Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book Review: Prayers for Sale

Sandra Dallas is an author I am thrilled to have discovered a few years ago. Alice's Tulips was my first Dallas novel, and I absolutely loved last year's Tallgrass, a story of one girl's experiences in a Japanese-American internment camp. The Diary of Mattie Spenser and New Mercies were also very enjoyable reads. There are a few Sandra Dallas novels I've yet to read; you can check them out here on Sandra's webpage.

I noticed as I was perusing Sandra's website above that novelist Jane Smiley (a former professor of mine at Iowa State University) calls Sandra "a quintessential American voice." That's what I love about Sandra Dallas: she slips in well-researched American history lesson with a really good story. I know, I know: it's a particular grievance to many historians that novels are looked upon by some readers as "history"; however, I maintain that a good novel, with accurate historic details, can often teach history more effectively than a dry textbook.

The history lesson in Prayers for Sale involves an isolated mining community in the mountains of Colorado in the late 1800s until 1936, when the primary story takes place. Hettie, who has lived in is in her late 80s, has lived in Middle Swan most of her life. Nit Spindle is a lonely new bride, who has come with her husband from Kentucky for a job. The two strike up a beautiful friendship. Hettie is a natural storyteller, and Nit is an appreciative listener. Hettie has lots of stories to tell that involve the people in Middle Swan and their history.

One of the things I loved about this novel is that it is so gratifying. If Hettie begins telling a story about someone, she finishes. In the vein of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, the reader gets a solid story of a resident of Middle Swan: his or her past life, what brought him to Middle Swan, and how s/he ended up. I love things all neatly tied up like that.

While telling the stories of the residents of Middle Swan, Hettie reveals to Nit her own life, with its tragedies and joys. For the first time in her adult life, Hettie tells her own story to someone and trusts that Nit will take her place as the storyteller for Middle Swan.

I look forward to seeing what Sandra Dallas will be writing next!

* Thanks to Wiley from @uthors on the Web again for inviting me to review this novel. You may want to out these other blogs for more reviews:
August 24: http://www.fiveminutesforbooks.com
August 25: http://www.abookbloggersdiary.blogspot.com/
August 25: http://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com
August 26: http://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com
August 27: http://www.rebelhousewife.com/
August 28: http://www.stephaniesbooks.blogspot.com/
September 9: http://blog.mawbooks.com/

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

Twelve-hundred and forty-three pages with really small print—and The Penguin Classic unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo was well worth it. Again, I must ask as I did with the classics Things Fall Apart and A Death in the Family, why have I never read this before?

Alexandre Dumas is a master storyteller, and this is an amazing story. Even though this book took me an uncharacteristic 3 weeks to read, it's not because the story wasn't riveting. It's just a really hefty book! The Count is one of those books I thought about a lot during the time I was reading it and couldn't wait to get the kids in bed so I could have my reading time. I lived in the world of wronged Edmund Dantes for three weeks, and I really miss it. This is one of those books that positively captures the reader.

So the story goes that Edmund Dantes, a young sailor who is filled with good will and integrity, is wrongly accused, on the night of his betrothal, by a couple of greedy, jealous men. And although the crown prosecutor believes in his innocence, he condemns Dantes to prison.

And for the rest of the story: read the book. It is truly a masterpiece.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Slowest Month Ever

Books Read and Reviewed in July
Funny in Farsi
People of the Book

The Reason Why
Big Thick Book

And that's pretty much July at SmallWorld Reads.

I have a 14-hour car trip coming up this week (and I will probably only drive a couple of those hours), so surely I will be able to finish the last 700 pages of The Count! But I must reiterate, that while this is a really thick book to get through, it is well worth it.