Local Book Reviews
Reviewing Midwest Authors
I picked this book up at Content, an independent bookstore, located in downtown Northfield. If you find yourself in Northfield, it is worth the stop. I can't recommend this bookstore enough. They have a wide selection of books, and they highlight local authors. They have a beautiful children's section, too. I was excited to find this book, by Minnesota author, Nigar Alam. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, she is now a teacher at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Since, I lived almost ten years in Afghanistan, I always enjoy reading novels that take place in Central Asia.
This book grabbed my interest because of the focus on Partition that occurred in 1947 which created the nation of Pakistan as we know it today. The boundary lines that were drawn between India and Pakistan were created regardless of ethnicities. This created a large scale loss of life and massive migration when people found themselves on the wrong side of the boundary lines.
Under the Tamarind Tree is a dual timeline book that pivots between 1964 and present day. I happen to love the back and forth of dual timeline books. The 1964 story focuses on four neighborhood friends, who were children when the Partition occurred and all four of their families relocated to Karachi, where they built new lives for themselves. Some of them hiding secrets of their pasts that they left behind in India. In 1964, they are no longer children, but emerging adults and their lives are about to take an unexpected turn.
The modern-day story line is told from the perspective of one of these friends, who is now an elderly woman. Her past comes back to haunt her when the granddaughter of Haaris, a friend that she was almost engaged to that she hasn't seen for over fifty years, ends up on her doorstep. The memories she suppressed from a fateful night that broke up their friendship return when the granddaughter, Zara, begins to ask questions.
The strength of this novel is how the author highlights the turmoil the children of refugees face even years later when their families are forced to upend their lives due to government interference. The development of Karachi, the writing style, and how she slowly builds the tension were also strengths. Personally, I enjoyed the 1960's storyline slightly more than the present day story. I would have preferred a different ending, but I was able to appreciate it was realistic based on what had happened.
by Andrea Christenson
The fun part of reviewing local authors is that I may know them. I've known Andrea since we were teenagers. Just yesterday, right Andrea? We share a love of writing and have gotten to know each other a bit better the last couple of years. Today I'm excited to review her new book.
How Sweet IT IS takes place in a fictional town in northern Minnesota set along the shores of Lake Superior. Susan May Warren created this fictional town and then as her books grew in popularity she created an author mentorship program along with a publishing house, Sunrise Publishing. She invited authors to write in the world that she created, expanding the stories available to readers set in Deep Haven.
This is Andrea's fourth book set in Deep Haven, but is her first book in a new series. True to the other Deep Haven Books, this has all the elements of a cozy romance read. Professional baker Robin Fox, leaves her career in Paris, and travels back to her hometown to give her grandparents a much needed break from their jobs at the local bakery. While back home, she runs into her high school crush, Sammy, who didn't see her as anything more than a friend in high school. While that isn't the case now, Sammy is working through some post traumatic stress and recurrent pain issues from a car accident two years earlier. He doesn't know if it is fair to involve Robin in his issues. As their friendship deepens into more than friends, Robin's stent in her home town comes to a close, leaving Robin to begin to question what she really wants in life.
I recommend this book for a beach/vacation read, a lazy Saturday, or to unwind after the end of a busy day. I guarantee you'll fall in love with this quaint town on the North Shore, and who doesn't love a cozy romance filled with sweet aromas and mouth watering breads and cakes. Me! I do!
Andrea Christenson grew up in Wisconsin, but now lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children. You can check out her author blog here.
Author: Kate Laack
With our slide into August you may feel like we are in the homestretch of our carefree summer days. But, maybe you are wanting to find just one more perfect read. In the Shade of Olive Trees captures the power of the friendship of women, lifelong love, and the details of travel throughout the beautiful country of Italy.
The novel starts off with Julia Brooks, who has been jilted at the altar. Julia decides that she's not going to let her ex-fiancé Will take away her perfect honeymoon as well. So she decides to go alone, but she quickly realizes all the romantic getaways and restaurants that she and her ex-finance had planned to visit only stand to remind her of all that she lost.
Then she meets a woman named Harriet, who runs Olive Haven Women's retreat, a center for widows. Through happenstance, Julia finds herself staying with this unlikely group of women. Most of the women, who surprisingly are in all different walks of life, embrace her into their fold and their stories of love, loss, and heartbreak make Julia question everything she'd previously thought was love.
For me, the highlights of the novel were the strength of story and the healing power of friendship. The heaviness of the topic of grief and loss is balanced by the fun and laughter that come from women vacationing together.
Kate Laack, is a Minnesota author, high school English teacher, and this is her debut novel. The book can be found in the local library, Barnes & Noble, and here on Amazon.
Wisteria: Rekindling faith and purpose is a debut novel from Pine Island, Minnesota resident Ginny Graham. It is the story of Angela, who becomes a widow after a tragic car accident kills her husband and two of his friends.
The story follows Angela's journey of rebuilding a new life for herself as she tries and makes her flower shop, Wisteria, a success to be able to support herself now that she no longer has her husband's income.
The friendship between the three women, who all lost their husbands at the same time, and the support group that they created for themselves is a strength of the novel. The novel is classified as Christian contemporary fiction, and we see Angela struggle to reconcile her faith with the loss of her husband. It is not a fast paced story, but for those of you who enjoy stories centered around small towns, small businesses, families, and the friendships of women you will enjoy it.
I interviewed Graham for the News-Record, our local newspaper, and she writes from personal experience. Graham's personal research and fascination with flower decorating comes through strong in the book. She had shared with me that she spent a lot of time popping into flower shops and asking to watch them make arrangements.
She is a widow and she lost her husband after a long battle with cancer. She was left with her husband's small town butcher shop to run until she was able to sell it. Her desire to write the book came from her personal experience with reaching books with widows in them. She could always tell which authors had their own personal experience and which were fabricating what they thought being a widow would be like.
Her book can be purchased on Amazon here: Wisteria: Rekindling faith and purpose
Visit her website: Ginny Graham if you'd like to learn more about her.
Melissa R. Meyers has an obsession with reading and loves to support local authors. This section will contain book reviews of Midwest authors traditionally and independently published.