Books and stories with strong, influential, or missing father figures

Image: Pixaby

Fatherhood is a powerful theme in literature and what better day to look at some of the strong, influential or missing father figures in these titles:


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A story full of great characters, including Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a young blind girl in Paris, whose entire world revolves around her father. This Pulitzer Prize winning story embraces important themes, and a plot that’s a wonderful mix of reality and fairytale. Set during World War II in the walled coastal city of Saint Malo, France. Check it out – one of my all-time favorite books!


Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow

Billy Bathgate is a fifteen-year-old boy from the Bronx who becomes a protégé of the notorious Dutch Schultz, a hot-head New York mobster who made his money during the 1930s running beer and controlling the numbers racket. Published in 1989, this book won both the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The 1991 movie stars Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Loren Dean, Bruce Willis, Steven Hill and Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire).


Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

This novella, a little over one hundred pages, is really a character sketch of Holly Golightly and her search for a father figure. If you have only seen the movie starring Audrey Hepburn, read the book to get a better understanding of what Holly is all about. For the record, Truman Capote was not happy with the movie version. He wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Holly, and was dissatisfied with all aspects of the film.


I Refuse by Per Petterson

A grim story about a lost friendship between Tommy Berggren and his boyhood friend Jim.   It begins when, after thirty-five years, the two meet unexpectedly on a bridge near Oslo, Norway.

Petterson’s narration then jumps back to 1962 when Tommy is thirteen. His mother has abandoned them and the father regularly beats Tommy and his three younger sisters.  Everything changes when Tommy takes a bat to their father.  On their own, the children are sure they can manage.  But the siblings are separated when town officials send them to be raised in different homes.


Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Historical novel about the charismatic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, his creative style and innovative designs and his failed marriage to Catherine Tobin, whom he deserted (along with six children) to continue an affair with Mameh Cheney, the wife of a client. He created many amazing houses, but his personal life was a mess.


Onion John by Joseph Krumgold

Everything changes the year Andy Rusch turns twelve.  Until then, being a kid was easy in the 1950s.  And in the small New Jersey town of Serenity, baseball, friends, school and helping out in his dad’s hardware store fill Andy’s days.  Then one day, he befriends the town’s hermit, Onion John.

Mr. Rusch has big plans for Andy, including college at MIT and he doesn’t approve of the friendship.  He wants Andy to get out of Serenity and be the first man on the moon. Andy wants to please his father, but whose dream is it?


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

There is no stronger father figure than Atticus Finch. Set in 1935, in the fictional town of Macomb, Alabama, Harper Lee writes of people and family, of prejudice against blacks, of judgment and justice, of lost innocence, and of heroes.

Young Scout Finch gives an insider’s view into the complicated relationships that exist between blacks and whites, between the poor and the poorer, and between the educated, the illiterate and the ignorant. Forget how Atticus is portrayed in Go Set a Watchman. That book should never have been published. It’s obvious to me that Harper Lee was trying out, and revising characterizations in what is clearly a rough draft for To Kill a Mockingbird. Read my full opinion of Watchman here.


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Is there a god in a world that is nearly destroyed and left covered in gray ash, dotted with wanderers and hunted by people who stop at nothing to survive? How does a father keep hope alive in his young son, except to say that they are the “good guys”, the ones who carry the fire? “This is what the good guys do,” he tells him. “They keep trying. They don’t give up.”


“The Year of Getting to Know Us” by Ethan Canin

A great short story about an adult son who visits his dying father in the hospital. Lenny, now middle-aged, forces himself to tell his father not to worry, that he loves him and that his father did all right by him. These words are met with the type of shut-down that plagued his small family during his childhood: “Don’t talk about things you know nothing about.”


When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Nathan and Flora McCann have no children. That was their arrangement. But when Nathan goes duck hunting and finds an abandoned baby boy in the woods, his life changes in unimaginable ways. “I want to adopt that boy,” says Nathan, but his wife does not want a child…

I enjoyed this book very much, which takes many unpredictable turns. The author does a great job highlighting the contrast between bad choices and the need to be loved.


What books can you add to the list?

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The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

The Lincoln Lawyer
by
Michael Connelly

Rating:

Mickey Haller has a big problem. As a criminal defense attorney, he works the system to get his clients the best deals, no matter the offense. He doesn’t ask if they did their crimes because it doesn’t matter. Admit to this, get a lesser sentence. Say you did this and avoid the death penalty. That’s his job and it pays the bills, usually. But deep down, he wonders if he could tell if one of them was truly innocent. The words of his famous lawyer father, a man who died before he could know him, echo in his brain, “There is no client as scary as an innocent man.” Haller is about to find out.

Haller’s office is the back of a Lincoln, driven by Earl Briggs, a former client who is paying off his legal fees. Briggs drives his boss from LA courthouses to area prisons and everywhere in between, meeting with biker gang leaders, drug dealers, and prostitutes. His two ex-wives still like to help him:  his case manager, Lorna Taylor and prosecuting attorney Maggie McPherson, mother of their young daughter, Hayley.

Everything changes when Haller picks up a new client, Louis Ross Roulet. Roulet is the son of the rich and powerful real estate mogul Mary Alice Windsor and he is sitting in a holding cell, arrested for assault against a woman he picked up at a bar. This case could solve many of his financial troubles.

The injuries to Reggie Campo and the evidence point to Roulet, but he claims innocence. Was it a set-up? Something from an older case nags Haller. His private investigator, Raul Levin begins to uncover the evil truth which will put Haller and those around him in great danger. Haller will have to use all his tricks, in and out of the courtroom, to keep his family safe.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a swift-moving and entertaining legal crime story, full of personality and fun details. Fans of Michael Connelly books will enjoy the brotherly connection between Haller and Harry Bosch, who share the same father. While they don’t meet up in this book, the relationship adds to Haller’s back-story.

While I liked the story and the characters, I was disappointed with a few plot twists that remain tangled and unexplained, and I wondered why Connelly introduced them. Connelly is a talented story-teller, however, and I look forward to reading more of both the Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch books. I recommend The Lincoln Lawyer to readers who like entertaining legal stories – a definite vacation read! I’m also looking forward to watching the movie starring Matthew McConaughey soon.


I read this book as part of my
Build a Better World 2017 Summer Reading Challenge



Want more?  I enjoyed Echo Park by Michael Connelly – check it out here.

Have you read The Lincoln Lawyer or watched the film? What did you think?

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
by
Frederik Backman

Rating:

Elsa is having a hard time being different. She’s seven years old, gets beat up at school and her only friend, Granny has just died. Granny was the only person who made Elsa feel safe and important with her fairy tales from the Land-of-Almost-Awake, where battles are fought and heroes are made. Now Elsa feels angry and lost, unsure of what to do with the last thing Granny gave her, a letter and a key to deliver to a mysterious tenant in their building, The Monster.

What follows is a story within a fantasy world in which Elsa goes on a treasure hunt, delivering letters to the people in her building and learning more about her grandmother, whose mysterious and demanding career as a surgeon kept her away from home and largely absent from Elsa’s mother’s life. The tenants in the building are equally mysterious and quirky, but they all have a history with Granny, who rubbed many people the wrong way with her nonconformist ways.  As Elsa learns more about her neighbors, she begins to see that Granny’s secrets represent many heroic and unselfish acts of kindness, all with a price, however. A threatening enemy also lurks in smoky shadows and Elsa will need all the help she can get from her neighbors.

I’m not sure how to categorize this book. In many ways, it seems to be a children’s book, written in a third-person narrative, but with a child’s perspective and wholesome themes of courage, friendship and love. And although the story also deals with more adult themes of death, divorce and loss, most of the plot takes place in the Land-of-Almost-Awake, with characters from Elsa’s real life stepping in and out of that world.

I had a little trouble with this structure. As an adult reader, I was less interested in learning about a brand new fantasy land, a little bit like Narnia and with many references to Harry Potter’s world. Six kingdoms with similar names and an abundance of fairy tales and characters made note-taking a tedious requirement. In addition, while the story is mostly fantasy, young Elsa’s improbable precocious character doesn’t fit in the real world. Her vocabulary and insight represent someone way beyond seven (almost eight) years. The author also includes a great deal of repetition, presumed to help the reader understand the characters. Okay, perhaps if it’s a children’s story, but adding unnecessary pages to an already complicated tale.

But the message that “nothing really ever completely dies. It just turns into a story” is a nice way to teach children how to cope with loss and equally nice is the story’s conclusion that “…if a sufficient number of people are different, no one has to be normal.”

I recommend My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry to Harry Potter fans and fantasy readers who like quirky characters and happy endings.

I know lots of people loved this book. I struggled with it. What did you think? Do you think book ratings should represent a book reviewer’s personal taste?

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Her by Harriet Lane

Her
by
Harriet Lane

Rating:

Nina Bremmer has it all. She’s sleek and sophisticated. Her painting career is successful. Her marriage is solid and all is good with her teenage daughter. Their upscale London home reflects a perfect life. But nothing is at it seems because no one can get away from a painful past.

Strange and dangerous emotions surface when Nina sees Emma Nash in a park. As Nina watches Emma from a distance, she’s sure this is who it is, so many years later. She doubts Emma will remember and that’s good. It’s Nina’s perfect chance to make things right. Right in her own head, that is.

It’s not easy to review a psychological suspense story, because the reading experience of a book like this depends on knowing nothing at the beginning and learning a little bit at a time. Her is a twisted story of one woman who stalks another, messes with her family and plans an unnamed revenge. The reader is along for the ride, unable to stop the process.

Harriet Lane has a clean writing style and is very good at describing people and relationships. She chooses her details carefully and makes it clear what is important to know and remember. Tension builds slowly as she reveals the history, bits at a time, between Nina and Emma. Lane makes the reader equally uneasy with dangerous settings, as Emma is unknowingly manipulated.

Both Nina and Emma tell their story, in alternating chapters that describe the same events. In this style, Lane shows how different, and dangerous perceptions can be. I wanted to corner Emma and tell her to watch out!

Her is a fast read that reaches a dreadful but ambiguous conclusion just as Emma begins to put it all together. While I enjoyed the lead-up, I was a little disappointed with the abrupt finish, as were many Amazon readers. I would have liked more explanation and tie-ups at the end, and that’s coming from a reader who likes open endings. Still, I recommend Her to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers because the characterizations and settings were excellent.

How do you feel about abrupt or open endings?

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What’s in a mystery? Solving the genre

Everyone loves a good story and there’s nothing better than an intriguing mystery. But there are lots of books with the mystery label so how do you define the genre?

In the typical mystery, the main character solves a crime or a series of crimes and the story finishes with a nice tie-in of facts and events. It’s often full of puzzling clues, shady characters and red herrings. Sometimes the characters are amateur sleuths, sometimes they are professional detectives. While some readers like to solve the puzzle ahead of time, others prefer to see the story unfold. Many readers like complex stories, others like a fast-moving plot.



Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
is an excellent mystery crime story about a town hampered by racism.

Mystery writers understand that readers have different tastes, which has led to many subgenres. The cozy mystery takes place in an intimate setting and leaves out the gory details. Hard boiled and noir mysteries are gritty and violent. Procedurals include a blow-by-blow analysis. Historical mysteries (surprise!) take place in the past.


     

Second Street Station and Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy are entertaining historical mysteries set in 1890s New York.

A developing subgenre is the science fiction mystery, which places its characters in a supernatural element. Adding to the list are legal and medical mysteries and comic capers. For those who prefer nonfiction, there are plenty of true crime stories. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is one of the most well-known true crime stories and one that I want to read.

And for readers who like happy endings, there is the romantic suspense in which love and justice conquer. If you like this subgenre, check out Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale.

While these mysteries involve solving a crime, thrillers and suspense come from a different angle – in these the protagonist is in high stakes danger from the very beginning. Many twists and turns propel the reader to an exciting conclusion.


  

If you like medical thrillers, you will enjoy Eating Bull by Carrie Rubin and her earlier book, The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin, which steps into the medical sci-fi world.

No matter the style, writers of all subgenres often create lasting characters that feature in entire series of books. For an avid reader, what’s better than the anticipation of the next story?

In a rut? Expand your scope! Many mysteries include complex characters and dramatic settings and open the genre to readers who might not otherwise venture down the mystery aisle. From classic authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie to modern writers like Michael Connelly, Peter May and Tana French, you are bound to find an exciting story!

Some mysteries and thrillers overlap subgenres, making them hard to label but always great to read!


  

Death in a Red Canvas Chair and Death in a Dacron Sail by N. A. Granger are a little bit cozy and a little bit medical and a lot of fun to read.

In the Woods by Tana French is a psychological crime story with many interesting characters.

Echo Park by Michael Connelly features the recurring character Harry Bosch, also a popular video series on Amazon. Soon I’ll be reading another by Connelly – The Lincoln Lawyer, Book 1 of the Mikey Haller series.

     

If you like dramatic landscapes and complex characters you will enjoy The Lewis Trilogy by Peter May. I’ve read The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man and I’m getting ready to read The Chessmen.

Others I’ve recently read include:

Caught by Harlan Coben
The Fever by Megan Abbott

The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

I’m a novice mystery reader and I’m having fun learning more about the genre. The books I’ve listed represent only a fraction of what’s out there. What type of story do you like? What are your favorites?

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Who’s That Indie Author? Laura Simmons

whos-that-indie-authorAuthor name:  Laura Simmons

Genre:  Fiction – Paranormal Romance

Books:  Little Bits of Karma, Tough Karma: A Race Against Time

      

Bio:  Laura Simmons grew up in northern Virginia and spent most of her career working for various Department of Defense contractors in the Washington, DC area. She has a fascination with all things metaphysical. She enjoys writing paranormal romance stories featuring astral travel, psychic abilities, reincarnation and more. She also loves jigsaw puzzles, bowling, vacationing at the beach with her husband, and studying tarot cards and other types of divination systems.

Little Bits of Karma is her debut novel and focuses on reincarnation.  The minor characters from that book had an adventure they wanted to share, and Tough Karma: A Race Against Time is their story.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  My favorite thing about being a writer is having others read and enjoy the stories I’ve written.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  Selling and marketing my books.

Favorite books:  I have a fondness for time travel and Highlander romance novels. Some of my favorites are, His Enemy’s Daughter by Terri Brisbin, The Devil’s Lady by Deborah Simmons (no relation to me), Another Dawn by Deb Stover, The Clan Graham Series by Suzan Tisdale

Contact Information:
Twitter:  @LauraSimmons37
Website:  littlebitsofkarma.com
Goodreads Author:  Laura Simmons
Amazon Author Page:  Laura Simmons


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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The Lewis Man by Peter May

The Lewis Man
by
Peter May

Rating:

When villagers on the Isle of Lewis discover a perfectly preserved body in a peat bog, officials assume it’s from another time, long gone. They think they are looking at ancient remains, for bog bodies usually date back centuries, if not thousands of years. But when clues point to a violent and more recent death, investigators know they have a murder case on their hands. Is there enough evidence to identify the body and find his killer?

Fin Macleod has quit his police detective job in Edinburgh. The death of his young son, Robbie marked the end of his marriage and now he returns to his Lewis home, hoping life on the island will help.  And hoping, too, that he might fix his broken relationship with Marsaili and become a real father to their son Fionnlagh. Once a detective, always a detective, however, and he soon discovers shocking connections between the bog body and the people close to Fin.  Is there enough time to find the truth before the official DCI from Inverness arrives?

The Lewis Man is the excellent second book in The Lewis Trilogy by Peter May. It begins nine months after the conclusion of The Blackhouse, a gripping and dramatic murder mystery surrounding the death of Fin’s classmate, schoolyard bully Angel Macritchie.

This story is focuses on Tormod Macdonald, Marsaili’s father, who is suffering from dementia and trying hard to hold on to details about both his present and past. Fin is sure this information will help solve the mystery of the bog body.

The Lewis Man is a lot more than a mystery as the reader learns more about the characters from The Blackhouse and the hard life on the islands of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The influence of weather and landscape figures prominently with relentless rain, wind, an imposing sea and the constant shifting of clouds and sun. It’s a beautiful but difficult place to live, yet villagers hang onto their lifestyle and traditions with proud stubbornness.

Fin’s character develops even more in book two, shedding light on the reasons behind his loneliness, his loss of faith and need to find a place called home. As in The Blackhouse, May includes themes of friendship, love and religion and introduces new subjects, including family compromises, obligations and caring for loved ones with dementia.

I enjoyed reading The Lewis Man very much.  Although it’s always best to read the books in order, The Lewis Man could be read independently, as important details from The Blackhouse are clearly explained. It may be harder to understand and appreciate the character development, however, without knowing events and dynamics of the first book. I’ll definitely be reading The Chessmen, the final book of the trilogy and look forward to Fin’s now hopeful search for happiness.

I recommend The Lewis Man to readers who like mysteries set in a dramatic place and stories about characters and their search for happiness.

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Want to start from the beginning? Click here for a review of The Blackhouse.