The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad – Book Review

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
Published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin

In the tribal area between Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, marital fidelity is highly prized, especially in women. When a man and a woman show up at a remote outpost clearly on the run from an angry father or husband they are granted permission to live there for a time, but also told they will be given no protection if a time comes when such protection would be necessary. It is their son who will become Tor Baz, the eponymous “Wandering Falcon.” Tor Baz’s wanderings through this foreboding borderland become the basis for exploring a number of stories of those in the tribal lands.

The Wandering Falcon is a unique book, it would perhaps best be described as a book of linked stories, but unlike other books of linked stories, such as A Visit From the Goon Squad, there is a single character in The Wandering Falcon whose life and exploits tie together the disparate stories in what seems to be chronological order. In this case the form works extremely well by giving a flavor of the variety of experiences in these tribal lands while still having a single unifying thread to keep the reader engaged. Interestingly, Tor Baz’s importance varies from story to story; at times he is so minor that he could almost be missed, at others he is an integral part of the story being told.

Ahmad is uniquely qualified to write a book like The Wandering Falcon. He has worked for many years for the government of Pakistan, mostly in areas of frontier management. The language of The Wandering Falcon is beautiful, particularly for the heart and humanity so evident in the stories being told. Highly recommended.

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Source: Publisher.
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Coop by Michael Perry – Book Review

Coop by Michael Perry
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of Harper Collins

After spending his early life growing up on a farm, Michael Perry has returned, this time with his step-daughter and pregnant life. The family’s aim is relative self-sufficiency, or at least living from their land – and Perry’s writing work. His wife Annaliese, who plans to deliver the baby at home with the help of a midwife, will be homeschooling their daughter Amy (theoretically they are both doing it, but in practice it is largely Annaliese), and all of them will be working to get their farm working again. Pigs and chickens populate their lives, as Perry recalls his youth on a nearby farm and the lessons it has taught him, and those he has still to learn, about his adult life.

“Coop” has the feel almost of being Perry’s diary, or a recording of his thoughts over this year of his life. He travels effortlessly between the past and the present without being overly obvious about where he is going, but also while managing to give the reader a roadmap to what is happening when. It was this highly effective subtlety that really impressed me about “Coop.” Perry’s remembrances of his past always tied in with what was going on in the present, as might be expected with the diary or journal feel that “Coop” had, but he never belabored the point. Instead, Perry gives his readers the tools necessary to make the connections and he trusts them to do just that, not even titling his chapters. And you know what? It worked. I got the themes, I understood the trains of thought, and I felt that Perry respected me as a reader by not explicityl spelling every last thing out for me. He is also brutally honest about his life and hardships and is always hardest on himself without being obnoxiously self-deprecating, which is hugely attractive in this sort of memoir.

The chicken report: Perry had both laying hens and meat hens. I’m really only interested in the former, I have no desire to butcher my own meat. I loved his love of the chickens, and his descriptions of their personalities. I thought he walked the line between loving the birds and not becoming too attached very well and, even more impressively, he helped his young daughter do the same.

Perry seems to respect me as a reader and, as such, I respect him greatly as a writer. This is not the world’s fastest read, but it is a book worth taking your time with; I definitely recommend it if you are interested at all in the life of a man and his family returning to the farm.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

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 Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle – Book Review

The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle
Published by Avon A, an imprint of Harper Collins

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.
Misquoted from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”

Living the life you’ve imagined is something that may be easier said than done, at least that is what Anna, Cami, Maeve, and Amy are finding out. Anna and Cami, best friends in high school who have grown apart as they aged, both find themselves back in Haven, Michigan at the same time. Cami’s boyfriend kicked her out after she stole from him to feed her gambling habit, sure she would use his money to win back her own money she had lost. For Anna, the return has more to do with grief than misdeeds. Her beloved mentor, August was killed in a traffic accident while she was talking to him on the phone, and her law firm insists upon bereavement leave, since she’s essentially useless anyway.

As a result of their return – and Cami’s lack of any income – the girls find themselves back in Haven and at the Nee Nance Store, the convenience store run by Maeve, Anna’s mother. Unfortunately, Haven is not one for them. They worry about the letters Maeve has recently been getting from her long-gone deadbeat husband, and the fact that her store is now slated for destruction by Amy’s fiance. As all four women’s lives get increasingly complicated, they must consider whether they are truly living the life they’ve imagined and, if not, what to do about it.

What a rich, messy, and real book Kristina Riggle has written!I was very surprised when she gave one of her characters a gambling addiction, because that isn’t something I’ve seen very often, but she pulled it off beautifully as one of Cami’s character flaws, without overdoing it and making it too seedy, it was just this glorious, real weakness she had, much like Maeve’s weakness for the husband who left her, the draw Anna had to her now-married high school boyfriend, or the formerly-heavy Amy’s fixation on appearance. And by the way, keeping Amy so relateable and giving her so much depth when she could have come across as simply very shallow? Absolutely fabulous.

I think that after “The Life You’ve Imagined” and “Real Life and Liars,” Kristina Riggle is going to be my official go-to for novels about the complications of everyday life. The tragedies that her characters experience are always so real, and never feel simply piled on, and their responses are absolutely true to life, messy, complicated life. What they experience is nothing that can’t be worked through, especially if they do it together, but neither is it something with a simply, pat answer. She leaves the reader with an ending tied up enough to satisfy, but not so much that it becomes unrealistic. Like in life, there are always a few more questions, a degree of uncertainty.

I highly recommend both this and Riggle’s debut, “Real Life and Liars.”

If you pick up a copy of this book, please join us on September 7th and 8th for an online book club discussion right here at Devourer of Book! I will have two copies of “Real Life and Liars” to give away to randomly chosen participants. If you review the book online, please leave a link on the Mr. Linky below.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from the 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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