Sunday, November 28, 2010

Music to my ears

American Music: A Novel by Jane Mendelsohn

Reviewed by Pam Spence

If there were one book I had to choose to give to the person I cherished the most in the world this holiday season, I would chose Jane Mendelsohn’s American Music (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010). The book came into my life from my long time best friend who called me and told me she had read the most incredible book – but she couldn’t send me her copy because she could not let it out of her possession. She had ordered the book for me, however, and was having it sent directly. Since we swap books as readily as we swapped sweaters in high school, I was intrigued.

American Music did not disappoint: it is, quite simply, a stunning accomplishment of story and style. The story is built around two characters: Milo, a severely wounded soldier from the Iraqi war, languishing in a veterans’ hospital; and Honor, a young physical therapist who comes to treat him. As Honor begins to work on Milo’s ruined body, stories and images arise in both of their consciousnesses—unbidden, mysterious and compelling.

The reader is required to “go with the flow” and allow these wonderful stories to unfold. Initially, one can’t quite grasp whose stories they are, what they signify and how they are related. How does this young couple in the ‘30s relate to this sultan’s beautiful concubine in the seventeenth century, for instance? And what about the young wife who sits in the courtroom watching her husband on trial during the Viet Nam War era - how does she fit in? As the novel progresses, however, these threads are woven into a magical tapestry of history, dream, desire and heartbreak.

American Music does not readily fit any category of fiction: it hints at magical realism and yet feels like an entirely American form - organized, as it is, around the central motif of jazz. It is a dream, a dance, a masterpiece.

Mendelsohn has a rare grace with words. The language and imagery are sumptuous yet entirely subtle. You are enthralled – as you might be if you sat at the feet of Scheherazade as she spun her tales to the king in the Arabian Nights. After I finished this book, I could not look at another book for a week or more, not wanting to diminish the joy I felt from this encounter.

Mendelsohn is also the author of I Was Amelia Earhart and Innocence.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cozy up with 'Russian Winter' this winter

Thanks to Pamela Spence, loyal customer & reviewer (as well as my mom! :) - Iris) for this wonderful review.

Russian Winter

Daphne Kalotry has crafted an epic, powerful novel that unfolds in the artists’ community during Stalin’s repressive regime and resolves, finally, in Boston. Nina Revskaya, once a prima ballerina for the Bolshoi, who escaped to the West in the 1950s, in her declining years decides to auction off her jewels to benefit the Boston Ballet Foundation. Ostensibly prompted by altruism and love of the art, privately Revskaya wishes to tie up all the messy emotional loose ends of her life and to put ghosts and bitterness and regrets to rest. Eager young auction house associate Drew Brooks however, is inspired to research and dig and publicize the rare pieces in the ballerina’s collection – including an amber bracelet and earring set – which prompts an anonymous donor to bring forth a pendant that is a probably part of the original set. Brooks unwittingly sets into motion the unraveling of secrets and mysteries that have profoundly affected the lives of Revskaya, her friends, family and colleagues and which resolve in unexpected ways.

Mystery and intrigue abound in this satisfying first novel as well as a huge, savory dollop of political history. Katotay immerses the reader in the backrooms of the ballet and the auction house and pushes us directly into the middle of erupting social and political change.

This is a perfect read for long winter nights in a snowy cabin or during those 4 hour layovers that often characterize holiday travel. Once you step into the drawing room of Nina Revskaya you will not want to leave until you have heard all of her story.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What's Happening this November at Beehive Books?

The leaves continue to change their brilliant colors and begin to fall to the ground to crunch underfoot. The weather is steadily cooling down and frost ices our lawns and cars in the morning. Soon the hustle and bustle of the holiday season will be upon us - if it isn't already! Be sure to take time out of your busy schedule to enjoy some of the events we have planned at Beehive Books, your favorite local independent bookstore. :)

Monday 11-8-10 7:00pm
Reading & Signing
Joan Murchland - author of The Dragon Under the House
Beehive Books welcomes Joan Murchland and her recently published memoir about growing up in Saint John, Canada, romance and adventure, being a student in Ohio and her career in music as a singer, a musical actress and piano teacher. Beneath the charming surface of her story we hear the wistful strains of life's deeper mysteries.

Sunday 11-14-10 2:00pm
Poetry & Prose Reading
Katherine Burkman
Katherin Burkman, recipient of a poetry award at Sanctuary for The Arts' Gallery in the Garden, will be reading new poetry as well as excerpts from the recently published (and Katherine-edited) Kerouac Ascending, written by her cousin, a close friend of Jack Kerouac.

Tuesday 11-16 4:00pm
OWU Modern Language House presents Open readings in Foreign Languages
Reading poetry or prose in foreign languages, OWU students and anyone from the community may read. Call Beehive or OWU Modern Language House to sign up, or just come and listen!

Saturday 11-20-10 1:00pm
Reading and Book Signing
Sherry Hartzler - author of Island Passages
Beehive warmly welcomes back Sherry with her new book! Join us for her reading and a short talk: The Artful Soul of Women's Fiction

Also be sure to join us every 1st & 3rd Monday from 6:30 for our Good Living Book Club
Currently reading Catherine Friend's The Compassionate Carnivore
(After Monday 11/15 we'll be taking a break for the holidays until January!)