Author du Jour: Cara Brookins

January 2017. First of all in the behalf of the Books du Jour team, Happy New Year to you. May your eyes get not too exhausted from reading too many books.  Always a risk.  We are kicking off this new year with an amazing selection of new books.

As new know, even though truckloads of books see the light year after year, with each new year the same question remains. On which note to start the year, especially when it begins with the most controversial presidential inauguration ever? On a spirit of celebration? On a serious or mournful note? Is it possible to be chirpy when the anxious making uncertainty of the months ahead already corrupt our present? Some claims that knowing nothing is better. But as a critic, I only find solace in the better understanding of circumstances. Below you will find a selection of books that reflects the concerns of the day.

FinalCover.Rise-smallRise: How a Family Built a House” by Cara Brookins

(Saint Martin Press, pp 320, $25.99)

Here is a book that I expect will make a lot of buzz when it launches in mid January. “Rise” is a memoir of a long and incredible journey of its author, Cara Brookins, a single mother of four, who . . . Before I proceed and tell you what the book is about, I would like to explain why this memoir touches the nerve of a nation more than others of late, such as “Eat, Pray, Love” or “Wild.” These bestsellers have a similar thematic: a lost or troubled soul goes into the world in search of meaning and restoration of a sense of personal fulfillment. “Rise” comes free from the geographical journey. In fact, the story pretty much circles very close to where the author’s life crumbled, Little Rock, AK.

There is a reason for this absence of pilgrimage. “Rise” is about a house. The incredible endeavor of its author to build her own house with her four children. Knowing the symbolic importance of the role of owning a house in the American psyche, Brookins offers a tremendous journey of resilience and recovery in the face of adversity. In this occurrence, three failed marriages with nefarious partners. It will be hard for the readers not sympathize with Brookins’s predicament. Her kids are solid, insightful, naturally tuned in to their dire circumstances and their mother’s dilemma. Though, Brookins’s writing flies off the page with exalting verve, which at times did not give me time to absorb the magnitude of what was happening, her story is deeply compelling.

For those who believe that only a trip to India or a marathon jaunt along the Compostela trail can unlock their life issues, they should be reminded that a home is also where one builds or rebuilds it. Expect Brookins’s “Rise” to teach you that.

Author du Jour: Ariel Leve

An-Abbreviated-Life-hc-SmallAn Abbreviated Life
by Ariel Leve
($26.99, 274 pages)

 If you think you had it rough in childhood, think again. Once in a while a memoir shows up and has a way to turn your insides out. “An Abbreviated Life” is not for the faint of heart. Ariel Leve portrays perhaps the most pervasive aspect of childhood, hers in this case, growing up with unstable parents, in this case, a parent — her mother, who she describes as “ a poet, an artist, a self-appointed troublemaker and attention seeker.” In other words, a brutal cocktail guaranteeing to lead to shaky foundation and to make the rooms spin.
And instability is what Ariel confronts on a daily roller-coaster of emotional tug of war dance. The most harrowing aspect of her memoir is when she recognizes that her own life, years after her mother’s death, is still been impacted by the relationship. Sound familiar? Who has not, you may say? Leve’s gripping tortured confessions are not sentimental catharsis, aimed at coaxing the reader or even giving them an insight into the horror of an warped childhood. Though the memoir take you to the edge of the unbearable at time when you have to take a deep breath before flicking the next page, it is also an honest investigation of trauma. How to be  knowing that life could have been otherwise but has molded you in a way that entrapped you and this with complete awareness? If your heart does not break at this stage . . . nothing will. This testimony makes a great argument for parenting licensing.

Author du Jour: Leigh Stein

Land-Enchantment-smallLand of Enchantment” by Leigh Stein
Penguin Random House
($22.00, 212 pages)

Set in the New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment,” is a riveting coming-of-age memoir about young love and its impact. The story opens with the author receiving a phone call from her brother to tell that her ex-boyfriend, Jason, has been killed in road accident. Jason’s death causes our protagonist to recall the difficult life they shared together and forces her to contemplate tough questions while grieving. How is it possible to fall in love with someone who causes so much pain? Why is it so hard to walk away from this type of love? How can love be so destructive? The engaging memoir traces the psychological evolution of an abusive relationship, while raising larger issues. Why are the women who step forward so often shamed and bullied?