Written on My Heart: A Novel
It’s been more than a decade since her mother Carlie disappeared. Florine has done her best to keep life moving. Now in her twenties, Florine has married her childhood friend Bud, and the two are building a family of their own. But their lives and those of their closest friends are not without personal problems, and compounding everything is the mystery of Carlie, still hanging over their heads and with new clues starting to surface.
Morgan Callan Rogers’s new novel Written on My Heart is anything but straightforward; this novel touches on all kinds of topics as it follows the normal lives of a young family in the Vietnam era. Florine is feisty and fierce, willing to stand up for what she believes in and willing to do anything for her family and those she loves. Even when she has to make the difficult decision of how to deal with her husband’s alcoholic tendencies, Florine is strong and admirable. The other people in her life add color to the story, and readers will grow to love best friend Dottie, war vet Glen, pastor Billy, mother-in-law Ida, and perhaps even the spiteful Stella. This is a great book that is hard to put down.
Morgan Callan Rogers
Two young friends embark on distinctly different life journeys in this emotionally moving story, Windfall Nights by William Claypool. An interesting assortment of characters comes together in this tale where both fate and freewill prevail.
Thomas and Julian meet as youngsters, one a young working man, the other a college student. Through the usual twists and turns of life, they navigate their lives and ultimately diverge not too long after they meet. Each with his own stories of woe, the two are challenged to move ever forward, endeavoring to find purpose and meaning for themselves.
Emotional connection with the key characters is remarkably well achieved. The people in the story are flawed and real, and their struggles are poignant, thus creating authenticity and believability. It is easy to feel what they are feeling and to strongly invest in their happiness. Through detail and dialogue, the author brings these fictional characters to life.
The story is presented as an impressively cohesive whole. For as much detail as there is, all loose ends are resolved at some point in the narrative. From providing sufficient backstory regarding the important relationship between Thomas mother and Julian, to explaining why Julian felt that he recognized Thomas before they had actually officially met, all otherwise stray story pieces are well-connected.
The chronology of the story does become a little difficult to wade through, particularly at a critical point when flashback wants to merge back into the present, but in a later chapter, this transition is clarified. For a brief period, it isnt entirely clear where along the storys continuum we are. It becomes necessary to suspend confusion until the timeline resurfaces a short time later.
For a touching story of two people trying to make their way in the world, look no further than Windfall Nights. Through the fictional accounts of the two key characters, Thomas and Julian, we are reminded that, regardless of who we are or where we go in our lives, everyone makes his/her mark on the world, even as the world unfolds around us in seemingly random fashion.
My Mrs. Brown: A Novel
If you want to feel good about the world and people in it, please immediately read this wonderful book. Like The #1 Lady Detective Agency it is so sweet without every approaching cloying. Mrs. Brown is making ends meet by working a variety of odd jobs since her husband died of a heart attack. She is frugal and very modest in her desires. She is also quite genteel. She sweeps up in a beauty shop and helps take inventory at the estate of a rich woman. It is at that estate that Mrs. Brown sees a dress which captivates her. It is an Oscar de la Renta design and it displays fine craftsmanship along with a very high price tag. Mrs. Brown makes up her mind to have the dress. The reader does not know why Mrs. Brown is so determined, let alone where she will ever wear such a fine dress. That mystery is at the heart of this beautiful novel. Along the way, Mrs. Brown receives unexpected good luck along with heartbreaking losses. When you finish this book — or even before — Mrs. Brown will live for you and you will find yourself loving her as much as I do.
The Lame Duck
Dr. Bob Cassidy, a caring selfless physician in a small rural Pennsylvania town, seems doomed for failure. During his two-and-a-half-year practice, Bob has been riddled with three mysteriously unsubstantiated malpractice suits. To add insult to injury, he is also surrounded by a group of powerful miscreants who wouldn’t love anything more than to see his career destroyed. Although Bob feels that he’s being set up when the attractive Angela Fratellobetter known as the Angel of Death malpractice lawyerseeks his medical expertise regarding her infected toe, the two, ironically, fall in love. Yet the plot only thickens when Bob decides to stand up to his enemies, instead of following Angela’s advice to get professional help.
Internist and author Bernard Leo Remakus offers his reading audience a view into the darker side of the medical world in his fourth novel. Remakus includes a host of carefully crafted characters that range from simple town folk to downright depraved individuals. In fact, many of Remakus’ well-developed cast will undoubtedly rub readers the wrong way, especially when they take jabs at meek Dr. Bob, who is clearly an underdog. Remakus’ lowlife cast serves another purpose in building the good doc’s personaso much more than readers could ever possibly imagine.
While his audience wonders about Dr. Bob ultimate destiny, Remakus amuses them by providing hefty amounts of information besides background on Dr. Bob’s life, his father, and his adversariesall punctuated with periodic romantic scenes. Remakus fills whole chapters in his third person narrative with apt medically-related information in connection with Dr. Bob’s patients, Angela’s physical conditions, other patient situations, and most importantly the real picture behind medical malpractice. Although the information may appear to slow down the plot a bit, Remakus’ purpose behind the information is to better define Dr. Bob’s worldindeed a foreign one, especially to those outside the medical profession. Besides all of the above-mentioned literary elements, Remakus also throws in random twists and turns along the way to keep his narrative moving. Closing unexpectedly, The Lame Duck is one fascinating read!
A near-death experience causes Allan “Vic” Vickery to reassess what’s going on in his life. When he’s hit in the head with a golf ball that causes him to go into a coma for a month, Vic travels to a place in his mind where he plays a round of golf with others who are in a vegetative state. When he awakens, the book chronicles the antihero’s midlife crisis in having an affair, leaving his wife and playing high-stakes golf with a syndicate.
Before his accident, Vic is making an effort to patch up his failing marriage with his wife, Angie. After he wakes up, and Angie hasn’t made an effort to fawn over him and “realize what she almost lost,” Vic doesn’t bother. His behavior with Angie, the affair with his neighbor Roxanne, and the negligence he shows in his stable career as an art teacher makes Vic a difficult main character to like. His near-death experience just enhances his greed, entitlement and selfishness.
Sometimes selfishness isn’t a bad thing. It is important to look inward and take steps toward better self-care. But Vic’s selfishness went a step beyond a life overhaul. When he begins his affair with Roxanne and floats the idea of leaving Angie by her, he makes it clear that his leaving Angie has everything to do with his attempts at his own happiness and nothing to do with Roxanne. Roxanne makes it clear that she does not want to leave her husband. However, triumphant from his first golf winnings, he asks Roxanne to move into his cramped, dirty one-bedroom apartment with him. When she refuses, he becomes angry, accusing her of not wanting to leave her husband because of her secure lifestyle and possessions. While Roxanne doesn’t refute his accusations, she doesn’t confirm them either. Her reasons for staying with her drunk husband were her own, and instead of respecting her choices and her agency, Vic lashes out. He does the same thing with Angie, selfishly projecting his own assumptions about her feelings onto her to justify his affair and him leaving her. Then he becomes sullen when she moves on with someone else. If anything could have taught Vic the value of his own life and that others’ actions were beyond his control, it would have been a near-death experience. But it didn’t. Vic’s story is rife with similar scenarios, and the “difficult lies” in the book point to not only his farcical behavior while he’s still married and cheating on his wife, but to the lies he tells his mother when the marriage ends, the lies about his coma experience he tells his doctor to get out of the hospital, and most importantly, the lies he tells himself to convince himself that his chosen life path makes him truly happy.
Vic is the perfect antihero, and while readers might not like him, they’ll find his story interesting. Anyone who plays golf will get a thrill out of the high-stakes golf games. Contrary to other brush-with-death scenarios, Difficult Lies depicts the story of a man who doesn’t do good with his second chance at life. Instead, Vic makes a mess of his life, and the ending is a patched-up laundry list of things he wants to accomplish to be a better person. But like his cleaning lady, Olivia, and her inability to quit smoking, I didn’t have much faith in Vic to break his cycle of midlife-crisis-level behavior.
Joseph Fafa, a Nigerian student, begins his undergraduate medical studies in 1977 at North Carolina College. His first day there, Joseph meets Wendy Crane, a Caucasian student. Joseph is unaware that Wendy comes from a prestigious and powerful family. Because they are medical students, Joseph and Wendy spend a great deal of time studying together, and, over time, they fall in love. But it is the late 1970s, and interracial relations only exacerbate the bigoted diatribe lurking about campus. Joseph and Wendy have plans to go through medical school together and eventually get married. But when Joseph learns that the school board rescinds his scholarship to the school’s post-graduate medical program, Joseph has to try to move on with his life without Wendy.
Rising author Fidelis O. Mkparu crafts a love story interlaced with issues that are more fact than fiction. Using elements from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Mkparu aptly captures the reality of an African student seeking a better life in America; like many foreign students coming to America for the first time, Joseph may be filled with hopes and dreams, but he is alone. Early on in his debut, Mkparu zeroes in on Joseph’s emotional vulnerability as well as his naiveté separated from the comfort of family and friends when he unexpectedly finds himself helplessly in love with Wendy, a wealthy white girl. Interestingly, Wendy has her own issues with vulnerability, because she is desperately trying to free herself from her bigoted familial environs.
The magnetism between the lovers is immediate and strong. Mkparu does a stellar job not only developing their individual personas, but then also incorporating them within an intense need-based relationship. Mkparu underpins a constant theme of racism amid alternating scenes largely between Joseph and Wendy, but also covering other aspects of Joseph’s life as well. One striking aspect is the cultural differences between the lovers. For example, Joseph understands bigotry from a religious standpoint, because he has lived through civil war (between Muslims and Christians), plus has lost loved ones in the process. That said, Joseph has a totally different perception of the phrase “Campus Crusade,” compared to what Wendy acknowledges as a Christian revival service.
A must-read, Love’s Affliction is an exceptionally gripping and poignant story. While intense throughout, there is resolution and not quite what one may expect!