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"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin. But you can't help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family"
Deep in the Ozark Mountains, in the town of Henbane, there are many secrets and very few answers. The majority of the book focuses on a sixteen-year-old girl named Lucy Bane. She is sometimes treated as an outsider in her close knit community, even though she was born there. It is because of her mother that she is treated so differently.
Lucy's mother, Lila Petrovich, hails from Iowa by way of Lucy's uncle, Crete. She is an orphan who lost her family in a car accident and has no one who will take her in. Crete brings her in and offers her room and board and cash in exchange for work that she does on his property.
Lila is young and beautiful and it doesn't take long before someone invents a rumor that she is a witch and has placed a spell on the men of Henbane to fall all over her. In some respects, she finds it quite amusing. Although weary at first, she does form a friendship with her neighbor, the ever so feisty and self-reliant woman named Birdie. Lila and Birdie become so close that eventually Birdie happily takes on the job of a grandmother and guardian to Lucy, since Lila's mother is dead and her husbands mother is senile and in a home that is well equipped to handle her illness.
When Lucy is a newborn, her mother vanishes and it is legend that she ran off and killed herself considering her gun is missing as well. This has been the story that Lucy has always known and never really questioned until one of her childhood friends, Cheri, turns up dead.
Cheri was lucky to have Lucy as a friend as she was considered the town retard. I am not using that word in jest, no she was slow and had a very low IQ and just seemed to wander around and in most cases, following Lucy. She lived with a mother who thought that she was useless and undermining and without truly understanding her daughter as a person. Actually, the whole town doesn't take the time to know her or ever mention her until she is found butchered to pieces, and then she is the talk of the town.
Lucy eventually decides to look into her murder and the reason why she was missing for an entire year before she was murdered, and in addition to trying to put those pieces together (no pun intended) she also starts digging around for any information that she can find about the disappearance of her mother. In the process, she will bring to light some things that she may wish she hadn't, but knows that she is doing it for the sake of these missing women.
The book is told from the different perspectives of each character in various chapters. I tend to like this style of writing as I like to peak in the minds of everyone involved and get a feel for their personalities better as well as their points-of-view.
Sometimes when I am reading books of small and corrupt towns, I like to look and see the deeper meaning of its name if there is one, and was pleased when finding the definition of Henbane.
Henbane: a coarse and poisonous Eurasian plant of the nightshade family, with sticky hairy leaves and an unpleasant smell
I think that the definition of Henbane is a perfect representation of the town described in this novel. I looked at it as a shady and poisonous town with an unpleasant smell, but then that is how I think of most small towns where outsiders aren't welcome and most people turn a blind eye to evil doings.
I found that one of my favorite characters, Birdie, always had some metaphor for everything and I loved reading them:
"You didn't wait for snakes to come out of their den, according to Birdie. You poured the den full of gasoline."
One day Lila led Birdie over to the tree line to show her some nightshade, and Birdie explained the medicinal uses and the deadly ones, then got to rambling about other names for nightshade-belladonna and devil's cherry and henbane and so on. She left out how belladonna was said to take form of a beautiful deadly woman, because certain folks in town had drawn the comparison to Lila.
She also had tidbits of information that I found quite useful:
"I seemed to remember Birdie telling me hedge apples kept away spiders." (GOOD TO KNOW!)
Birdie wasn't the only one with those quotes that make you stop and think. The local attorney/judge had one that I thought was equivalent to that small town metaphor that can make a lot of sense:
"Look at whom you know and think about how well you know them. Open your mind to the possibilities; rethink things you've taken for granted. Like we tell the kids in Sunday School: Just because you don't see the devil doesn't mean he isn't there. He doesn't carry a pitchfork." (Hmmm...I think I may know of few devils then. Yes, I am almost positive)
The one thing that I have a hard time with when reading a book is when a word is a bit over used. I spot it out so quick and once I do, it becomes overbearing to me. In this book, I found that the word tethered was used once too many and I found that to be a bit distracting after the third time I saw it used for various things.
With all of that being said, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel. I felt connected to the story and found the characters to be very believable. I also found the descriptives of the town subtle, but enough that I could envision this creepy and poisonous place and all the occupants within.
June: Protagonist and told from her point-of-view is a teenager in the mid-eighties. She struggles to understand her relationship with her gay uncle, who is slowly dying from AIDS. He is her godfather and the apple of his eye. She is confused about her feelings toward him and whether they are even healthy or normal. They both present a unity that is so magnetic that they can basically communicate without saying a word.
Greta: June's older sister feels that her uncle, Finn, takes away from the closeness that she and her sister once had. Instead of voicing this, she lets her jealousy boil under the surface and it comes across as resentful, detestable, and detached. She feels pressure from her mother to be the perfect child. Without anyone to lean on, she is falling apart and develops a nasty alcohol habit.
Finn: Although he isn't alive through most of this novel, he plays a huge role throughout the entire book. It is basically everyone's relationship with Finn that develops the story.
Toby: Is Finn's partner of 9 years until Finn's death. June doesn't even know that he exists purely because her mother is jealous of him as she believes that if it weren't for him that she would still be close with her brother. Toby is the one who gets blamed for so much when he is just trying to get by day-to-day. Although he presents himself as nothing much in life, I find him to be one of the most compelling characters. He takes the brunt of Finn's family issues with AIDS, purely because of his love for Finn. I feel that he is so endearing and treats June with so much love and tenderness and always offering support that he nestled his way into my heart.
When June's uncle Finn dies, she learns of Toby's existence. Finn left a note for her to take care of Toby and also told Toby to care for June. Although, at times, June is jealous of Toby's relationship with her uncle she has to learn to accept things the way that they are. They also discover how their time together has slowly helped them through their grieving process. June also discovers that although she had never met Toby before, she really had a connection with him after all and didn't even no it at the time.
The title of the book is based on a portrait that Finn painted of June and Greta. As time goes by, just about everyone adds a little something to the painting, and I truly think Finn would have liked it that way since he wanted to portray everyone to their core and not superficially.
This is basically a story about jealousy, grief, and overcoming deep wounds to see what is really below the strong emotions. It is also a story about healing and forgiveness. I don't know if it is because I would basically be the same age as June in the 80's, but I really connected to June's character.
The characters of this novel are wonderfully developed and I felt as though I knew each character individually and could list off every individual idiosyncrasy of their personalities. I was deeply touched by this book and would say that it is definitely one of my favorites.
I am almost too ashamed to say that this is my first ever Stephen King novel, and what a novel it is! I guess that I have been reading too many debut novels lately, because it was so refreshing to read a book by a seasoned and accomplished author. The writing in this novel is so well-crafted that I didn't find time to try to guess what would happen next because I was so intrigued from start to finish.
This is a story about a man named Jake Epping and George Amberson, who are the same person, only one lives in 2011 and the other lives in 1958. Jake was invited to the local diner by the owner, Al, who suddenly looks like he has aged many years over night and is suddenly on the brink of death, due to cancer. Al tells him of a portal to the past that he discovered years before (or minutes) in his storage closet. So when he goes back in time, it is always 1958, but when he comes back it has only been two minutes in 2011 times, which explains why Al's condition seems to have happened overnight, when in reality he had been living several years in the past.
Al has gone back and forth a few times and says that when he changed something from the past that it became permanent unless he went back again. Once he went back, it was like a reset button. He had spent many years following Lee Harvey Oswald in an attempt to save President John F. Kennedy. They both discuss the whole "butterfly-effect" and watershed moments, but Al is unsure of the consequences of what it may do to the future. One thing that he does know for sure is that time is obdurate, and it absolutely does not want to be changed. And when you attempt to change it, it attempts to change you. Basically, there are consequences and it appears that Al is dying of cancer and it may be his punishment for trying such a feat. But does he learn? No. Basically he recruits Jake to go back in time and finish his work.
Jake is skeptical at first until he takes a little trip back to experience it for himself. Besides the cigarette smoke in the buildings and the smell of exhaust, he is fascinated by the past. He feels that he could just stay there and live out the rest of his life. What does he have to lose? His alcoholic wife left him for a man she met in a drug rehab center and he has no children. He is an English teacher at a local high school who also teaches adults on the side. It is an essay from the janitor of the school that seals his agreement to go back. He had written the requested assignment of a defining moment in his life. He wrote of his families murders at the hands of his father and the very reason why he has such a limp.
Jake decides to go back, and while he waits out the time to try and rescue the President, he will save the janitors family. What will be the consequences of doing this and can he take down this burly drunk? Only time will tell. But like I stated before, the past does NOT want to be changed, so there will be a price to pay. And only time will tell what the effects this will have on the future.
This book so exceptionally well organized and written and I am so glad that I broke down and read my first King novel. I am now a true fan and have already purchased more of his books!!
The only hangup or pondering that I had about this book is that if there is a butterfly effect and one small act changes directions for everything else, then wouldn't it be possible that Jake's parents may not have met or married? I mean, if people aren't living that had died in the past then it affects all of the people around them. The person saved will probably eventually marry someone and if they had died (as they were supposed to) then the person that they married would have married someone else and I think that affects so many things! There would be children born that wouldn't have been otherwise and in my mind that would change everyone's life.
So, what I am trying to get at is, if one act changes (and he changed several), then there may have been a very real possibility that Jake may not have been born. And if that were the case, then what would happen when he went back? Would he just vanish? I thought of this a lot and just wished that it was touched on a bit since the butterfly affect was discussed. Maybe I was thinking too big, but it just nagged at me for awhile. But it did not take away anything from the book. It was awesome!
As stated, I got this gem of a book through a giveaway, and lucky me! I can't say that I would normally buy this type of book, but I would definitely be up for it after reading this one.
This book tells the story of "the fifth Beatle", long before Ringo Starr ever entered the picture. However, this isn't the story of Pete, the drummer before Ringo, this is about Stuart who played the bass before Paul took over the role. The book takes place in Hamburg, Germany in the 1960's just before their big break, and although there is a lot of focus on the Beatles, the main story is about Stuart and a photographer named Astrid. The book follows their story and how they fell in love and does so in a very endearing way.
The stories in the book are told through black and white comic strips, and although I was a bit weary of this when I read the book's general synopsis, it ended up adding so much texture to the story. This was a very quick read but enjoyable nonetheless.
This is the image that I would normally have in my head of a typical Genetics Professor with a love of lobster...(I'm not the best artist, ha)
...but this isn't the case when it comes to Don Tillman.
For so long now, I have seen The Rosie Project everywhere, from various reading groups requesting it as a book of the month to the Kindle monthly deal. That alone sparked my interest, so I got my copy right away. I was definitely not disappointed.