Category Archives: book reviews

The Monday Book: FISH by L.S. Matthews

I picked up this book while on a week-long writing retreat, one evening when I couldn’t face my own writing any more. It was short, easy to read in an evening, and I stayed up and read it before bed.

LS Matthews has written a charming and deceptively simple story of Tiger, the child of foreign aid workers in a war-torn country. Tiger is the only character in the book who gets a name. The wise guide who takes the family on their harrowing journey says his name is too hard to pronounce so call him Guide. The donkey (also a major character) is Guide. And Tiger’s parents are Mom and Dad.

The country itself is not named. The novel uses childhood innocence to observe the building horror of the situation, and the difficult questions that the horror will stop for Tiger’s family but not the rest, because they are being evacuated if they can reach the airplane. Tiger wants to know what will happen to his friends. His parents try hard to soft-petal that answer, but readers get it.

A journey fraught with hardships resulting from the drought and war that ruined the country shows perils from natural to human. They cannot cross the easiest border because it is now closed to refugees. They are a target, as foreign workers, for kidnapping and ransom. And they don’t know how to navigate the mountains that separate them from the plane that will not wait, and cannot communicate with the plane.

If the book sounds dark, it isn’t. Donkey and Fish are two of the most human characters in the book; on the day they have to leave, Tiger rescues a fish from a receding mud puddle. The fish would have died, the puddle drying up and leaving him noplace to live. Fish continues to be a metaphor for the family’s survival, placed in a water bottle, and eventually…. well, you read the book. You’ll find it interesting.

Spoiler alert: the donkey makes it. :]

Although written for children, I found the simplicity of the story and the metaphor-rich writing lovely, and moving in their stark poetry. Two fins up.

Leave a comment

Filed under animal rescue, book reviews, Life reflections, out of things to read, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading

The Monday Book – The Risen

Today’s review is by Paul Garrett

Bill and Eugene are brothers living with their widowed mother in Sylva, NC. One is destined to become a renown neurosurgeon. The other is destined to ruin his life with drink. But in 1969 that is all in the future, as the two boys, out for their usual Sunday afternoon fishing trip on the Tuckaseegee river, run across Ligeia, a party girl who is visiting from Daytona Beach. It is not a pleasure trip. She has been banished to the Appalachians by her parents who can’t cope with her wild ways. Ligeia ensnares the two boys; one a junior in high school and the other a college freshman, in a web of deceit and lawbreaking.

She suddenly disappears, only to just as suddenly reappear decades later to drive a wedge between the two men as they are made to face their past, the legacy of their overbearing Grandfather, and the tragic effect she has had on their lives.

In The Risen (Harper Collins, 2016) Ron Rash has written a book that moves like a kayak on the Class V rapids of a mountain river. He is known for writing close to the land and this book is no different, set deep in the Appalachians only a stone’s throw from the campus of Western Carolina University where he currently teaches.

Ligeia is named after a character in an Edgar Allen Poe story about a woman with strange powers who comes back from the dead. The Ligeia in this novel seems to have an allure which Eugene is powerless to resist. Her return has catastrophic consequences for both Eugene and his brother.

With stories like Speckled Trout, Above the Waterfall, Saints at the River, and in my opinion, his best effort, One Foot in Eden, which is about the flooding of the idyllic Jocassee Valley by Duke Power Company (now Duke Energy) in 1972, bodies of water, especially rivers are a constant theme in Rash’s works. Water can symbolize many things in literature. In The Risen, the river seems to symbolize the fact that life is constantly moving in one direction only and even though one may recognize the mistakes of the past, it is impossible to go back and correct them no matter how hard they try. One has only to live with the consequences.

Leave a comment

Filed under between books, book reviews, Life reflections, Wendy Welch