River of Dust by Virginia Pye – Book Review

River of Dust by Virginia Pye
Published by Unbridled Books

Today I have for you one of my May picks for Bloggers Recommend, River of Dust by Virginia Pye. Here’s what it is about:

On the windswept plains of northwestern China, Mongol bandits swoop down upon an American missionary couple and steal their small child. The Reverend sets out in search of the boy and becomes lost in the rugged, corrupt countryside populated by opium dens, sly nomadic warlords and traveling circuses. This upright Midwestern minister develops a following among the Chinese peasants and is christened Ghost Man for what they perceive are his otherworldly powers. Grace, his young ingénue wife, pregnant with their second child, takes to her sick bed in the mission compound, where visions of her stolen child and lost husband begin to beckon to her from across the plains. The foreign couple’s savvy and dedicated Chinese servants, Ahcho and Mai Lin, accompany and eventually lead them through dangerous territory to find one another again. With their Christian beliefs sorely tested, their concept of fate expanded, and their physical health rapidly deteriorating, the Reverend and Grace may finally discover an understanding between them that is greater than the vast distance they have come.

Such an intriguing and heartbreaking story! Here’s what I had to say about it in the newsletter:

Virigina Pye’s story of a missionary couple in early-twentieth-century China is as fascinating as it is affecting. Their only child kidnapped by nomads, Grace and the reverend become increasingly less involved in the mission they were assigned to, both drawing into themselves—and, in the reverend’s case, roaming the countryside—to cope with their loss.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – Book Review

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Published by Harper Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

A golem and a jinni walk into New York City at the turn of the century. Okay, well, the Jinni doesn’t actually walk, he arrives in a copper flask that has held oil for longer than anyone can remember. The Golem, though, she walks. She walks right off the ship that carried her from Europe and right along the bottom of the harbor. Oh, and also this isn’t a joke, but Helene Wecker’s lovely and magical story about late 19th century immigration, identity, and just a little magic.

YOU GUYS. SO GOOD.

Really, I found everything about The Golem and the Jinni just fabulous. Both the Golem and the Jinni were astoundingly realistic, especially considering they are mythical creatures. What is particularly well done with their characterization is the fact that their concerns are at the same time unique to a golem (or a jinni), but also contain threads that would make their problems easy to relate to for we non-magical beings. Wecker’s turn-of-the-century Jewish and Syrian immigrant communities are also vividly drawn and compelling, making The Golem and the Jinni a real treat for lovers of historical fiction.

The Golem and the Jinni is one of the very rare books that I wish was longer, so that I might continue to dwell within its pages. Very highly recommended.

Source: Publisher.
Learn more about The Golem and the Jinni on the publisher’s website

 

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Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck – Book Review

Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck
Published by NAL Trade, an imprint of Penguin

Like Therese Fowler’s Z, Call Me Zelda is a story of the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, perhaps best known as the troubled wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, although an accomplished writer and artist in her own right. Whereas Z focuses on Zelda’s life from the time she met Scott, Call Me Zelda begins after Zelda has already been institutionalized for mental illness. Robuck’s protagonist is not Zelda herself, but Anna, a psychiatric nurse at Zelda’s hospital, with whom Zelda forms an attachment. Anna is an engaging, well-drawn character, and a very necessary one. Robuck’s Zelda is increasingly in the grips of her mental illness, and thus not truly fit to narrate her own story, devolving as she is into madness. Anna, while in the grips of pain from her own losses, is able to see Zelda and Scott’s lives a bit more objectively, despite her attachment to Zelda.

In many ways I liked Call Me Zelda even more than Robuck’s previous book, Hemingway’s Girl. The non-famous person is, in this case, integral to understanding the life of the famous one. Anna is also an incredibly engaging main character. She is sympathetically drawn with real pain and a real life of her own. She is complex and, therefore, interesting. Her appeal to rationality is a good balance to Zelda’s lack of reason.

Call Me Zelda is a lovely and engaging novel and if you’ve already enjoyed Z, Call Me Zelda picks up largely where it leaves off, making the two books a good pairing. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Edelweiss.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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A White Wind Blew by James Markert – Book Review

A White Wind Blew by James Markert
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourceboks

Wolfgang Pike is a man who is not entirely sure of his place in life. He has long thought that he might become a priest, but plan took a detour when he met Rose, and again when he came to work at Waverly Hills. Waverly Hills is one of the top tuberculosis sanitariums in the United States, and with the way the disease is raging, they need all the help they can get. Although he lost his dear wife, Wolfgang cannot bring himself to go back to his priestly studies as long as Waverly needs him so much. Not that there is much that anyone can do for tuberculosis at this point, in the wake of World War I. But although there is little that can be done medically, Wolfgang has faith in the power of music to heal – or at least help – those whose suffering is the greatest. It is with this in mind that Wolfgang begins to build his orchestra, despite the fact that his boss believes the exercise potentially harmful and a complete waste of time.

I really, thoroughly enjoyed A White Wind Blew. I am often not super keen about historical fiction set in America (except maybe that set in the 19th century), so I was a bit hesitant. However, Markert has written a book with real heart – and which also benefits from such an interesting setting as a tuberculosis sanitarium.

A White Wind Blew is lovely and a very diverting way to spend an afternoon. Recommended.

Check out my interview with James Markert in the SheKnows Book Lounge.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz – Book Review

The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz
Published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

In the last years of the 19th century, Trudy leaves her comfortable, upper-middle class life in Wisconsin and the man everyone always knew she would marry to strike out for California, newly married to her intended’s cousin Oskar. Together, Trudy and Oskar find themselves working at a light house in Point Lucia, far away from everything they have ever known.

Christina Schwarz’s The Edge of the Earth reminded me strongly of Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures. Part of the comparison is the focus on women of science. Chevalier’s main characters were dinosaur hunters and Trudy finds herself drawn to studying the creatures in the pools at the edge of the sea. The rest of the comparison has to do with the beautifully atmospheric nature of both works.

The Edge of the Earth is historical fiction at its finest. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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