Where the Dead Sit TalkingWhere the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where the Dead Sit Talking is a moving fictional account of a young Native American foster child. Sequoyah is a 15-year old boy moving into yet another new foster home when we first meet him. As we move through his experiences in and around his new home, Sequoyah shares his difficult early years and a definite hope for his present and future.

I thouroughly enjoyed this novel. I found the prose accessible, but emotionally charged. Even as I discounted this novel for having a protagonist too young for me to share common ground, I enjoyed the characters and the plot. And as with most of my favorite novels there was a glimmer (and sometimes more than that) of hope and humanity in this world.

“People live and die. People kill themselves or they get killed. The rest of us live on, burdened by what is inescapbable.” (p. 1) From the start of the novel, we know we are going to be confronted with death. Not only the death of a major character, but other deaths with varying degrees of impact. The novel is littered with notes about when, where, and how various characters die after their interactions with our protagonist.

I tend toward adult novels. I like adult lives and protagonists. I am not a person who hated high school, but I also am not someone who needs to relive them either. I chose to read this because it was on the Tournament of Books longlist and it was a National Book Award longlist title. So, when the narrator turned out to be a teenager, I figured it would be a quick read and I would be able to mark another one off the list. But, no, this book was not a quick, young adult novel. The narrator has a mesmerizing voice and a credible level of maturity given his background. He does has some naivete about him, but for the most part, it was comfortable passing some time with Sequoyah.

The other characters in this novel were given enough quirk and depth that I felt they were real people. A good example is Mr. Gillis. He is a teacher at Sequoyah’s school. Sequoyah runs into Mr. Gillis several times in the boys’ room. A somewhat sad and lonely individual, but a true human nonetheless.

The plotting on this novel was almost perfect. There may have been a moment or two too slow, but the point of the novel required a somewhat slow burn. The weaving of Sequoyah’s back story, Rosemary’s back story and the current events felt balanced.

I can highly recommend this book to others. I will be looking forward to visiting other titles by this author.

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Reading by candlelight

I may need to stop paying my electric bill periodically.  Every few years, we experience a large enough storm to knock out my power for several hours (or days).  During these hours, I find myself settling into a candlelit atmosphere and opening a new book.  This year, I was fortunate enough to have a copy of Jesym Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing on hand.

The hype around this book was huge.  Everyone was talking about it.  It won the National Book Award, was nominated for a slew of other awards and made my to read list when it was long listed for the Morning News’s Tournament of Books.  It was short listed long before my copy became available at the library , but such is the life of an avid library patron.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a contemporary look at impoverished life in the southern United States.  At it’s  heart, it is a tale about a dysfunctional African American family struggling through life.  Leonie is a drug-addicted mother living with her parent waiting to reunite with her children’s father.  Jojo is a 13-year-old trying to find his place in the world; simultaneously being a child and raising his 3-year-old sister.  Mam and Pop, Leonie’s parents have stories to tell as well.  Ward weaves this story together through alternating points of view of Jojo and Leonie with the occasional assistance of a ghost named Richie.

The prose was absolutely lyrical.  My own reading, in a mostly dark living room with the flickering candlelight may have helped make this ghost story even more haunting and emotional.

While the story takes us on a road trip through Mississippi, it is mostly a character-driven story.  The history of all involved is spooned out quietly and revealed in beautiful, if heartbreaking ways.

This was not a long book (285 pages), but it had depth.  My power was restored before I finished the book, but the haunted feelings remained.  I have previously read Dr. Zhivago and Fall on Your Knees by candlelight and both have certainly remained in my good favor long after I closed the covers.  Not to worry, I will continue to pay my bills, but maybe I will remember to unplug once in awhile and read a new book by candlelight.

The Changeling by Victor La Valle

This book was tagged by multiple people as a HORROR book.  I did not find it to be such.  I can see some elements of horror with the supernatural climax, but through the majority of the book, it could easily have been any other story of loss, family and love.  I found this title on the Tournament of Book’s longlist this year.  There were quite a number of interesting titles found there and this was no exception.

I adored the story of Apollo.  From his early entrepreneurial escapades, to his love of hunting books, to his self-confident mantra right through to his full accepting his role as husband and father.  The hunt for his son took so much of the passion he had cultivated in earlier parts of his life and the challenges he faced were like nothing he had ever known.  Who could have known there were so many eerie things in New York?

While I did not love the magical, otherworldly aspects of this father’s search for his missing son, I did find the emotional path to ring true.  This was a cleverly written love story and one man’s understanding of the life-changing power of parenthood.


Book Summary:

One man’s thrilling journey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after seemingly committing an unforgiveable act of violence, from the award-winning author of the The Devil in Silver and Big Machine.

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love. (from GoodReads book page).