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Eden: A Novel

by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

Confession, I grew up in the 70’s when books were produced by a few big publishing companies.  This meant there were not as many new books available in a year compared to today where self publishing and indie publishing are very popular.  It also meant, given the expense of publishing and marketing a book, authors tended to be judged and edited by professionals with skills and money on the line.  I love the current world where more than a chosen lucky few can share their wordsmithing skills.  If you follow my other blog, https://newoldgirl.wordpress.com/, you’ll remember I was seriously ill for 17 months and for most of that time I lost the ability to read. Words did not compute, and my short term memory did not work.

Once I regained my health and ability to read, I wanted all the books.  I discovered indie authors and spend more than my share of time reading and listening.  I also have learned that just because you CAN put pen to paper, doesn’t mean you should.  I have not loved every indie project I have read.  Time is short and if I’m not embracing the material, I put it aside and move on.  blog2

That said, I happily declare I loved every second of the audio book, Eden: A Novel.  Written by new author Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, this is a book which moves seamlessly between time.  Blasberg tells the story of a wealthy family going from past to present, generation to generation.  During one moment we hear the intricate details of a young woman, war-time America, moments of indiscretion ….. then fast forward to modern day and see the now-grandmother and her progeny dealing with current life situations.

This method of storytelling can sometimes be confusing to the reader as tracking past and present, and age of characters is complicated.  In Eden, however, Blasberg is so talented, her storytelling is easy to follow.  I wouldn’t label this a casual “beach read” however as the nuances and layers of humanity call the reader to become fully invested; the actions of a grandmother contrasted with her modern-day granddaughter are compelling.  I found myself staying up too late each night because I wanted to know what comes next.

In addition to the clever use of time as a distinct part of the character of Eden, Blasberg utilized location as an integral part of the narrative.  The reader is easily transported between the richness of life in the early 20th century steel town of Pittsburgh and then flows quite naturally to days on the New England beach where the wealthy family vacations through the ages.  The use of a life-changing hurricane was particularly successful as a story telling device and the beach house itself came alive through each chapter of the tale.

Audiobooks are made or broken by the talent of the narrator.  Performance counts and Marnye Young delivered. Every character was easy to picture and she brought them each to life.  Hers is a comfortable voice which helped flesh out the story.  Knowing this is the debut novel for the author, and having never come across Young on an Audible.com book before, I looked her up and was very pleased to see a selection of books she has narrated which I can now enjoy.

I was gifted this audiobook by the author, and am pleased to share this honest review and highest recommendation of Eden: A Novel.  Blasberg is a talented writer and I hope she continues to write.  And write.

 

 

 

 

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

For 17 months I battled a brain injury which left me unable to read, process anything complex, follow plots or retain information. I could only listen to chapter 1 of my favorite childhood book, Alas Babylon, every night as I battled insomnia because I knew that story for 30+ years pre-injury. I was a mess.

Then at about the two year mark, my brain recovered. One of the greatest gifts I received was my ability to read. Believe me, your world becomes hopelessly small when you are unable to escape into the pages of a book and nothing of substance crosses your frontal lobe.

I attempted to restart my book review blog shortly after healed, but I was paralyzed with fear. How could I judge the quality of anyone’s work? What if my brain was still broken and I was incorrect in my opinions or understanding of the material? Who was I to judge anyone’s efforts? After so long with a silent brain, I now even embrace “bad” material because I can. I can follow a plot and care about characters again. Give me something to read, and I will find something to celebrate about it because I’m so joyous to understand words.

So, I’m back to try again, but this time with a goal. I saw this challenge on the internet and thought it a good way to dip my toes back into book reviewing. I’m going to travel the US state by state via books set in each of the 50 states, and DC because she should be one.

My reading speed is much slower than before the illness, but I will make my way across the country eventually.

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I am starting this journey in one of my favorite places in the world – the beach.  “Barefoot” by Elin Hilderbrand is set on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts.  Featuring three women, each with baggage far too heavy to carry, this novel evokes a lot of feels.  I found myself dog-earring pages (a sin for some, but to me the sign of a well loved book) which I wanted to come back and reflect upon.  Although these women are younger than me, I could relate to their troubles – illness, stupid choices, impulsive behavior.  I also fell in love with their community of support they created. In our world of long distance relationships, I yearn for close girlfriends who could put aside daily life and rally around me in a pinch.  blog.jpg

Hilderbrand does an excellent job of weaving the stories together.   Each character is developed enough that the reader can relate to her and root for her, while also making the communal story just as important.  In life we each walk our own journey, and if we are lucky enough, we have a path filled with friends and family who weave their way to our destination with us.  I also appreciated the locale as an important character in itself.  The sounds, smells, visual descriptions of this place of peace reminded me of my own frequent trips to the Jersey shore, and how important the summer feel was to my childhood.

This was my first Hilderbrand book, but it won’t be my last.  I really enjoyed her style and characters.  I read this one versus audio book, my first book purchase from a brick and mortar since getting well!  Because much of the writing hit home with me, I was glad that this was one I could read slowly, highlight and re-read versus the narrator determining the speed for me.

To see more works by this author, please visit: http://www.elinhilderbrand.net/

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If you have suggestions for books set within the US for me to try (including Young Adult please), comment and I’ll check them out.

And to track my journey, please use this link (also found at the top of the blog) to see the map:

US Book Reading Challenge Map