Monday, 8 May 2017

Shelf Help: When books help you heal

3 months ago life threw me a sucker punch that, for the first time ever, made me unable to read books. On January 30 this year, I lost my father.  Ever since then, I have not been able to read a single book. I could not decide what to read. If I chose something anyway, I couldn't settle enough to keep going. My eyes scan the words. My brain registers nothing but grief. I almost feel guilty doing something I would enjoy when my father is no longer around...

I, the forever finish-one-book-and-start-another kind of girl, had lost my reading mojo and it scared me.

Finally I decided it was time for some serious s(h)elf help! I have my own library full of books but it simply wasn't working. So last weekend, I walked down to my favourite local library and honed down on one of my all-time favourite authors, the Queen of Suspense, Mary Higgins Clark.

Mary Higgins Clark is known for her suspense and mystery thrillers. I love most of her books, but more than that I am fascinated and inspired by her own life. Born in 1927, she lost her father when she was only 11 and her older brother in WWII when she was 17. She aspired to be a writer from when she was very young but worked as a switchboard operator, secretary, model and stewardess, got married and struggled for a long time before enjoying literary success. Before her first big win with "Where are the Children" in 1975, she had also lost her mother, her only remaining sibling and her first husband. Today, at almost 90 years of age, she is still writing, while enjoying life with her children, grandchildren and current husband. Definitely on my reading list is her memoir "Kitchen Privileges"

As for me, this week I successfully finished 3 of her books!! The book balm has worked, I have now got 3 more books lined up to read (Jeffrey Archer and Tara Moss) and life is slowly getting back to enjoyable again.

A short review of each of the 3 books I read this weekend:

I Heard that Song Before (2007) Rating 6/10 - Daughter of a landscaper, little Kay Lansing sneaks into the mansion of her widowed father's rich employer one day and overhears a couple arguing about money and then the man walking away whistling a tune she is familiar with. Later that day, a woman disappears never to be seen again. A few weeks later Kay's own father commits suicide, apparently not able to live life without his dear wife. Kay is plunged into deep feelings of abandonment... 22 years later Kay ends up marrying the once-employer's son, knowing full well that there are rumours surrounding the mysterious death of his first wife as well as girlfriend (the woman who disappeared all those years ago). When the police arrive at their doorstep with an arrest warrant for her husband after some new evidence comes up, Kay is scared she has married a murderer - but determined to find the truth.

I identified with Kay's feelings of abandonment after her father's death (Illogical, I know. But it's there). However overall the characters are ill developed in this story and it is hard to relate to most of them. It kept me guessing for most of the book, but did not really grab me as most of her books do.

Where are you Now (2008) Rating 7/10 - A 21 year old university student at the cusp of a successful life seemingly walks out of it one day and is never seen again. He does call his parents every Mother's Day. Even the death of his father in the 9/11 tragedy does not bring him back, although the calls don't stop. 10 years later, his sister is determined to find him. Her actions set in motion a number of events that seems to prove that  her brother is now a serial killer!

What I found most interesting in this book is how each little element and different story arc connects and falls in place by the end. No wonder MHC is known as a master plotter. Although there were enough clues to guess the culprit, I couldn't quite figure out why and how until the very end. A good page turner and exactly what I needed for my bibliotherapy.

Daddy's gone a hunting (2013) Rating 7/10 - A family owned furniture business in New York bursts into flames one night killing a former disgruntled employee and severely injuring the owner's daughter Kate. It is evident the fire was deliberately lit and suspicion falls on Kate, while she is in an induced coma and unable to defend herself. Kate's sister Hannah is determined to prove her sister innocent while their father Doug seems distant and money minded.

Again in this book it is clever how so many different lives and families intersect and are connected by murders that take place in different times and for different reasons. I love the excitement of the guessing game of course, but the clever plotting and connections between characters is what kept me going.