Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Kathleen Rooney

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This wonderful title character is the kind of person we all would like to know and would like to become. The setting is New Year’s Eve 1984, and 84-year-old Lillian Boxfish sets out to take a walk from her home to the site of a party given by a young friend of hers. Along the way, she visits various locations in Manhattan and relives various episodes in her long life. In her prime she was the highest paid woman advertising executive for R.H. Macy’s department store. She also wrote poetry. It all came to an end when she fell in love and married Max and had a child. Of course she lost her job because no one would hire a mother of a child. In what little time she had to herself, she continued to write freelance but it wasn’t the same.

Eventually the conflict between what she was and what she had became began to tell on her and her marriage.

This is a lovely story, lovingly told. I like the writer’s voice and the astringent voice of the character. No one was going to tell Lillian Boxfish what she could do, whether it is live life a certain way or walk around Manhattan on her own on New Year’s Eve.

 

 

 

 

Beyond Absolution

Cora Harrison

Beyond Absolution: A mystery set in 1920s Ireland (A Reverend Mother Mystery) by [Harrison, Cora]

I loved Harrison’s My Lady Judge series so much, set in 16th-century Ireland, that I was willing to give this new series a try, and I’m glad I did. She picked another time of turmoil for Ireland: Cork in the 1920s. The main character is another strong woman, Reverend Mother Aquinas, head of the convent school. She spends much of her time worrying about how to stretch the money to cover the needs of her pupils.

A beloved, gentle priest is killed in the confessional at a time when Reverend MotherĀ  happens to be in the church, and her former pupil Inspector Patrick Cashman investigates the murder. The priest had been much troubled by the sight of a ceramic Japanese hawk in a local antiques shop, and the Reverend Mother thinks she remembers something about this hawk. It takes a gentle reminder of her past from her wealthy cousin, married to a judge, to jog her memory.

Cork in the 1920s is a fascinating setting for this new series, as the battle between the Republicans and the English begins to warm up, and the local citizens are forced to take sides in the conflict. Aside from the puzzle of the murder, Mother Aquinas’ former students on both sides are drawn into this well written mystery.

 

 

 

 

Pachinko

Jin Min Lee

I’ve never played pachinko or seen a machine outside of travelogs of Japan, but it looks like fun. All those little steels balls bouncing down among the pegs to land at the bottom. It probably isn’t so much fun for the little balls being knocked around and bouncing off the pegs. I wonder if that is how life felt for the main characters of this novel. The woman Sunja is jerked from her home in Korea and lands in Japan, the wife of a Christian minister, carrying a child that is not his. Unable to speak Japanese, she works hard to make a home for her husband and her child. The story of her efforts and the lives of her two children are the main thread that runs through the book.

It is the brilliant writing and detached attitude that prevents this book from descending into soap opera. We are with Sunja every step of the way and rooting for her to succeed. Through loss and war, good times and bed, she perseveres until she finds her own level of peace.

I’ll Take You There

Wally Lamb

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I like Wally Lamb, but this book was a little disappointing. What there is of it is good, but it’s so short. At 272 pages, Lamb is just starting to warm up to his characters. I turned the page expecting so much more, and it was the end!

This is the story of Felix Funicello and the three women who shaped his life: his sister Frances, her mother Verna, and his daughter Aliza. Through the medium of film, he relives his childhood relationship with Frances and learns Verna’s story. His daughter Aliza is a writer and an independent career women in New York.

As much of there is of it, is good. I wanted more.

 

 

Sister Light, Sister Dark

Jane Yolen

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Jane Yolen uses three voices to tell the story of the white-haired child, Jenna, who is found by the warriors of the Hame: straight-forward story telling, folk songs, and academic analysis. Among the three sources emerges a world in transition, awaiting the white leader who is to take their world through a disruptive time to a new world order.

Jenna, also called Jo-ann-enna, learns that she is this white warrior. Her growth into the prophecy is rocky, resisted by the leaders of her world, accepted by some. The calling forth of her dark sister, Skalda, visible only by moonlight and candle light, helps her to accept her fate.

Jane Yolen has a gift for world building that creates an articulate, believable world for Jenna to come into her powers. This book, the first of three, is a solid introduction to her life and surroundings.