Tag: sad

Book Review: Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly).

Lilac Girls

– Martha Hall Kelly.

This is a book I have been meaning to read for a while but it wasn’t easy to find. Finally, I read it and it was worth the wait. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is set in the time before, during, and after World War II. The story of this novel is based on a true account of Caroline Ferriday, a socialite in New York who helped the Polish women of Ravensbruck camp. The story of Lilac Girls focuses on three main characters – Kasia, Caroline, and Herta who come from different backgrounds and countries but their lives intersect. Caroline helps the medical experiment survivors from Ravensbruck by bringing them for treatment to America almost a decade after the war is over.

Caroline is an ex-actress who comes from a wealthy family and volunteers at the French Consulate in New York City before the war. Caroline and her family have a strong sense of their French roots and enjoy many traditions of their culture. It is also the reason Caroline works dedicatedly at the consulate. Kasia is an 18-year-old girl living happily with her family and friends in Lublin, Poland until Nazi Germany invades Poland on 1st September in 1939 and her life is turned upside down. Herta is studying medicine in Nazi Germany and dreams of being a surgeon but there are restrictions for women in the medical field under the Reich. She is ambitious and determined from the very beginning and has complete faith in Hitler’s vision for her country.

The story is pretty straightforward in terms of timelines and events. The novel is divided into three parts. The first part gives an insight into the background of the characters and this really helped me understand the motivations and personalities of these women. The second part was difficult to read because the main focus of this is the course of their lives during the war. It is not outwardly described in a gory or violent way but it is more about the emotional reactions which get to you. The third part of the story is Caroline, Kasia, and Herta’s life after the war ends.

The characters in the book are what make this novel unique. Caroline does everything in her power to help French children during the war. She does so at a personal cost at times and even when things turn hopeless she keeps doing what she does because she knows this is the least she can do to help. Kasia is a rebellious girl but she wants to help change the situation in Poland. She starts helping the Polish underground in Lublin with the help of her friend and her crush Pietrik. One day she is followed by a German officer after doing an assignment she begs Pietrik for and is arrested. Kasia’s mother and sister Zuzzana, Pietrik, and his sister Luiza who have come to collect the envelope from Kasia are all arrested along with her.

Ravensbruck is where Kasia ends up with her sister and mother, a labor camp in Germany for women. I didn’t know much about this camp and the medical experiments conducted there until I read this book. These women stick together, helping each other stay safe that too at a personal cost. It’s heartwarming to see them help each other this way in a situation where one wrong move meant your death. The experiments were inhumane and the way is written makes us understand the gravity of it. It is at the camp that Kasia’s mother, Halina, is taken under Herta’s wing as a nurse and where Halina dies. This is the only time Herta shows some emotion. Herta is not a fictional character and is based on a camp doctor in Ravensbruck. She believes in what she is doing and it seems like she doesn’t care but somewhere deep down she feels a little remorse for her actions. Most of the time though she is detached and cold focusing only on her medical research with no thought of the human cost.

Caroline has a personal connection to France during the war, a married actor she falls in love with named Paul who is also taken to a camp when France is invaded but survives. Kasia comes back with her sister to Lublin where their father still lives and has trouble adjusting to normal life. She finds Pietrik and he is having a hard time too but Kasia is trying to forget but her guilt about her mother makes her angrier and angrier. Pietrik and Kasia get married and have a daughter who is named Halina after her mother but Kasia doesn’t want her to be named Halina. She snaps at everyone about the tiniest things but slowly realizes she needs to let go. With Caroline’s insistence, Kasia goes to Germany to confront Herta who was released early from prison. Once she confronts Herta and finds out what happened to her mother at the camp that she is finally able to move on with her life and leave all the darkness behind.

Martha Hall Kelly has been able to give a lot of heart to the story through her characters. Kasia and her family are the fictional characters but the story revolves around them in a way and, they are instrumental in telling the story of those Polish women who suffered at Ravensbruck during the war and treated unjustly after the war. It is a beautiful and inspiring story yet it is so sad and heartbreaking.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Book Review: If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1)

If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1)

–   Courtney Cole

This is the first book written by Courtney Cole that I have read.  I found the premise of the book and the title interesting when I added it to my reading list. If You Stay by Courtney Cole is the first novel of the Beautifully Broken Series.

The story focuses on two characters Pax Tate and Mila Hill. Both are different from each other and it is opposites attract situation. Pax is an asshole; he knows it and admits it himself. He is a trust fund kid and there is an element of mystery about his past. Mila is a nice and sweet girl who owns a small shop in town. Their first meeting is less than ideal. Mila finds Pax in his car overdosed on drugs and pills late one night and saves his life.

The story unfolds naturally and doesn’t seem forced at any point. Pax is fascinated by Mila after she comes to check on him in the hospital where he is recovering from the overdose. Pax often refers to Mila as red. He thinks of her as Red Riding Hood and of himself as the Big Bad Wolf. Pax associates all things good about people to Mila and her sweetness draws him in. Mila is understandably cautious about Pax because of the way she first saw him but she is is just as intrigued by him as he is by her.

There are subtle hints from the start about Pax’s past but not much is given away. Mila’s parents have died a few years ago, leaving her and her older sister Maddy alone. She carries baggage from her parents’ death and their toxic relationship with each other. Pax has lost his mother at a young age, he was uprooted from the environment he knew and his dad has pretty much neglected him since his mom’s death.

Pax is self-reflective and is aware that he has problems, he feels empty and he doesn’t know why. He has turned to drugs to feel numb; he has been taking sleeping pills for as long as he can remember. The accidental overdose is a wakeup call for me and then onwards he tries hard to not repeat the same mistakes. I liked the fact that Pax didn’t decide to change himself for Mila but because he realized it wasn’t healthy. Mila reminds him constantly to make changes for himself, not for her sake. They have a very cute relationship and seem right for each other.

The flashback to the circumstances of Pax’s mother’s death was shocking and heartbreaking. A lot of problems Pax has can be traced back to this event which he has somehow blocked from his memory. You can’t help but feel bad for the little kid who went through such a horrific tragedy at the age of 6. It is in a way understandable that Pax spirals after finding out what actually happened and finally knowing why he felt empty.

It was a straightforward love story but it had complex characters which you can’t help but root for. I liked the descriptions of this town on Lake Michigan; it had a community feel to it. The pace of the story doesn’t drop from start to finish which is always a plus. Once I started reading this book, I finished it almost in a day. I enjoyed reading this book.

*Click on the image above to get your own copy from Amazon.

Book Review: Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro).

Never Let Me Go

– Kazuo Ishiguro.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years. It’s the dystopian element of the novel that intrigued me as well as worried me; I need to be in a certain mindset for them. Finally, I read it this month and I was taken by surprise. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a science fiction/dystopian novel which focuses on three friends Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth.

The story of Never Let Me Go is divided into three parts as it focuses on different periods of the characters’ lives. Kathy is the narrator of the story and everything that unfolds is from her perspective. The first part begins when Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth are young kids’ not even teenagers yet at a boarding school called Hailsham. Apart from the first chapter where it seems something might be off about the school, it is pretty idyllic. There are a lot of secretive things happening at Hailsham which all the kids notice but they don’t know why it is the way it is.


In the second part of the story, the three friends have left the school at 16 and now are living at Cottages where they start to really understand about their lives. It is then revealed that all the kids at Hailsham are actually clones, genetically engineered to be organ donors. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth spend time reminiscing about Hailsham while trying to accept their reality. Tommy and Ruth are in a romantic relationship now. Kathy notices the changes in Ruth’s behavior towards her and Tommy but she doesn’t say anything to her directly. Ruth has befriended an older couple there who tell her that if the clones are truly in love and can prove it, they can defer. By the end of this part, Ruth has successfully driven a wedge between Tommy and Kathy. It is after this Kathy signs up to be a carer.


In the third part, Kathy is now working as a carer, Ruth and Tommy have made their first donations. Kathy meets an old classmate from Hailsham who tells her about Ruth and her failing health after the donation. Kathy decides to become her carer. It is Ruth’s idea to go to the lake and she also insists and Tommy joining them. Ruth regrets keeping Tommy and Kathy apart and urges them to defer together. After Ruth’s death, Kathy and Tommy are romantically involved and she is also Tommy’s carer.


The main part of the story that I really liked were the characters. Kathy is empathetic which makes her a good carer; she is also more accepting of her fate. Even at a young age, she notices slight changes in the behavior of the guardians. Ruth can be superficial and difficult at times. She has fantasies and dreams which don’t match her reality and understandably, she lashes out. In the end, though she accepts she kept Tommy and Kathy away from each other and wants them to try and defer. Tommy is sensitive and introspective. As a kid, he is short-tempered but as he becomes older he is calm and thoughtful.


The book is disturbing in a way because you know they are clones and they have been brought up for a purpose but they are also human. Their emotions and reactions are real. They behave like regular kids and teenagers but deep down they know that they are not ‘normal’. They are human in all the ways that it counts but their life has a purpose and that has to be fulfilled. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth want to see if they can change their fate; Ruth dies without knowing the truth about their existence which Kathy and Tommy learn towards the end.


The novel is heartbreaking and disturbing. The way it is written and narrated just takes the story to another level. The themes of expectation versus reality, friendships and relationships, life and death, and humanity are beautifully explored in this novel. This novel put me in a bit of a daze; I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished. It is a must-read.

*Click on the image above to get a copy.

Book Review: An Honest Thief (Short- Story) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

An Honest Thief (Short Story)

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


I have a book of selected short stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky which includes this story An Honest Thief. I have never read anything written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky before so I thought starting with short stories might be a good idea.

An Honest Thief starts with the narrator taking on a lodger named Astafy Ivanovich, an old soldier. Both of them get along well enough. One day, a thief steals the narrator’s coat and Astafy unsuccessfully tries to stop the thief from getting away. It is after this incidence that Astafy tells the narrator a story about a man named Emelyan Ilyitch; an honest thief. The writing is simple and apt; it has depth and layers but it doesn’t become too much to go on.


Astafy and Emelyan know each other from before but one night in a pub Emelyan wants a drink but doesn’t have any money for it. Astafy feels bad about Emelyan’s situation and buys him a drink. Since then Emelyan follows Asrafy around and even moves in with him. Emelyan has problems that are hinted at right from the introduction but then the gravity of his issues starts to set in for Astafy and the readers as the plot progresses. Astafy is working as a tailor and short on money so he decides to sell a pair of riding breeches made for a wealthy customer which he never collected. The breeches are missing and Astafy suspects Emelyan but he denies.


An honest thief uses the narrative technique of a story within a story. It starts in the present time of Astafy’s life and then he recalls his life events to the narrator. The way it has been described and written, it works well for the story though in the beginning it was slightly confusing but that doesn’t last long. Astafy genuinely wants Emelyan to make a change in his life, for him to quit drinking so much and find a job. Emelyan is a sad and troubled soul, he knows his addiction to alcohol is a problem but he doesn’t seem to want to anything about it. He depends a lot on Astafy and his friendship means a lot to him.


This story has more psychological depth than I expected. Emelyan is a drunk and clearly he has given up on his life, there are hints of some tragedy but it is never made explicit. He is troubled and seems to use alcohol as a crutch. He steals the breech which leads to a fallout between him and Astafy. He leaves the apartment and Astafy can’t find him. When Emelyan returns, he is very cold and starved and sick, Astafy knows his time is limited. Emelyan confesses about the theft to Astafy before he dies; the guilt has tormented Emelyan.


An honest thief is a short story that focuses more on the characters I feel. The title itself is an oxymoron but it kind of makes sense by the end of the story. The characters show how the good and evil that exists in all humans and it is morally in the grey zone. You can’t explicitly say this character is evil and this one is not. It is an interesting read.

*Get a copy of Selected Stories by clicking on the image above.

Book Review: All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven).

All the Bright Places

– Jennifer Niven.


I read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven for the second time this week. The YA novel left a different kind of impact on me this time around. The story focuses on two main characters – Violet Markey and Theodore Finch; who help each other find hope and love.


Violet is deeply disturbed by her sister’s recent death and wants to get over with the graduation so she can leave her Indiana town. Finch is fascinated with the concept of death and its always thinking of some ways he might kill himself. Violet is on the ledge of the school bell tower, still reeling from the ache of her sister’s death, and maybe for a minute, she wonders if she should jump off. Finch is on the same ledge thinking along similar lines. It’s a bizarre first meeting for sure but in a way, they save each other’s lives. This is where their story begins.


Violet and Finch end up getting paired up for a project at school which sees them embark on a road trip across unusual places in Indiana. The first time I read this book years ago, I missed out on all the little clues about Finch’s mental health which this time I understood. His struggles are heartbreaking and relatable. He doesn’t understand himself sometimes; forget about anyone else understanding him. His friendship with Violet I think is something he thinks might save him and Violet wants to save Finch but she doesn’t know how to save him.


The narration shifts between Violet and Finch which makes the characters much more real and relatable to readers. It helped me understand the characters and gave me an insight into them. They are young and they think their love can conquer all and they can save each other. Violet starts putting her past, her guilt, and her grief behind her and wants to move forward with Finch. In the meantime, Finch struggles to control his obsession with death and that scares Violet. Their characters signify contrast themes in the novel. Violet wants to forget and move on; she wants to live and Finch is fascinated with death to a point where it does seem like he wants to die.


In the end, Violet and Finch’s love for each other is not enough to survive everything but they do save each other. Violet learns to live and hope again because of Finch no matter how it ends. Finch’s death is suicide but this time it does happen unknowingly. He doesn’t jump into the lake with the thought of killing himself but that’s what his actions lead to. Another thing that plays an important part in the story is to enjoy the present to its fullest because of the thought of ‘what could be or what could have been’ takes a toll on a person.


All the Bright Places isn’t a typical love story in any way. It tackles the impact of death and mental illness on individuals and how people struggle with grief. The end is heartbreaking and knowing how it ends from start; didn’t stop my tears. The book is about love and hope but it raises awareness about mental health and grief in such a subtle yet impactful way. This book stays with you for a while because of the way the story and the characters touched your heart. It is a beautifully heartbreaking book.

*Click on the image above to get a copy.

Life (Poem)

    

Life goes on,

Never stopping for anyone.

Once in a while,

You can’t help but wonder,

If things hadn’t changed.

A deep-seated need to reconnect,

An emotion you cannot comprehend.

You can only wish for another chance,

Make things right but you can’t.

This is a part of the journey,

Even if you don’t like it.

                                                       

Book Review: Little Women (Louisa May Alcott).

Little Women

– Louisa May Alcott

I saw the Little Women movie recently and I realized how many things from the book I have forgotten since I read it years ago. So, I decided that I will re-read Little Women. There were some aspects I remembered and some I didn’t but I enjoyed reading it nevertheless.  Little Women is a story of the March family focusing on the four daughters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The story is set in Concord, Massachusetts in 19th century.

Get on Amazon 👆

The story is divided in two parts. Part one begins in the year 1860 when Mr. March volunteers for the Union army and leaves his family behind to join the civil war. This part of the story follows the lives of the March sisters during this year. Jo is assisting her aged aunt March. Meg and Jo go to a part at one of their rich neighbors where Jo meets Laurie and his grandfather along with his tutor John become a part of the March family. Beth contracts scarlet fever and Amy is sent to live with Aunt March as a precaution.

The part two is set three years later. Jo is earning money by getting her stories published in New York and working as a governess at a boarding house where she meets German professor Bhaer. Meg is married to John and they have twins. Amy is in Europe with Aunt March where she is learning art and meets Laurie there. Beth’s health starts declines and Jo comes back home to take care of her sister.

The majority of the story is told through the eyes of Jo. The character of Jo is so relatable. She is considered too bold and outspoken and tomboyish in those times but all that makes her more likable. The difference between the four sisters is clear from the beginning Meg is traditional, Jo is bold, Beth is shy and Amy is vain and can be self-centered. The themes of familial and romantic love run throughout the story and they are touching. Marmee (Mrs. March) is such an amaing role model for her daughters and all of them share a good bond with her; the can talk about everything and anything with her.

The favorite part of the story for me will always be the dynamic between Jo and Laurie. The first time I read it, I had cried and well some things don’t change. They seem so perfect together and I felt so bad for Laurie when Jo rejects him. Her concerns are completely valid but it is still heartbreaking and I never expected it happen. When Jo confesses to Marmee how she is not in love with Laurie in any romantic way, it’s a hard pill to swallow. The whole journey of each of the character is satisfying as you get to the end. The point in the story where Beth dies is so emotional and devastating to her family and the readers.

I was a little shocked by the pairing of Laurie and Amy but it in a way it makes sense. The story ends on a somewhat of a happy note. Beth’s death leaves a huge impact but rest of the family band together. Jo gets married to Professor Bhaer. Mr. March is finally home. Aunt March leaves Jo her mansion where she and Bhaer open a school. In the end, Marmee’s 60th birthday is celebrated with her husband, her three daughters, their husbands and her five grandchildren.

Little Women is one of my favorite books but strangely this is only the second time that I have read it. I love the flow of the writing and the story. All the characters add something to the story and are well rounded and relatable. Jo is my favorite. The story is happy and sad is equal measures I feel.

Smile (Poem)

From the moment we met,
My heart became happy.
The way you smiled at me shyly,
Made my days colorful.


Just being around you was enough,
No need for empty words.
Knowing you for a short while,
Yet it left a mark on me.


I still think about your smile,
And the way your eyes brightened.
Those smiles made my heart flutter,
Like they were reserved only for a few.
I will always wonder about your smiles,
Were those smiles for everyone or just for me?

Book Review: We Were the Lucky Ones (Georgia Hunter).

We Were the Lucky Ones

— Georgia Hunter

The title of the book is what caught my eye and I have been meaning to read this book for months now. It is a fictionalized account of a true story about the author’s family which I found out after I was finished reading it. We Were the Lucky Ones is a book set during World War II about the Kurc family, who are well assimilated Polish Jews and their survival during the holocaust.

The story begins in the spring of 1939 in Poland and France when it seems imminent that something that has been looming for the past few years is finally here. The whole family gets a point of view, as they narrate the story through their perspectives and respective circumstances. The parents are Nechuma and Sol; their daughters Halina and Mila and three sons Genek, Jakob and Addy, and not including the spouses and extended family. Except for Addy who is in France, all the others are living in Radam, Poland at the beginning of the war.


As I mentioned before, the narrative shift from one family member to another which takes the reader to different places and times and even countries. In the beginning, it was a little difficult to keep track of the characters as each chapter has a new narrator but as the story progresses it makes sense why the author decided to do this. There is a uniqueness to each character that clearly comes through the writing and you can feel their pain and helplessness throughout. The story goes from Poland to France to Siberia even to the Middle East and South America.


The descriptions of their situations are stated more as facts that pack a punch for a reader and the characters are just reacting to their circumstances. Addy, who hasn’t seen his family since before the war constantly thinks about them, not knowing if they are alive or not and whether he will ever get to see them again. I liked the spirit and realistic emotional impact of each character as they do what they have to in order to survive and it is heartbreaking to read about their struggles.

The part of the story which takes place in the ghetto is extremely difficult to read; a lot of the story is difficult to read but that part where Mila decides to leave the ghetto with her daughter and a few others for work and what follows that decision was completely unexpected and a little uncomfortable to read. The family keeps thinking about the happier times of their home in Radom and of each other fondly which gives them a little hope in such times and its fascinating to me that no matter how bad the situation, the perseverance to survive is there


I didn’t know it was based on a true story till I got to the very end of the story where the author has written a detailed epilogue of sorts of her family and their survival and the impact it had on them. They lost a lot of their extended family during the war and everything else familiar to them but they survived. By the time I finished reading the story, the title of the novel made complete sense. It is a heartbreaking and emotional ride and even more so since it is based on a true story. I finished this book over the weekend; it is emotionally draining but I liked the book