Tag Archives: Carolyn

Insurrections: Stories by Rion Amilcar Scott

Short fiction can be an acquired taste; as a reader you have to be satiated by just enough. I have tried to suggest a book of short fiction to my book club but the ladies always scoff and complain that they are left unsatisfied.  They want more time with the characters, more development of the story, more finality than “a prose narrative shorter than a novel” can provide. I can understand the need for more, but a masterful short story collection is at ease with less.

Recently, I was in a book funk; every book I picked up was not right or the story didn’t grab me. That is until I picked up Insurrections: Stories, published by the University of Kentucky Press.  The simplicity of the cover – a flock of birds in flight – and the title, the juxtaposition was striking to me. Mr. Scott held my attention from the very first sentence:

“Walter caught the sight out the corner of his eye one hot July day, and for so long afterward he asked himself what if he had never seen those dangling legs from the balcony above, kicking, kicking, kicking against the open air.” (Good Times).

That indelible image gave me goose bumps and urged me to read on. As I mentioned, I was struck by the title, but the definition escaped me; so I looked it up. By definition, the act of insurrection is a violent uprising against authority or an opposing force which is stifling, throughout the collection characters are “suffering the quiet tragedies of everyday life and fighting for survival” (http://www.rionamilcarscott.com/thebook/).

In the story, “Boxing Day”, a son gauges his father’s mood by the sound and speed of his boxing gloves hitting the bag – from the first sentence the scene is wrought with tension and unease.

“It’s a flapping noise. The louder the sound, the more pissed he’s become. He says every day he punches the bag is boxing day…I would stay out of the basement, away from my punch drunk father and every delusion he’s used to sew himself together, but my mother’s sent me to descend into his Hades to deliver a message” (p. 53).

Scott’s prose is lyrical, authentic, and jarring all at once while he tells the stories of African Americans growing up and growing old in their community where despite seemingly endless hardship, they are resilient. Though bleak and haunting at times, Insurrections: Stories is a portrait of existence; its struggles and its joys.

Formats Available: Audiobook, Paperback, eBook

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies is a dazzling novel, its people and prose are alive from page one. At once intimate and sweeping, this is the story of a marriage of parallel myths.”  – Jess Walters, author of Beautiful Ruins

I enjoy literary fiction, I do. I admire writers who play with language and skillfully take ordinary circumstances and create extraordinary, enviable moments where the reader is lost in the novel’s world. Lauren Groff has written such a novel. Her third novel, Fates and Furies, examines a marriage of a dynamic couple as they navigate their way through the peaks and valleys of their relationship, and it is magical.

Fates and Furies is a dazzling novel, its people and prose are alive from page one. At once intimate and sweeping, this is the story of a marriage of parallel myths.”  – Jess Walters, author of Beautiful Ruins

fatesandfuries

It is a sweeping epic, a true bildungsroman where the life of its golden hero, Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwaite is laid bare in illustrious detail. His story, his viewpoint, his rose-colored perspective is glorified in “Fates,” and “Furies” illuminates his enigmatic, reserved wife, Matilde (or Aurelie as she is known in childhood). Their relationship is the definition of opposites attract – he is charming, gregarious, and demonstrative where she is quiet, aloof, and damaged. Their personal histories effect and color how they exist and interact with each other; the past is a burden that weighs heavily on their bond.

“Between his skin and hers, there was the smallest of spaces; barely enough for air, for this slick of sweat now chilling.  Even still, a third person, their marriage slid in.” – p. 5

As Jess Walters, observes, ”this is a story of parallel myths.” Lotto sees their marriage as blissful, perfect, and  without hardship despite the years of living on one meal a day or wearing the same  clothes until they turn to rags, because  Matilde  fosters the illusion by borrowing money from his sister without his knowledge. Matilde is resourceful where Lotto expects everything to work out because life has always catered to him. The duality of marriage is exposed through what they hide, what they choose to share, and what they purposefully ignore.

Lotto was born into luxury, love and support in a family that is eccentric and wealthy thanks to his father’s bottled water company, Hamlin Springs. Matilde’s idyllic life in France is shaken by an accident where she is blamed and abandoned to be raised by strangers.  When they meet the attraction is so immediate and intense that they marry within two weeks. Lotto’s friends are envious but skeptical of their fast coupling, yet somehow they make sense together. Both are beautiful, ambitious, intelligent people who are naïve to the challenges of marriage.

This disparity, the dichotomy in their backgrounds, is what makes the novel so captivating.  The reader follows them through twenty-six years of their life together.  Through feast and famine, illness, happiness and sorrow, their love, their lust, and their deep passion for one another never diminishes.

 Formats Available: Audiobook, Paperback, eBook

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch