origin story and retelling, but it is deeper than that. The Hour of Daydreams speaks to this deep need to shape reality to match it to a world we need to live in in order to cope with tragedy, trauma, and loss and to create meaning out of suffering. This routinely happens throughout the world, in varying degrees and success, depending on the individual and the culture in which they live. Through reading The Hour of Daydreams, we glimpse how this might have played out to form one Filipino folktale and gain a deeper understanding of Filipino culture.

Myths, folktales, fairytales, and origin stories have been created since the beginning of human history as a way to understand, make sense of, and find meaning in an often chaotic and cruel world. They provide a frame of reference for an entire culture on how to perceive the world. Thus understanding these stories helps us better understand and relate to another culture as it gives us a glimpse into that frame the way not much else can. Those frames of reference are deeply impactful and can greatly shape actions, thoughts, and beliefs making it vital to understand them if we want to understand a people better.

All of this academic discussion is to provide a frame around why I spent so many days after reading The Hour of Daydreams thinking about the concept of reality and how individuals can sometimes vary so incredibly in their understanding of an event, a concept, or even life. Particularly when one has to cope with trauma, especially complex trauma and horrific trauma, reality becomes a tricky thing, but not just for the victims of trauma, but also those around them. People generally want to have control over the circumstances of their lives and when confronted with the possibility that they may not have the level of control they convince themselves they do, they can create alternative realities and it can leave the people left to face the true reality of said trauma to feel very alone.

While reality gets shifty around trauma since trauma is such a significant and devastating event, reality does not only get shifty after trauma; alternate realities emerge around any situation in which people feel like they have less control than they want over life. This is poignant for me as my health has deteriorated over the last few years. One of the most striking examples centers around how this all started. I sustained a minor stress fracture to my foot while walking my dog and developed a severe pain condition from that one small injury. While I was on crutches non-weight bearing, I rode in a lot of cabs and Ubers and on those journeys, drivers would ask me about my obvious injury. As I explained how a very minor injury triggered one of the worst pain conditions rated on the McGill pain index, drivers would sometimes visibly shut down. They would then try to come up with explanations, justifications, or treatments to explain away my situation. It must be something else; if you just tried this treatment; or there must be something about you which makes your situation unique. These people were unable to tolerate a world in which they at any moment could sustain a minor injury and have their lives change so drastically. I have found over and over again throughout the last several years that it is incredibly hard for people to be vulnerable enough to sit with the discomfort of the knowledge that they have limited control over their lives. I am no stranger to the inability to sit with this discomfort. But when the people around me create an alternate reality in which such an event could only happen to me and not to them or is my fault, it feels isolating and shaming.

I wonder how Tala felt having those around her, but particularly her husband, create a fantastical story about her origins instead of sitting with the discomfort of her reality. It must have felt isolating and lonely. I understand why she spent so much time with her sisters as they were the only ones who believed her truth and lived in her reality. I understand why she left her family instead of staying with them to confront the difficulties which were about to befall her. Their inability to live in her reality meant that she did not feel supported enough to ask for their help. She felt she had to resolve it on her own. It is a tragedy all in and of itself.

This is why the story impacted me so deeply. I know that hurt and loss. I know what it is to have the truth denied by the ones we love and I know how suffocating that can be. I have lived Tala’s pain, even though she is of a different time and culture and my loved ones have not created a fantastical folktale to explain my circumstances. Those differences do not matter. We all have times when we speak the same language even though there are vast differences. While reading this story, I felt less alone. I did not want Tala’s story to end. I wanted as much time with her as possible. There is so much beauty in her story, it was hard to let it go. But alas, her reality was no more my reality than anyone’s reality is mine and it was time for her story to end, but I will carry her story in my heart for a long time to come.

The Hour of Daydreams – Review: ARC

the hour of daydreamsThe Hour of Daydreams by Renee Macalino Rutledge – 4/ 5 stars

I wouldn’t call magical realism my genre, but I also wouldn’t say I dislike it. I’ve read a few books with magical realism and some have been good and some have been terrible. When the phrase, magical realism comes up, I hesitate and think, oh I probably won’t like that. When I read the description for The Hour of Daydreams I was intrigued, but hesitated because of the magical aspect of the book. I am so glad I decided to read this book.

I would not characterize this book as magical realism. I would characterize it as lyrical and a story about people who believe in alternate realities. This story did not feel like the magical realism was forced upon it, but rather that these characters live with a beautiful way of understanding the world. I loved how The Hour of Daydreams transported me to this world and showed me how rich it is. I loved feeling the characters grapple with reality versus what they wanted to believe and I felt I understood why these stories arise. For me, this type of story is simply another way of storytelling and I love it.

This is a story of Tala, a woman who none of the characters fully know as she is an outsider to the community. Her husband sees her as a fallen angel while others envision other possibilities as to where she is now. Ultimately, as the story unfolds, we learn that Tala is a woman with a complicated and painful past and the people who love her cope with this knowledge through myths and half truths. These are beautiful myths and half truths, which no one fully believes, but yet they hold power.

The story is beautifully told and unfolds at a solid pace which kept me engaged throughout the book. The point of view changes, but in a seamless way. The ending provided enough resolution to leave me satisfied, but enough uncertainty to make this feel a bit like a fairy tale.

My biggest complaint is that I would have liked more. I wanted to know so much more about everyone, but especially Tala and Manolo. They were incredibly rich characters I wanted to know deep down to their souls. The amount I learned about the characters was satisfying, but I would have been even happier had this book been longer.

Even if you think you do not like magical realism, I recommend this book for you as it is not magical reality so much as the stories we tell ourselves to get through what can often be a cruel life. It is a beautiful book and one fans of literary fiction will enjoy. I encourage everyone to give it a try as it’s likely not like any other book you’ve read before. For me, that was a beautiful gift.

I received this ebook free from Netgalley and publisher Forest Avenue Press in exchange for an honest review.

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