‘The Glorious Heresies’ by Lisa McInerney

glorious-heresies-mcinerneyLisa McInerney’s first novel The Glorious Heresies is by far one of the best novels of the year. An epic story that spans the life of a few tormented individuals, The Glorious Heresies is a cinematic experience of firsthand addictive relationships to love, drugs, and crime.

At first, McInerney’s novel seems to be a collection of oddly, unrelated storylines. You have Maureen, an older woman who has apparently committed murder. Then you have Ryan, a fifteen-year-old boy that at first just seems to have an infatuation with a girl, but that we quickly learn also has an active history of drug dealing. There’s Tony who cleans up the murder Maureen committed, and Jimmy, the thug of all thugs. Finally, there’s Georgie, a runaway teen turned prostitute who is in an addictive relationship with her pimp.

Following these characters for the first thirty pages it seems like there’s no connection between their narratives, until the weavings of McInerney’s words begin to hold together in a way the reader at first hardly realizes. Suddenly, murderers become mothers, and cleaners become fathers, drug dealers become sons, and the murdered go from the unknown to an intimate, sometime-acquaintance in the memory of a single character’s mind.

McInerney’s prose is more than poetic, it brings an otherworldly sense of beauty, charisma, and depth to a text already imbued with powerful content. A book that starts off a bit slow, somehow picks up enough speed to careen the reader through years of the characters’ lives, until the end of the novel, when you’re relieved to learn, the sequel The Blood Miracles was released in April of 2017.

First published in 2016, The Glorious Heresies was acquired by Tim Duggan Books in 2017 and published with an added Reader’s Guide to accompany the novel. You can purchase a copy of The Glorious Heresies at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘These Heroic, Happy Dead’ by Luke Mogelson

these-heroic-happy-dead-mogelsonThese Heroic, Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson is a collection of stories that unearth the unending terror of war.

Each story follows a protagonist that has had some experience with war, whether a veteran, the mother of war hero turned criminal, or simply someone who knows someone who was once in the war. Though Mogelson does not stick with a single character or plot point, the stories are connected through the emotional verve in which they are steeped. Each character, though unique, shares with every other the universal burden of war, of having seen death or been close enough to feel its effects on someone they love.

Some of the most poignant stories are those that don’t fit into the reader’s inklings of what will happen. In To the Lake, it seems almost too obvious where the story is going, but somehow in the last page, the last paragraph, even the last sentence of the story, Mogelson turns the entire narrative on its head, and what the reader was sure was going to happen is transformed into a completely different representation.

Perhaps the one largest critique of These Heroic, Happy Dead is the profusion of gendered stereotypes throughout the collection. Women only appear as widows, mothers of the main character, or ex-lovers who have fallen out of love with the wounded who have come home. No woman is a main character with her own story unattached to a male. Now woman is a soldier herself or has a validated set of experiences that makes the reader want to know her better.

Nonetheless, These Heroic, Happy Dead is a collection of stories wrought with emotion and dripping with a pervasive sense that something needs to change, that war is not glamorous, and that the damage is brings cannot outweigh our urge as humans to both fight and protect.

Published by Tim Duggan books in June of 2016, These Heroic, Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson is available for purchase at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘The Mortifications’ by Derek Palacio

mortifications-palacioA family saga that spans the depths of love, loss, birth and death Derek Palacio’s The Mortifications is a beautifully heartbreaking novel.

The Encarnacion family once owned a tomato farm in Cuba during the 1980’s revolution, but Soledad, the family’s mother, one day decides that the revolution and her husband are not good for her two children, and so she decides to move to Hartford, Connecticut.

The Mortifications follows each of the four Encarnacion family members, Soledad, Uxbal and their twin children Ulises and Isabel. Torn apart in the throes of the revolution and separated by thousands of miles of sea and land, the children and Soledad begin a new life in Connecticut while Uxbal remains a mystery. Eventually the family comes to find each other again through strange coincidences, tragedy, and devotion.

Palacio does a magnificent job of telling a very heart wrenching story in a distant manner, as far removed from the pain as the characters themselves often are. Every line feels like poetry and the emotion of the text swarms above the words, yet the reader is often unable to touch it. This mode of delivery creates a certain ambience that makes the reader feel trapped, suffocated, desperate, which are the exact emotions that each of the characters experience as they attempt to forget, repair, and eventually move on in their lives.

A beautiful and eye opening expression of Cuban-American literature and the harsh realities of revolution, The Mortifications by Derek Palacio is a worthwhile read. Released by Tim Duggan Books in October 2016, The Mortifications is available for purchase at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Chronicle of a Last Summer’

chronicle-of-a-last-summer-rashidiYasmine El Rashidi’s first novel, Chronicle of a Last Summer, tells a story of power, loss, and survival in Egypt during times of deep political unrest. The main character, an unnamed narrator, speaks to the reader from three different summers of her life: 1984, 1998, and 2014.

Chronicle of a Last Summer begins when the narrator is a young girl. The reader can sense this not only because of her more naïve thought processes, but also because of her short, terse sentences, and overall ignorance of larger issues going on around her. There is mention of divisiveness among Egypt and Israel, as well as a pervasive feeling that the government is not the most positive entity. However, these ideas never quite become fully teased out. We know that her activist father, Baba, has recently disappeared, and the narrator is left with her depressed and dejected mother who spends the majority of her time on the phone or in front of the television.

We come back into the narrator’s life while she is a film major at a local university. In 1998 the narrator begins to explore ideas around what it is to be human, what happiness means, and the activism rampant in Egypt at the time. There is significant maturity that happens over the first fourteen-year gap in the narrator’s life. Her thoughts become more fully developed, and Rashidi’s sentences go from being short, poetic bursts of thought to longer, more lyrical strands of philosophical musing.

During the narrator’s last summer, unexpected events pull the reader into a whirlwind of action previously missing from the novel. Though still a very intellectual and philosophical section, the last portion of Chronicle of a Last Summer is where we see the bulk of action take place. This section is also filled with the greatest sense of hopelessness and despair. Though these feelings pervade the story in the earlier sections, they are offset by the narrator’s youthful and, at least somewhat more, optimistic outlook which becomes diluted with time and experience.

Activism and politics play a large role in Chronicle of a Last Summer: particularly the idea of observation rather than direct participation in relation to activism. The narrator brings up this idea multiple times, questioning whether mere observation should be equated with complicity. Hand in hand with the political upheaval that sets the background of Rashidi’s novel comes the censorship, discrimination, and criminalization of activists standing for a just cause. Throughout all of the hardship though, comes the pervasive sense of place that ties the narrator, her family, and the activists of Egypt to their homeland.

Chronicle of a Last Summer is a beautiful and interrogative book that delves into the deeper subjects surrounding politics, activism, and a person’s roles and duties in society. A masterfully composed and artfully vetted novel, Chronicle of a Last Summer is one of the most relevant books of our time, not only for Egypt, but for every person wrapped up in their own country’s politics.

Published by Tim Duggan Books in June of 2016, Chronicle of a Last Summer is available for purchase at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.