Book of the Month - April 2018
The Girl Who Smiled Beads
A Story of War and What Comes After
By Clemantine Wamariya
and Elizabeth Weil
This month's Book of the Month Club selections were, again, kind of all over the place, which always makes me happy! I like trying new things! A couple thrillers, a memoir, a historical fantasy and a sci-fi; what more could I ask for to choose from?!
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall (A thriller, BOTM Exclusive):
This is a love story. Mike’s love story.
Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely, life before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job; he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.
It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his e-mails or phone calls. It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.
It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move, he’ll know just when to come to her rescue . . .
A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.
Circe by Madeline Miller (The Historical Fantasy):
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.
Then She was Gone by Lisa Jewell (The other thriller):
Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.
And then she was gone.
Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.
Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?
The Oracle Year by Charles Soule (The Sci-Fi Debut):
Knowledge is power. So when an unassuming Manhattan bassist named Will Dando awakens from a dream one morning with 108 predictions about the future in his head, he rapidly finds himself the most powerful man in the world. Protecting his anonymity by calling himself the Oracle, he sets up a heavily guarded Web site with the help of his friend Hamza to selectively announce his revelations. In no time, global corporations are offering him millions for exclusive access, eager to profit from his prophecies.
He's also making a lot of high-powered enemies, from the President of the United States and a nationally prominent televangelist to a warlord with a nuclear missile and an assassin grandmother. Legions of cyber spies are unleashed to hack the Site—as it's come to be called—and the best manhunters money can buy are deployed not only to unmask the Oracle but to take him out of the game entirely. With only a handful of people he can trust—including a beautiful journalist—it's all Will can do to simply survive, elude exposure, and protect those he loves long enough to use his knowledge to save the world.
Delivering fast-paced adventure on a global scale as well as sharp-witted satire on our concepts of power and faith, Marvel writer Charles Soule's audacious debut novel takes readers on a rollicking ride where it's impossible to predict what will happen next.
Reading through the different synopsis I knew I was going to get a couple different ones (surprise, surprise!), but once I read the synopsis for The Girl Who Smiled Beads (the debut memoir) , I knew it was the one I wanted to read for this month's BOTM review.
Clemantine Wamariya is a storyteller and human rights advocate. Born in Kigali, Rwanda, displaced by conflict, Clemantine migrated through seven African countries as a child. At age twelve, she was granted refugee status in the United States and went on to receive a BA in comparative literature from Yale University. She lives in San Francisco.
Elizabeth Weil is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters.
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating through seven African countries, searching for safety - perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were alive or dead.
When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States; there, in Chicago, their lives diverged. Though their bond remained unbreakable, Claire, who had for so long protected and provided for Clemantine, was a single mother struggling to make ends meet, while Clemantine was taken in by a family who raised her as their own. She seemed - at least on the surface - to be living the American dream: attending private school, taking up cheerleading, and , ultimately, graduating from Yale. Yet the years of being treated as less than human, of going hungry and seeing death, could not be erased. She felt at the same time six years old and one hundred years old.
In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of "victim" and recognize the power of imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms. (Crown Publishing Group)
The Review & Wrap-Up:
The Girl Who Smiled Beads is disheartening and powerful, heartbreaking and encouraging, hateful and angry, yet loving and kind. It will have you so twisted and knotted up in your emotions that you won't know what to think, much like the life of Clemantine.
While reading this book I felt so much pain and anger for Clemantine and her sister Claire, he amount of pain and suffering that they endured just broke my hear, yet to see their perseverance, and strength to make it through, alone and at such a young age is incredible. To have a minuscule of strength they had would be like being Wonder Woman times two!
I really enjoyed reading The Girl Who Smiled Beads. It reopened my eyes to the terrors and hardships that really do occur in this world, while I sit back and deal with my first world issues. It's hard to imagine the world that Clemantine comes from; a world that she longs to be a child in again.
If you're into world problems: read this book. If you're looking to learn more about the world you live in: read this book. If you're even remotely human: Read. This. Book!
From one bookaholic to another, I hope I’ve helped you find your next fix.
Dani's Score out of 5: 📚📚📚📚
Love this book? To learn more about the Rwanda genocide, check out Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld.
The genocidal massacre of almost a million people in Rwanda more than a decade ago may be fading into history, but the killers are with us still, and so is the moral problem of trying to understand how such terrible crimes could have been committed. Jean Hatzfeld's astonishing account of conversations he had with some of the killers, now convicted and in jail - men who had rampaged across the fields, singing as they went, hacking to death 50,000 out of 59,000 of their neighbors - offers extraordinary insights into the nature of this collective crime. But, as Hatzfeld understands, the killers' words raise as many questions as they answer.
The ten men Hatzfeld interviewed had been friends from childhood who had stayed together during their genocidal "job," as they called it, and then in their flight to exile in Congo, during their subsequent capture and trials, and no in prison. They freely spoke to Hatzfeld about what life had been like during those terrible weeks in the spring of 1994, and what they thought about what they had done.
There has never been testimony like this. "The offenders know more than the basic facts," one acknowledges. "They have secrets in their souls." Another simply says, "Killing was less wearisome than farming." "A man is like an animal: you give him a whack on the head or the neck, and down he goes," says another. Why were they willing to talk? Did they distinguish truth from self-defensive evasion about this gruesome killing spree? Did they seek reconciliation, forgiveness, understanding? Were they remorseless, or did they suffer the nightmares of the damned?
Hatzfeld's report on this horrific testimony is humane and wise, and he relates the unprecedented material he obtained from the génocidaires to what we know of other war crimes and genocidal episodes. It has sometimes been suggested that only depraved and monstrous men could perpetrate such crimes, but it may be, Hatzfeld suggests, that these terrible actions are within the realm of ordinary human conduct.
To read this disturbing, lucid book and to hear the killers' chilling voices is to consider in a new light the foundation of human morality and ethics. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Start a conversation: If you were in a genocide situation, would you be able to perservere? How? What are the strengths you possess that would pull you through?
Have a book you’d like to suggest or one you’d like me to review? Please feel free to leave your comments down below.