Neshama’s Choices for March 14th

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Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me

Subtitled Depression in the First Person. The review I read in Book Riot warned me that this book would be hard to read.  Indeed it is, because it’s an unflinching, not that hopeful exploration of a malady that’s very close to home for me and my family. The author made a number of suicide attempts, had many hospitalizations, and has run through a gamut of drugs and treatments.  The “hopeful” aspect: she’s still here, relatively stabilized, and has delivered a very thorough, well-researched, and vivid piece of work.  No holds barred, no jargon—she definitely tells it like it is. She’s an investigative journalist in Canada and this is an example of that genre at its very best. 

Sistersong  

Folkloric fantasy here with British roots. Christianity is playing holy hell in the Kingdom of Dumnonia as Gildas, a priest, gets the ear of King Cador and pagan rituals are banned.  As a result, the land and people suffer; crops wither. Cador’s three children each have skills and must band together despite their differences to combat the crisis. Riva, scarred by burns, makes an alliance with a stranger who accepts her despite what Riva thinks of as her disfigurement. A mistake? Keyne knows she’s a boy and finds a secret passage that is a boon and then a breach when the Saxon invasion comes. Sinne, the youngest, is a healer like Riva. Myrdihn visits periodically; he’s a storyteller, a healer, and also appears as a benevolent witch called Mori. Sinne is sacrificed, fashioned into a harp of bones that sings the song of truth. Lively, evocative, and atmospheric.  

Five Tuesdays in Winter  

Nine short stories, mostly about relationships. In the first story, Carol is a live-in mother’s helper. It’s all doable until Hugh, the mother’s brother, shows up. All the rhythms they’ve established are overthrown. She gets a crush on him. He takes advantage of her. It’s All Ruined. In the title story a shy bookstore owner with few social skills falls in love with a new hire but takes what seems like forever to act on his feelings. Each story explores the gap between perceptions and reality—deft anatomizing of shifting emotions and revelations. 

The Genius Under the Table  

Subtitled Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. Why was Yevgeny under that piece of furniture? Because in his crowded apartment in Russia, that’s where he slept.  And made his surreptitious drawings with a stub of a pencil purloined from his father. His brother was a skilled figure skater. His mother worked for the ballet and hoped her younger son could shine there. No way. This incredibly charming memoir is pitch perfect and ends on a shockingly tragic note. Catalogued as a kid’s book but a treasure for all ages. Illustrated by the author, who is indeed a genius (in my book).  

Will and Testament

Four offspring and two cottages which are left only to the two younger sisters who kept in close touch with the parents. The older sister had good reason for the breach and her brother sided with her but didn’t know why: incest, never acknowledged within the family though she tried repeatedly to bring it up. Oh, the injustice and the holy hell of secret trauma. Lots of interior process, so much frustration. Dark stuff, painful and eloquent in stripped down, Scandinavian fashion.

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