Wednesday, August 29, 2012

TLC Book Review - A Cupboard Full of Coats

A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards
Harper Collins, 2011

Format? oversized paperback

Source: TLC Book Reviews
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of A Cupboard Full of Coats from the publisher via TLC Book Reviews in exchange for a review.  The opinions therein are honest, without bias and my own.

Why?  I can get into a complicated family story any day of the week...and this one is about as complicated as it gets.

Cover/Title? Lately, I've really begun to realize just how much of a cover snob I am :( I'm ashamed of this, but Ialso  understand it.  I'm a visual person...I very seldom post without some kind of visual representation of something going on in my post.  I judge books by their covers all. the. time.  This cover reminds me of Fall, my favorite time of the year and even the flowers (which don't normally get my attention) are clothed in cooler hues.  The mango and ginger hint at the West Indian and Montserattian themes of food, culture and family that are found within.

What Now?

I'm happy to pass this one along to someone else who'd like to experience it.  This is a first novel for Yvvette Edwards, and I will be reading her next.
Just leave your name, email and blog address in the comments and I'll announce a winner 2 weeks from today (Wednesday, Sept. 12) :)

Golden Lines

I had succumbed to a moment of weakness, a desire to confess the unspeakable, had believed that somehow this man could deliver me, as if such a thing was possible, as if life had not already taught me that the only person I could ever truly depend on was me, and I felt as angry with myself as I did with him, that I had been stupid enough to believe that anything good could ever come from bringing history into my home.

I thought about my life, tried to think of a single good thing in it, just the smallest reason to want to live, to care enough either way, and found nothing.
It was like every child in that family had had their parents' genes put into a Coke bottle, shook up, and then a separate burst of spray had been collected to make each of them.  They were as different from each other as a litter of kittens.

Berris wasn't a gradual drip drop of rain, an off-and-on downpour.  It was like on a sunny summer's day there had been a sudden thunderclap, followed by a lightning flash and monsoon rain that poured without break, heavy, depressing, persistent, with no end in sight.

She owned this house and he owned her.  The only thing I needed to get my head around was where exactly I fitted in.

But it wasn't just dislike I felt, it was fear, the kind of fear you experienced passing a digi group of bullies when you were on your own.  His eyes had that same look about them that I'd seen in the eyes of bullies, not just threatening, but smug too, like he knew something that gave him power over anyone who was weaker.  It made me feel afraid.

And anyway, Berris never actually meant to hurt me.  If I'm honest, what happened was more my fault than his.  But I don't want you to worry about this.  It's never gonna happen again...

Most things, all they want is a little gentle handling.

I believed in honesty to a point and no further, as much honesty as a person needed to get to where and what they wanted, enough dishonesty to hide what should be kept private, like Family Business.  Lemon was clearing up his past and his honesty was like bleach.  He had been the Pied Piper, the music man.  He'd set the tempo and they'd danced as he had mixed and changed the rhythm, then sat back to watch them pick up and follow the beat.  And he wanted me to forgive him?  I could not.

He buried his face in the bowl of my collar bone, heaving and snorting, adding his wet distress to the rain on my neck.  My body was stiff as he clasped me tight.  And over and over and over again, he just kept repeating, "I'm sorry."

She let him beat me and I made him kill her.

 Jinx is living in London alone.  As an embalmer, she works better with the dead than with the living, including her own young son and his father, her ex-husband.  Painful memories resurface one day when she opens her front door to a man she's known since she was 16.  Lemon was a friend to her mother's lover, Berris...the man who now is in jail for her violent death.  After his own failed attempt at finding and living a normal life, Lemon has returned to confess everything the secrets of the past; what he doesn't realize is that Jinx too suffers as well from living with her own secrets, secrets that have literally eaten her alive from the inside out.  She is a numb shell of the person she could have/should have become.  Over the course of a few days, Lemon bares his soul and forces Jinx to do the same.

What I Liked

The complications - I kept thinking of Toni Morrison again and again and again as I read this book.  The issues are so complicated and so obviously deeply felt/understood by the author that the reader can sometimes feel left out.  I liked this bc I like a book that makes me think...I don't want it to be an easy read or one that is obvious...this book has no chance of being obvious.

Lemon - I had to struggle to keep up with the story it took him 3 days to tell (he himself called it a "long-winded roundabout")...but I wanted to.

The dialect and vocabulary - to be honest I both liked and disliked this aspect of A Cupboard Full of Coats - the cultural voice adds authenticity to this story...a glimpse into the rich life of a culture other than my own, actually a culture within a culture.  But, I did sometimes feel left out...and especially with Lemon's dialect and choice of words, I had to re-read sections and searched for context clues where many times there actually were none.  I actually used Google searches several times to familiarize myself with words like "digi," "sorrel," "Dunlop plimsolls," "poofter," "jingbang," "cassava," "christophine," "sabaca," and "shebeen."

The coats and their symbolic meaning...I didn't get it at first but when it hit, not an excited, loud "WOW!"...just a quiet introspective "wow"...a quite effective piece of imagery to say the least.

Jinx's son's connection to her mother was another piece of strong vine that holds this story and the Jinx's inability to be a mother to her own child together.  Jinx's lack of maternal feeling toward Red and            was actually unbelievable to me until the story circled back around...and it's not like me to believe actions like these.  Another wow moment.

What I Didn't Like

The ending - things worked out a little too nicely for me...granted there's a lot of story left to be told...but still. These are seriously damaged people who are struggling with very deeply ingrained issues; then within the last few pages, the sun comes up and everything's ok.  Huh?

Berris - duh, he's an could anybody like him?  Except for the woman he's abusing.

Sam - I am still not sure what her significance is to this story...I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Curry - there's a lot of it in this story...and I don't like it :P  Jinx finds comfort in the smells of home and hearth but it was difficult to appreciate her comfort when my own personal aversion is so strong :/

This is one of those stories that unpeels itself in unsystematic ways...questions didn't always get answered when I needed them to and a few times I felt as if I didn't have enough information to figure out what in the world was going on or why Jinx acted the way she did.  I actually found one post-it note about midway through the story where I simply wrote "huh"?

I don't mind switching back and forth in time, but I swear I felt like there was another part to this story, one that began during Jinx's childhood, that I missed completely...there's has to be some connection somewhere with Sam, but I never got it.

Overall Recommendation

If you like family sagas including painful, hard to read sometimes, issues, then you'll like this one.  Don't expect a happy, sunny ending though; if you need everything to work out like a Cinderella story, this isn't your read.  It's quite dark at times, but it's supposed to be.
Other Stops on the TLC Review Tour

Monday, August 20th: M. Denise C.
Tuesday, August 21st: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, August 28th: BookNAround
Wednesday, August 29th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, August 30th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Tuesday, September 4th: Shall Write
Wednesday, September 5th: Book Dilettante
Thursday, September 6th: My Bookshelf
Monday, September 10th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Wednesday, September 12th: Chaos is a Friend of Mine
Monday, September 17th: A Book Geek

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Bookish Confessions :)

Love these lists over at The Broke and the Bookish each week :) I needed a silly list today as we prepare for an approaching Hurricane Isaac :p

1. I write in my books - I have all my life.  I can go back later and see what I was thinking when I read it the first time :):) Lately, though, I've learned to use post-it notes in my books.  I can make comments all I want, yet if I loan the book or give it away, I can just remove the post-its! Yay me!

2.  I'm a hoarder.  Not like those people you see on tv...yikes!  But, I really do have books in every home in my house.  There are even books in one of our bathrooms.  Seriously, the only room that does not have any books in it is the laundry room...although, now that I think about it, that would be a good place for a DIY bookshelf ;)

3. I'm one of those weird people who loves the smell of old books - stacks at college library - stress relief - When I was in graduate school, I used to escape to the stacks...sometimes I would just sit there and think.  When I'm in the stacks, I feel surrounded and protected by a large tight knit group of old friends :) 

4. I re-purchase books I've read in paperback, ebook or audiobook formats :(  Please don't tell my husband.  He doesn't say much about all my books...except when we move and there are bazillions of boxes marked "books"...but to know that not only do I buy books, but I also re-buy them would give him lifelong ammunition to use against me in future budget wars.
Shhhhhhh...what happens in the bookstore, stays in the bookstore ;)

5. I cannot, cannot watch a movie made from a book if I haven't read the book first.  If I accidentally commit this crime, I feel guilty.  Yes, I'm a little OCD; why do you ask?

6.  I'm mean to movies made from books.  I'm sorry...I'm not a mean person, but geez the book, make the movie.  Book fans don't show up at the movie bc they want to see a different, poorly acted version.  Slapping my head.

7. I don't have many DNF's bc I feel I owe the book to read until the last page in order to give it a chance to woo me.  I also don't have many DNF's though bc I choose my books carefully.  I don't take on books I'm not sure I'll be interested in bc there are Puh-lenty that pique my interest.  

8. I'm obsessive and naive when I get involved in giveaways, I just about do my own self in...I want everyone to in a package selection, I usually give it all away...then it takes me a month to get it all shipped :(

9.  I have some form or version of a variety of books with me everywhere. I. go.  I cannot waste precious reading time...even if it's just 10 minutes in the pick up line at my youngest daughter's elementary school.

10.  I have no idea how long my Amazon WishList is...I peruse it and discover "new" books all the time.

Fun list this week!! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Salon - The I Hate Hurricanes edition

It's been another difficult week here along the MS Gulf Coast and its surrounding communities.  We've been watching this approaching storm with first denial and now with this morning's projections showing us right in the path of landfall "wild ass guesses" as one of my friends described the Jim Cantore and friends show, with our heads hung low.
7 years ago we had our fill.  The rest of the world thinks Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans...and she did, no doubt.  New Orleans still has not recovered, and I'm honestly not sure she ever will.

But, sisters and brothers, Katrina also hit the MS Gulf Coast.  Some areas along our small coastline were obliterated.  Literally.  The highway along the MS coast is not and never will be the same.  To this day when I drive that highway, I'm sad...the first beach I saw as a little Missisissippi girl was at Biloxi Beach.  It will also never be the same.  It took years to clean everything up, and some things couldn't be cleaned up.  People did lose their lives, and some lost everything but their lives. 
Katrina traveled from Biloxi right up HWY 59N, right past my house about 90 miles from her landfall, and it was no fun.  No. damn. fun.

Please excuse my language as I gird my loins before making the mandatory trip to a chaotic Wal-Mart this afternoon, where I feel sure there will be no canned goods, bread or bottled water to be had and a bunch of post traumatic stress disordered people running around like chickens with their heads cut off. 
I don't wish this storm on anyone...we had no electricity for at least 2 weeks in our community, there was no gas, and many places had no water for as long or longer.  The heat and humidity here this time of year are you can imagine no AC, no water and sweat + an onslaught of evil lovebugs that stuck to everything and everybody...honestly, I still find the evil things in my garage from time to time...dead from 7 years ago. :p  My husband says this is not scientifically possible (he was a biology major), but I don't care about science (I was an English major). 
During Katrina, our home was tree brushed up against the garage side of our new home...but others were not so lucky.  Trees were across roads, neighbors were trapped in their homes or left homeless, and the police force instituted mandatory curfews.  We couldn't even get a cell phone signal for 2-3 days...I remember feeling like we were in a war zone, shut off from the rest of the world.  As I'm typing this, I vividly remember getting the first cell phone signal, sitting in my den on the 2nd night in pitch black darkness...bc you haven't seen dark until you're sitting in a blacked out town in the middle of the night when even law enforcement is struggling to survive just like everybody else.  Talk about a scary feeling.

The one thing our community had and still has is small town community folks who take their responsibilities towards each other seriously.  Make fun of us small town Southern Mississippi folks all you want, but I witnessed men firing up giant cookers and feeding anybody and everybody from the freezers at our community college.  Community people brought their own meat and threw it on the morning the cafeteria workers showed up to set up portable skillets heated by fire and cooked bacon, sausage and pancakes for again anybody who needed it.  It was the same way in people's homes; if somebody had a fire, all you had to do was show up.  There are lots of hunters in our area. so most folks had freezers full of meat that was going to spoil.  Instead, they cooked it all and gave it away.


Neighbor after neighbor showed up with chainsaws and tools to dig folks out and fix roofs so that everyone had a place to stay. Many, many, many people rode around with ice and water...things they had for their own families and shared with others who did not have enough...even people they didn't know.  Churches threw open their doors, hooked up generators and gave the facilities over to anyone who needed a place to stay, as did our college campus. 

Was it all perfect?  No, there were a few scary incidents (there will always be those who resort to idiocy when things get tough), but even in those situations, the hooligans learned pretty quick that as generous as our community could be, stealing would not be tolerated...thieves found themselves staring down the wrong end of a shotgun and quickly re-thinking their plan. 
"All they had to do was ask." 
That's a quote from one man who caught some doofus heads trying to steal meat from a cooler on his porch. Once you sneak around and steal, you quickly become a threat to the family and that's even more sacred to a small town Southern fella or gal than the overall community.
I'm sure you've heard the Hank Williams Jr. song "A Country Boy Can Survive"...go ahead and cue it now...if you haven't, you should.  It always brings a sense of pride to me about my home state...we take a beating on a lot of things in this country, but taking care of ourselves and each other has never been a problem.

My sweet husband bought us the biggest baddest generator he could find after hurricane season was over that couldn't find one anywhere for months during Katrina's season...and we crank it from time to time to make sure she works.  We'll be sure to keep things charged this week and the house cooled as much as possible in preparation for the worst, should the worst occur again :(
I'm going to try not to worry too much though...because I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world if we have to go through this again.