Despite the Falling Snow – A book review

2093070

Despite the Falling Snow

Written by Shamim Sarif

ISBN 0-7553-2015-8

 

Alexander first appears in a courtyard, in his sixties.  He is polite, and witty, bold and a holds a preciseness that speaks of confidence and assuredness.  As his story unfolds, life during the Soviet Union shows how deep secrets can penetrate a life, beyond Russia, and alter even the most well laid out plans.  We learn of a love that overcame betrayal, friendship that ended in betrayal and most importantly of starting over at any age.  

There is a precision and delicateness to the narrative voice of this book. The plot is set out with long yards of threads to weave and slowly they are weaved together for a wonderful and fitting ending. The time line switchs between 1960’s and 2000 seamlessly, the clean voice keeping things straight on point.  

 

And being out of the loop on what is current in the media, I’ve just learned they’ve made this into a movie as well.  

Working Title ‘Other Half’ – Another Novel section

In an attempt to hold myself accountable, I’ve promised myself that I will post sections, unedited, of the novel I am working ever so slowly on.  Below is another section.  The tidbits I have posted are not in chronological order as far as the book goes, just sections I feel are complete enough to make some sense.

Faith had pulled nearly everything from the closet.  Trying on Mom’s clothes was something she did often, but that day she was on a mission.  She had moved past the clothes she had tried on before; dresses that were far too big for her 7 year old body.  She was such a waif.  She could fit her head through the arm holes with ease.  

Many of these dresses only ever saw the light of day when Faith tried them on.  Faith would often bury her nose into the clothes, breathing deeply, claiming they smelled of a perfume.  I was hard to believe that any of those clothes ever fit Mom.  Mom usually wore the same shirt and jeans for days on end, the collar of the shirts often misaligned on her skeletal frame.  When ever Faith asked about the clothes in her closet, Mom always answered the same way; Those clothes were from another life.     

Faith had moved past the dresses and the shoes quicker than usual, and turned her attention to the shelves above the closet rod.  Sweaters had been stuffed on the shelves haphazardly, pinned between two boxes of different sizes.  She reached up high on her tip toes, and pulled things down, starting with the sweaters leaving them as a pile on the closet floor, covering the shoes that resided there.  Intent on seeing what may be in the boxes stored up there, she inched them forward, reaching way up, using the clothing rod for extra leverage, and caught just the corner of the box and moving it diagonally forward so it would hang ever so slightly over the edge of the shelf.  She pushed up and out on the corners of the boxes, and moved it slowly more and more over the shelf edge, until finally gravity would take over and the box would topple from its hiding spot.  Faith would move just in time so as to not have it land on her, leaving the box to hit the floor, spilling their contents.  

“She’s going to kill you, ya know.”  I said to Faith.  I was sitting on top of mom’s dresser, lazily leaning my head against my knees, my feet wiggling to make room for themselves amoung the empty coffee cups, tissues and other bits that had not made it to the bin yet.

“I’ll clean it up before she gets back” Faith claimed.  She grabbed the already toppled box and dumped the remaining contents on the floor, running her hand over top to spread out the contents.

The first box appeared to contain the same items throughout, random bits of paper, pictures of Mom linked arms with different men, her smile in the pictures seeming to grow smaller as her stature deteriorated, earrings without a mate, tickets and mementos from places she no longer went, the occasional bill statement.  Faith sifted through all of these with keen interest, pulling pieces together of the woman who owned those clothes, who once wore perfume, who once smiled, who felt a need to hold onto pieces of this so-called other life.  Faith sorted the box contents, piling papers, bills, and photos into respective piles.  Abandoning her need to make the contents logical, she scooped it up in her arms, and dumped them back into the box and pushed it to the side.

The apartment was hot that day, even with just shorts and a tank top on.   I abandoned my earlier position when my hair started to stick to my legs, and while leaning back with my hands behind me, I stretched my legs out infront of me, knocking over a coffee cup which was less empty than I had assumed.  The cup fell from the edge of the dresser, and the beige liquid soaked into the grey cheap carpet that filled our whole apartment.  

Faith turned her head towards me when she heard the cup fall, and gave me a sarcastic look.

“She’s going to kill you when she sees that, ya know” Faith said, her head bobbling and lip curling slightly as she did so.  I pursed my lips and wrinkled my nose in response to her jab.  

Faith turned her attention to the second box on the shelf, and struggled the same way as the first time to get it down.     

The second box was much different.  It was smaller than the first one and was a simple cardboard box, the top flaps having been folding over themselves to interlock them.  More bills and letters with official looking type were in this box.  Very few pictures lived in this box, and the ones that did, were just of mom alone, tired and gaunt.  Faith was on all fours sweeping the contents of the box around with her hand.  She stopped routing through the contents when she came to a single picture.  She sat up on her haunches, her feet tucked under her as with a photo in her hand.  She held it close to her face, memorizing and sorting out the details of our mother.  She sat that way for quite some time staring at this photo, and without turning to me, she held the photo hand, swung her arm back towards me, with the unspoken command for me to come and fetch it.  

Char gets off her perch reluctantly to get the photo, with some snide comment.  

There was a single picture of Mom’s profile while she was pregnant, her eyes closed and chin nearly touching her chest, emphasising the tightly curved ‘S’ her back had formed. Her belly protruded away from her body, making it seem as though she would have toppled over easily from the weight of carrying twins.  

Another Novel Tidbit

I’m still working on the novel I started back in November, but progress is slow.  Below is an unedited segment of said novel with the working title of ‘Other Half’.

 

The bass hits so hard and my ears are ringing so much I’m dizzy from it.  I close my eyes and hope I keep my balance.  

jump

I land, both feet on the floor, the stage floorboards bowing beneath my feet, vibrating with everything that is going on stage.  

jump with the music

I’ve lost the in-ear monitor to my left ear.  Its dangling from its wire and sways with me as I dance and jump around. Most of my hearing is gone in my right ear, and so the remaining moniter is little help. A lock of hair is plastered to my forehead.  I throw my head forward with music, and  still it stays.  My tank top clings to my body, the bright lights making it see though.  

I dance and jump on the stage, letting my body move however it wants to the music, forgetting there are thousands of eyes on me at the moment.  

I hear my cue come again and lurch towards the mic.  I grab it with my right hand, ripping it from its stand, and continue my dancing, throwing my head forward to the point of decapitation and sing as hard as I can.  

  “She says she laughs at fear.  She says she fears happiness.”

I can’t hear myself over the band and the crowd.  I have no idea if I’m even on the right verse.  Jamming the monitor back into my left ear, I take a few steps back from the edge of the stage, and stand closer to my lead guitarist.  I search his face for any inidication that I may have fucked up, and seeing none, I dance on, sing on, and give everything I have to our last song of the night.  There will be no encoure tonight.  

  The final song ends, and I stagger back to the mic stand, replacing the mic, and leaning on it at the same time for support.  

  “Thank you everyone for sticking around!  I am Char, and we are Near Mirror!  Good night everyone!”  I am breathless, and stumble towards the wings.  The crowd chants.  I don’t have any more to give them tonight.   

I walk to the stage exit, past the bassist who is still holding his bass as though he’s about to play another song.  I avoid eye contact with him and continue to leave the stage.  

Reaching the wings, the back stage fans, mostly woman too old to be groupies, pat me on the back and tell me how great we sounded.  One tries to hug me.  I recoil from not only the hug, but from the sickly sweet stench of her perfume.  They arent here for me.  They hear for the band mates.  My fans are further back, a bit more cool.  

The chanting from the fans demanding an encoure, starts to turn to anger when they clue in the I am not returning to the stage.  

“Char, are we going back out?” my guitarist yells.  He standing just off the stage floor, guitar gripped in his left hand, strap still around his back.  The bassist has turned slightly to see the conversation, but still he stands, ready to play.  

I stop at the edge of the stairs that will lead to out side of the park area.  “No, I’m done for the night.”

“Bit short isn’t it?  We were late going on.  We should do at least one more.”  

Book Review: Men We Reaped

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17286683-men-we-reapedSmartSelectImage_2016-04-17-08-48-11

“We crawled through time like roaches through the linings of walls, the neglected spaces and hours, foolishly happy that we were still alive even as we did everything to die.”

I really enjoyed reading this book, and learning about what life is like in Mississippi.  I didn’t realize that they things were so tough there still.

Throughout the book, stats are given, comparing Mississippi to the rest of the country, which are staggering.  And the death with no repercussions is unjust.

Jesmyn’s narrative voice is raw and honest, evoking emotion without begging for it.

You can follow her personal blog here.

The E Myth Revisited – Michael E. Gerber

The E Myth Revisited – Michael E. Gerber

Recommended by so many, I had to give this book a read.  Mr. Gerber pinpoints the exact failing of not only so many small business owners, but just people in general; our need to not only grow, but the need to do everything ourselves.  While the business that I am in, or my day job, don’t really fit into the Entrepreneurial role, I still found many things to implement into my own life from this book.  

There are three large takeaways I got from this book.  The first being the defining characteristics of what makes an Entrepreneur, and more importantly, what growth is involved in moving from being a technician to a manager to an entrepreneur.  Gerber takes each trait, and explains how each one thinks, reacts to difficulties, and manages his work.  

The second and third ideas from this book are somewhat related.  Gerber talks about the need for establishing a system for every task, assignment or project in the business.  This creates both a clear defined job and process for the business owners employees, but also alleviates potential pressure from the entrepreneur.  By having a clear process of how to complete the work, employees will need to take up less of the business owner’s time with questions, and increase productivity.  Tim Ferriss touches on this concept as well in his book The Four Hour Work Week.  

The final concept is planning, and seeing beyond the initial start of the business.  Even Though the Entrepreneur will initially be filling out every role from COO, to Administrative assistant to Mail room clerk, having clear and defined goals and responsibilities for each role, will help hire the right people for the job when the time comes, and aid them in their own career paths.  

Gerber uses a story about a Pie Shop as a means to present his information, and it remains a constant theme throughout the entire book.  At times I was annoyed with the storytelling portion of the book, wanting to really just focus on the information as it were.  However, I feel that weaving the story and information together allowed the concepts a time to settle into place more securely.  I highly recommend this book to everyone in a position where they need to make decisions for the future and are eager for something to grow.   

An Update on Nanowrimo.

No, I don’t want to talk about word counts, or if I’m on track or if I’m behind.  Life is crazy and I’m just happy I have words down…

Here’s a tidbit of what I have gotten done so far.  Yes, I know there’s a lot of editing to do.  Did I mention that its Nanowrimo?

 

Other Half – A Novel

Written by H. L. Jaden

I watched him ride down the street, pride wellming up and overflowing to my eyes.  My oldest had the last training wheel taken off two hours ago, and after an hour of running beside him up and down the street, Chase finally got it.  We had been practicing for over a week now, first bending the training wheels up, so they only touched the ground when he was off balance, and then only removing the right one, since he had a tendency to falter to the left.  His biggest obstacle this morning was his own confidence, suddenly falling off his bike only when he realized that I was merely running beside him, not actually holding onto the back of the seat, holding him steady.  He was going to be so proud going to school tommorrow, to brag to his friends that he was finally able to ride his bike on his own.  All summer he would only ride his bike close to the house, embarrassed that he still had training wheels on his bike, when all of his other friends had shed theirs before school had let out in June.  Such an odd trait us humans have, suddenly disbelieving of our own ability, when we were infact doing it on our own all along.  And now, on his own two wheels he was riding on his own as though he had always done so.  

My husband stood beside me on the walkway leading from the sidewalk to the front porch, arm draped over my shoulder, beaming with his own pride.  He was standing tall, and for a moment I had to look up to him, having forgotten that he is in fact taller than me, having adopted a standard slouch in the last few years.  

“It’s too bad your mother isn’t here with us.”  he said.  His arm fell from my shoulder, and he stooped down to pick up some garbage that had blown onto the yard.

“What?”  I misheard what he said, surely.  

“It’s too bad your mom passed away when you were young.”  

I stared at him in disbelief.  Did he really just say that?  After this many years of marriage, how could he possibly get a detail like that wrong?  

He stood, stepped a bit further away, and couched down again, pulling a few weeds from the edges of the walkway that the lawn mower had missed early this morning.  

“What did you say?”  I dared him to repeat it.  

“I said, it’s a shame your mother has passed away.” he said over his shoulder.  “It would be nice if you could share these family moments with your family.  I mean, I know my mother treats you like one of the family, and of course me and the kids are your family, but I’m sure it’s not quite the same as having your own blood that’s known you all your life.  It just feels like you don’t have anyone to share with.  Except me of course.”

“My mother isn’t dead.”  I said, hostility dripped all over the conversation

He stood again, turned to face me again slowly, a look of bewilderment on his face.  

My husband generally has a look of bewilderment on his face, but it takes a wife to be able to decipher the difference between actual bewilderment and just a resting face.

Think, Hope, think.  Why would your mother being alive seem like such a shock to him?  

My pinched, angry face, slowly melted into a look embarrassment as I remember all the Christmas I had spent without my mother, all the conversations I hadn’t had with my mother in the last 10 years, all the times she had not held my children.  The decade I’ve lived without my family.

I shook my head, a futile attempt at loosening myself from this conversation, and took a step backwards.

“Oh, right.  She is dead.  Sometimes I forget.”

I stepped past him, down the walkway, towards the sidewalk, but not before I saw the look of bewilderment intensifying in the furrow of his brow. I looked for Chase who was just coming towards the house again.  Seeing me, his attention waiver, and he careened too close the hedge that separated our front yard from the sidewalk.  Turning a moment too late, he toppled over, landing into the hedge, his face taking most of the blow.

In two large steps, I was at his side, picking him up, and untangling him from the hedge and his bike, with a speed and strength that is only lended to mothers.  

“Shhh… Don’t cry, darling.  Let me have a look.”  Chase buried his face in my right shoulder, snotting on my shirt.    His right arm was tightly around my neck, hand grasping my pony tail like a handle, a habit he’s had since he has been able to reach it.  

“Is Chase okay?” Audrey side, appearing at my side.

I looked down at her, her round face looking straight up at me.  She turned four last week and thought the sun rose when her brother woke in the morning.  “He’s just fine, love.  He took a tumble while practing.  But he’s just fine.”

Dave was beside me again, one hand on my back, one on Chase’s “Let’s see, buddy.  Did you hurt yourself?”  Chase lifted his face to meet Dave’s, tears still on his cheeks.  A few scratches had appeared on his cheeks, the more severe ones being on his neck.  He tried hard to stop crying, a sob catching in his throat, and breath coming out in a shudder, wanting to show his father how brave he could be.  “Oh, no damage done!  You can get back on your bike.” Dave said, after his five seconds of reviewing Chase’s injuries.  He took a step back, his judgement final.  

Hearing his father’s approval, Chase arched his back, and wiggled from my arms, heading back to his bike, another sob hitching in his chest.  

“Chase, how about we clean up your face first?”  Chase stood on the sidewalk with his bike, a hand on each handle, an eager look on his face at the thought of just a bit longer in mother’s care.

“Hope, he’s fine.  Let him play.”  

Chase rubbed his right arm across his face, leaving a runner of snot on his sleeve, dirt mixing with the tears not quite dry on his face, leaving a dark smear across his face.  The movement had disrupted the clotting of the larger scratch on his neck, smudging it to look worse than it actually was.  He picked up his bike from the sidewalk and slowly got back on his bike, and pushed it slowly down the sidewalk again with his feet dangling from his hips, toes barely touching the sidewalk.  His head was down, the earlier enthusiasm for bike riding visiable diminished.  

“C’mon Chasey!  I’ll beat you to the Mrs. Parkison’s house.”  Audrey had her tricycle on the sidewalk too, and with one big push, she moved towards the neighbours driveway, feet pedling up a storm.  Chase faked a smile and pretended like he was going to try and beat her.  He was good with her, and always let her win.  

“Hope,”

“I’m going to go and change my shirt.”  Fearful that Dave would bring up my faux-pas about my mother again, I shot myself up the walkway and porch steps, and through the front door of the house.