Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 2013 Bookers Minutes & Musings, Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna

“Maybe she had a whole clatter of men to look at, and misremembered you Jamie. That’s just what you could be – the misremembered man – and she’s sittin’ at the phone waitin’ on you to ring and wonderin’ what’s goin’ on.”

18 Bookers arrived on a cloudy, misty day at the home of Bonnie Magee, co-hosted by Leslie Mullins. It was impossible not to imagine a bagpipe’s mournful sound, or leprechauns, shamrocks, and rainbows. We were in Ireland without having to use any frequent flyer miles. Credit for this backdrop to our book choice goes to a much higher power. And, our lake might rise if the sky continues to open.

Bookers met a week past our regular second Tuesday slot as not to conflict with our highly successful PWC garage sale. A round of applause for everyone who dug into plastic trash bags and cardboard boxes, shelved shoes and books, displayed and priced everything from sewing machines to refrigerators, and “held” everything for our shoppers. Kudos to the lifters, the haulers, and the decorators; to those who set us up and took us down; and to those who made us feel safe and secure (rumor has it there were several red level security threats in the children’s area requiring covert surveillance monitoring.) Those clad in neon vests armed with flashlights kept everyone moving and the greeters who provided our customers with shopping bags might headline in a comedy club or at least entertain a captive audience. We thank those working in the heart and “bowels” of the command center, and our checkout crews who kept our customers happy. We so appreciate co-chairs, Jean Alexander and Rebecca Brisendine, who lubricated the wheels making the event a success for the PWC and more importantly, the lake-area community. Great job.

The author of Misremembered Man, Christina McKenna, is a painter by trade and that visualization skill extended into the writing of her debut novel. With each brush stroke, she undercoated the story with imagery, well-defined characters, and a parallel plot line leaving us reveling in the mastery of her language.
Barbara Creach did a suburb job of reviewing this wonderful book. We all appreciate the research and attention to detail in walking us through this well-constructed novel with two separate stories commingling effortlessly with the other, finally crossing paths at the climax of the book. Barbara’s respect and love for this book was on display for all of us to enjoy. Bravo!

One story focuses on two lonely hearts seeking the solace of companionship. Forty-one year old, Jamie McCloone, at the age of ten and one-half months, arrived on the steps of St. Agnes Little Sisters of Charity convent, Derry County, Ireland alongside his newborn sister – abandoned, wrapped in paper, and inside a shopping bag. His adult life consisted of battling demons of neglect and cruelty above and below the surface. Between his “uneven ears, farmer’s dress, a comb-over, a long nose, morose mouth and blameless green eyes, the deep scar running from under his right eye to his jawline” graphically told of a broken man, one who “possessed a thousand petty deferments.” Lydia Devine, an unmarried forty-year old schoolteacher, longed to escape her daily caretaking duties for her “plucky” seventy-six year old mother who resembled a “geriatric doll.” She loved reading novels, taking long walks, and writing letters, and everything in her life had a proper order. In the mirror, Lydia’s nose was “too long, her mouth and eyes too small, cheeks too red and a deepening crease was forming between her eyebrows.” Her childhood was stifled by a strict Presbyterian father who preached the fourth commandment of honoring your parents forever and always. Loyalty was second nature to Lydia as she faced daily life within the constraints of the walls of her home. They seemed mismatched but both lonely hearts yearned to “see all the way to the sunlit clearing to that hallowed place where the future hadn’t shaped itself yet.”

The second storyline, told in alternating chapters, focused on Jamie’s life, or non-life, inside the walls of the orphanage. He suffered brutality at the hands of the Catholic “holy order” in charge of managing a “home” for ninety-six boys, all under the age of ten. The boys were products of “sin” and “didn’t they deserve all they got,” never experiencing freedom from fear. All the residents including Eighty-Six, as Jamie was known within these walls, suffered the type of mental, physical, and sexual abuse no one should endure. Escaping unabridged seemed unattainable until Jamie’s emancipation arrived in the form of two loving “parents” who adopted, named, nurtured, and gave him a life he never dreamed of because he didn’t know such a life existed. He became James Kevin Barry Michael and “his identity lay in the dirt others left behind and his salvation lay in cleaning it up.”

The side-by-side plots ran throughout the novel, escalating to the ending, then scissortailing the stories into a package of warmth and totality. One reviewer said, “If you want to know how to write a book, read this one.”

Our discussion centered on the orphanage abuse, how not all facilities should not be lumped together as the norm, but it only takes one to exist, as in this book, to shed light on the immorality and inhumanity the residents endured. It’s especially poignant when it is a religious based facility, as it seems to fly in the face of what is being preached. Whose standards are we to follow if the leaders of our faith abuse the very founding principles of their religion? We all agreed the chapters outlining Jamie’s life at the orphanage were excruciating to read and festered hatred for the individuals involved in his treatment. We discussed the need for supervision and openness in the foster care system with more accountability and attention paid to the rules and regulations governing these agencies. We also talked about the characters so vividly portrayed by the author. Each had a unique voice and complemented the story with that individuality. Rose seemed to be one of the favorites – with her humor, tenderness, and Rose to the rescue attitude – prompting the question to the group: Who is your Rose? We talked about Jamie’s joy when he played the accordion…people paid attention, he mattered…this was the “instrument that allowed him to speak another language from his tortured silent self.” Some felt Lydia’s mother dying at the exact time she was meeting Jamie was unnecessary, others felt it added to the plot in a way of providing the reason Lydia didn’t follow up with Jamie. The author describes it as a “divine bargain.” Several rooted for Paddy to hurry up and save Jamie but were disappointed that after the story unfolded the novel ended…they wanted perhaps a nice “family dinner” added.

We asked what book would you say stands out of all the ones we have read in the past ten years. The overwhelming choice was The Book Thief, followed by Cutting For Stone, and Roses. Others mentioned, Pillars of the Earth, Rules of Civility, The Glass Castle, Those Who Save Us, Unbroken, Art of Racing In the Rain, Caleb’s Crossing, Plain Truth, Little Bee and Room. Per request, attached are the lists of all our books for the past nine years, including a short synopsis of each, excluding Year 10, a.k.a, Books of Consequence, which is in progress.

                                                     On the business side
Hollywood producer, Robert Shapiro, has optioned Misremembered Man. Jeremy Irons will make his directorial debut in the film.

Bonnie Magee reports the movie version of The Book Thief will hit the big screen in November.
Melba has found a new web site that offers free downloads for both Kindle and Nook, Provide your e-mail address, fill out a short book preference sheet, and they send you a daily e-mail with the offerings.
                                                      Book Talk

Lee Durso has read the first two books in Ken Follett’s Century trilogy (author of Pillars of the Earth) beginning with The Fall of Giants, followed by Winter of the World. The third, Edge of Eternity will be released September, 2014. They are historical fictions beginning prior to World War 1, giving the reader a chronological refresher of history with good characters and a serious reminder how history continues to repeat itself.

I got an e-mail from Pat Conroy while in Charleston, not touting his own book, but one his wife, Cassandra King, wrote. She has written The Sunday Wife and The Same Sweet Girls (which MN read and liked) and her latest, Moonrise is a modernized tale of du Maurier’s Rebecca. He wrote, it is “a fabulous novel and my damn wife wrote it.” MN’s sister, Pam, read it and was cool to lukewarm. Conroy’s latest, a non-fiction, The Death of Santini, will hit the stores October 29th.

The Best American Short Stories 2013 is a compilation of twenty short stories, edited by Elizabeth Strout.

Roses and Tumbleweed author, Leila Meacham, will release Somerset, February 2014. It’s over six hundred pages and spans one hundred and fifty years of Roses’ Toliver, Warwick, and DuMont families beginning in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend, Jeremy Warwick, to plan a wagon train expedition to a new territory called Texas.

Speaking of settings in Texas, Kathleen Kent’s new novel, The Outcasts, is set in the nineteenth century on the Gulf Coast. I attended her book signing in Dallas and was again impressed with her presence, storytelling, and genuine passion for her characters. Although I’ve just started, it might be one to consider for Bookers. I’ll keep you posted. She will be participating in a live author chat on Tuesday, October 22nd, 8:00 P.M. EST. Go to to listen to her discuss this book. (No special login is required)

Also in my pile, Barbara Delinsky’s, Sweet Salt Air. Best friends spent summers together and now reunite back at the island house on the coast of Maine. One is a travel writer, the other a food blogger and they are collaborating on a new project. The Matchstick Cross, by Laurie Parker, is a debut novel by an award winning children’s book author about a New York based interior designer returning home to Mississippi to clear out a storage unit from her recently deceased mother’s attic. The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea, twenty years in the making, is a true story of his great-aunt, set in 1873 in the republic of Mexico. A Widow For One Year by John Irving is a multilayered love story following the protagonist through three of the most pivotal times in her life. Also, lingering on my Kindle, The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel about a Kentucky native while escaping her roots inherits a three year old native-American little girl named Turtle. Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde is about a former Broadway dancer and current agoraphobic who hasn’t set a foot outside his apartment in almost ten years and his neighbors including nine-year old Grace and her former addict mother. Long Time Coming by Edie Claire, was a free download, a romantic suspense novel set in a small Kentucky town. Eighteen years have passed since the protagonist’s childhood friend was killed in a car accident a few days prior to their senior prom. She returns home because of her father’s illness to find neither distance nor time has reconciled her grief.

MN is reading The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, which unfolds from the third person perspectives of three women. At first glance, their connection is peripheral, but the secret Jon-Paul is keeping for decades will change all of them. Another one that might be “ours.”

                                                COLOR CODING SYSTEM
                                    WHITE:         LIGHT READ
                                    PINK:            MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                                    RED:              CHALLENGING
November 12th:           The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
                                    Home of Daryl Daniels
                                    Reviewer: Pat Faherty
December 10th:            Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
                                    Home of Jean Alexander
                                    Reviewer: Melba Holt
                                    Food Czar Bonnie Magee will coordinate light fare & champagne
January 14, 2014         The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
                                    Home of Beverly Dossett
                                    Reviewer: Melanie Prebis
February 11th:              The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
                                    Home of Patty Evans
                                    Reviewer: Patty Evans
March 11th:                  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
                                    Home of Marlene Ungarean
                                    Reviewer: Jean McSpadden
April 8th:                      Book TBA
                                    Home of Sandy Molander
May 13th:                     Book TBA – regular meeting 10:00 AM
                                    Home of Charlotte Pechacek 

The image of friendship is a poignant example of Celtic wisdom that transcends the ages. Spiritual tradition teaches that the human soul hovers around a body like a vigilant halo. Anam Cara, which means soul friend, is what results when two souls flow together – when kindred spirits find each other. Once the friendship is awakened between two people, it cannot be broken by time or space. Anam Cara accepts you for who you are, and in doing so, helps you give birth to your own soul.

Happy Reading fellow Anam Caras,

1 comment:

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