Lit I Love, Title 10: The Light Between Oceans

The-Light-Between-OceansThe late Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness…”

That quote resonates with me and I find it’s why I read, too. It’s like getting to live infinite versions of my life. If this, then that. There are so many things that are impossible to know if you haven’t lived them yourself, but some things… there are some things that once you read another person’s account of how their story unfolded (even if fictional), it makes you pause and wonder, would I have done it any differently?

The Light Between Oceans by, M.L. Steadman, was one of these alternative life stories for me. I always thought that I’d do the right thing by a child, but after reading this I couldn’t be sure. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be so devious or deceitful, but under the right set of circumstances and heartbreak, the doubt is there.

Since this is a newer title and apparently set to be released as a movie later this year, I won’t give anymore of the story away. Don’t go hunting too far on the internet if you want the story to unfold unspoiled for you. The basic premise is that a lighthouse-keeper finds a boat that has come ashore and in it are a dead man and a very alive baby. He takes the baby inside to his wife, who having suffered multiple miscarriages, the most recent just two weeks prior, sees it as a divine solution to her unique heartache. They raise the child as theirs and the story unravels from there.

Steadman does an excellent job of not answering questions in the reader’s mind too soon, and of leaving the reader wondering how they might respond. Over the course of the story, the reader learns to view each of its characters more objectively until the end when we’re left wondering if this, then that. It is not a tidy ending, but I think this story merits the mess it ends in. No story about so many hearts splayed open can end neatly.

I am a fan of brave writing like this. I think Steadman’s ability to make this so real is a credit. It’s not easy to make fiction so “high-definition”, and yet, it’s not done without softness because woven throughout the story is the softening effect that a parent’s love has on the environment that surrounds it.

What about you? Do you enjoy reading “there but for grace” kinds of books? Have you read this title? Did you get the same vibe from it? What other books have you read that resonated with you because of their realistic take on life?

Thanks for reading!

    Lit I Love, Title 9: Emma

    757218I have a travel mug, on the side it features the silhouette of her Writing Highness, Jane Austen, and through the silhouette is the question all writers, especially women writing about women, should be asking, “What Would Jane Do?” Because indeed, what would Jane do?

    The reason we ask is because Austen was so brilliant at making her characters so human, but the best kind of human. They’re brave, pushing social norms, and asking questions we wouldn’t dare ask out loud. And they make mistakes, and make amends for them.

    One of my favorites is Emma by, Jane Austen. Emma Woodhouse in her attempt to make a romantic match for her friend Harriet, woefully miscalculates. She is certain her preconceptions about her fellow characters are correct and acts on it. In the end it’s a mess that’s redeemed, but the journey is full of bungles. And all the while, Emma has (be still my heart) Mr. Knightly in her ear, trying to advise her, and what’s more, he calls her out on her foolishness, but she won’t listen, at first. This is maybe something I can relate to. Mr. Knightly has set the bar for any protagonist’s partner in my own writing because I love it when characters can match wits. I believe in my core that a relationship, especially in fiction, would be dim without this quality.

    There aren’t many stories that I can revisit multiple times, but I never grow tired of this one. (Or any of Ms. Austen’s stories, for that matter.) I cannot imagine writing out these clever tales by hand or penning tales that would still be relevant, funny, and still being adapted 200 years later. Heck, her Pride & Prejudice zombies adaptation is hitting theaters. Go figure. Ms. Austen never saw that coming, she may be glad she didn’t. (To be fair, I have not read the zombie adaptation and can’t speak to it.) I only hope the words that come together between my heart, mind, pen, and paper, can connect in similar manner.

    Are you an Austen fan? Has she guided your pen in any particular direction? Have you read other titles over and over again? What do you connect with in this story?

    Thanks for reading!

     

    P.S. At the time of this posting Emma is free on Amazon in Kindle!

     

     

      Lit I Love, Title 8: Winter Garden

      9780312663155When people tell me I have to read something, or stand there slack-jawed in disbelief that I’ve never read that book, the stubborn girl inside me straightens her back and narrows her eyes. “No, I haven’t read it and I’m not gonna!”

      Well, it’s harder to be that girl or say those words when you’re in a book club and the next choice for the club is that book. I tried not to like Winter Garden by, Kristin Hannah. So what? A little bad blood between the sisters and mom, meh. Deathbed wish that must be fulfilled, sheesh. But in spite of me, I was drawn in. And by the end, I knew the reviews on this book were right, I was hooked and moved.

      I’ve never lived through a war. I’ve heard snippets of what it was like during World War II from my grandparents, but it seemed so far removed from me that I never really connected to it. The deeper I got into this book, the more it ripped at my heart. Could I have survived that? Did my grandparents go through this? Kristin Hannah does an excellent job of bringing what’s been so far, up close, and she makes it palpable. I felt like I was at the kitchen table, or the edge of the mother’s bed, listening to these tales. The melodrama of the first half made sense and my heart broke for the characters.

      I am a stubborn person and it is very difficult to take me from genuinely not caring for a character, to making me want to hug and hold them. So hats off, Kristin Hannah. If only for that, this book would be worth reading, but it’s more than that. I never felt like I was being told a story, I felt like I was in the story. Hannah is able to use her artistry to lock the reader into the story with her use of setting and sensory details. It is something I tend to lack on the first run of my stories, so I have a great appreciation for their application, especially when that application is done so well I don’t notice it.

      Have you read Winter Garden or any of Hannah’s other titles? Do you appreciate or notice setting and sensory details in a story? What makes you feel like you’re standing inside the story instead of being on the periphery? What stories have done this for you?

      Thanks for reading!

      And remember, if you want to be a guest author and share about literature that’s inspired you, I’d be glad to have you here.

        Lit She Loves, Tam May: Under a Glass Bell

        It is my pleasure to introduce the first guest author on Lit I Love, Tam May. I hope you’ll enjoy her post as much as I did.

        guest author2

        bell jarI started writing when I was fourteen and like many young writers, I emulated the writers that I was reading. Unfortunately, what I was reading at the time didn’t have much of a voice. I was influenced by my mother’s hyperemotional, hyperromantic perception of the world and the extent of my literary tastes were the potboiler romances of Danielle Steele and Judith Michael.

        All that changed two years later when I was sifting through the English language section of a bookstore on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. Amid the slick paperbacks and boxy coffee-table books was a slim little volume titled Under A Glass Bell by Anais Nin.

        I had never heard of the writer or the book and it seemed an odd little bird crushed between these bolder bestsellers so I bought it. That odd little bird changed the way I thought about creativity, language, and writing.

        Nin is known as an avant-garde writer and, finding it difficult to get her work published in the pragmatistic view of post-war American literature, bought her own printing press and self-published the work in 1944. The book is a collection of short stories, character studies, some of them no longer than a prose poem.

        But they stand out like rainbow gems in their distilled and intense brightness. The language that Nin uses is lyrical, emotional, deep. Although Nin herself admitted that the stories have their flaws (one of which is list-like strings of adjectives in some passages), the stories are captivating with their strangeness, their beauty, and their detail.

        What made them so marvelous for me was how they expose character from the inside out. The language flows like a river, never treading water so that you don’t feel heavily weighed down by the poetry of them. I had never read anything like it. The idea of starting with character, standing squarely in the center of a story and unraveling a psychic life like a spool of fine thread simply dazzled me. I began to define what fiction was for me, authentic fiction, that is. Fiction, to be authentic, to be potent and communicative, had to be about the psychic life of the character, the psychological reality, and the dream tapestry. It’s a philosophy of art that has stayed with me for thirty years and I still cannot open the book without feeling that same captivated breathless feeling that I felt reading it at sixteen.

        —–
        Author Bio: Tam May writes contemporary literary fiction that explores the psychological realities of character in a poetic prose style. She also has a blog called The Dream book at https://thedreambook.wordpress.com/. Her website is www.tammayauthor.com.

        I would love to have other guest authors share about the literature that inspires them. If you’d be willing to be a guest author on Lit I Love, please let me know and I’ll get you on the schedule.

        Lit I Love, Title 7: A Widow’s Story

        A-WIDOWS-STORY-by-Joyce-Carol-OatesSo far my life hasn’t been touched by much death. If loved ones have died, it’s been at the end of a long life or a long illness and while painful, I could embrace it. I’ve witnessed it as a bystander, comforting families as best I could at the hospice I volunteered at. Death itself isn’t unfamiliar to me, but since childhood, I’ve always feared two things, dying too young and death parting me with someone I needed. As a child, I worried I’d be orphaned, and as an adult, I fear losing my beloved husband. And like most things that cause me trepidation, I tend to immerse myself in information, for better and worse (read: I over-google). Around the time I discovered A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates, I’d had a father, stepmother, and grandmother that had been widowed. This idea of pouring your heart into someone, and that someone becoming inaccessible, seemed daunting. This seemed especially true if you’d spent more time with that person than anyone else in your life.

        It was also about this time that three friends walked three very different and painful paths through widowhood. One was completely unexpected, one nearing the end of a long life, but still too soon, and one much too soon brought about through a beastly disease. All of them were devastated. I felt like I couldn’t ask them what it was like but I wanted to know so I could have a clue as to how to be a good friend. So I started reading up on widowhood and found Oates’ memoir.

        A Widow’s Story is a hard read. No punches are pulled. It is an intimate, real look at what it’s like to go from spouse to no-spouse. Oates’ husband gets sick and is hospitalized and contracts a secondary illness and it kills him. And through the story we see through Oates’ eyes, how long and persistent grief is. In the end there is hope, we know this blow to her heart and soul isn’t going to kill her, but we know it’s altered her. I think that holds true for my friends, too.

        It affected me so much that it’s part of the novel I’m working on, such is the power of grief and its ability to make ripples in the water so far from its source.

        Have you read any difficult but necessary books lately? Have you read this memoir? Does reading about another person’s pain affect you?

        Thanks for reading!