Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hero's Welcome

Title: Hero’s Welcome
Author: Rosalind Foley
Publisher: Rosalind Foley, 2013
Pages: 239
Genre: Historical Fiction

Corporal Jacques Viator, wounded shortly after D-Day returns to his Louisiana rice farm thinking the war for him is over. His Hero’s Welcome quickly turns into a nightmare when he awakes his first morning home to the sound of German voices. What happens next sets Jacques, his wife Adele, his deaf sister Jeanette, his Cajun Papa and their friends on a rocky journey to forgiveness and peace. In telling their stories Rosalind Foley has reduced war to its most human dimension, showing how it affects the lives of ordinary people on both sides. Before writing the novel she spent two years helping document the until then little-know era when thousands of German POWs were interned in Louisiana.

I must be honest in telling you that I was not expecting to enjoy Hero’s Welcome as much as I did. It’s not my usual cup of tea, but I was pleasantly surprised! Rosalind Foley is my very dear friend’s grandmother. I started this book in support of their lovely family, but I finished it for much more selfish reasons!

I am ashamed to say that I knew little of the German POWs internment in Louisiana, and I have lived in Louisiana my entire life. When I say I “knew little” of it, I knew nothing of it. If this was mentioned in my 8th grade Louisiana History class, I have successfully forgotten it. I thoroughly remember learning of the Japanese internments on the Pacific coast, so it’s strange to think that I would have completely wiped this huge portion of Louisiana history from my mind. Alas, I know of it now.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. I knew it was about southern Louisiana during World War 2, but apart from that I had no idea. (I suppose that’s how it always is when picking up a new book, but humor me.) And while it is in fact about southern Louisiana during World War 2, it goes so much deeper than that. It explores the intricacies of family, marriage, and faith.

Hero’s Welcome required me to decide how I feel about the sanctity of marriage. How much does one tolerate before giving up? It’s lovely to read about a time when giving up was not an option. These were people who loved their marriage and couldn’t give up on the holy bond that it represents. It encourages me to remind people that marriage is not something that we enter into blithely. Because I hope that if and when I am able to marry, I have the sense and the conviction to do it forever. Marriage is truly meant to be forever, and when people decide to enter into this club on a whim it does destroy marriage. So listen (read) well, don’t take marriage lightly. Just don’t.

Onto my next soapbox… This novel implores you to remember that the sins of our government are not our own. We do not choose which battles to fight or which agendas to support. However it also reminds us that it is our duty to support the soldiers who do the fighting. Because most of the time, like us, they didn’t pick which battles to fight. They simply did what was expected of them. It requires us to look at “enemies” and remember that they aren’t all evil. In fact, it would stand to reason that they were simply following orders. I am not trying to say that all “enemies” or “allies” are innocent. It is na├»ve to believe that. But it is also impossible to believe that every one of them is guilty. Sometimes we are forced to remember that pesky gray area! And Hero’s Welcome thrives in that place between black and white.

I highly recommend Hero’s Welcome to everyone. If you know anything about southern Louisiana culture, it is a ton of fun! But that’s certainly not a requirement to understand and enjoy the overall message that is so spectacularly delivered.

Cover: 3/5  
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Individuality: 5/5

The Whole Shebang:  4.2/5

Additionally, I am aware how democracy is designed to operate. We elect representatives who we feel share our beliefs so that they may make decisions for the nation on our behalf. I feel that I may not have explained that thoroughly above, and I chose to add this in separately because it doesn't have much to do with the review. I just want you to know that I know that everyone is responsible for the sins of their government in some regard. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hemlock Grove

Title: Hemlock Grove
Author: Brian McGreevy
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2012
Pages: 318
Genre: Horror

The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.

Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a forbidding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their person fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if the rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia.

At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.

This novel is truly beautiful. Brian McGreevy is an incredibly talented author. The language with which he weaves his story is absolutely exquisite, and I cannot degrade it with my usual trite remarks. Hemlock Grove, in my humble opinion, is a modern-day classic. McGreevy revamps gothic fiction just enough to ensure he is not simply recreating the old but making something entirely new.

McGreevy recounts the unlikely and twisted alliance between Peter Rumancek and Roman Godfrey. Hemlock Grove becomes the hunting ground for an evil murderer not long after Peter, a gypsy werewolf, moves to town. Naturally, suburbanites fear Peter’s nomadic lifestyle. They, as a community, cannot grasp the idea of not having roots or obligations. And it is only natural to fear the unknown and misunderstood. Peter then meets Roman, the severely fucked-up heir to a large fortune, who can make people do what he wants not only because of his last name, but because he is an upir. The pair become linked by their curiosity involving the murders of these young women. They resolve to find the responsible party, and hope to help him recover his sanity. It is their belief that the murderer is simply sick, not evil.

Roman’s sister, Shelley, is by and large my favorite character. It is alluded that she is sustained by phosphorous; not any sort of life force with which she was born, but something gifted to her at the White Tower after her death as a young child. She is incredibly smart with a keen eye for reality. As a fan of the clever use of literary devices, I also greatly appreciate her name. I mentioned that McGreevy revamps gothic fiction. He uses a werewolf, vampire, and zombie (what does one call a creature like Shelley?) to tell his story. It is a lovely work of art.

I highly recommend this novel to everyone on the planet. As I can’t possibly speak to everyone on the planet, my recommendation is limited, but no less heartfelt. If you want to kill book fairies everywhere, don’t read this book. But if you don’t read the book, promise me you will find a way to watch the series on Netflix. It was written and produced by McGreevy, and as such is an almost acceptable substitute. I can only hope that he will write another book because as I said before, the man has a gift.

Seriously, read it.

Cover: 3/5  
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 6/5
Individuality: 5/5

The Whole Shebang: 4.8/5