Anna From Away, by D.R. MacDonald
Book description: When Anna Starling flees a dissolving marriage in California to save herself and her artistic career in Cape Breton, her life intersects with that of Red Murdock, a cabinetmaker who has recently lost the great love of his life, Rosaire. Surrounded by old ghosts and echoes of those who once lived in the isolated, depleted community. Anna and Murdock discover that the present is inextricably linked with the past and that both can lead to moral dilemma. How grave is sexual betrayal? Who is behind the bale of marijuana that washes up on Anna’s shore, and what should she, an outsider, and Murdock, rooted in this place and attracted to her, do about it? Can these two people ever overcome the pain of the past?
My review: I chose this book because I loved the lyrical sound of the title: Anna from away. It carries the lilt of an Irish accent, and it turns out I was close – set in Cape Breton, the place with the second highest amount of Gaelic speakers, after Ireland. The whole book is written in this lyrical, almost poetic language.
More than anything, this is a love letter written to Cape Breton. I have had the fortune of visiting the island, and can see the appeal. It would be easy to see yourself spending a year there, lavishing or shivering in every season. Reading this certainly made me want to go back there.
That being said, books based on setting tend not to be the most exciting books out there, and boy is this book slow. There is very little plot, and what does happen seems to be based on the incredibly random actions of one morally-vague character. While I’m happy that I’m branching out into more grown up books, this book was way too grown up for me. Please give me something with a little action at some point.
Come, Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant
Book description: Even before Audrey’s plane takes off from Portland, Oregon, bound for St. John’s, she knows her life is about to take a sharp turn. Her beloved dad has been knocked into a coma (or comma, as Audrey keeps calling it) and she’s had to leave behind her steadfast companion, her tortoise, Winnifred, to quickly get to his bedside. As she’s flying over the continent, her dad quietly slips away. To make matters worse, once she arrives, her distraught uncle Thoby abandons ship and takes off for England. Alone and in need of distraction, Audrey stumbles on what at first appears to be a small mystery, but grows deeper and more puzzling with each suspect she interviews.
My review: I’m not sure there has ever been a more endearing character than Audrey Oddly Flowers. I spent the entire book being charmed by her childish sense of wonder and creativity. Okay, sometimes Winnifred Flowers, her tortoise, was equally charming. All around, the book was just so charming. Even though it’s about death and grief and secrets, it’s charming. You want so badly for everything to turn out okay for everyone, even the bad guys. It reminded me a lot of The Strange Incident of the Dog in the Night, in that you know there is more going on that what the main character knows, yet you only have their perspective to try to figure it out. It was very well put together. Yes to this book, please read it, it is so very sweet.
My one problem is this: often when I’m reading a book that I’m enjoying, I start to take on characteristics of the main character. For example, one of my favourite young adult books of all time has a fantastic protagonist who is fiesty and brave. Whenever I’m about to do something that scares me, I read that book so I start to think like her, and am therefore more brave. I works, really. I did this before starting law school. Anyway, Audrey’s voice is particularly strong here, so this started to happen with her. I started to think like her a bit. The problem is that Audrey has a low IQ, finds a large part of the world baffling and is easily overwhelmed. Not a great place to be in mentally, especially when preparing for several days worth of parties for 20 people. Just saying, maybe read this when you have some downtime coming up.
Word of the day:
Proscribe: to denounce or condemn (a thing) as dangerous or harmful; prohibit; to put outside the protection of the law; outlaw