Review: The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams (Doubleday Books 2020)

Reviewed by Summer A.H. Christiansen

Clare Beams’ new novel, The Illness Lesson is a gripping historical fiction that will leave you on the edge of your seat. The novel is set in Ashwell, Massachusetts in 1871, where Samuel Hood, a retired transcendental essayist, is establishing The School for the Trilling Heart. This private school for young women is the first of its kind. Its courses are taught by Samuel, young Civil War veteran David, and Samuel’s daughter Caroline. Throughout the novel, we follow Caroline as she struggles with her identity as an educated, unwed twenty-eight year old woman.

Continue reading

Review: Library of Legends by Janie Chang

Library of Legends by Janie Chang (William Morrow and Co. 2020)

Reviewed by Angela Gualtieri

In her latest novel, The Library of Legends, Janie Chang blends Chinese history with fantasy elements, adding a dash of romance.

Set in 1937 China, the Japanese aerial attacks begin to close in, forcing students at Minghua University to flee from Nanking to Chengtu. They carry with them the Library of Legends, a 147-volume record of myth and folklore from the Ming dynasty, 500 years ago. A priceless treasure, the Library of Legends brought students far and wide to Minghua, including Hu Lian. Lian is an introverted scholar fascinated with the historic tomes. Throughout the 1000-mile journey, Lian is torn between locating her mother and her duty to her school. She soon finds herself at the center of controversy when one student is murdered and another arrested. Knowing she must escape, Lian chooses to travel back to Shanghai in hopes of finding her mother. Along the way, she uncovers a special connection between the Library of Legends and two of her companions.

Continue reading

Review: Hum by Natalia Hero

Hum by Natalia Hero (Metatron Press, 2018)

Reviewed by Summer A.H. Christiansen

As someone who has never really been a fan of magical realism, I will admit I was a bit skeptical when I started reading Hum by Natalia Hero. However, after a few pages, I knew I was reading something special, and my skepticism was misplaced.

Hum is a powerful story that comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The novella follows an unnamed young woman as she grapples with her life after being raped. Hero uses the metaphor of giving birth to a hummingbird to illustrate that the effects of trauma are constant and ever present in one’s life.

Continue reading

STICKS: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

0307276678_01__sclzzzzzzz_.jpg

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopff, 2006)

Reviewed by Leonora Simonovis

In an interview for The Missouri Review (2013), fiction author Karen Russell was asked about her life in Florida and how it has influenced several of her works. She replied by referring to a “matter –of– fact strangeness” that her native state seems to possess. Continue reading