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Lavina By Mary Marcus Book Review

four-half-stars

Lavina22750229Publisher:  The Story Plant

Expected Publication Date:  April 28, 2015

Pages:  358

Genre:  Historical Fiction

About the Book:  Mary Jacob grew up as an anomaly. A child of Louisiana in the early sixties, she found little in common with most of the people in her community and in her household, and her best friend was Lavina, the black woman who cooked and cleaned for her family. Now, in the early nineties, Mary Jacob has escaped her history and established a fresh, if imperfect, life for herself in New York. But when she learns of her father’s critical illness, she needs to go back home. To a disapproving father and a spiteful sister. To a town decades out of alignment with Mary Jacob’s new world. To the memories of Billy Ray, Lavina’s son who grew up to be a musical legend whose star burned much too bright.

And to the echoes of a fateful day three decades earlier when three lives changed forever.

A decades-spanning story both intimate and enormous in scope, LAVINA is a novel rich in humanity, sharp in its indictments, and stunning in its resolution.

Wanda’s Thoughts:
Murpheysfield, Louisiana – 1960’s – There was much discrimination and racial tension during the civil rights era. The black women cleaned, cooked, and many times raised the children of affluent whites, as their own, before the days of civil rights and integration. The story demonstrates strong truths about racism during the era of Martin Luther King.

This book is not just about race, but also the struggle to find one’s identity and to become accepted. There are strong themes of heartache, hate, attachment, and love. I must say that I found slight similarities to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and yet they were so different.

The core of the book is formed by three extraordinary characters, and cleverly gives the story three different perspectives. The history of the day is dramatically told in their own distinct voices, which brought the story to vivid life.

Lavina – A lovable character that exuded strength, and managed to carry on and care about others despite an unjust system. She loved Mary Jacob like her own child. She really added humor to the story.

Mary Jacob hated her father most of her life. She’d always thought of him as having a hard and rigid heart, and knowing there was no love between them. The only reliable love and comfort she felt as a child was from Lavina, the family’s housekeeper. She thought of Lavina as her mother. Her biological mother was confined to bed because of being ill and there was very little interaction between them.

Billy Ray, son of Lavina, and not very likable, had been lonely for most of his fifteen years. Nobody had been in his life except his mother and he harbored so much hate and anger in his heart. But as he got older, music became a huge part of his life and he was finally able to express himself, putting his thoughts and feelings into his music.

The author certainly poured her heart and soul into this novel. I was drawn into the different narrative voices, but one of the most effective aspects of the book was the use of the vernacular – you can hear the characters speaking – just excellent!

One negative comment – I didn’t like the profanity used, especially by Billy Ray, finding it to be offensive, and it serves no purpose in my opinion. That being said, I found Lavina to be a compelling, touching, and thought provoking read. Just excellent! 4+ stars.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from The Story Plant in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:  Mary Marcus7192590
I was born and raised in Louisiana, but left for New York after graduating from Tulane. I worked very hard to get rid of my southern accent, and now I wish I hadn’t. For many years, I worked in the advertising and fashion industries for Neiman Marcus, Vogue, Lancome, Faberge and San Rio Toys where I worked on the Hello Kitty Brand. My short fiction has appeared in North Atlantic Review, Fiction, Jewish Women’s Literary Journal and others.
My husband, Joel Goodman and I live in Los Angeles and East Hampton, New York. We have a grown son, Amos Goodman.

Why I Write

Reading a book has always seemed to me to be the greatest magic trick. You hold an inanimate object in your hands, you look down and wham, you’re transported into an entirely different reality. You encounter people you know instantly and go to places you’ve never been before. Deep reading is a relationship of complete trust when it’s really working.

To say my best friends are books may be an exaggeration–but my favorite books are like best friends: they make me laugh, they entertain me, we have fun together, I find out appalling things, wonderful things and I’m continually moved.

I never get sick of them (and books never get sick of me) unlike my human friends. Books are also very low maintenance (unlike people) requiring no more than a nice shelf and a little dusting once in a while. And of course, books don’t have anything else to do other than hang out with me (unlike my flesh and blood friends and family who have such busy schedules).

I have an electronic reader now that I like, but am just a little afraid of, that stores thousands of books and that seems to me to be both slightly sinful as well as gluttonous but in the nicest possible way. When I get in bed with my electronic reader and it lights up the dark, I feel like a teenager with a flashlight.

All my close friends are so called creative types; consequently no one really except strangers or half acquaintances ever ask me why I became a writer. I was thinking about it this morning why writing has always seemed to me to be the only thing to do (other than painting or pot throwing or drawing, though I can’t do any of those) and that’s because writing is the only form of power I really trust. And doesn’t involve telling other people what to do. Which I never seem able to do with any kind of authority or enthusiasm.

Fahrenheit 451 is the scariest book that has ever been written.

I’d be insane or dead if it weren’t for books.

 


Apologize Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly Book Review


What can you truly say about the life of Collie Flanagan? Mindboggling comes to mind…

Collie was born into a very affluent family living in Martha’s Vinyard. His grandfather, Peregrin Lowell (aka “The Falcon”), is a widowed newspaper mogul with a very stern hand and a ritualistic life style, which his household servants have had to “endure” to say the least.

His mother and father live in a smaller home on the same property as the grandfather. Essentric is not the word for this brood. Collie’s father married his mother, Peregrine’s daughter, as a way of escaping any means of financial responsibility. Living with them is his mother’s brother, Uncle Tom, who also doesn’t work and has an uncanny way of condescending to Collie because of his own inadequecies. Collie also has a brother named Bingo, who is the family favorite. The mother has an obsession with dogs and that is how the boys got their names.

Collie’s mom lives in a world of delusion, contradicting everything she says by her actions. She likes to think of herself as a righteous liberal fighting for “the causes.”

His father and Uncle Tom drown their inadequecies in a literal “drunk fest” most of the time, but still maintain a degree of superiority and deliberate degredation.

Collie’s story is complicated to say the least. Lost in the shadows of his brother, he can’t seem to get solid footing and no encouragement from his family.

There is a surprising twist in the middle of this book that seriously puts the “A” in angst for Collie.

Elizabeth Kelly’s debut novel might possibly be the best book I’ve read in the last five years. Her use of the English language is stunning and superb. I read in a review of this book that is made “Holden Caulfiedl look like he was a kindergartener.” Nothing could be more true. This is an absolutely brililant novel that I will never forget and I thank Elizabeth for writing it. There is much to be learned from what I hope will become a “masterpiece.”


Interview with Gaylon Kent, author of The Diary of Nobody


The Diary of a Nobody Book Banner

 

The Diary of a Nobody

From earning a living to getting the dog to poop to running for the United States Senate, The Diary of a Nobody chronicles the life of Sparrow, a funny, average man passing an average life.

In addition to Sparrow, you’ll meet The Wife, the cat, the dog, his friend Bonser and his rug rat Matt and Brian, Sparrow’s co-worker at the Doily Delivery Company.

The Diary of a Nobody is a real-time novel, updated daily at www.writersshack.com. It begins in October, 2013 and was inspired by a 19th century British novel of the same name.

Gaylon Kent, 49, is an American writer.

In addition to The Diary of a Nobody, Gaylon has written the novel The Regular Guys and Backstairs at the Monte Carlo: A Vegas Memoir. He also writes the columns The Daily Dose and The Bottom Ten.

All of Gaylon’s work is available exclusively at www.writersshack.com.

In past lives Gaylon has been, among other things, a radio announcer and a newspaper reporter, as well as working security at the Monte Carlo and Venetian/Palazzo hotels in Las Vegas and working a Brinks armored truck.

Gaylon was the Colorado Libertarian Party’s nominee for United States Senate in 2014, finishing third in a six-person race with a bit more than 52,000 votes. He is a two-time graduate of the Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires and is an accomplished high school sports official.

Gaylon served on an old diesel submarine, the USS Blueback, in the Navy and still like his grandfather, Gaylon C Kent, commands his American Legion post.

Gaylon and his wife Marian live in Hayden, Colorado. He is originally from Los Angeles. He enjoys a wine pairing from time to time and is known to not wash his coffee mug.
For More Information

Could you please tell us a little about your book?

The Diary of a Nobody is about Sparrow, an average man passing an average life. Sparrow has a wife, a cat and an average job and he and his wife have a happy, funny life.

But sometimes unaverage things happen. His career as a high school sports official is starting to take off and in 2014 Sparrow was a third-party’s nominee for the United States Senate.

The first rule taught at writing school is write what you know. What do you know about running for the United States Senate?

I ran for it myself! In 2014 I was Libertarian Party nominee for the United States Senate in Colorado. Like Sparrow, I came in third place in a six-person race.

Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?

Yes. In the 19th century there was a British novel also called The Diary of a Nobody, also about an average man passing an average life. The man had an average, 19th job as a clerk, a good wife and a deadbeat son who has moved back in after losing his job.

The original was fun to read, and I saw no reason why I couldn’t do a funny, 21st century version.

You call yourself America’s Foremost Humorist. Are you really?

Oh yeah. I write a very funny column at www.writersshack.com called The Bottom Ten, which in the fall ranks the worst college and professional football teams, and my books are funny, too.

There are some funny writers out there. I wouldn’t like about something as serious as this.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My wife. Hands down and not even close. She is very patient, because there have to be times when she would rather go out and have, you know, fun, but it is time for me to write.

Your biggest critic?

Me. I think a writer has to have it that way. Of course, your editor is tough, that is what you pay her for, but editor’s edit and writers create.

A writer’s biggest challenge is to say what they feel needs to be said, without compromise. I spend no small amount of time ensuring I am doing that.

Do you have any rituals you follow when finishing a piece of work?

Depends on the work. If it’s a column that I am posting that day, I will take a break, do something else for a while, then come back and re-read it.

If it’s the first draft of a larger work, I will set it aside for a month or so.

In both instances, the benefit from looking at something with fresh eyes cannot be beat.

What are you currently working on?

Well, The Diary of a Nobody is updated daily, of course, so that is a never-ending pleasure.

I will also be running for the United States Senate again. Our next election is in 2016 and my campaign for the Libertarian nomination will begin in the spring of 2015.

This is not a political blog, but can you shorthand your views for us?

Of course. I believe liberty is the solution to every problem this nation faces.

Nicely put. Do you have any advice for writers or readers?

Yes, but it’s worth what you are paying for it!

Writers: never stop writing. Most people who quit something never realize how close they were to achieving their goals.

Readers: never stop reading. This is one of the most beneficial pastimes us humans have. There are so many benefits. There are also a lot of obstacles to finding time to read, but us writers are grateful to you for overcoming them.

Is there an author that inspired you to write?

Not really. I’ve been reading since I was five, but none made me say, “Wow, I want to do that, too.” I write because something inside me tells me to write. It is what I was meant to do.

There are, of course, writers who made me want to read, though. My earliest memories of reading are of the Hardy Boys and I still have Hardy Boys Detective Handbook from way back when.

Who are some of your favorite writers?

There are many. In no particular order after the first one, Gore Vidal, WEB Griffin, David Halberstam, Rex Stout, Dick Francis. There are others, of course.

What are some of your long term goals?

As a writer, I am out of the long-term goal racket. I found over the years ambition was not serving me well, because I was solely focusing on certain outcomes.

This was bad because anything less than achieving a goal – which was probably unrealistic to begin with – was failure. This was not fair to me.

Now I am content to sit down and write what is on my mind every day. If I keep writing what I was meant to write, good things will come from that and, as I’ve learned over the years, what was meant to happen usually does.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?

I think any writer’s greatest achievement is sitting down every day and doing your work. Every good thing stems from that, and nothing good happens without it.

You know the scenario – you’re stuck on an island. What book would you bring with you and why?

Creation by Gore Vidal. By chance I am re-reading this book for the fifth or sixth time as we do this interview.

It never gets old. Since my early 20’s I’ve been writing down excerpts from books that I want to remember and Creation is still producing memorable phrases.

This is funny because you would’ve thought I would have gotten them all down in previous readings but no, it is like I am reading it for the first time.

If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?

Well, needless today say this would be Election Day, 2014. I would change the Colorado US Senate results so I would win, instead of coming in third place.

Are you a different person now than you were 5 years ago? In what way/s?

Oh, I am a different person than I was five days ago. A writer who is truly doing their work cannot help but grow.

As I like to say, I am not the writer I was yesterday and I far from being the writer I will be tomorrow.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?

Follow your heart and trust your instincts, because they will take you exactly where you want to go, even before you might know yourself.

One of my favorite quotes came from the Birdman of Alcatraz, who was a man who spent most of his adult life in prison where, among other things, he did research into bird diseases on birds who flew into his cell.

In the afterward to his autobiography he said “I never served time because I made my time serve me.”

This is very true. Each of us 24 hours every day. It is the only commodity every human is issued in equal measure. What we get out of that time depends on us making our time serve us, instead of us merely serving time while on this planet.

Is there anything you regret doing/not doing?

No, not really. I’ve spent my life chasing dreams. Some I’ve caught, some have eluded me and some I am still chasing and there are probably one or two I will be chasing until I die.

That’s all right. It’s a long life and we must be prepared to go the distance.

What is your favorite past-time?

Outside of family activities, I enjoy reading, fine dining and sports officiating.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Thank you for having me! I hope your readers enjoyed this as much as I did.