Book Review : Drift Stumble Fall by M. Jonathan Lee

I received a copy of this book from Hideaway Fall, a publishing house based out of UK. This is the second book by author M. Jonathan Lee, that I have had the pleasure to read.

About the Book:

Drift Stumble Fall

The author of five novels, M Jonathan Lee is a tireless mental health awareness campaigner, working closely with organisations including Mind, Time to Change and Rethink and blogs regularly for Huffington Post. Having personally experienced anxiety and depression during his life, Jonathan draws on his experiences to inform his writing.

Richard feels trapped in his hectic life of commitment and responsibility. From the daily mayhem of having young children, an exhausted wife and pushy in-laws who frequently outstay their welcome, Richards existence fills him with panic and resentment. The only place he can escape the dark cloud descending upon him is the bathroom, where he hides for hours on end, door locked, wondering how on earth he can escape.

Often staring out of his window, Richard enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, his neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From the outside, Bills world appears filled with comfort and peace. Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. Beneath the surface, a family tragedy has left Bill frozen in time and unable to move on. As he waits for a daughter who may never return, Bill watches Richards bustling family life and yearns for the joy it brings. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other peoples lives are not always what they seem.

My Thoughts:

All out lives, we human beings, yearn for what we do not have or what others have. We do not stop to appreciate and be happy with what we already have. This behaviour is one thing that seems to contribute to our general state of mental unhappiness. Drift Stumble Fall introduces to us two men and their families. Spread over the course of a few days, the reader is given a brief glimpse into their pasts, as we follow their present routines and lifestyles. A very well-written novel, this acts as a mirror into our lives today and forces the reader to introspect and think about how we are handling our lives.

We meet Richard, who seems to have it all, a lovely wife, two kids, a steady job, and yet, he feels trapped and suffocated with his current choices. The story is set over a few days when there is heavy snowfall that prevents Richard from going out to his job, adding a little more to his sense of feeling trapped. With the idea to get away and start afresh taking shape in his mind, Richard is forced to endure a few days of being snowed in with his family and in-laws around as he lays out his plans to run away. As he looks out of the window at the neighbour’s house, we see a sense of yearning for the simple stress-free life seemingly led by the old couple in the house across. We also meet Richard’s family, his wife who comes across as annoying but is someone who loves him in her own way, his children and his in-laws.

Similarly, we meet Bill, an old man and his wife, who for the past thirty years have been waiting for news of or a sign from their eldest daughter who simply walked out of the house one night and never returned. The only other person in their life is their youngest daughter’s husband, a charming young man who comes in to keep an eye on them and take care of them. Bill is seen constantly looking out of their living room window, sometimes staring out to Richard’s house, a look of longing for the life he sees there, of children, grandchildren, a house filled with people and life.

Everything is not always as it seems and there is definitely more to every story than meets the eye. These are brought out in this story as each man yearns for the other’s life, assuming that it is better. The story is well developed and the characters are easy to relate to. The story starts out slow, introducing us to Richard and his monotonous life and then pulls you in as it progresses. Be prepared to come face to face with the emotions of the characters which in many ways seem to mirror ours and reflect what most of us have thought at some point. As the snow settles, so does the story, with some sad endings and other happier ones. A realization that not all is happy and great on every side dawns on the characters and mainly Richard as he discovers the truth about his neighbours and their life. He is also forced to re-think his plan of running away as he starts to understand that he may not want to give up this life after all.

Drift Stumble Fall is worth every moment spent reading it and in my opinion, it is a must read. It is confusing and sad, with moments of happiness sprinkled about, it is realistic and it brings out the true nature of our minds and our ways of life.

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

About the Book:

The Light Between Oceans

AFTER FOUR HARROWING YEARS ON THE WESTERN FRONT, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel.

Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

My Thoughts:

Both heart-warming and heart-wrenching, The Light Between Oceans tells a tale of love, hope, sorrow and how decisions taken affect lives. The story follows Tom Sherbourne’s life as he spends time as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, an island off the coast. Having given up any hope of finding love and peace, Tom is pleasantly surprised to find that Isabel is not only interested in him, but would love to marry him and move to Janus Rock with him.

As the story unfolds, we are first introduced to life on Janus, away from the rest of the world. The beauty of the place and the peace are something to only be wondered about. At first I found it a little difficult to get into the book, but as it progressed, I became engrossed in the lives of our characters and their journey. The author describes in detail the anguish that wrenches through Isabel during her miscarriages, and the emptiness she feels at this loss. This sets the path towards understanding what drives the couple to take certain decisions. At the base of it all is unconditional and deep love.

The child, Lucy/Grace is lively and charming, bringing light to the world and lives of the people she touches. She finds herself torn between the parents who adopt her and her own mother. The strength of the child and how she grows are wonderful to read about. The questions of right and wrong come up as the story unfolds and the truth behind who Lucy’s parents are comes to light. It is all a grey area and the author brings out the actions of people in desperate situations, and shows us how grief comes in many forms. For Isabel it is a result of her miscarriages and stillbirth. For Hannah, it is the loss of her husband and child with no idea of whether they are dead or alive. For Tom, it is the horrors of the war that he has seen that are never far from his mind. Everyone’s idea of redemption is different and we see how each person’s decision affects so many other lives.

As the story progresses, it becomes darker and darker, forcing the reader on an emotional roller coaster until the very end. Who will stand by your side in times of need and who will turn their backs to you? What is the meaning of family. A must read, this story shows us the nature of people when forced into situations and how they act even against people they once knew very well. This story is compelling and gripping until the very last page and I would not be surprised if the reader sheds a tear at some point.

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

About the Book:

Exit West

Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing—to fall in love—in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it. Civil war has come to the city which Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long they will need to leave their motherland behind—when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .

My Thoughts:

Exit West is an absolute masterpiece, that is well crafted and inspires the reader to think about some rather important topics.

I had  the pleasure of listening to Mohsin speak about the book and his ideas at Shakespeare and Co., Paris in January 2018. This was quite an eye opener and helped put the story in perspective. It became easier to understand the plot and what the author wanted to convey.

The story is well-written and the simplest plot line is the story of Nadia and Saeed who find love in an unnamed war torn country. Told through their experiences, Exit West explores how the world around us is dynamic and always changing. Along with this, the people in this world are also changing, both physically and in personality, as a result of their experiences. The choices a person makes or is forced to make, contribute to shaping who they are. This is articulated very well by the author.

The author uses imagery to bring into context the use of “doors” to travel to different places. As an example, we can relate our use of technology as a way of going into another world or sequence, that is quite different from the current reality. Another subtle focus is on the concept of migration and the refugee status in countries. The author brings out the idea that everyone, even if they do not move from the current place where they live, can be considered to be migrants since the world around them is always changing. People move to find shelter and a safer place to live, the basic things that we need to lead a simple life.

As the story progresses, we follow our lead characters as they take a trip through many such doors. Their experiences and adventures seek to shape the story and the messages brought out. At times I found it difficult to relate to Nadia and Saeed. They were lacking in character depth and some parts of the story didn’t work for me. However, I found the concept of the story quite intriguing and I think that it is definitely worth a read! The book has received a lot of praise and it is well deserved.

Book Review: Seeds of Intention by Andrea Thome

About the Book:

Seeds of Intention

Garrett Oliver has just settled into his job as heir apparent to one of the most renowned master gardeners in the country. After a difficult few years, he’s found a home and a renewed purpose at a famed resort in the secluded Smoky Mountains.The stars seem to be aligning for Garrett as he plans a future with his college sweetheart and envisions a simple life with her in the mountains of East Tennessee.

Willow Armstrong, fresh off a painful breakup, is coming home to Knoxville to care for her ailing father. She finds herself in the right place at the right time, landing a dream job alongside Garrett—as his boss. As they are thrown together by their work, an undeniable magnetism grows between them, despite the fact that Garrett is ready to start a future with someone else. Circumstances persist in drawing them closer, and an unexpected opportunity in Colorado prompts Willow and Garrett to wonder if a life together out west might be beyond anything either of them had dared to imagine.

My Thoughts:

Seeds of Intention is a quick and light read. It is the kind of book that you can pick up and finish as fast or as slow as you like.

The story is simple, focusing on Garrett and Willow, and the relationship that develops between them. Both the main characters are dealing with their own set of problems and we, the reader, follow them as they find their way out of it. The characters are warm and likeable, developing quite well as the story progresses. Though at times everything just seems to fall into place perfectly, most of the story flows well and can be related to.

The author emphasizes on the need to adapt and the ability to handle even the most difficult situation with the support of loved ones. This is a feel good story which brings out the fact that not everything happens the way one pictures it.

Book Review: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

About the Book:

Before I Let You Go

Your sister needs you. But her child needs you more…

As children, Lexie and Annie were incredibly close. Bonded by the death of their beloved father and their mother’s swift remarriage, they weathered the storms of life together. When Lexie leaves home to follow her dream, Annie is forced to turn to her leather-bound journal as the only place she can confide her deepest secrets and fears…

As adults, sisters Lexie and Annie could not be more different. Lexie is a doctor, successful in her practice and happily engaged. Annie is addicted to heroin – a thief, a liar, and unable to remain clean despite the fact that she is pregnant. When Annie’s newborn baby is in danger of being placed in foster care, Annie picks up the phone to beg her sister for help. Will Lexie agree to help and take in her young niece? And how will Annie survive, losing the only thing in her life worth living for?

My Thoughts:

 Before I Let You Go is a story that brings out the bond between family and sisters. There is a strong message of togetherness and trust, the effects of secrets and the power of love. The story mainly follows Lexie and Annie, giving us a glimpse into each of their minds and lives, sisters, who are so different in adulthood and who have drifted apart. Brought together by the death of their father, the girls forge a stronger bond with each other, but as time passes, they drift apart. The author weaves a strong plot of lies, secrets and things left untold which form the basis of the sisters’ relationship.

The story is well-written except for a few times when some points are repeated, driving in the difference in life styles of the sisters. When Annie seeks Lexie out for help and support, she is pregnant and still unable to avoid her drug addiction. Lexie has never been understand how or why her sister changed and when the addiction took over. In spite of this, she rushes to help her sister and agrees to take care of the baby in the time that it takes for her sister to attend rehab again. What follows is a confusing journey filled with strong emotions of anger, love, and togetherness.

As the story unfolds, the reader, along with Lexie, starts to learn a lot about the girls’ past, some of which Lexie had blocked out of her mind and some of it being the truth about her sister’s life that she never knew of. A lot of things bring people closer, but sharing secrets that were buried deep inside and telling the truth to someone you love, helps both of you to grow. That is exactly what happens with Lexie and Annie, during the process of the court-ordered rehab. It is also wonderful to read about Lexie’s fiance who as a supporting character adds more value to this story. However, the build up to the end leads to some unexpected twists that will both surprise and shock the reader, while also being realistic enough that they can understand the situations.

Overall an emotional page-turner, I particularly enjoyed how the author carried forward the plot and the depth of the characters and their emotions. The story may or may not end the way the reader may expect, but there is a lot to take away from this book which makes it worth the read!

Book Review: Three Voices by Nora Sarel

About the Book:

Three Voices

History always comes full circle

Whether she was hiding in an oven or the forest, in the monastery or in the cellar, Lena has been followed by one thing: loneliness. Now an elderly woman with nothing but her memories to guide her – she embarks on a journey to unravel the truth of her past, once and for all.

You have never read a story quite like this. Based on real events, Three Voices illustrates the trauma and relief of a woman escaping the atrocities of the Holocaust, traveling the world and eventually reclaiming her childhood. This incredible tale, pieced together from three unique perspectives, weaves past, present and future into a heart-wrenching experience that will change you.
Watch Lena take her life back

Lena remembers everything from her childhood. She doesn’t know that her whole life is about to be turned upside down as she comes face-to-face with another Lena. A once-in-a-lifetime meeting between the two Lena’s and the town’s priest sends shockwaves that reverberate through the truth that was known to her.

My Thoughts:

Three Voices portrays the horrifying life and trauma of a woman during the Holocaust and her journey as she tries to put it behind her. The story is told in three parts, bringing together the past, present and future, creating links that the woman was unaware of and exposing some truths that were hidden.

The story is brings out the harsh conditions, the way of life and the hardships people faced at the time of the Holocaust. In the first part, we take a journey with Lena as she shows us a glimpse into her childhood and years of growing up. A child, forced to grow up and act mature right from the age of 3, Lena deals with hiding, secrecy, living away from her parents and changes in faith. The main question that comes up as a part of this story is the question of faith and religion, how the mind processes it and how it affects people.

At times it is difficult to follow the story as it is narrated without a clear distinction in who is really talking to the reader. It becomes confusing to separate the information until later on, in the last part, when the rest of the story unravels. The character profile of the “other Lena” is confusing and not very clear. The story of the priest and the truth he finally brings out ensures that the reader has the entire story by the end of the book. A lot of repetition of points, especially to re-enforce how the protagonist was forced to grow up very soon, diluted the effect and seriousness of the overall theme.

Overall, the story is a decent read for those who enjoy stories based on historical events and the reader will definitely feel the sadness and effect of the events as Lena sets out to rediscover and reclaim her past.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

About the Book:

Someday, Someday, Maybe

A charming and laugh-out-loud novel by Lauren Graham, beloved star of Parenthood and Gilmore Girls, about an aspiring actress trying to make it in mid-nineties New York City.

Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three-year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates – Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material – and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.

Meanwhile, she dreams of doing “important” work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It’s hard to tell if she’ll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won’t call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a funny and charming debut about finding yourself, finding love, and, most difficult of all, finding an acting job.

My Thoughts:

Someday,  Someday,  Maybe is a story of finding yourself amidst the glamourous world of acting (theater and films). Written in a fresh and quirky manner, this story will speak to the soul of every reader, ever dreamer and in general every person who reads it. Even though the setting is pretty specific (set in a world that the author understands best), it is easy to relate to the hopes, aspirations, heart break and search for love and meaning in life of the protagonist.

The title resonates throughout the story, reminding us that this thought has occurred to all of us at different times. Franny is an aspiring actress who is trying to find her place in the acting world. She believes in work that is fulfilling and meaningful. As she stumbles through with a particular deadline in mind, we follow her journey and her encounters with people, her decisions and the consequences of those. There is a lot to learn and as she starts to find her way, Franny realizes that the idea she had in her head of the acting world, might not coincide with the reality. Luckily she has friends and well wishers who support her along the way and teach her, helping her to find her place.

The author introduces us to the hard-work and dedication required to make it as an actor/actress as well as the number of people involved. It is an interesting and intriguing glimpse into the world of acting and the author handles the plot very well. The story is enjoyable and overall a wonderful read! The people we meet as the story progresses are well thought out and have crucial roles to play in this story. The author gives us so many points to take away from the story, with a fair amount of emphasis on staying true to one’s beliefs and ideals.

If not today, then, Someday, Someday, Maybe, it will indeed happen! Dreams do come true as long as we put in a fair amount of effort!

Book Review: Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris

I was provided with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book will be out on 2nd January 2018 and is already available for per-order.

About the Book:

Everything She Lost

After suffering a mental breakdown that nearly destroyed her marriage, Nina Taylor works hard to maintain her tenuous hold on sanity and be a good mother to her two young daughters. Despite her best efforts, she questions the possibility of a full recovery.

Single mom Deja Johnson struggles to overcome her troubled past and raise her young son. But her friendship with Nina brings more complications. What Deja is hiding could not only destroy relationships, but endanger lives.

One traumatic night threatens to shatter Nina’s mind. With Deja’s help, she strives to maintain her mental balance. But as events spiral out of control, the women must find out if Nina is losing her sanity or if someone is plotting against her.

My Thoughts:

This is an interesting story which deals with the relevant topic of depression and mental breakdowns. The story revolves around Nina, as she struggles to recover from her mental breakdown and keep her marriage from breaking apart. Her husband and the society in general seem to be afraid of her and do not trust her. Nina’s main support system comes from her father and Deja.

Deja, a single mom who makes do with what she has, finds herself running from her past and nursing a broken relationship with her mother, whom she blames for everything. What Nina isn’t aware of initially is the nature of the relationship between her husband and Deja, both of whom seem to share an interesting camaraderie. We later see how these bonds formed are used all for money while putting at risk the trust placed in one another.

As the story progresses, we are given glimpses into Nina’s and Deja’s pasts, a comparison of the very different worlds they come from and the kind of lives they lived. At times it feels as though the story is being dragged along for no reason, with minor repetitions with respect to things Deja keeps thinking. This dilutes the seriousness and intensity of emotions and might even cause the reader to get bored. Towards the end, the author introduces a twist in the plot very subtly which most readers may not see coming. This has been well executed, but later on the sequence of events feel over the top.

However, on a serious note, the author brings out the difficulties of dealing with a a mental illness, no matter how small it is and how the people dealing with this are treated. She also emphasizes on the need for a strong support system. This book is definitely worth a one time read mainly in connection to the issues discussed and the way in which people can try to misuse it.

Book Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

About the Book:

The Husband's Secret

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read

My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

My Thoughts:

The Husband’s Secret is a thought provoking story that brings together the lives of 3 women due to one earth-shattering secret. The story is gripping and will hold your attention until the very end. The author takes her time to reveal the main parts of the story, giving us a comprehensive background on the characters and their lives. We are introduced to Rachel’s daughter whose is pivotal to the story. The author goes back and forth between timelines to give us a sense of what is happening and to put the events in perspective. The feelings of each character are brought out very well and the author succeeds in drawing the reader in.

The plot focuses mainly on Cecilia who finds a letter written a long time ago from her husband, with instructions to be only opened at the time of his death. At first she keeps it aside with no intention of looking at it even though it seems quite intriguing. But when her husband deflects questions about it, Cecilia decides that she has to know. This is perhaps the decision that changes not only her life, but later on, the lives of two other women who feel the repercussions of this secret.

The main questions of How well do you really know a person? and How far can you go to protect the ones you love? are brought out through this story. Is it possible to forgive and move on? The death of Rachel’s daughter has affected a lot of lives, but is the truth something that can be contained? Or should the person responsible be brought to justice, thus disrupting some more lives? So many questions arise and the author ensures that everything is answered. She effortlessly handles the narrative, moving from character to character and flawlessly sowing together a plot that will keep the reader enthralled.

A must read for everyone who enjoys a read, this story raises some valid questions that everyone should take time to think about.

Book Review: The Good Mother by Sinéad Moriarty

About the Book:

The Good Mother

Kate has been through the fire with her three children …

Having been left devastated and homeless after her husband’s affair and the break-up of their family, somehow she has pulled through. Though times are still tough, she’s beginning to see the start of a new life.

But when twelve-year-old Jesssica is diagnosed with cancer, Kate’s resilience is put to the ultimate test. She has an eighteen-year-old son consumed with hatred of his father, a seven-year-old who is bewildered and acting up and an ex-husband who won’t face up to his responsibilities. And in the middle of it a beloved child who is trying to be brave but is getting sicker by the day.

Kate knows she must put to one side her own fear and heartbreak and do right by her children, particularly Jessica. But maybe doing the right thing means doing the unthinkable?

My Thoughts:

Sinéad Moriarty brings us a thought provoking and heart wrenching story of love, loss and family. Kate, mother of three, is forced to deal with the break-up of her marriage. Her husband had an affair and moved out, deciding to marry the other woman. The first part of the story shows us how Kate and the children cope with this, the impact this has on the children, and how they all pull together to support one another.

The bonds between the siblings is very strong, and even though they act out in different ways, they come together to support their mother through this time. Jessica, the middle child of the three and the only girl brings a childish charm and a level of maturity that is common among children who are forced to grow up too soon. However, in her, this just makes her more likeable, and everyone’s rock. Her older brother has a more difficult time dealing with the family break-up, as he looked up to his father more than anyone else. His support system are his sister and his girlfriend, who becomes a very integral part of the family and the story. The youngest, hardly knows his father, and is confused most of the time, acting out in any way that only children can.

The beauty of the plot is that the author portrays her characters in shades of grey. There is no right or wrong in this, things just happen, and after a point, you accept that and try to move on. Forgive, learn and move on, but it is not necessary to forget. The story moves at a steady place initially, painting a picture of Kate’s life, her coping mechanisms, and the support she gets from her father. The plot thickens when Jessica, who is absolutely healthy, suddenly takes a turn for the worse, and is later diagnosed with cancer.

In reality, unless you have had to deal with such a situation by yourself, it is not easy to relate to the shock, pain and horror of someone having cancer. The author has brought out the feelings and emotions very well, making sure that the reader is able to understand them. We are taken on an emotional roller-coaster afterwards, as we follow Kate and her family as they deal with the cancer. The way it affects everyone and how Jessica deals with it form the crux of the later half of the story. There is a lot to learn from Jessica, who though a child, has an “old soul” and wisdom that goes beyond her years.

The final question that this book prompts is this: Would you love someone enough to let them go? and, if you do, can you live with the truth? These questions are food for thought and this well-written story is a gripping read to the end.