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Sing, Unburied, Sing: Book Review

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward published in 2017.

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“Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.”

Trigger warning (1)

I went into this book with very high expectations, and for the most part, I was very satisfied.

This novel centres around thirteen-year-old Joseph (aka Jojo) living in southern Mississippi with his mother Leonie, his grandfather River, his grandmother Philomène, and his little sister Kayla. Meanwhile, his father, Michael, is just being released from Parchman Penitentiary. Leonie does not have a maternal bone in her body, so the children mainly have to depend on each other. The perspectives switch each chapter, mainly focusing on Jojo and Leonie yet there are two chapters dedicated to Richie, the ghost of a twelve-year-old boy who died at Parchman decades ago. After returning from Parchman Penitentiary to pick up Michael, only Jojo begins to see this boy, and he will not disappear until he hears the story of his death from River himself. Leonie is also haunted by the ghost of her brother Given, who was killed in a ‘hunting accident’ as a teenager. Throughout the whole novel, Ward explores themes such as manhood and racism through realistic and spiritual methods.

The first thing I need to talk about is the style of writing. When I was going through other reviews of Sing, Unburied, Sing, this was one of the features that were consistently present. The writing is very poetic and elegant, some scenes even transcending a narrative and sounding strictly like a sonnet.

Another aspect of the writing was the regional dialect. As mentioned above, it takes place in southern Mississippi, and you sure can tell by how it’s written. It most likely presented itself in improper grammar, for example, “We getting a place,” and “That don’t mean I won’t be here.” The grammar mistakes are slight and they don’t appear in each sentence, which is more realistic to true southern twang in my opinion.

While reading this book one thought kept popping up in my mind: Ward’s words were meant to be analyzed. Each sentence had some deeper meaning behind it, which could probably be interpreted differently by everyone. As fascinating this can be, there was a certain point that it was too much for me and I got tired to overthinking each line. I can’t complain too much though since all the scenes melded quite well together.

Moving on to the characters, most of them were very likeable and relatable. The grandparents were loving and dedicated to Jojo and Kayla, which somewhat made up for Leonie lack of motherhood. Speaking of Leonie, I had such a distaste for her character. She was neglected her children, yet when she did pay attention to them she was cruel and unforgivable. The only thing she cares about is doing drugs and her boyfriend, Michael. Leonie clearly does not want to be a mother and shows this by dispising her children for taking away her alleged freedom. Near the end when her mother was growing iller I felt a sliver of pity for her, but overall it’s hard to feel bad for a person who physically hits their children for any reason. To me, she was a character that was made to be hated, and if I was supposed to relate to her in any way it was not successful.

There’s a specific line I need to talk about (and yes, the word is need). It shook me to my core and I actually had to put the book down to fully absorb it. Jojo is speaking to his grandmother as her illness is growing stronger. She candidly tells him that Leonie doesn’t know how to be a mother, specifically saying “She ain’t never going to feed you.” After this, she embraces and says this,

“I hope I fed you enough. While I’m here. So you can carry it with you. Like a camel…Maybe that ain’t a good way of putting it. Like a well, Jojo. Pull that water up when you need it.”

This hit me so hard. There’s so much love behind this statement it’s almost palpable. It characterizes Philomène in such an intimate and maternal way. It’s an act that’s done within so many (yet not all, as seen with Leonie and Jojo) parental relationships. Here his grandmother takes that role, and it’s so gratifying to see Jojo finally get the love a growing boy deserves from his mother. Furthermore, it sets up the fact that she is soon going to pass away and Jojo may have to reach into this well of love when Leonie inevitable fails to give him love. Absolutely beautiful.

Now I have to talk about the elephant in the room, or more like the ghosts in the book. There are two main ghosts; Given, who haunts Leonie whenever she’s high, and Richie, a twelve-year-old boy River knew in Parchman. In some of the reviews I’ve read they thought the ghosts were cheesy and unrealistic, yet I didn’t interpret it like this. The ghosts in this story are not really the spooky kind of ghosts, yet more of a representation of the past. It was a method of storytelling that Ward choose to merge the past and present experiences of Black people in the southern USA. It’s really a wake-up call to readers saying that things have not really changed regarding racism. Maybe laws and policies that change, but at the core of it all, attitudes and perspectives have been cemented in American culture, especially in rural Mississippi. It’s a difficult but necessary truth that everyone should be faced with, and this book portrays it very well through the physical ghosts of the past.

The last thing I’m going to discuss is going to be a massive spoiler for the book. If you plan on reading, proceed with caution.

If there’s one thing I love in a book, it’s allusions to other pieces of literature. This was seen in the scene where River explains how Richie died. After Richie escaped the prison with another inmate, River found him before the other guards did. Unfortunately, the other inmate was not as lucky, and when he was caught he died a very slow and painful death at the hands of Parchman guards. River knew this would happen to Richie if he handed him over to the white guards, so he made the decision to give him a quick (and somewhat painless) death with a stab to the throat. My mind was blown at this part, I had to put the book down in shock. Of Mice and Men changed my life, and I was so excited to see a reference to George and Lennie’s relationship. It was the perfect allusion to add on to the heartbreakingly tragic backstory of Richie and helped characterize River as a merciful guardian.  

Even though this isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, I can appreciate everything it contributes to the literary scene and recognize that Ward has an incredible ability to tell a story and create mesmerizing characters. There’s no denying that it’s an enthralling narrative that reflects our current social dynamics and past tragedies that the Black community had to face. I would recommend Sing, Unburied, Sing to most people that have a mature attitude and sophisticated reading style, and if the summary peaks your interest, it’s definitely worth looking into.

Little Fires Everywhere: Book Review

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng published in 2017.

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“In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colours of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.”

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This is one of the first books that I’ve bought in a really long time, so you know I’m expecting great things from Little Fires Everywhere.

This novel takes place in Shaker Heights, where everything is planned to perfection, from the houses to the people’s lives who live within them. The ideal of example of this is Elena Richardson and her family. When an eccentric mother-daughter duo Mia and Pearl moves into the neighbourhood, the entire community of Shaker Heights is, pardon my pun, quite shaken up. The reader follows as Mrs. Richardson becomes slightly obsessed with Mia’s past, all in the name of protecting her best friend from losing her soon to be adopted daughter from her biological Chinese mother, which happens to be Mia’s co-worker. It sounds complicated when compiled into one sentence, but the storyline is structured very well so there’s nothing to be confused about while reading.

One of my favourite things to do when I crack open a new book is finding out the significance of the title. In this case, it was mentioned within the first 10 pages of the novel when the Richardson’s were discussing how their house had gone up in flames, Lexie stating,

“The fireman had said there were little fires everywhere…”

I got goosebumps when I read this and it made me so excited to delve into the story and find out why there had been these little fires all over the house. As the story continues looking back on the last few weeks leading up to this event, the reader finds out later during the climax of the story. This caused the book to end at the same time it began, which I found to be an interesting plot mechanic. Most questions are answered by the end and loose ends are mainly wrapped up.  

Looking at the characters, I had so many feelings towards Mrs. Richardson throughout the book. They fluctuated, sometimes I pitied her and rarely I even related to her situation. Yet most of the time I felt myself rolling my eyes at the things she was thinking and saying. I think everyone knows a Mrs. Richardson; manipulative, controlling and seemingly oblivious to her damning actions, or even worse, is keenly aware of the havoc she’s causing. This was a character that was made to be hated by the reader. The distaste I had for this character only grew due to the third person omniscient POV, as the thoughts and feelings of the rest of the characters built a strong case against Mrs. Richardson’s behaviour.

There really is no main character in this book, since all of them get their time in the spotlight. If anything, it centres around the drama between Mia and Mrs. Richardson. They are polar opposites in every way imaginable, and this causes them to clash during a custody battle of May Ling/Maribelle. Here, a largely debated question is explored: what makes a mother; biology or love, or perhaps a mix of both? Yet Ng also focuses on the hardships of adolescence through the teenage characters. She takes us on the journey of awkward puppy love with Pearl and Trip, unrequited admiration for someone through Moody, the unexplainable need to rebel with Izzy, and even the touchy subject of abortion with Lexie.


A major theme that was tackled in these pages was privilege, and more specifically, individuals not being aware of said privilege, Mrs. Richardson being the perfect example of this. One character witnessing privilege in action is Pearl with her astonishment to how the Richardson’s live, viewing it almost like a fairytale, describing the “soft smells of detergent and cooking and grass…” and how the family looked like they “arranged themselves into a tableau for her enjoyment…in a state of domestic perfection…” I thought this scene was very impactful, both for the reader and the characters, since this began the divide between the classes in Shaker Heights. We really start to see the difference between those who think they’re better than others, and everyone else that is supposedly beneath them.

Another example of privilege (some may even consider this white privilege), is the custody battle of May Ling/Maribelle between a well-off white family, the McCullough’s and Bebe, the Chinese immigrant who left her child at a fire station. The argument used against Bebe is that she is an unfit mother due to her weak financial state, yet no one takes into account her immigrant status that may be holding her back from achieving a notable job. This is such a common issue with immigrant parents in America, and it’s represented so well in Bebe’s situation.

The last thing I want to talk about regarding privilege is one of the best moments of the book in my opinion. This came about when Mia was confronting Mrs. Richardson about her picture-perfect life, saying,

“It bothers you, doesn’t it? I think you can’t imagine. Why anyone would choose a different life from the one you’ve got. Why anyone might want something other than a big house with a big lawn, a fancy car, a job in an office. Why anyone would choose anything different than what you’d choose….It terrifies you…”

This statement gave me chills in the best way, mainly because it’s the words I had been wanting to yell at Mrs. Richardson the whole novel, and frankly every other blissfully ignorant person I’ve personally met. It’s worded in such a luminously persuasive manner that even Mrs. Richardson can’t deny it. I was so extremely satisfied and even found myself with a huge self-righteous smile on my face.

Little Fires Everywhere forces the reader to ponder over the question: is there such thing as a perfect life, and if so, what does it look like? Now, despite all my praise for this was not the best book I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good book with a tantalizing plot and interesting characters. But is it a life-changing book? Not really. I just wasn’t really blown away by it like I thought I’d be. I definitely don’t regret buying it, in fact, I recommend it as a casual summer read for anyone who can get their hands on it. I just think all the hype I heard about this book got my expectations a bit too high.

Tornado Weather: Book Review

Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy published in 2017.

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“Five-year-old Daisy Gonzalez’s father is always waiting for her at the bus stop. But today, he isn’t. As the bus driver, Fikus, lowers her wheelchair to the ground and looks around, chaos erupts behind him as one child has an accident and the rest begin to scream. When Daisy says her house is right down the road, she’ll be fine, and begins to wheel herself away, Fikus lets her go. And that’s the last time she is seen. Nearly everyone in town suspects or knows something different about what happened, if they could only put the pieces together. They also know a lot about each other. The immigrants who work in the dairy farm know their employers’ secrets. The manager of the Laundromat knows who laid a curse on the town and why. A soldier daydreaming of his hometown can see it more clearly than the people still there. And the police officer doesn’t realize how much he knows. They are all connected, in ways small and profound, open and secret.”

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This is the first book that has made me cry in a very long time, and I loved every wet tear that streamed down my face.

The plot of this novel is fairly simple yet simultaneously complex in such a colourful way. It follows the individuals who live in the small town of Colliersville, Indiana. These characters range from a transgendered teenager to a gun barring proud American to a fouled mouth young girl who befriends her school bus driver. When Daisy Gonzalez goes missing, each member of this divided community reacts in their own unique way. In fact, each chapter changes perspectives between characters so the reader witnesses a first-hand account of about twenty characters inner thoughts and feelings, each one more different than the last.

I’m gonna be speaking quite a bit about all the characters because that’s what the heart of this book is. Every single character was so incredibly interesting, I was never bored while reading about any of their lives. They all had such distinct and colourful personalities that some writers struggle to create for only one character, not to mention a whole community of people. They were the kind of personalities that are probably lurking among your own very neighbourhood, the people you might run into on the streets or work at the corner store. Kennedy’s ability to accurately write from so many diverse perspectives, and get me to care about each character equally, is quite impressive.

The only thing that slightly threw me off was the sheer amount of characters. There were so many people to keep track off, so many storylines and connections between all the other characters that it was hard to follow. I constantly found myself thinking, “Wait, who’s this guy again? How does he know her?” Sometimes I even had to go back a few chapters to see if I could find some information about the current character. Overall, this is a miniscule complaint, because for the main part I could navigate everyone pretty well.

Tornado Weather also had a lot of topical themes, the main one being xenophobia against Mexicans in the small town in Colliersville, which probably reflects a lot of real towns in the Midwest U.S.A. With the current sitting president, it seems like these attitudes won’t be going away for awhile. The readers experience the point of view of those who dislike anyone who isn’t white, a trait that isn’t often portrayed in protagonists. It was a bold decision on behalf of the writer, and in my opinion, it paid off.

Moving on to perhaps my favourite part of this novel; the ending. The final chapter, eloquently titled ‘Reincarnation‘, is so beautifully written and awe-inspiring that it took my breath away. It touched my heartstrings in ways that I didn’t expect it would when I initially chose this book. Every loose end was tied up and explained, so I closed this no nagging questions in my mind. The tears started coming at this point, and it was the very last line that made the tears spill down my cheeks. The mood was tragically stunning, Kennedy somehow meshing two opposite emotions. When my friend asked me if it had a happy or sad ending, I honestly didn’t know. It was a fascinating mix of both, and all I can say is I was thoroughly satisfied.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this, mainly because the last few books I’ve picked up from the library weren’t spectacular. Although I was pleasantly surprised with the contents of Tornado Weather. It’s such an easy read, the words flowing along the paper and jumping out at you in the most impressionable ways. I think most demographics would enjoy this as a leisurely summer read, so I recommend this to anyone who can get their hands on it. And while you’re reading it, just keep in mind that no matter what happens, little Daisy Gonzalez will end up okay.

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A Seperation: Book Review

A Separation by Katie Kitamura published in 2017.

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“A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go and search for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. Adrift in the wild landscape, she traces the disintegration of their relationship, and discovers she understands less than she thought about the man she used to love.”

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I’m so happy that I can finally separate myself from this book.

It follows a woman on the verge of a divorce with her cocky writer husband, Christopher. After he states that he wants to separate, he leaves on a trip to Gerolimenas, Greece, supposedly to do research on his upcoming book about grieving. Anxious and ready to finalize her breakup with Christopher, she travels to the same hotel as him in order to formally ask for a divorce. When she arrives, she finds that despite still being checked into the hotel, he has not been seen in several days. She decides to wait for him, and during this time, she discovers all the infidelities Christopher has committing during this trip alone. This leads to an endless and frankly cold monologue for a woman who is witnessing the end of her marriage. When she discovers something terrible has happened to Christopher, she struggles in putting up a facade of love in front of his parents who are unaware of their separation. In fact, the main character does a lot of lying throughout the whole book, both to herself and others.

I’ll start by saying that that first 50 or so pages were incredibly slow, and even when it picks up, it’s still not incredibly stimulating. There’s not much going on, both in the physical setting and in the narrator’s mind. It was honestly a struggle to get through at some early points, I was very tempted to just close the book for good. Yet like I said, even when stuff did start happening, I still wasn’t blown away. Don’t get me wrong, it had some moments that interested me, but that’s about it; just moments. Unfortunately, these moments never lasted and always inevitably faded away into the same tedious monologue.

There were so many odd aspects of this novel that just unsettled me. Starting off broad, the general writing style was so formal I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. Instead of a narrative that the reader may put themselves into to experience and live through the main character, it was written like an academic essay. It had little to no contractions and very perplexing language that an average woman would most likely not use in her inner thoughts. I often had to go back and re-read sentences several times, one of my biggest pet peeves while I’m reading. It was hard to enjoy and therefore difficult to relate to any of the characters. Also, on the topic of the characters, you may have noticed I didn’t name the main character in my summary above, and that’s because she was never given a name, in fact. It was a bold move from Kitamura, one that could go one of two ways; mysterious and ambiguous or an empty shell of a character that I couldn’t picture if I tried. Sadly for me, it was the latter.

The last, and most troubling, feature of this book for me personally was the lack of quotation marks. There was dialogue, and it was formatted correctly with indentations and dialogue tags, yet it was like there were no quotation mark keys on the author’s keyboard. I know this is not revolutionary and other authors have done it before, but this is the first book I’ve read that omitted quotation marks. I don’t know why authors choose to do it, all I know is that I don’t like it. It was beyond confusing, as I didn’t know if someone was speaking or if it was still her inner thoughts. Like I said before, I had to go back and read the paragraph again to fully grasp if a conversation was taking place. Quotation marks are an essential part of grammar, especially when trying to piece together a fictional narrative. They were invented for a reason and should be used for that same reason. If I can be docked marks on an assignment for not using quotation marks, a book shouldn’t be allowed to pass the editing stage without them. It’s like not using brackets or semicolons; it’s just grammatically confusing (and just a mess to read in general).

I desperately searched this novel for some redeeming quality I could bring myself to enjoy was some of the literary devices, specifically pathetic fallacy and irony. The main setting we find ourselves in is bombarded with wildfires, and there is a constant description of burn shrubs and blackened crops. There’s even an illustration of a flame on the cover. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that the fire is a reflection of the main character’s own personal hell that she’s currently living. It’s also laughably ironic that the husband came to Greece to study the manifestations of grief, only for the wife to experience the grief of losing her marriage and her husband. I can appreciate these little nuggets of literary flares, it made me feel like I was back in English class. (And yes, I liked English class, why do you think I have a blog about books).

As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m content with separating myself from this book. I don’t think I’ll miss any of the characters and I’m not sitting around wondering where the storyline goes. It was actually quite the disappointment since the synopsis was really promising to me and I was really excited for a well written tense adventure in a foreign land. Unfortunately, all I got was an uptight, confusing narrative about a numb wife aimlessly wandering around a small village in Greece.

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May’s Poem of the Month

It was hard to pick only one of Shane Koyczan’s poems since all of them have their own unique charm that I adore. The first piece of Koyczan’s that I heard was arguably his most popular one, titled To This Day. It made a thirteen-year-old me cry in the middle of the dark auditorium as it was played during an assembly. From then on, I began to explore more of his poetry and he did not disappoint. The one I’ve decided to share with you today focuses on the ominous place that is the internet and all the cruel individuals that lurk among it. As always, his words are so beautifully written and eloquently presented that it never fails to take my breath away. If you aren’t familiar with Koyczan’s work, I highly recommend that you take the time to explore more of his poetry beyond what I’m about to show you.

Troll by Shane Koyczan

“Once upon a time,
You and all your kind lived underneath bridges,
Had ridges for ribs that dropped off into empty chests as if your hearts were all stolen treasures,
As if an excavation crew were hired to dig up and remove the part of you that let you feel.
And while the world above you invented the wheel, you stayed put,
Knowing it would one day need to roll over top of you to get to where it’s going.
You had an endlessly flowing supply line of food.
You began to brood over humanity and made meals of our hope,
As if crushing our spirits would make your mirrors cast better reflections than the ones they gave,
As if the only way you could save yourselves was to make the world ugly so no one would notice you hiding in it.
You learned to knit pain into a kind of camouflage,
Treated hope like a mirage that you could use to lure in your next meal.
You lived off of our fears, as if you could taste what we feel.
And every night, as the moon read bedtime stories to sunlight.
You took darkness as an invite to head out into the world,
You curled your hands into wrecking balls, your breath became squalls, you made rocks rumble, you made land shiver
You made boys and girls pray that someone would deliver them from you
We told them you aren’t real.
Then one day, the world changed, but you all stayed the same.
Just migrated from living underneath bridges to living underneath information super-highways.
Days and nights became meaningless, each already deepened chest became an abyss that no one would ever find the bottom of.
Concepts like love fell into your gravity, we turned ourselves into live preservers, hoping to save as many as we could,
But the fathers who stood guarding closet doors and the mothers who secured the floors underneath beds,
All shook their heads not knowing how to deal with you.
You, who crept into our lives with tongues like knives stabbing your words into our skin.
You began to begin uploading yourselves into our homes you had computer screens for eyes, and software for bones.
You turned your hate into stones and hurled them at beauty,
As if you couldn’t bear to see anything other than ugly, anything different.
You had fingernails like flint, and scraped them along decency hoping we would be the ones to all catch fire.
You all had smiles like one-way barbed wire not meant to keep us out,
Meant to keep us in
Voice like a firing pin, you spoke in explosions
It isn’t cute. It isn’t funny.
You’ve talked strangers into death, and laughed.
And as each family learns to graft skin over the wounds you gave them, you hem yourselves into the scar.
You have coaxed the sober back into bars,
Handed out cigars at memorials,
Offered nooses, cliffs, and pills to those who unfortunately found you before they found help.
You have praised suffering,
Waltzed in between tragedies,
Gracefully dipping misery as if we would somehow be impressed with the dexterity of your animosity.
You have cheered on rape, dashed through police tape as if it were the finish line in a race of who can be awful first.
Even now,
You somehow see this as an invitation to turn your keyboards into catapults,
Wondering which of you can be the first to hate this best.
Your loathing, already dressed in riot gear,
Ready to incite rage,
As if each message board is a stage,
Where you recite hostility,
Turning freedom of speech into freedom of cruelty.
We are stuck with you, the same way you are stuck with you.
Your mind is glue, and it keeps malice fastened there like cheap wallpaper.
We were once upon a time told that none of you exist, we dismissed you as make believe or myth.
Now armed only with resolve, we can no longer afford to tell ourselves that you aren’t real.
We will not let you make your dinners out of the things we feel.”

You can listen to Koyczan himself recite this poem himself here. To find out more about Shane and all his work, you can find him on his website, Twitter, or Facebook.

Today Will Be Different: Book Review

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple published in 2016.

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“Eleanor Flood is a mess. She’s erratic, scattered, and constantly getting things wrong (dates, names, and times). She resorts to calling everything “amazing” because the right word always seems to be just out of reach. But all that’s about to change, because today, she vows, will be different. Today she will be her best self. She sets the bar at a comfortable low: She will put some effort into her appearance. She will play a board game with her eight-year-old son, Timby. She will initiate sex with her hand-surgeon-to-the-stars husband, Joe. But then life happens, and Eleanor’s modest plan gets derailed.”

Exams are done which only means one thing—my summer binge reading has begun.

My first post-exam read centred around Eleanor Flood’s daily life as a mother, wife and successful television animator. Yet she has an unrelenting inner dialogue hounding her with doubts and insecurities, and she wakes up with a promise to herself every morning: Today will be different. More specifically, today will be better than yesterday. Although as the reader follows her through a seemingly normal day, we learn that it’s easier said than done. A portion of the book is also dedicated to Eleanor’s past, specifically her younger sister Ivy. It’s quickly learned that many of her shortcomings stem from her issues with Ivy, and boy do we see these shortcomings throughout her day. Her day became particularly uneasy when she found out that her husband has been lying to her about going to work when he told his receptionist that he was on “vacation.” This sends her into a wild frenzy that leaves strangers shaking their head in pity. Eleanor is the type of character that nobody wishes to emulate, yet inevitably end up relating to most of her thoughts and feelings.

Despite the title, I didn’t think that the majority of this book was going to take place within a single day. In fact, the only portion of this novel that doesn’t focus on this nightmare of a day is when she reminisces back to when she broke off contact with her sister. It’s interesting, yet it didn’t feel like it was just one day, it felt more like a week. I don’t know if it was purposely written like that, perhaps in a way to convey that this hellish day felt exceptionally long to the character herself. There was also a change of POV while she was thinking back about her sister, from the first person to the third person. Again, I can assume this might be due to the fact that it is a memory and supposed to be distinctly separate from the rest of the story. Whatever the reasons for it, it threw me off.

Speaking of the other characters, Joe and Ivy did not wow me. First discussing Joe; the supposedly level-headed doctor husband who was the centre of confusion and anxiety for our main character this whole novel. Both Eleanor and the reader spend precious neurons brainstorming possible wondering reasons for his deceit (spoiler alert: He isn’t cheating). The writer even bestowed him with his own small segment that was from his point of view (and by small, I mean 14 pages). This explained what happened to him that prompted the strange behaviour of lying and sneaking around, which, I will admit, was quite the plot twist. Other than this, I wasn’t that connected to Joe.

That being said, I absolutely preferred him to Ivy. Ivy was not only unlikeable but dry, one-dimensional and a hollow excuse for supporting character. Her only role in this novel was to justify Eleanor’s tragic past and legitimize her unstable behaviour, even though her mother’s early death and father’s alcoholism would have been a sufficient reason for Eleanor’s breakdown. To put it simply: Ivy was an unnecessary and annoying character.

On a more positive note, I did appreciate the subtle clues about her past that was sprinkled among early scenes. Before we even knew who Ivy was, Semple was dropping references to the mysterious baby sister, such as Eleanor’s distaste towards New Orleans and her reasoning for stealing a young mother’s keys that were decorated with a keychain labelled with the name “Delphine”. These were obviously confusing at the moment, yet the satisfaction of connecting the dots later in the story made it worthwhile. The moment when eyes widen and an audible “Ohhh” slips out is an unbeatable feeling while reading, so I was very thankful for that.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the correlation between the beginning and the end. It opened up with a passage of Eleanor’s promise to herself for the day. As I explained, her day did not go according to her plan, so the novel finished off with another promise to herself for the next day, slightly varied from the current days pledge. For some, this may be a hopeful sign that displays Eleanor’s perseverance despite a day that did not go the way she planned. Yet for me, it was quite the opposite, since she was back to square one. It shows the never-ending cycle of planning to be a better person but ultimately failing and trying again and again and again. Even though we only experienced one day in the shoes of Eleanor Flood, we all know how the rest of her days are going to be. I love this because even though the ending was open to interpretation, the readers had a bit of certainty about the future of the main character.

Overall, there were both good and bad features of Today Will Be Different, which ultimately cancelled each other out to make up an incredibly neutral book. This isn’t a book I’d recommend to anyone in particular, yet if I saw someone pick it off the shelf I wouldn’t run to swat it out of their hand.

p-trans 3

 

April’s Poem of the Month

I’ve wanted to add another element to this blog outside the realm of book reviews for a long time. My love for writing expands outside fictional novels, and poetry specifically holds a special place in my heart; it only makes sense that I start to share some of my favourites with everyone!

So once a month, I will post a poem that inspires me and leaves me breathless, as well as a short personal commentary explaining why I thought the poem was worth sharing. They will most likely vary in length, but I can guarantee they’ll be consistent in quality. So without further ado, I present April’s poem of the month.

I’ve had this poem saved for so long, and whenever I come back to read it I fall in love all over again. It always leaves me with a warm feeling of hope and a strong sense of will to keep going. I also love how meta it is since the author takes an introspective look at the stereotypical poet and mercilessly dissects it. It’s beautifully written as if a friend sitting next to you giving some wise advice. I think everyone struggling with problems of self-worth or hopelessness should read this.

Save Yourself by Lana Rafaela 

“let me tell you something:

no one is going to look at you, broken and shattered 
and think –
damn, you are beautiful.

no one is going to come pick up your broken pieces off the floor and
assemble them into a beautiful whole.

hell,
you won’t even look at yourself and think – 
I made broken look beautiful.

you know why?

because all those writers lied to you.

yes,
all those with their poems of scraped knuckles and 
blood dripping down chins,
pomegranate songs and loves that ripped through you like
hurricanes.

liars.

so you and i,
we are going to make a plan.

you are not going to romanticize days when your brain tells you to smash that mirror,
you are not going to romanticize the lover who doesn’t understand you 
but still writes about you.

here is what you are going to romanticize instead:

you are going to romanticize the first day of spring,
its gentle hands all over your body,
lifting you up until you are as light as a feather.

you are going to romanticize the tea and honey kind of love,
no hurricanes,
but sunshine that builds you up from within, 
that helps you make it through the worst days.

you are going to romanticize gentle hands of a friend
in yours,
telling you that it is going to be okay.

because it is.

and don’t trust poets,
we’re no good,
we love pretending that our jagged edges tantamount to a beautiful disaster, but in reality- 
there ain’t nothing beautiful about shaky hands holding a cigarette and
empty eyes staring at the cracks in the walls.

you know what is beautiful, instead?

the days when you can look at yourself in the mirror and smile,
scars and all.

music that makes your soul flow like a river,
books that offer comfort,
families flocking together like overgrown birds to keep you safe and warm,
friends that give you strength when you can find none,
lovers who make you laugh through tears.

baby, 
from now on
you are going to romanticize healing;

honey dripping down your fingertips,
August nights that stick to your skin,
the day you find your purpose,
long car rides and singing so loud that no one can shut you up now.

bad news:
no one is coming to save you.

good news:
you can save yourself.”

If you want to read more of Lana Rafaela’s writing, you can visit her Tumblr or website.