Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin - Quirky, and Unputdownable!

I love books that are a bit quirky: those where time slips and two people meet in different times, like in The Time Traveller's Wife, or Tantalus: the sculptors story, but The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin is something else entirely. Noah can remember another life; another home and another mother. He is just one small boy who can remember living in a different time.

'Noah is four and wants to go home.
The only trouble is, he's already there.'

This is the totally absorbing story of Noah who is driving his mother, Janie, to distraction because of his fear of having a bath (she has to use wipes to keep him clean); his nightmares when he cries 'Mama! Mama!' (although his name for Janie is Mommy-Mom); and his overwhelming desperation to go home. After trying many doctors who cannot help, she finds Jerome Anderson on the internet.
Anderson, in his sixties, has aphasia and is losing his ability to use words to speak and write. He has been studying reincarnation in Asia and wants to publish his life's work on the subject before it's too late, but he needs one last American case, according to his publisher, to make his book relevant to the US market.
He helps Janie and Noah find the family of Tommy Crawford, who was murdered at the age of nine, and whose mother, Denise, and brother, Charlie, Noah recognises.
Sharon Guskin then skilfully examines the delicate relationship that develops between Noah and Charlie; the trust that Janie puts in Anderson; the still raw emotions of Denise who has lost her son, and her coming to terms with the fact that Noah might just be the reincarnation of Tommy; the relationships between Noah and Janie, and Noah and Denise; the fact that Noah is white and Tommy was black; and the story of how Tommy was killed.
This is a brilliant debut novel and was totally unputdownable: I had to keep sneaking back to it to find out what happened next.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Late Summer in the Vineyard by Jo Thomas - Very Funny, Very Touching, and Altogether Delicious!

Jo Thomas' books are so interesting that with her, I've learned how to cultivate oysters in The Oyster Catcher; olives in The Olive Branch and now wine in Late Summer in the Vineyard! Although nobody could ever hope to make wine from the wild grapes in this photo, Emmy Bridges, heroine of Jo Thomas' new novel, proves that with determination anything is possible.
Emmy has a dead-end job at Cadwallader's call centre, and by accident is included in a twelve week trip to France to learn all about wine so she can sell it over the telephone. The other employees who go with her: Nick, Candy and Gloria are in competition for the job of team leader and a big bonus which would help Emmy pay off her father's mortgage after her brother-in-law borrowed and lost all her dad's savings in a business venture.
Charlie Featherstone's father has had a stroke, leaving Charlie in charge of finding a fresh new vintage wine to sell in supermarkets, and he employs Isaac, an American, who moves from wine region to wine region developing new products.
Emmy finds a purse in the market place and, borrowing a bike, returns it to Madame Beaumont. She is an old lady who has been tending her vines at Clos Beaumont on her own for years. When she falls and is hospitalised, Emmy is left to harvest her grapes and make the wine by herself.
Charlie's plan is to buy up Mandame Beaumont's vines and mix her vintage with the other local ones to make a winning blend and, to this end, he is very friendly to Emmy.
Isaac, on the other hand, wants to help her, but doesn't always agree with Madame Beaumont's advice for Emmy to follow her instincts. So there is a will she, won't she situation that keeps you guessing right until the end.
It's a great read. I was totally transported to France, witnessing the purple tinge to the early morning mist, smelling the rows of ripe grapes and tasting the local dishes that Gloria cooked. Sometimes it was very funny and at others very touching, but altogether delicious!
I loved it and can't wait to read Notes from the Northern Lights  due out on Kindle on December 15th 2016.