Posts Tagged ‘family’

At the time I composed this post, the United States had been at war for almost eight years. Eight years with more than 100,000 men and women deployed at any given time. The number of spouses, significant others and family members left behind is staggering. While our soldiers are in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting for what they beleive will better the world, their families also sacrifice. They sacrifice time with loved ones, they live with worry and fear of that phone call that will shatter their world, they live with the possibility that their soldier will not be the same person he/she was when they left. But we rarely ever have an opportunity to hear the stories of the families who stay home, tend to domestic matters and provide what little support they are able to offer their soldier.

The Author:

Siobhan Fallon’s collection of short stories offers a glimpse into this world often neglected by a society so overborne with stories of war, of death and of IEDs that they don’t even imagine the suffering, so seemingly trivial in comparison to the service of a soldier, experienced by the spouses. Fallon has every qualification to pen a collection of army wife stories as an wife who spent three deployments living at Fort Hood while her husband fought abroad.

The Book:

Each story is carefully designed to offer a different dynamic while remaining focussed on the relationship between a man and his wife. Whether the experience is one of jealousy, heartbreak, devotion, loss or frustration, each story revolves around one family’s struggles to survive domestic life after or during the husband’s period of active duty.

Fallon does not adhere to the female perspective. Some of her stories dive into the soldier’s mind and offer glimpses of his deployed experience  as well as his mental struggles and pain in returning to domestic life. These moments feel clear and unforced, Fallon’s character depictions are tangible and moving. The stories feel honest and plausible; these stories bring an outside reader into the domestic world of military service that is ignored in the headlines.

The only gripe I have about these stories are the endings. Every story, excepting the last, ends without an ending. Fallon builds tension, she brings characters to life and she leaves the audience hanging on the last page. Some of these stories were beyond frustrating because of the loose ends. The emotional arch necessary to give the reader a sense of understanding, conclusion or fulfillment never comes to fruition. It’s like taking your partner on a date to the movies and walking out ten minutes before the show’s over.

Siobhan Fallon’s Website

Hannah Tinti’s debut novel, The Good Thief, is a marvelous adventure story that has been hailed as Dickensian and embodies a rich sense of mystery and magic. The novel features a young boy who has grown up in an orphanage as a crippled outcast. Ren desperately desires to know who his parents are and how he lost his hand as an infant. When a mysterious man comes to the monastic orphanage claiming to be a long lost brother Ren feels hope for the first time. Unfortunately, he quickly discovers that Benjamin Nab, his ‘brother,’ is a con artist and a magnificently convincing storyteller—he discovers that Benjamin’s fantastic tale of Ren’s conception is false. Despite Ren’s disappointment, he enjoys the scandalous adventures that he and Benjamin embark upon. Ren treads carefully between his rigorous Catholic upbringing and Benjamin’s corrupt code of ethics, and discovers how to become a good thief.

Tinti, who is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of a non-profit literary magazine One Story, found her inspiration for The Good Thief in a oft forgotten word: Resurrection Men. Graveyards had long been a place that held Tinti’s interest, and the idea of men who robbed graves, a hideous endeavor, juxtaposed with their desire to save lives through science brought to life Ren’s fears and dreams and helped him realize his identity. Ren kept his stump of an arm hidden in his shirt, just as his personal identity was hidden from himself. He waited his entire life to discover who his mother was and why she would abandon him, and he believed that until he discovered his history he would not be whole. This tale explores the wholeness of body and mind, and delves into the pain, loneliness, and confusion experienced by all children as they grope for explanations and a greater understanding of the meaning of their own existence.

Tinti skillfully weaves a tale that is wrought with tension through the eyes of a child, and she uses just enough magic and mystique to pique the reader’s interest without stepping into the world of fantasy. These subtle moments are told through Ren’s perspective as realistic, yet the reader is able to intuit the notions as fictitious as in Benjamin’s story of Ren’s birthplace; “The birds that lived in those branches were as large as donkeys and would take away dogs and children to feed their young a mile high in the sky’ (31). These moments spark the imagination inherent in children and so often forgotten by adults, and it transports readers of all ages into a world where anything is possible, both good and bad. The idea of a story inside of a story is also a truly delightful technique, and Tinti wields it with mindful craft.

The Good Thief is fast paced and difficult to put down. The setting is vivid and well conceived from the little wooden door that abandoned infants are passed through at the orphanage, to the graveyard, and to Mrs. Sand’s complex and homey boarding house. Tinti uses suspense and intrigue that leaves the reader wanting more after they’ve finished the novel. The chapters are short, which adds to the fast paced feeling of the story. This story is captivating and entertaining. Every little detail is utilized in more than one aspect of the story, and because they are so skillfully woven into the action, these details never feel like plot devices. Tinti spent six years working on her debut novel, and it is an extraordinary contribution to modern adventure that both young adults and adults will enjoy for years to come. Bravo!

This is an absolutely beautiful novel! A story of humanity, of choices and consequences, of love and family,  and of grief all rendered in elegant prose. Not only is this story unforgettable, but it deserves a second read. Bravo!