What I'm Reading: The Ghost Keeper

From the book jacket:

In the years between the two world wars, Josef Tobak builds a quiet life around his friendships, his beloved wife, Anna, and his devotion to the old Jewish cemeteries of Vienna. Then comes the Anschluss in 1938, and Josef’s world is uprooted. His health disintegrates. His wife and child are forced to flee to China. His closest gentile friend joins the Nazi Party—and yet helps Josef escape to America.

When the war ends, Josef returns to Vienna with his family and tries to make sense of what remains, including his former Nazi friend who, he discovers, protected Josef’s young female cousin throughout the war. 

Back among his cemeteries in Austria’s war-shattered capital, Josef finds himself beset by secrets, darkness and outward righteousness marred by private cruelty. As the truth is unearthed, Josef’s care for the dead takes on new meaning while he confronts his own role in healing both his devastated community and his deepest wounds.

The Ghost Keeper is a story about the terrible choices we make to survive and the powerful connections to communities and friends that define us. Here is a finely accomplished novel that introduces an exciting new voice to our literary landscape.

My review:

I picked up The Ghost Keeper on a bit of a whim. I had a bit of a hard time following the narration at first but once the story really kicked off and I got used to the weaving in and out of the timeline, it was a fairly captivating read.

The Ghost Keeper demonstrates how relationships can outlast a war but at the same time, change so greatly. As we read about Josef and his friend Friedrich we are shown how sometimes our deepest, darkest secrets can eat away at us no matter what we do to try and make up for them.

Morrill uses some beautiful poetry throughout this work, but I wish there was a little bit more to it aside from the various letter back and forth between the characters. If Friedrich’s character was a bit more developed, even, I would’ve been satisfied. Why join the Nazi party but yet, keep his friends safe? What was his reasoning?

After being left with a feeling of underdevelopment, I thought The Ghost Keeper was good, but not quite good enough.

My rating: ★★★½/5 stars

What I'm Reading: Clay Tongue: A Novelette

From the book jacket:

From the author of the award-winning Pale Highway and the radio play Something in the Nothing comes a short fantasy of love, shyness, and the secrets of human communication.

Katie Mirowitz is a small little girl with an even smaller little voice. She possesses a deep love for her grandfather, who suffers from aphasia after a bad stroke cuts loose the part of his brain that processes verbal language. When Katie uncovers a miraculous secret inside the pages of her grandfather’s old journal, as well as an ancient key, she goes out into the woods in search of answers — hoping to uncover a mythical being that, if it exists, may just have the ability to grant wishes.

My review:

(Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this novelette from the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Clay Tongue shows a beautiful bond between Katie and her grandfather, even though they both struggle with verbalizing their feelings. Their similarities create literal unspoken secrets and I could feel their connection.

Having a family member who had similar side-effects from a stroke, I could sympathize with Katie’s mom. It is heartbreaking to see how much one event can change a person so greatly, but as family we stick by them no matter how hard things become.

While Clay Tongue was a bit predictable, I feel that if it was a full length novel this wouldn’t be the case. I would love to read a fuller, more developed storyline, but for this novelette everything was thoughtfully written and wonderfully descriptive.

I felt maybe as though Katie’s thoughts might have been too descriptive for her age, but then again, when you struggle verbalizing what are you left with but what you picture in your mind?

I generally don’t gravitate towards Fantasy-esque reads, so I’d like to thank the author, Nicholas Conley for reaching out and allowing me to read his work. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this novelette.

My rating: ★★★★/5 Stars

What I’m Reading: Not Her Daughter

From the book jacket:

Gripping, emotional, and wire-taut, Not Her Daughter raises the question of what it means to be a mother—and how far someone will go to keep a child safe.

Emma Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes, brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal. When a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her—far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure whether she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now Emma is gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But what about Emma’s real mother, back at home?

My review:

Oh man, this book! I don’t know if it’s because I’m a mom or if it was just that captivating, but I really had the hardest time putting it down. Everything I learned about morals and ethics in first-year university came crashing back into my memory; it really begs the question, what would YOU do if you were Sarah?

I think as a parent, I can see myself in both Sarah and Amy. Sarah just wants the best for Emma – a compassionate relationship with someone who truly cares about her, but goes to the utmost extreme to ensure that for her. Amy reflects every mom who is just plain tired – tired of kids who don’t listen, tired of a life that she feels isn’t hers, but unfortunately, she has a difficult time managing her darkest emotions and lashes out at Emma.

Are either women in the right? I have zero legal background but I’m going to go out on a limb and say no. However, like I said, it really makes you question what you would do if you were in Sarah’s situation. Knowing vaguely how the system works, it would be tough to just let the authorities take control of the situation, but let’s not make this an excuse to say that kidnapping is okay.

My biggest question about this book is, why didn’t Sarah get caught sooner, especially given the fact that she was made fairly early in her escapades. I think this is also her reason why I’m rounding my rating down by a half-star as well; in today’s world with all of the technology we have access to, I have can’t believe that Sarah would have gotten away with kidnapping/protecting/adopting Emma.

Anyway, I really suggest that regardless of whether or not you have kids, pick up this book! I likely would’ve read it in one sitting if I didn’t need to sleep.

My rating: ★★★★½/5 stars