The Gendarme by Mark Mustian – Book Review

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian
Published by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of Penguin

The first thing that caught my attention about “The Gendarme” was the arresting cover. I found it very reminiscent of the National Geographic cover of the Afghan girl, if a slightly less intense gaze. When I read the jacket copy and saw that it was about Turkey and the Armenians in WWI, I was totally sold.

And, although, it was not at all what I expected, “The Gendarme” did not disappoint.

Emmet Cohn was born Ahmet Khan in Turkey at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately, he does not remember much of anything before he woke up in a British hospital during World War I with severe head trauma. He made it to the United States due to the determination of his American nurse, whom he married. After a long life in which he considered himself American first and foremost, Emmet, 92 and recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, has become dreaming again of Turkey. Specifically, he is dreaming of being a gendarme – which is odd, because he is positive he was a Turkish solider, not a gendarme – who is taking a group of Armenians to Syria and is beguiled by an Armenian girl with two different colored eyes, Araxie.

I really enjoyed “The Gendarme,” the way it worked through memory, sins of the past, aging, sickness, duty, and repentance. The two storylines were worked together masterfully, particularly considering there was not always a visual cue of transition. One thing bled into another with ease and occasionally when the transition was overly quick, it was wonderfully evocative of exactly what Emmet must have been going through with his tumor and increasingly frequent lapses between waking and dreams. I adored the uncertainty – shared by Emmett himself – of whether or not we could trust him as a narrator, or whether him tumor and previous head trauma left him unreliable. There were times I felt that I shouldn’t buy the blossoming relationship between Emmett and Araxie, with all of the hardships between them, but Mustian wrote them so compellingly that I had a difficult time not believing their relationship, unlikely as it may have seemed.

In “The Gendarme,” Mustian blends history and the human spirit beautifully. Highly recommended.

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

This review was done with a book received from BEA.
* 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.

29 by Adena Halpern – Book Review

29 by Adena Halpern
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Growing old sucks.

At least that is what Ellie Jerome thinks. She is turning 75, but she sincerely wishes that she wasn’t. She does everything possible to not look 75, and she doesn’t, but looking like she’s in her 50s or 60s doesn’t really do it for her. Ellie wishes she was young and glamorous, like her granddaughter Lucy, a 25-year old fashion designer. At Ellie’s party, when her daughter Barbara can fit only 29 candles on her cake, she decides to make a wish that she really could be 29, if only for one day. When Ellie’s wish comes true, she has no idea just how being young again will change her.

I expected that “29” would be a fun, light sort of book, based on the title and description. And it was, of course, but there was also a surprising amount of depth throughout the book, but particularly in the end. One thing that I thought Halpern did particularly well was to keep Ellie consistent as a 75 year old woman in the body of a 29 ear old. By that, I mean that she kept Ellie in the mindset of a woman raised in her generation, while allowing her a bit of adaptability and keeping her mindset from becoming just a gag.

While it may not be my favorite book I read all year, it was definitely well-written and engaging. Recommended.

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.

The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson – Book Review

The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson
Published by Shaye Areheart Books, an imprint of Random House

Every life is bound to have some regret, and Annabelle McKay’s life is no exception. She loves her husband Grant, of course, but she also loves Jeremiah, a man from her past. Now that Grant and Annabelle’s children are gone, either off to college or married and expecting a child, she isn’t sure exactly what she and Grant are doing together. He’s distant, more interested in his book than in Annabelle. The growing gulf between them leads Annabelle to think more and more about Jeremiah, and what might have been. She promised Grant twenty-six years ago that they would never speak again of what was between her and Jeremiah, but they just may have to confront it sooner rather than later.

I thought this was a very good debut novel. Dawson does a good job weaving past into the present, and developing Annabelle’s character while simultaneously developing the plot. I might have liked to see more depth for the men in Annabelle’s life, but since we were seeing everything from her perspective and she didn’t have a very good grasp on them herself, so it would have been unrealistic for us to have a better understanding of Grant or Jeremiah.

I got frustrated with Annabelle from time to time, because she certainly made some bad decisions, but I also empathized with her to a certain extent, because she often felt trapped by the circumstances of her life. Not trapped in the sense that she had no choices, but trapped in the sense that she was not where she wanted to be and she wasn’t sure that she knew how to change her life.

The writing, characterization, and story were all quite good, but “The Stuff That Never Happened” fell ever so slightly short of ‘love’ for me. I would, however, recommend this for fans of literary women’s fiction.

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.