Book Spotlight: THE NORTHERN REACH by W.S. Winslow

THE NORTHERN REACH - WSWinslowThe Northern Reach by W. S. Winslow
ISBN: 9781250776488 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250776495 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250791511 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B088MDT3TY (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B088DQZMYV (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: March 2, 2021

 
 

A heart-wrenching first novel about the power of place and family ties, the weight of the stories we choose to tell, and the burden of those we hide.

Frozen in grief after the loss of her son at sea, Edith Baines stares across the water at a schooner, under full sail yet motionless in the winter wind and surging tide of the Northern Reach. Edith seems to be hallucinating. Or is she? Edith’s boat-watch opens The Northern Reach, set in the coastal town of Wellbridge, Maine, where townspeople squeeze a living from the perilous bay or scrape by on the largesse of the summer folk and whatever they can cobble together, salvage, or grab.

At the center of town life is the Baines family, land-rich, cash-poor descendants of town founders, along with the ne’er-do-well Moody clan, the Martins of Skunk Pond, and the dirt farming, bootlegging Edgecombs. Over the course of the twentieth century, the families intersect, interact, and intermarry, grappling with secrets and prejudices that span generations, opening new wounds and reckoning with old ghosts.

W. S. Winslow’s The Northern Reach is a breathtaking debut about the complexity of family, the cultural legacy of place, and the people and experiences that shape us.

 

 
 Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | Audiobooks.com | AudiobooksNow.com | BookDepository | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook


 Read an excerpt here.

Advance Praise

“Is there anything better than getting to walk through a small and unfamiliar town and peer through the windows into the lives lived in the houses there? The Northern Reach gives you that rich and satisfying treat. Here is a Maine as various and stark as the pull of tides in every human heart.”

– Sarah Blake, author of The Guest Book

 

“There should be a term for that rare, specific pleasure when a writer takes you to place you’ve never been and by the time the book is finished you feel like you know the landscape and its people as well as you do your own…Winslow’s debut novel is such a book, her clear-eyed vision of a small town in Maine is both steely and humane, and as transporting as a ticket home.”

– Helen Schulman, author of Come With Me

 

“If Johnny Cash had sung of New England, he might have envisioned these sweeping, haunted, hilarious and sad tales of W. S. Winslow’s…This is a devastating book by a major storyteller.”

– John Freeman, author of How to Read a Novelist

Meet The Author

Author - WS Winslow

W.S. Winslow was born and raised in Maine but spent most of her working life in San Francisco and New York in corporate communications and marketing. A ninth-generation Mainer, she now spends most of the year in a small town Downeast. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in French from the University of Maine, and an MFA from NYU. Her fiction has been published in Yemassee Journal and Bird’s Thumb. The Northern Reach is her first novel.

 Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads
 
 
This spotlight is brought to you courtesy of Flatiron Books

2019 Book 233: A PURE HEART by Rajia Hassib

A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib  
ISBN: 9780525560050 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780525560067 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781984889621 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07KDYDDY3 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 6, 2019 
Publisher: Viking Books


A powerful novel about two Egyptian sisters–their divergent fates and the secrets of one family

Sisters Rose and Gameela Gubran could not have been more different. Rose, an Egyptologist, married an American journalist and immigrated to New York City, where she works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gameela, a devout Muslim since her teenage years, stayed in Cairo. During the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution, Gameela is killed in a suicide bombing. When Rose returns to Egypt after the bombing, she sifts through the artifacts Gameela left behind, desperate to understand how her sister came to die, and who she truly was. Soon, Rose realizes that Gameela has left many questions unanswered. Why had she quit her job just a few months before her death and not told her family? Who was she romantically involved with? And how did the religious Gameela manage to keep so many secrets?

Rich in depth and feeling, A Pure Heart is a brilliant portrait of two Muslim women in the twenty-first century, and the decisions they make in work and love that determine their destinies. As Rose is struggling to reconcile her identities as an Egyptian and as a new American, she investigates Gameela’s devotion to her religion and her country. The more Rose uncovers about her sister’s life, the more she must reconcile their two fates, their inextricable bond as sisters, and who should and should not be held responsible for Gameela’s death. Rajia Hassib’s A Pure Heart is a stirring and deeply textured novel that asks what it means to forgive, and considers how faith, family, and love can unite and divide us.




Purchase Links:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible  |  Barnes and Noble  |  B&N Nook  |  BookDepository  |  Books-A-Million  |  Downpour Audiobook  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo Books  |  Kobo eBook  |  Kobo Audiobook


Fayrouz “Rose” Gubran has had what many may perceive as an idyllic life. She and her sister, Gameela, were raised by loving parents, Nora and Ahmad. Both daughters have received advanced educational studies, Rose in Egyptology/Archeology and Gameela in Engineering. And then when Rose was in her mid-twenties, she met an American reporter, Mark Hatfield. Mark was different from the other men she had met, they fell in love, he converted to Islam so they could get married (Muslim women aren’t allowed to marry non-Muslim men in Egypt), and eventually she was accepted in a doctoral program in the US. She and Mark moved to the States where Rose studied, became a naturalized citizen, changed her name from Fayrouz Gubran to Rose Gubran Hatfield, and eventually became a postdoctoral fellow at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Mark became a reporter with assigned articles at the New York Times but longed for the days when he was reporting on social issues from the Middle East. Gameela, several years younger than Rose, lives through Arab Spring, is no longer as idealistic as she once was, and is possibly in a relationship with a man almost 30 years her senior. After a brief return to Egypt to do a series of freelance articles, Mark returns to the States and weeks later the young man he interviewed (Saaber) is jailed for the simple act of being interviewed by a foreign journalist and attacking one of the arresting officers. Several months later, Gameela is killed in a suicide bomber attack and Mark is feeling guilty that he may have inadvertently had a part to play in her death, Rose is angry at Mark because he may have inadvertently had a part to play in her death (Gameela introduced Mark to the man that introduced him to the young interview subject), and their lives are turned upside down. The only thing Rose can think of doing is trying to uncover the secrets, if any, to her sister’s life in Egypt. Will the answers she finds to bring her peace or simply cause more pain? 

I had the pleasure of reading In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib a few years ago and was blown away by the storyline and characters. I knew that I had to get my hands on a copy of her latest book, A Pure Heart after hearing about it and I’m incredibly grateful to the publisher for supplying me with a print review copy. A Pure Heart is an amazing story for so many reasons, not just because it is well written (although it is). This story asks and answers what makes a good Muslimah (Muslim female) as well as a good daughter/sister/wife/friend. Is it possible to be good at any of these roles and have secrets or change our opinions on what it means to be righteous or pious without being sanctimonious? Is it possible to love someone and still be angry with them for a prolonged period of time? Can we ever be assured that we know someone when we don’t know their deepest, darkest secrets? Do we even need to know those secrets in order to be a good friend/spouse/sibling? There are a lot of issues presented in A Pure Heart and there’s no way too many for me to touch on all of them without revealing too much about this wonderful story. This reader enjoyed getting to know all of the characters, especially Rose, Gameela, Mark, Ingrid, Nora, Ahmad, and Fouad, as well as Saaber. I loved reading about the neighborhoods in Egypt and learning about the poverty-stricken neighborhoods that tourists never see or hear about. I’m hard-pressed to find anything that I didn’t like about this story. As an American Muslimah, it is refreshing to read stories written by Muslims about Muslims and although Islam isn’t front and center in this story, it does play a pivotal role in the lives of the main characters. I encourage you all to grab a copy of A Pure Heart to read, and I’m not just saying that as a Muslim or because the author is a fellow West Virginia resident. I’m recommending this book because it is an outstanding read and one that I think every reader will be able to appreciate. Happy Reading y’all! 


Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy from the publisher, Viking Books. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 29: THREE WEEKS IN DECEMBER Review

Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman
ISBN: 978-1-60945-064-9
Publication date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Europa Editions

In 1899 Jeremy, a young engineer, leaves a small town in Maine to oversee the construction of a railroad across British East Africa. In charge of hundreds of Indian laborers, he becomes the reluctant hunter of two lions that are killing his men in nightly attacks on their camp. Plagued by fear, wracked with malaria, and alienated by a secret he can tell no one, he takes increasing solace in the company of an African man who scouts for him. 
In 2000 Max, an American ethnobotonist, travels to Rwanda in search of an obscure vine that could become a lifesaving pharmaceutical. Stationed in the mountains, she shadows a family of gorillas—the last of their group to survive the merciless assault of local poachers. Max bears a striking gift for communicating with the apes. But soon the precarious freedom of both is threatened as a violent rebel group from the nearby Congo draws close. 



Three Weeks in December is a story of strangers, primarily from an American perspective, in a strange land, south-eastern Africa. The story is told in the alternating perspectives of Jeremy in the late 19th century and Max in the late 20th century in present day Rwanda. Both Jeremy and Max are outsiders in the true sense of the word and both are launched on a course of self-discovery. 

Jeremy is apparently the only American working for the British in the construction of a railroad and he knows little of the customs, languages or habits of the indigenous population or the hired workers. Jeremy was also considered an outsider in his family back in Maine because of his sexual orientation (to be a single, relatively healthy man with no apparent inclination toward women was highly suspect). As a result Jeremy felt it best to leave his family and home. He intends to become a white settler in British East African after he completes his engineering tasks. However, this task is imperiled by two rogue lions that have boldly attacked men in the work camp. As the boss in the camp, Jeremy must hunt these lions and protect his workers. Over the course of several weeks, Jeremy launches his nightly vigils in an effort to kill the lions. His only companion is his African guide, Otombe. As Jeremy and Otombe sit and await the lions, Jeremy finds himself drawn to Otombe, an attraction he knows he can never act upon.

Max Tombay is a postdoctoral ethnobotanist. She knows that jobs will be difficult to come by, especially with her Asperger’s Syndrome. But a great opportunity is literally handed to her when she is asked by a pharmaceutical company to travel to Rwanda and locate a vine that could become a lifesaving drug. Max knows that her Asperger’s and single-minded focus is as asset in this area so she accepts. Max’s mother isn’t very happy with her daughter traveling to a war-torn region, but she can’t stop her. In short order Max travels to Rwanda with an ample supply of grey clothes, oatmeal and tofu. Just as Jeremy had difficulty assimilating to British East Africa, so does Max, but she is determined to make it work. She learns through trial and error and grudgingly gets along with the other researchers in the mountain-based research station. What Max finds amazing is that she gets along and understands the apes much better than she does her fellow researchers. Unfortunately all is not what it seems in Rwanda and Max and her fellow researchers must deal with the high possibility of an attack by rogue rebels.

All of the action presented in both Max and Jeremy’s stories cover the same three weeks in December, albeit separated by 100 years. It isn’t clear how their stories are linked until the very end. Ms. Schulman has provided two stories that could have stood alone but together seem to mirror one another in the difficulties both Max and Jeremy are facing. The historical information provided is quite detailed enough to provide a realistic starting point for both stories. The graphic details of the African landscape are such that it is almost possible to close your eyes and visualize the scene. The description of the apes is also quite realistic and they become additional characters in Max’s story. I found myself rooting for Max and Jeremy, as well as the apes, in their struggles to survive. Three Weeks in December is an emotional read that provides for a little suspense and adventure. This is a beautifully written story that drew me in from the very beginning and held my attention to the very end. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Book 262: A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES Review

Every now and then I receive a book recommendation that completely surprises me (in a good way). A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House is one such book. I belong to a local book group that meets at the Charleston Town Center Mall on the last Wednesday of each month in the Community Room at Panera Bread Company (if you’re in the Kanawha County area please join us), and this was the book chosen for November. 

The story is set in eastern Kentucky during the early 1900s and centers on a young Cherokee woman and her experiences with her non-Cherokee husband and his family. Although there is racism evident against Cherokees, this is not the heart of this story. Vine is a beautiful young woman that becomes enamored with Saul Sullivan. Saul is just as entranced and in love with Vine and the two marry. Vine accompanies her husband to his family’s land and leaves all that she has known behind. 

The life that Saul and Vine lead is not considered a hard-scrabble life, but they do have to work hard. They must build their own home, which they do with the assistance of neighbors and family. They grow most of the vegetables and must slaughter chickens and hogs for meat. Vine washes their clothes on rocks at the nearby creek and they obviously don’t have indoor plumbing, running water or even electricity. Vine and Saul don’t miss these things simply because they’ve never had them and it isn’t expected. Saul works hard at the local mill and Vine works equally as hard keeping house. Eventually Vine gets pregnant and gives birth to a little girl they name Birdy. 

As World War I begins, Saul wants to help with the war effort and volunteers to work in the next county. This job means that he’ll be gone for long periods of time. Vine gets along well with her mother-in-law and loves her new family. But she is also wary of her brother-in-law Aaron. He has never openly done anything, but he simply always seems to be underfoot and watching her, even when she’s out in the woods or walking with friends. She is extremely cautious about Aaron but Saul thinks he’s harmless. Aaron isn’t exactly irresponsible, but he’s never held down a job and seems to want to experience a hundred different jobs all at once. After some time Aaron leaves the family and is gone for months before returning with a wife – a young and pregnant wife. Aaron’s marriage gives Vine hope that he’s no longer attracted to her, until it is pointed out that his wife, Aidia, bears a strong resemblance to her.

I could give you more details about the story, but I’ll stop here. It is sufficient for me to note that this is an excellent portrayal of rural Appalachian life during the early 1900s. Mr. House has crafted a story that is captivating and utterly believable. This isn’t a glossed-over, rose-colored view of rural life, all of the hassles, trials and tribulations are deftly revealed. I become so engrossed in the story that I had to finish it in one sitting, even staying up late to do so. Saul is initially the typical strong but silent man that openly loves his family. He becomes more outgoing as the story evolves but remains openly loving of his family. Vine isn’t a traditional housewife and mother although she deals with all of the household chores with ease. Their marriage has its share of ups and downs, usually as a result of outside forces. The story is different and the voice of Vine is unique, such that A Parchment of Leaves had me in a hurry to collect more literary fiction by Mr. House.