Friday, May 23, 2014

Fiona Friday and 2 mini reviews: When the Cypress Whispers by Y. M. Corporon & Pigs in Heaven by B. Kingsolver

This is what happens when you try to cover a box to keep one cat from gnawing on it and the other cat just happens to be a burrower:

Just seconds after I snapped this photo, Isabel scrambled out backwards and plopped down onto the floor looking ruffled and a little bit insane. She had me in stitches.

On to books!

When the Cypress Whispers was released in April and I read the ARC (which I received from HarperCollins) before the release date but I was so far behind on my reviews that it's taken me a month to get around to reviewing. On the plus side, this week's reading slump has help me get closer to catching up!

Brief synopsis: 

Daphne is widowed and has worked very hard to make a life for herself and her daughter in New York. The child of Greek immigrants, she spent her summers with her Yia-yia (grandmother) on the island of Erikousa and now that she's about to marry again, she has a yearning to return, to marry in a place dear to her heart. She has always wished the mythical cypress whispers would call out to her but although they speak to her Yia-yia, Daphne is convinced the cypress whispers are a myth.  As she and her daughter settle in and are reminded of the ancient ways, she meets a fisherman who helps Daphne learn the depth of her grandmother's heart and the way to her own.

My feelings about When the Cypress Whispers are mixed. I loved the Greek setting for the armchair travel experience and I liked the WWII story about her grandmother but I thought there was something slightly uncomfortable about the writing style. I never did entirely get a grip on what it was that I disliked (apart from the fact that some parts were predictable) but I chose to ignore it and just enjoy the sense of place, which was almost visceral, as much about sensation as it was about tradition and beauty, history and one little island's fierce determination to cling to its identity. There's a feminist undercurrent which I was okay with till the end. I didn't think the ending fit the beginning and middle, primarily because I just couldn't reconcile what became of one character to the way that person was described throughout the novel. In other words, When the Cypress Whispers was lacking a crucial sense of balance.

Recommended - I liked the setting enough to give When the Cypress Whispers a 3.5/5 rating. I loved Daphne's daughter, her Yia-yia, the descriptions of island life, the fisherman, some of the other crazy characters. But, I disliked the ending and didn't really like the protagonist. I did sense a slight feminist agenda and, for the most part, I liked it. But, the way it came to the forefront in the ending felt awkward and wrong. Best to read for the sense of place and the characters.

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver was this month's F2F read and, once again, I missed the group discussion. But, this time it was because I was about 2/3 of the way into the book and loving it enough that I didn't want the ending spoiled. Copyrighted in 1993, my copy of Pigs in Heaven was purchased secondhand and has been sitting around for years. I'm glad the F2F group gave me that nudge I needed to actually open the book.

I don't know if Pigs in Heaven is the only follow-up to The Bean Trees (which I have not read) or there's another book but quick synopsis: Taylor adopted Turtle, a Cherokee who was abused and thrown into Taylor's car by a desperate woman. On a road trip, Turtle witnesses a man's fall into a hole at Hoover Dam and ends up on an Oprah episode dedicated to child heroes. A Cherokee lawyer sees Oprah and recognizes the Cherokee features on the little girl. She's convinced the adoption cannot possibly be legal and investigates. When Taylor finds out that lawyer Annawake wants to bring Turtle back to the tribe, she grabs Turtle and runs. But, as she becomes increasingly desperate and begins to miss her network of friends, she realizes that what's best for Turtle and herself may be the same thing from which she's running.

I've had one of those horrid reading weeks when you pick up a book, set it aside, pick up another and read a bit, drift off, try another book . . .  on and on. Nothing was clicking for me and that included Pigs in Heaven. I found the country accents (which didn't jibe with anything I've ever heard in Oklahoma or Mississippi) particularly annoying. But, then the story and its theme became apparent and I ended up absolutely loving Pigs in Heaven. I've read or heard a little about tribal law and the story was definitely plausible, from what I know. I also recognized imagery, for once. There are two flocks of birds -- pigeons and Canada geese -- that are considered unwelcome at different times and places in the books. The pigeons are killed, the geese relocated. Clearly, they represented the American Indian tribes who were murdered and relocated when the incoming whites decided they wanted the natives' land.

Highly recommended - A terrific story about the importance of family and identity as well as the painful history of Native Americans.  I acquired a copy of The Bean Trees secondhand, at the same time I bought Pigs in Heaven and I'm anxious to read that, as well.  I got a big kick when my hometown was mentioned, even if though it was brief and not descriptive. I miss home. I always will, I suppose.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

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