Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: "The Midwife of Hope River" by Patricia Harman

Title: The Midwife of Hope River
Patricia Harman
William Morrow
Date Published:
August 28, 2012

How I Heard About It: As one of the lucky reviewers for TLC Book Tours, I perused their list of upcoming titles and this one really jumped out at me.  People have been saying amazing things about Harman's latest novel on GoodReads, and for good reason, it turns out.

Two Sentence Summary:  Set in Appalachia (one of my favorite places to read about) at the dawn of the Great Depression (one of my favorite time periods to read about), the novel details Patience Murphy's struggles as a single, 36 year old midwife living alone in the heart of mining country.  Working incessantly to save impoverished mothers that can't afford proper medical care, Patience navigates disaster on an immense spectrum: personal loss, political persecution, and the every day despair of crumbling mountain villages.

Things I Think: Harman's novel encapsulates so many things that fascinate me, so it's kind of a no-brainer that I loved every minute.  In addition to the setting (Appalachia is near and dear to my heart), the protagonist is an absolute feminist powerhouse. 

At first, we see Patience as a turn-of-the century pioneer: holding down her isolated cabin alone, caring for livestock, trekking miles by herself in the middle of the night to prevent medical disasters in backwoods shacks.  All of this is done with a fierce determination, with a heavy dose of patience and gentleness.  But as the novel progresses, Patience's mind starts to wander to her more urban past, which we learn is incredibly colorful and no less harrowing.  An orphan-turned-showgirl-turned-activist, she slowly allows the reader access to her personal pain, the loss of almost all of her loved ones.  A constant undercurrent of worry is present, and thanks to Harman's brilliant pacing I was flipping pages madly, trying to figure out why Patience had isolated herself and from what she was trying to escape.

Author Patricia Harman
No small amount of research went into this book. The political details of the era are sharp, setting a narrative climate of conflict and upheaval. Most fascinating to me were recountings of various mining disasters, particularly in West Virgina.  As someone who has aggressively studied and protested more recent mountain top removal practices in that area, I found the historical lineage really fascinating and was prompted to go out and do more research on my own.  This, for me, is an ultimate compliment to bestow.

In addition to the blog tour (check out all the stops here), Patricia will be doing a physical tour. Those of you on the other side of the country can totally go say hi.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: "Whiplash River" by Lou Berney [[Love Letter to a Protagonist]]

Title: Whiplash River
Lou Berney
William Morrow
Date Published:
July 10, 2012

 Dear "Shake":

You are such a gripping protagonist that I have abandoned my typical reviewery, and have decided instead to write you a love letter. Fictitious though you may be, you have delighted me in such an epic literary way that I've thrown all blogger-professionalism to the wind!

 Running his own restaurant in Belize was by far the most stressful job Shake had ever had.  Driving getaway for the Armenian mob, a Humvee of Salvadorean gangbangers trying to ram you into the Los Angeles River - that, by comparison, was like listening to soft jazz in the tub.

Oh Shake. How I love a bad boy turned good,  Could you exemplify this any more? Answer: no.  Your witty diction coupled with a rough-and-tumble background of drug running, punch-taking and shit-talking gives me a thrill I can't quite qualify.  And then there's your hopeless romanticism, kept well under wraps but delightfully called out by your author.  Everyone loves to read about a solid player, and while you're no stranger to the crime novel fling, your penchant for Victorian pining (and consequential poor decisions) makes my heart ache.  

Shake, I loved you so hard in "Whiplash River" and I want to tell everyone to embark on your adventures.  Truth be told though, I'm feeling jealous about you.  So I'm going to keep our shenanigans on the hush-hush. 

Call me maybe.


Monday, August 13, 2012

A New Gig: San Francisco Book Review

Last month, I started working with an awesome local publication called The San Francisco Book Review.  These people are an amazing team of writers, artists, and reviewers that put out a really comprehensive monthly run-down of what's new in the literary world.  In addition to a print publication (!!) they also store everything online, and my first two reviews went up this week.

You can peep my review of Jon Raymond's new novel "Rain Dragon" here.  I also mixed it up a little and did a poetry review of a recent translation (from the original Albanian) of Sami Gjoka's "If I Go To Hell."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Poetry (More Destruction Loops)


feathered, i process
this: lips
              unlost, i'm
left listing -


            breath in indicative lines
            and liminal love-space
            of a window frame.

ache like at 18 -
you are now

             aloft, passing through
             the portal

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Embrace A Borderless Life: My Conversation with Maria Miranda Maloney

I recently had the lovely experience of collaborating with poet Maria Miranda Maloney in a craft + process dialogue at Her Kind (a blog powered by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.) Our correspondence was published today, and I am feeling pretty blissed out to see it up on the site.

Check out our post (and all of the other inspiring convos) here.