#105 ~ Sisters of Misery

October 7, 2008 at 11:33 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies | 5 Comments
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Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelly Hall

A special thanks to Andi from Andi Lit for sending this to me for review.  Her lack of reading time was truly my gain.

Maddie Crane has everything her mother ever wanted, she has a prestigious New England last name and is a member of the Sisters of Misery.  Unfortunately, the pressure of living up to her mother’s expectations and being in this group led by Kate Endicott made life in Hawthorne feel anything but happy and secure.  With the exception of her grandmother, Maddie can’t be herself with anyone.  She isn’t really sure who she is.  When her grandmother Tess allows her estranged aunt Rebecca and cousin Cordelia to return to Hawthrone and live with them, Maddie is hoping to find the sense of belonging she’s been searching for in this life.

What makes Maddie’s story about discovering who she is within her relationships and finding a home for her heart unique is the involvement of the supernatural in a town haunted by its history with witch trials and its proximity to Salem, Massachusetts.  Although her mother likes to brush the fact that her family is more attuned to other dimensions, Rebecca and Cordelia’s arrival in Hawthorne bring it out into the open, at least superficially.  When Rebecca and Cordelia open a new age store in Hawthorne, the Sisters of Misery quickly hone in on it in part of their campaign to ostracize Cordelia.  When a Sisters of Misery induction ritual goes horribly out of control and Maddie, unaware of the intentions of the rest of the group, does and cannot do anything to stop it, her family is never the same again.  It is only then when Maddie decides to let go of fear, stand up against Kate and her ilk, and embrace her family’s gifts.  Hopefully it won’t be too late and Cordelia will forgive her.

Sisters of Misery is targeted to the Young Adult audience.  The main characters are in high school and are facing some of the standard issues presented to girls as they are finishing high school and preparing for adulthood.  I had no issues with the content, but there were sexual situations, hints of sexual violence, and language that took me by surprise given the intended audience.  Much has changed since I last read a Young Adult novel.  I would not discourage any mature teenager from reading this novel.  At the same time, I feel it bears mentioning that this novel has a sharper edge to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  The story moved quickly and I cared for Maddie, Rebecca, Cordelia, and Tess.  It brought back some of the darker sides of high school life and, while there were elements of the supernatural, it felt very true.  I also enjoyed how runes were incorporated into each chapter.  The secrets throughout the story were interesting and well revealed.  Still, there is much left unfinished and I am excited that Megan Kelly Hall is writing a sequel.  I feel that there is something more going on with her mother and I’m hoping this comes to light in The Lost Sister.  I will be first in line to read it in August of 2009 to find out what happens to Maddie, Cordelia, and the Sisters of Misery now that they are college age.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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Literate Housewife Spotlight ~ October

October 1, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, LIfe, Reading, Religion | 11 Comments
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Several months ago, when I was compiling the list of books I’ve reviewed for this blog, I found some that I had forgotten all about.  That doesn’t necessarily meant that I didn’t enjoy them.  They just didn’t stick with me.  There were others that easily remembered and know that they were read and raved about by other authors.  There were still others, however, that I truly loved that I have not found much other discussion about at all.  I couldn’t quite figure out why more people hadn’t reviewed them.  The more I thought about this, the more the idea of featuring these novels in a different way started to shape and take form.  That idea is becoming a reality this month in my first installment of the Literate Housewife Spotlight.  Every other month I will be featuring a book that has stayed with me after I closed it for the last time.  It is a book that I believe in and want to share with you.  As part of the Literate Housewife Spotlight,  each Thursday I will post something new about the book, its topics, or its author.  I hope that you get as much out of this as I do.  Mostly, I hope to encourage you to find a copy of the book and check it out for yourself.

The first novel featured in The Literate Housewife Spotlight is The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman.  I read this novel last winter and was drawn into the world of Güde Müller, an elderly woman living in early 16th century Germany.  It was a time of superstition, just ripe for the witch trials sweeping through Europe.

Witchcraft, witch trials, and the political and social vulnerability of women are timely themes.  I’ve recently read Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelly Hall and have read several wonderful reviews of The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent.  Both of these novels take place in or near Salem, Massachusetts.  The Sisters of Misery takes place in modern day while The Heretic’s Daughter takes place during the height of the witch trials in the United States.  During Salman Rushdie’s discussion about his newest novel, The Enchantress of Florence, he touched on these topics as well.  He made one especially interesting observation.  The now stereotypical signs of witchcraft in that day and age, the pointy hat, the broom, and even the cat were common to almost any woman.  If the woman was ugly, that could be the sign of a witch.  If the woman was beautiful, she was a temptress for the devil.  In every situation, all that was ever needed was an accusation.  That is it.  In essence, all a woman needed to be was eccentric, envied, hated, or seen as an easy scapegoat to be a witch.  Imagine what it must have felt like to know that a witch hunter was coming to town.  What would you do to survive?

The following is a reprint of my review from February of this year:

The Witch’s Trinity tells the story of Güde Müller, an elderly grandmother who lives with her only son Jost and his family. They live in Tierkinddorf, Germany and have been experiencing two years of extreme famine. The strain of living without adequate food is taking its toll on the family and the town as a whole. Güde can tell how much Irmeltrud, Jost’s wife, resents her being alive and taking food that would ordinarily go to her children. After a Catholic priest is called in to investigate whether witches are to blame for the town’s hard luck, one of Güde’s childhood friend is burned at the stake. Still, the town is desperate. The able-bodied men leave the village in search of food. While they are gone, the village starts to turn on one another and it seems that no one is safe from being accused of witchcraft.

This book had a powerful affect on me. It made it difficult for me to sleep well for almost a week. It’s unbelievable the things that humans will do to one another and it’s frightening how open women and the elderly are to abuses of many kinds. It’s especially shameful how women turn on each other instead of supporting each other. The terror experienced by Güde and other helpless citizens of Tierkinddorf was so believable that there were entire sections of this book that had my heart racing. I left this book feeling thankful to be alive in 2008 instead of 1608. Witch trials make workplace cattiness seem like child’s play.

As with many books, The Witch’s Trinity was tidied up too quickly and neatly. I would still suggest that anyone interested in witch trials or the plight of women or the elderly read it. You will continue to think about this book and its themes long after you’ve finished it. That certainly sets this novel by Erika Mailman apart from the rest.

The Witch’s Trinity is being published in paperback on October 7th.  Over the course of this month, Erika Mailman is graciously offering copies of this novel to three lucky readers.  Come back each week for details on how you can win your own copy of this novel.  Not willing to leave it to luck?  Click here to order a hard cover copy of this novel for yourself.

#58 ~ The Witch’s Trinity

February 15, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Posted in Books, Brain Food for Thought, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, LIfe, Religion | 1 Comment
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trinity.jpg

The Witch’s Trinity: A Novel by Erika Mailman

I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction recently and most of it has centered on London. The greatest portion of that has taken place during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs. I wanted to change things up. So, when I read the list of Divia’s holiday bounty, I instantly took notice of The Witch’s Trinity. Not only does it take place in Germany, it had a paranormal twist. This made it very much different from my usual fare. It was a quick read that did not disappoint.

The Witch’s Trinity tells the story of Güde Müller, an elderly grandmother who lives with her only son Jost and his family. They live in Tierkinddorf, Germany and have been experiencing two years of extreme famine. The strain of living without adequate food is taking its toll on the family and the town as a whole. Güde can tell how much Irmeltrud, Jost’s wife, resents her being alive and taking food that would ordinarily go to her children. After a Catholic priest is called in to investigate whether witches are to blame for the town’s hard luck, one of Güde’s childhood friend is burned at the stake. Still, the town is desperate. The able-bodied men leave the village in search of food. While they are gone, the village starts to turn on one another and it seems that no one is safe from being accused of witchcraft.

This book had a powerful affect on me. It made it difficult for me to sleep well for almost a week. It’s unbelievable the things that humans will do to one another and it’s frightening how open women and the elderly are abuses of many kinds. It’s especially shameful how women turn on each other instead of supporting each other. The terror experienced by Güde and other helpless citizens of Tierkinddorf was so believable that there were entire sections of this book that had my heart racing. I left this book feeling thankful to be alive in 2008 instead of 1608. Witch trials make workplace cattiness seem like child’s play.

As with many books, The Witch’s Trinity was tidied up too quickly and neatly. I would still suggest that anyone interested in witch trials or the plight of women or the elderly read it. You will continue to think about this book and its themes long after you’ve finished it. That certainly sets this novel by Erika Mailman apart from the rest.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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