Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The House of Tommorow

Ah…what a beauty of a book…..

House of Tomorrow, the debut novel by Peter Bognanni, is the story of hearts: broken hearts, damaged hearts, lonely hearts, and disappointed hearts. These hearts are simply gorgeous in their expression: shaky, angry, righteous, and lost.

This is the story of Sebastian, a young man who has lived his whole life in a Geodome with his grandmother, Nana. Homeschooled and isolated, Sebastian is taken in by the Whitcomb family when his grandmother’s health begins failing. An argument over his fascination with the outside world leaves him adrift, and he joins the Whitcombs in their home. At the center of the Whitcomb family is Jared, an angry, frightened young punk-rock wannabe. His sister, Meredith is a girl with a reputation, and their mother, Janice lives in terror of losing a child. The absence of the father/husband is bitterly felt by each family member, and they compensate for his betrayal in isolation from one another, rage, and taking on roles.

Enter Sebastian: naïve, open, and on the brink of discovery. His grandmother has raised him to believe that his destiny is to save the world through the metaphysical teachings of E. Buckminster Fuller, the creator of geodisc architecture. He suspects his destiny is something much less grand. His relationship with each of the Whicombs is full of charm: snarling musicianship with Jared, a tender first romance with Meredith, and as a godsend for Janice, who sees him as a way to pull Jared out of his isolation.

And in the background is Nana, quietly re-creating the world to deal with her sense of loss. Sebastian suspects his grandmother of telepathy, and tries to shield her from his thoughts and deceptions. But he also longs for home and safety as he explores a whole new life. The dichotomy between the two leaves Sebastian touchingly funny, and endearingly lost.

Bognanni has created rich, sorrowful, and fascinating characters. He has a true ear: each character’s voice is as unique as he or she is. Some of the funniest moments of the book come from Jared trying to teach Sebastian to curse.

In the end, Sebastian may not save the world. But as he says, he may have saved just one family. And that is something.

House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
ISBN 978-0-399-15609
Amy Einhorn Books , published by GP Putnam’s Sons
Release date March, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Language of Secrets

The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon is the story of one man’s exploration into his past. Exploring one’s past is a fashionable pursuit, but Justin Fisher’s explorations lead him to the story of another man, another family, and another past entirely.

The novel begins with Justin, his wife Amy and their son Zack moving to the West Coast after a prolonged stay on the East Coast and London. In a moment of nostalgia, Justin visits the graves of his parents, and finds a small grave next to theirs, with his name on it.  The ensuing mystery unravels through the story of two families; point and counterpoint to Justin’s most cherished memories.

Justin’s journey takes its toll on his own family. His wife is baffled and hurt by his withdrawal. Their crisis echoes that of other family, decades past. One crisis is resolved in a horrifying betrayal, one that has consequences far beyond its intended goal. Can one family’s love erase the bitter fruit of years of secrets?

Dixon explores The Language of Secrets in  tautly written, compelling prose. The action moves forward quickly, yet she retains those moments of sun-dappled promise, in both the yesterdays and the present days. She never forgets that people are complex, and their love for each other is more complex still. The expression of that love can lead to joy, or secrets, sometimes simultaneously.

The Language of Secrets
Author Dianne Dixon
Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-53063-7
Tentative Release Date 03/23/10

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One Amazing Thing

One Amazing Thing, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, is just that: an exquisite jewel of a novel. Divakaruni, the award-winning author and poet (Palace of Illusions, Shadowland), has crafted a novel of deep compassion and hope; one that shatters the boundaries of age, experience, and ethnicity.

The story is deceptively simple: Nine strangers are trapped in an Indian Visa Office by an earthquake. Beset by danger, hunger, fear and pain, they each tell the story of the one amazing thing that has happened to them. Each tale, we come to understand, reveals the secret, defining moment of each life. The urgency of their situation causes each person to at last share their innermost self. To be truly seen, at what may be the end of their own personal story.

As the stories progress, the characters are inexorably forced together. The physical space they share shrinks in proportion to the revelations they share emotionally. Finally, they are stranded together on literal and metaphorical life rafts, clinging to hope

Fascinating stories of passion, injustice, loss, and wonder emerge. Interwoven in each is the story of India; her diverse culture, ancient traditions, and enduring identity. But these are ultimately the stories of everyman and everywoman revealed by the hand of a master craftsman. The beauty, the wonderment, and the yearning are universal. Our choice, we see, is in how we use these moments of transformation.

Divakaruni draws her complex characters with a loving hand. We desperately begin to hope for the deliverance of these people. The novel ends with a stunning twist, one that left me longing for more.

The magic of this book resides in the gifts of compassion the characters share. One Amazing Thing may have defined their pasts, but the present moment they share will define their future.
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni will be available from Voice Hyperion Books in February 2010.