Tag Archives: Compassion

“The Invasion of the Tearling”: all good things

I have to say that reading Erika Johansen’s writing is a pleasure. I love how she uses semicolons and how she structures her sentences. Yes, I loved the story in “The Invasion of the the Tearling” and the development of the characters, but it’s her actual writing that had me savouring this book.

tearling

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22698568-the-invasion-of-the-tearling

This second book is a bout Kelsea, a young woman who becomes queen of the kingdom The Tearling. Her next door neighbour is an evil, magic queen. As Kelsea learns more about the history of her family and her place in the kingdom, she starts to gain magical abilities as well. Throughout the novel, she struggles with her choices and how to combat evil while retaining her own soul. She grapples with the harsh realities of life and the stark truth that her kingdom is at the mercy of a stronger, more disciplined, more terrified, magic kingdom. Her guards, a rogue priest, and her bookie accountant help to rule with justice and fairness, yet they don’t always approve of her choices.

At the end of the book, Johansen created two things that had me worked up:

  • She created a suddenly realistic setting and plot twist that I did not see coming at all. This twist requires major suspension of disbelief, yet I bought in. But the book ended before the twist was fully developed, so I sat up in bed and realized I had to get the third book, right away! (In fact, as I was in the library yesterday picking up another book, I saw book three sitting on the display shelf. The library knew!!)
  • She had Kelsea, the main character, make a sacrificial decision to confront the evil red queen on her own, without her guards. And while in that meeting, she gives up her magic. What?! Why?? What will happened to her and her kingdom. How did she think it would end for her?

twist

Source: http://ru.memegenerator.net/instance/37170912/what-if-i-told-you-what-if-i-told-you-the-twist-ending-of-the-book-would-you-be-mad

I think one of the reasons I love this series, besides the writing and the lovable characters, is that Johansen includes such a deep sense of social justice and doing the compassionate thing, even when it could mean harmful personal consequences. As Kelsea has her ‘fuges,’ visions, she sees into the life of Lily, a woman who lives in a post-apocalyptic New York, USA. Lily is trapped in an abusive marriage and is monitored all of the time. When an injured stranger falls into Lily’s backyard, she does everything she can to protect this stranger. Through that act, she became part of the underground moment for The Better World. Johansen’s descriptions of the the people living poor and in terrible situations stirred my compassion and that part of me that feels fiery passion for equality and justice. It comes out in the book that Lily had a younger sister, Maddy, who worked with the resistance as a teen and out of fear Lily reported her sister, who then disappeared. So as Lily deals with her guilt for her sister and the plight of the people she drives by in the slums, she inserts herself into the rebellion and as the reader, I can’t help but get swept up in her righteous anger.

I loved this section of the book where Lily remembers Maddy and her passion for others:

There was the crucial difference between the two of them . . .: Maddy cared deeply about things.

“If we could be better people, she would say, “if we could care about each other as much as we do about ourselves, think about it, Lily! Think what the world would be!”

Lily would nod, for this sounded good in theory, but Lily had no such deep drives; anything she cared about was discarded as uninteresting two months later. Maddy’s passions were exhausting. They demanded not only interest but commitment and effort. Sometimes Lily had wished that Maddy would just think about boys and clothes and music, as all of Lily’s friends did, as Lily did herself.

It’s exhausting. I love this insight. Yes, compassion is exhausting. It’s not easy. So it’s interesting that in the book Kelsea, the queen, has almost too much compassion and those around her can’t understand, just as Lily wasn’t able to understand her sister’s passion for justice.

So, I can’t wait to read book three. I have it and I’m so curious how this series will end. What about the twist? Will I still play along? What about the characters? Will they still be lovable? Time to find out!

reading

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/479492691554569815/

 

“Lullabies for Little Criminals”: where’s the love?

This is one of those books that you love because the writing is phenomenal, not because of the content. In fact, this was a tough book to read and made me feel uncomfortable for wanting to know what will happen next. I truly enjoyed the skills of Heather O’Neill and I can see why Lullabies for Little Criminals is a Canadian must-read.

lullabies

Source: https://www.amazon.ca/Lullabies-Little-Criminals-Heather-ONeill/dp/0060875070

My thoughts about this book are a bit scattered. It provoked a lot of thought and a lot of questions. Also, self-examination. So, please forgive the jumpiness of this blog as I skip between ideas.

The scene that angered me the most was when she shows up at her boyfriend’s house. Her dad locked her out, she just got into a fight with a friend that she usually crashes over night with, and her only options are to be helped by Xavier’s parents, freeze outside, or return to her pimp. I was so angry and self-righteous when Xavier’s parents shut the door in her face. Couldn’t they see that she needed help? I have a friend who took in and basically adopted her son’s girlfriend because she needed support and family. Even after they broke up, by friend still supported her son’s ex-girlfriend. I also think of the TV show My So-Called Life, where the teacher takes in Ricki because no one else wants to go near him. Where is the risky compassion? Where is the sacrificial help? But then I think to myself, where is my risky compassion? Where is my sacrificial help? It’s easy to watch others and make judgement. It’s not so easy to actively help others.

saint

Source: https://onsizzle.com/i/everybody-is-a-saint-when-they-talk-about-someone-elses-10448484

Baby is an interesting character. She enjoys learning and tries hard at school. She often describes scenes where she is doing her homework in questionable situations and locations. At one point, she ends up in advanced classes and flourishes. Yet her living situation means that she doesn’t have a stable location to put her belongings, she doesn’t have consistent routines and activities, and she doesn’t have a reliable support network. As a teacher, this broke my heart. It’s so hard to see a student who is bright and eager to learn miss out on the challenge of learning because they can’t focus on the learning. baby has to look after her dad, navigate her neighbourhood, deal with the trauma of thinking drugs and prostitution are just a normal part of life. Heartbreaking. As a reader, I wanted to jump in and save Baby because O’Neill did such a brilliant job of narrating Baby’s character. The innocence of her situation and the ignorance of her plight makes her so lovable. She is trying her best in what she believes is a normal situation.

That being said, I couldn’t help but think that the ending was a bit too good, a bit too saviour-like. Baby and her father drive off into the sunset to live with her dad’s family in the country. If only every story of tragedy had this mysterious family help.  I think of Jane Eyre whose long-lost uncle leaves her loads of money and she is set for life. I think of the girl from The Wonder who is whisked away into a new life with new parents. Yes, these characters deserve all good things, yet that’s not the reality for the majority of people in these situations. If you want proof, look at the stats. Over 30,000 Canadian young people were experiencing homelessness at some point last year. Over 30,000 young people. Teens. That number is disturbing and tragic. Not all of those stories end happily. Although to be fair, we don’t know the ending of Baby’s story but we leave with hope.

youth-homeless1

Source: http://www.charliesfreewheels.ca/2014/11/25/job-opportunities-essential-alleviate-youth-homelessness/

One thing I truly appreciated about O’Neill’s book is the transition she lets Baby witness. Baby notices a few time that since she started to look less like a kid, she was treated differently. Poor, homeless kid: aw, poor dear. Poor, homeless teen: get a job and grow up. I think that this is true and hard to hear: we judge teens as adults, when really they are still kids. This is one thing I have learned teaching jr high and high school: pre-teens and teens still need adult support, whether they see it that way or not. That’s the saddest part about the book for me, is Baby realizing that she is treated differently and is almost stuck. She hasn’t changed and her situation hasn’t changed, but the perception and judgements of others have. This is why I think that O’Neill’s book is so well written: she taps into something that we know about ourselves, and even though we may not have had similar experiences to Baby, we have all had similar moments of clarity and sadness for the passing of our own childhoods.

So overall, I truly loved this book. It got me thinking and it got me feeling. In the end, that’s why we love reading, isn’t it?

“The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor”: standing strong

All guts, no glory. I feel like that might be a good way to describe Charlotte Taylor. She was an amazing woman who was independent and stood up for her own rights in the face of a lot of opposition. She was a woman who was living a life style that was ahead of her time. She believed in equality, compassion, and perseverance. Yet I only heard of her because I read this novel!

taylor
Source: http://www.bookbits.ca/sarmstrong.html

Sally Armstrong, Charlotte Taylor’s great-great-great granddaughter, writes the story of this amazing woman and fills in some of the blanks with her own best-guesses. So, it is a blend of fiction and non-fiction.

Brief timeline:
1.) She runs away from her stuffy British life with the family butler, but he dies after they run away across the Ocean, leaving her pregnant and alone.
2.) She meets a nice sea captain who tries to make her go back to England via Nova Scotia, but she meets a lot of Acadians and Mi’kmaq people in the area and realizes she likes this new place.
3.) She runs away to a Mi’kmaq camp to avoid leaving on a ship for England and the Mi’kmaq welcome her and she makes a special friend and they have a life-long relationship.
4.) She marries a privateer, moves to his cabin, and has more kids.
5.) Said husband dies from a rotten tooth. She remarries a local entrepreneur.
6.) She has more kids. Her husband never comes home and is presumed dead.
7.) She marries a local politician and has more kids.
8.) Things are getting heated, literally, so she decides to move her family to a new island.
9.) Her husband dies.
10.) She spends the rest of her life canoeing with her Mi’kmaq friend.

Yet Charlotte Taylor is not forgotten! You can explore her life as the “Mother of Tabusintac” in New Brunswick on a tour.

taylor.2
Source: http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/Products/T/FollowtheStepsofCharlotteTaylor-Tabusintac-Centennial-Library-and-Museum-EC.aspx

I did find the life of Charlotte Taylor fascinating because she was so strong, intelligent, and determined, yet I really enjoyed the way in which Armstrong wove in a lot of Canadian history into Charlotte’s story. Some of her ancestors have put together an amazing timeline that truly shows the changes that were happening and how incredible it was for Charlotte to survive and thrive.

The Expulsion of the Acadians. The land grab that pushed out the Mi’kmaq people and other nations. The ruling that settlers could petition to own land, yet the First Nations only received Crown Land which was often sold or encroached upon. The danger of Americans trying to take over the land. The dividing of the colony into provinces. Charlotte’s everyday life might not have been affected by all of these events, yet she lived in an interesting time.

Armstrong is not the only relative of Charlotte Taylor to write about this incredible woman’s life. Mary Lynn Smith also has done a lot of research and writing about her ancestor. She makes it clear on her website that she did not help Armstrong and that Armstrong’s novel should be read as that, a novel–not a biography.

As a member of a large family, I can only imagine what would happen if someone tried to write the history of one of my ancestors and fictionalized the account. It might divide the family and as Mary Lynn Smith states on her website, Charlotte Taylor would have fought anyone writing about her life with “tooth and nail” just as I believe any of my ancestors would react to a fictionalized account of their lives.

Yet at the end of the day I found Armstrong’s story compelling and fascinating. I love learning that there are strong and independent women in our Canadian past who had beliefs and didn’t stay silent when they were fighting for their rights and for the rights of their family. Charlotte Taylor was a woman who stood strong and remained compassionate, intelligent, fair, and honest throughout her entire life. As a person who defies convention in life, her legacy of defiance lives on in the lives of her family.

quote
Source: http://quotes-pictures.vidzshare.net/the-only-thing-we-learn-from-history-is-that-we-learn-nothing-from/2/

The tally of her life comes out in her favour, she decides. But she has no respite from losses. (pg 380)
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.(Hebrews 11:13)

strong
Source: http://www.nuttytimes.com/a-strong-women/