A Book Review: Doerr’s ‘All the Light’

What better content for my writer’s blog than some book reviews of my favorite recent reading? I hope to post one review per month. Let  me know in comments, what you think and share your reads with me, too.

 I just finished Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and I highly recommend it.  Doerr has the remarkable ability to weave a tale both full of mystery and touching observation, of fastidious attention to the tiniest of details of character and place.  He puts us into the scene and we feel the emotions of his characters at a time of great upheaval, WWII in Germany and France. I could not put his book down, and read well into the night for the three nights it took to digest this marvelous read.  Doerr’s poetic language had me sighing with pleasure along the way and then filled my eyes with tears as he revealed the horrors of war and the inner conflicts of his child characters in a world they could not fully grasp. I quote one of his reviewer’s, Alice Evans,  descriptions of the story by Doerr:

It is “a story about the German occupation of a village in Normandy during World War II, a story of heroism, particularly the heroism of children, whether an orphan girl who asserts her right to distinguish truth from propaganda or a blind girl who learns to see with her fingers as well as her heart.” The orphan girl’s tiny and brilliant brother, Werner, inspires our imagination and admiration throughout the story.

What is amazing about Doerr’s writing is his ability to comb the depths of the souls of these children, to uncover what inspires and motivates them and what ultimately gives them hope and the ability to face horrific dangers, to survive in spite of the them, with sheer endurance and will. 

I cannot recommend this book more. On an added level, it interested me as a writer, providing information relevant to the topic of my next novel, which also takes place during WWII. If I can write a book half as impacting and beautiful as Anthony Doerr, I will revel in the accomplishment. I know it may take years! 

Portland Book Launch

This past two months have been challenging ones for a right handed writer, but I’ve passed the, hopefully, halfway mark to full recovery from my broken wrist. The cast is now off, I’ve closed up our casa in Mexico for the Spring and summer and returned to Portland , Oregon.  I’m now planning several book launch events, and what an appropriate time to be doing so: National Library Week. One 0f my favorite Portland Independent book stores, Annie Blooms, has invited me to do a “Reading” AT 7:00 PM on May 15th. Check out their wonderful “Shelf Awareness” on line newsletter. Another opportunity to catch one of my “Readings” is at my Friday night, after work, wine and cheese event at Stonehenge Designs studio, 3508 Corbett Ave. in southwest Portland from 6:00-7:30. 

National Library Week

When I was quite young, my great-aunt and I walked to our tiny library every week, first stopping at the corner store to buy bananas. After we had picked out our books, we’d sit on the front steps, eat a banana, and consider what we had chosen. (A rosy memory, since weather in western Washington precludes most step-sitting occasions.) Later, a bookmobile came around; I recall the thrill of stepping up into a world of wonders. Later still, our little town got a larger library, attached to the fire station. I raced through the books to the extent that Mrs. Dawes, the librarian, called my mother to ask if I could check out adult books. I wanted then to be a librarian–specifically, a bookmobile librarian–and have never lost my love for libraries.

 Robert Dawson also loves libraries and has spent 18 years photographing them. His photos and commentary have been combined with short pieces by Anne Lamott, Ann Patchett, Philip Levine and others to create The Public Library: A Photographic Essay (Princeton Architectural Press). The derelict Mark Twain branch library in Detroit, the ornate Milwaukee Central library, the architectural wonder of Seattle’s Rem Koolhaas/Joshua Ramus-designed building, a California library built by ex-slaves, a Nevada bookmobile–Dawson’s images run the gamut from abandoned libraries to grand edifices with gargoyles. They have grand hallways or single rooms, maybe coffee shops and post offices, and always people reading, learning, even borrowing tools.

As Bill Moyers points out in his foreword, libraries are not just bastions of book collections–they are gathering places, and sometimes literal ports in storms. Dawson says, “Public libraries help us define what we value and what we share… [they] are among the last free spaces we have left. Public libraries are worth fighting for, and this book is my way of fighting.” April 13-19 is National Library Week–use your library and fight the good fight. —Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

YES, LET’S PROTECT OUR LIBRARIES!  I  DON’T KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO, AS A READER AND A WRITER, WITHOUT THEM; IN ADDITION, LET’S PROTECT OUR INDEPENDENT BOOK STORES! Please note you can buy my book, Under The Salvadoran Sun, at Annie Blooms in Portland by clicking on the appropriate spot on my book page. Of course, you can continue to purchase it from Amazon and for your Kindle, whichever works best for you.  Keep going on line with those good reviews.  Thank you to all!    



Authors of Influence

This past week has been a literary whirlwind here in San Miguel de Allende, both on a personal level and a public one. 

On the personal level, I’m in the final stages of publishing my novel, Under the Salvadoran Sun. I know many of my readers have already heard that and are probably saying: “OK, already—when we are we really going to be able to see it and  order it and read it?”  Barring unforseen circumstances  or  international Christmas mail delays for my final proof, it looks like my book will be available to order from Amazon, as an ebook or a print paperback, some time the first or second week of January. Sorry, it won’t make your Christmas gift giving list, but an Amazon gift card tucked in with a note about my book would be a great gift. Hint!

The public whirlwind this past week has been created by three great Literary Sala readings: one by Eva Hunter, author of A Little Morman Girl, and another by Beldon Butterfield, author of Mexico Behind the Mask.  Last night there was a Literary Sala’s Special Event with Alfredo Corchado’s spellbinding reading and discussion about his book,  for which his agent has just sold the movie rights, Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness.                                                                    

Why have I titled this blog “Authors of Influence?”  Precisely because all three of these authors have unique stories, one’s which can influence the public’s thinking on a number of issues. I found each fascinating and informative for different reasons.

Eva Hunter, author of A Little Mormon Girl, is an ex-pat in San Miguel, but formerly, like myself, from Portland, Oregon, where she taught in the Writing Department at Portland State University. She has had a distinguished career as a writer, teacher, and editor of SOL, The English Language on-line Literary Magazine here in San Miguel de Allende. She continues to give writing workshops. Eva’s reading from her personal memoir was moving and informative, “taking us through a secret world of highest-leval Mormonism, and the underbelly of her family,” with the voice of a child of six up to young adulthood. Her story touched me deeply and I’m now looking forward to reading my autographed copy. Eva Hunter  

Beldon Butterfield, author of La Linea, The Line and The Crystal Bull,  read from his latest non-fiction book: Mexico Behind the Mask, and it sounds like a winner, full of fascinating details about Mexico’s hidden historical, political and social past. He starts out by saying “To understand Mexico, you have to understand the conquest in 1519.” Buttlefield went on to set the record straight on a number of mistaken notions of Mexican history, such as relating the “story behind the story”  of The Alamo  and the everlasting impact it has had on relations between the United States and Mexico. The author’s sense of humor and his fun presentation style made us all want to read this book. Beldon Butterfield

 My third “author of influence” is Alfredo Corchado, award-winning Mexican-American  journalist, who has covered Mexico for many years, and is currently the Mexico City bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. He specializes in covering the drug wars and the U.S-Mexican border and corruption among police and government officials. Born in Durango, Mexico and raised in the U.S., Corchado says he lives between two worlds. His wealth of knowledge about the “inside story” behind the horrific crimes of the drug cartels, makes him a perfect person to write Midnight in Mexico. I sat on the edge of my seat as he reported about how Mexico has descended into “hell” with the problems of drug cartels and an ineffective judicial system. In spite of that he has great optimism for the future of Mexico. I was moved as he explained his story was not only “dark” but a memorial to his mother, whose influence got him to where he is, and to the many women behind the scenes of the narco crimes fighting to save their children, their communities and their country, refusing to give up.  I downloaded his book on my kindle the minute I got home. Alfredo Corchado

I’m adding this quote  about Corchado’s book from Benjamin Saenz, a keynote speaker at the upcoming 2014 San Miguel Writers Conference:

“Anyone interested in what is happening and has happened in Mexico for the past six years must read this book. We can call what is happening in Mexico a “drug war,” but that phrase cheapens the politics and the economics that govern the relationship between the United States and Mexico. I believe Midnight in Mexico will become one of the most necessary books about the Mexican-American experience in this country. More than a journalist, Alfredo Corchado is the real thing, a voice that represents millions of people.”

Hope you enjoyed this “book review blog” and will keep watching for my novel, Under the Salvadoran Sun. Happy Holidays!