Kathy Little Bird
The Berkley Publishing Group
For the first time I had a glimpse of what was happening when music took hold of me. It was like my soul was pouring out through all these notes and their combinations. No wonder I liked it better without words. Pure sound is pure emotion. Octaves, cool. Twelfths and fifths, lonely. Thirds and sixths, sexy. Seconds, trouble. Sevenths, freaked out. Ninths and elevenths, fury. Diminished sevenths, tears. The unison, death.
I finished Kathy Little Bird almost a week ago and have put off reviewing it, although it took some time to figure out why. Disappointment, maybe? The book began with huge promise and, in the end, I found myself skimming in the hope of getting it over with just a bit sooner. Yet, there were moments that I understood or related to, like that in the quote above. I can identify with the power of music upon emotion.
I'm going to take the easy way out and copy the cover blurb because I think it's accurate:
All her life, Kathy Little Bird has heard stories of her grandmother, Mrs. Mike, from her own mother, a Cree Indian nurse who married a wounded Austrian soldier during the waning years of World War II. Living with her mother and stepfather on the plains of St. Alban's, Kathy takes the tradition of Cree music to heart - "singing" the wilderness and the people she knows so well.
But Kathy longs for freedom from her sheltered life and takes her first chance to get away, marrying a charming con artist who promises her the world - and leaving behind her childhood sweetheart. Staying in seedy hotels and singing in run-down clubs, she slowly finds the fame she craves. But screaming fans and hit songs cannot fill the hole within her heart - the aching need she has for the native people she left behind, the father she never knew, and a love that will calm her restless soul . . .
Kathy Little Bird is the third in a fictional series. I have not read the first two "Mrs. Mike" books. Sometimes I felt like the book stood well on its own. But, there were enough "What the heck is Kathy referring to?" moments that I wouldn't recommend diving into the middle of this particular series of novels.
The opening of Kathy Little Bird was a grabber, full of emotion and with an interesting variety of characters. So, what one has to wonder is "What happened? Where did the co-authors lose this reader and why?" I think I'd have to say that I became most frustrated at a point that I can't describe because it's a spoiler. Let me say this much: Kathy allowed her con-man husband, Jack, to do something that I absolutely cannot fathom allowing without moving heaven and earth to undo it. It was that huge. When Kathy moved on and justified Jack's ridiculous action, the whole tone of the book changed, at least for me. During the remainder of the book, I saw Kathy as a different kind of person, selfish and clueless. For the next hundred pages, I felt as if I was holding my breath, waiting for Kathy to realize what needed to be done, get in the car, and just take care of it, for crying out loud.
This is sounding too vague, so I'm going to post a spoiler.
***SPOILER WARNING!!!!! Skip this paragraph if you intend to read the book!!
Kathy's husband, Jack, told her to get dressed and hurry out of the hospital after she gave birth. She dressed and left, without insisting that they pick up her baby or even simply demanding Jack inform her where the baby happened to be. Eventually, Jack told Kathy that he'd given their child to the childless couple Jack and Kathy been staying with and convinced Kathy that they'd return for the baby when they had the money to raise the child and pay off medical bills. Kathy accepted Jack's explanation and logic; and, when Jack later told Kathy that their daughter had been informed her birth mother died, Kathy used her Cree heritage ("If she thinks I'm dead, then I am dead to her, forever") as justification for never contacting her child.
***END SPOILER!!!! We now return to our regularly scheduled programming***
Since Kathy never did make the decision to do what this reader considered "the right thing", at least on the issue I considered most important, the character was not one I really enjoyed following, after that crucial turning point in the novel. Toward the end, in fact, Kathy mulled another tremendously selfish move, proving that she hadn't learned a thing.
If you intend to read this book, be prepared to read about a frustrating character who is so hell-bent on becoming a famous singer that everything else falls by the wayside. The writing is good, but I simply don't feel like I can recommend a book with a protagonist that I found so annoying I wanted to step into the novel and give her a good kick in the shins and a lecture.
Incidentally, the cover must have been a disappointment to the authors, as Kathy is part Cree but she doesn't look it; she is blonde with only deep black eyes as a clue to the native side of her ancestry.
Also finished: Whose Number is Up, Anyway? by Stevi Mittman. Review forthcoming.
Still reading: Held at a Distance by Rebecca Haile
Back to: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. And, this time I'm getting somewhere. I'm scrambling to squeeze it in before the end of the Chunkster Challenge, since Great Expectations was the one book I most wanted to get around to reading and completing for the Chunkster.
Considering: Ditching the rest of the challenges because either they're not really challenging or I'm having trouble squeezing specific titles in, between all the advanced readers that have recently shown up. I noticed that at least two bloggers I occasionally visit have decided to declare themselves "challenge free".
There's good and bad to both sides to the issue of participating in or dropping challenges, in my humble opinion. A challenge is not a great thing if it simply ends up being one more reason to feel distraught, to think yourself a screw-up or to kick yourself around the room. However, if you really feel like a challenge helps motivate you to read something you desire to read (but might not get around to, otherwise), then it's a positive thing. I didn't want anyone who participated in the Chunkster Challenge to end up feeling like a loser; hence, the decision not to make the final drawing dependent upon successful completion of the challenge. In my mind, if you managed to read anything at all that you hoped to, you're a success. If you really, really tried and decided a book was far too overwhelming . . . you're still a success for having attempted the book and for reaching the point at which you were able to decide, "This is not the book for me." Not every book is worth the time it takes to read from cover to cover. We all probably know that horrible feeling - closing a book and thinking, "So, why did I bother spending so many hours reading this?"
Which leads to my current review book. It's been enjoyable, at times, for the history. But, when I stalled at about the halfway point, there was good reason. I still feel the same way about that first half as I did when I closed the book and thought, "I'll read the rest later." Now, I'm struggling to get through it because it's a review book and it would be wrong not to finish. I'm well aware that the reason I became frustrated with the first section (there are two parts to the book) has to do with my personal experience. The book is a memoir; it's about a woman's return to her birth country after a 25-year absence. She whines about her years of poverty, but doesn't describe them in any detail. She complains about not growing up near her relatives, but it doesn't occur to her that she is fortunate to find them alive, upon her return. All of my grandparents were gone by the time I turned 26 and the author returned to her home soil around the age of 35. It's very difficult seeing the author's complaints as anything but pure, silly whining.
So, the question is . . . Can I finish this book and truly review it objectively? Is it possible to remain 100% objective, or do we all inject a little of ourselves into our reading material? Certainly, Kathy Little Bird was a frustrating book because the character made a choice that I found incomprehensible. But, I've read other novels with annoying characters and ended up liking them in spite of bad choices - sometimes even because of their flaws. I've read memoirs - heartbreaking at times - and not felt that I had any reason to challenge the author's reflections as whiny or insignificant in any way.
In other words, there's a lot to think about, before I send in a review of Held at a Distance.
End of babble . . . here's the photo of the week. Tell me if this gives you that "Big Brother is Watching Me" feeling (in this case, "Big Flutter is Watching"):
Happy Father's Day to the daddies!