5-Star Reads: No More Mulberries and Atonement, Tennessee

My writing break has freed up some precious time for reading, and I have two more reviews to share. These books are quite different. I hope you give one or both a try. 😀

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No More Mulberries

by Mary Smith

My Review: Where do I even start with all the things I loved about this book? The story is about Miriam, a Scottish midwife who first fell deeply in love with an Afghan and then with his country. It’s a story about love and loss, fear and courage, and the strength of family and the human spirit.

In many ways, this story could be told anywhere in the world as individuals, couples, and families aren’t that different from each other no matter where we find them. Miriam’s story and her emotional struggles are deeply relatable. Her search for self, her struggle to balance her various roles, to fill expectations and have her expectations filled, and her commitment to her family and community could be anyone’s story.

But Miriam’s tale doesn’t take place anywhere in the world. It unfolds in 1995 Afghanistan. The book portrays a multi-dimensional country with remote villages that haven’t changed in hundreds of years to more modern communities with a forward-leaning vision of the future. And though it’s clear in the story that love is love, family is family, and people are people, the narrative reveals the stark differences in the lives of those people marked by isolation and all it entails, and those who have high hopes for education, healthcare, and their country. Miriam’s story is deftly intertwined with the story of a country and its people, and I loved it all.

Smith’s years in Afghanistan give the read it’s undeniable authenticity, and her skill as a storyteller shines. She doles out the backstory details in small doses. They’re little gems that slowly illuminate the present story and build understanding while increasing tension and a desire for resolution. Settings are well described, the pace is steady, and characterization is flawless. I stayed up late and lost some sleep over this one.

One beautiful book that I highly recommend.

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Atonement, Tennessee

by Teagan Geneviene

My Review: Esmeralda is a new arrival in the town of Atonement. She’s purchased an old estate that comes with its own cemetery and some interesting trespassers – a marvelous gang of gal-pals, an irresistible florist/handyman, and a mysterious, handsome neighbor. The magic starts off almost immediately while “Ralda” waits for the moving van and starts settling into her new life.

The tale is full of whimsy as ancient magic threads through the home and cemetery. Ralda is curious but not particularly fearful, and I enjoyed her level-headed, low key approach to the strange noises and events happening around her. The story is told mainly from her point of view. The exception is Lilith, her cat, who witnesses some of the magic but isn’t able to fill her owner in on the details.

For me, the best part of the book was the characters. If you enjoy strong female characters and genuine friendships, you won’t be disappointed. Ralda has a wry sense of humor and authentic voice. Geneviene does a great job with her internal dialog and with character interactions as a whole. The gal-pals are a delight, well-rounded individuals with a nice balance of wit and sensitivity.

Alongside the unfolding mysteries that inhabit the property, a second plotline centers on a darker “real”-life theme, which wraps up cleanly in the end. The main plot around the home’s magic and Ralda’s role in the mystery leaves a few loose ends and questions that might lend themselves toward a sequel. The minor danglers did not impact my delight in the overall story.

A light and magical read for all ages.

I’ll be taking a short break (offline) to head north and visit family.
Have a great week. ❤

A Great Read: African Me & Satellite TV

Many people believe that modeling a life of kindness and compassion is key to lifting humanity out of violence and despair. The approach suits my introverted personality, and it certainly feels safe.

Yet, I often wonder if it’s enough, and whether what’s truly required of me is to speak, write, and act for change. I worry that some will misinterpret my silence as condoning the wrongs visited upon the world. My recluse nature engages in an ongoing battle with what I believe is my responsibility as a human being.

61u1SUKn1pL._SL1000_That’s one reason why Jo Robinson’s book, African Me & Satellite TV, struck me as such a great read. It felt personal.

African Me & Satellite TV is a book with a message about injustice, responsibility, and forgiveness. In its pages, Robinson takes the reader on a journey through one woman’s painful acknowledgment of the truth about silence, and the power of her voice that ultimately sets her heart free.

The main protagonist is Suzette, a white woman living in Zimbabwe after the nation underwent violent land reform in the 1990’s. Though a genuinely kind and thoughtful person she is also deeply withdrawn and non-confrontational, silent in the face of prejudiced attitudes and unjust treatment of black Africans by the white minority.

When two fiercely bigoted racists move into the community, few citizens are spared the ensuing verbal and physical violence. Regardless of the consequences, Suzette finds her courage and can no longer hold her tongue.

Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson

Through Suzette, Robinson gives the reader a glimpse of the truth about African colonization and the tremendous injustices perpetrated against the African people. Throughout the book, the readers also witnesses the respectful and loving relationships that can flourish when people find the strength to forgive each other the wrongs of the past and acknowledge their shared humanity.

The story unfolds at a quick pace. All of Robinson’s characters are engaging and richly portrayed, particularly Suzette and her vibrant cook, Princess. I recommend African Me & Satellite TV to anyone who enjoys a tale about standing up to injustice in hope of a better future.

African Me & Satellite TV available on Amazon: Here