“… I feel as if I’m flicking through a filing cabinet, reading files written in a language I once knew, but am out of practice in. The language of being young, of knowing nothing. I’m setting these memories out as though they came to me simply. This happened, then this and then this. But that’s not how it is. That’s not how it was.”
Flesh and Bone and Water is the story of André, a man who grew up in Brazil living a life of wealth and privilege as the son of a successful plastic surgeon. The tragic death of his mother leads to a shift in his life and as a restless teenager he daydreams of a life outside of Brazil. Decades later he is living in London with his wife and children, when out of the blue he starts to receive letters from a person from his past, which both startles and takes him back to that critical time in his life; the loss of his mother and the events that led to his departure from Rio. The novel travels back and forth from London to Brazil, revealing a story that André had repressed.
‘Isn’t it funny?… You yearn for things that you didn’t even like at the time.’
This is a well-written and well-paced debut novel. The story flows smoothly from André’s present in London to his recollections of his life in Brazil after his mother’s death. For a relatively short novel it manages to deal with a lot of topics, primarily those of class, race, and privilege, and it does it well. The author also perfectly encapsulates the restlessness and carelessness of youth, along with that sad nostalgia felt in the present when revisiting the past. As mentioned, the pace of the novel is really well done and I breezed through the story as the truth behind André’s departure comes to light, which is ultimately quite shocking. Flesh and Bone and Water is a strong debut novel and I look forward to seeing more from this author.
“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
Seventeen year-old Nadia Turner has a bright future ahead of her, however her life takes a turn after the unexpected suicide of her mother. In coping with the loss and the ever distant relationship with her dad, she becomes involved with the local pastor’s son, Luke, who is four years her senior. A former athlete whose career came to an end as a result of an injury, his once promising future is at a standstill and he waits tables at a local restaurant. Nadia wants more out of the relationship than Luke is willing to offer, and an unexpected pregnancy shatters the illusion. She doesn’t want to get stuck in her hometown, especially when her way out is within reach. The events of that summer sets these two on a path that leads to a lifetime of asking the question “what if?”
“Oh girl, we have known littlebit love. That littlebit of honey left in an empty jar that traps the sweetness in your mouth long enough to mask your hunger. We have run tongues over teeth to savor that last littlebit as long as we could, and in all our living, nothing has starved us more.”
The Mothers is one beautifully written novel. This is evident from the first page with one lovely passage after another. The author has a way of describing and portraying emotions that is really well done and I marked many quotes throughout. While the story focuses on Nadia and Luke, the narrative includes the perspective of “the mothers,” which consists of a group of elderly ladies at the local church who observe it from a distance. This adds a unique element and an interesting voice. It did take me some time to really get into the story, which left me with some unanswered questions by the end. Having said that, it is undeniably well written and I look forward to seeing what stories Brit Bennett will create in the future.
This week I was lucky to have the opportunity to read and review the soon to be released The Summer That Melted Everything, which I absolutely adored. The author, Tiffany McDaniel was kind enough to answer some questions regarding her first published release and her work. Enjoy the Q & A!
The Summer That Melted Everything will be available July 26, 2016.
1. Congratulations on your debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything. Can you give a quick summary of the story for those who are not yet familiar with it? First off, thank you for the congratulations. I appreciate that. The story is about eighty-four year old Fielding Bliss looking back on the summer of 1984 when he was thirteen-years-old. It was the summer his father had invited the devil to their town. The one come to answer the invitation is a thirteen-year- old boy dressed in overalls and asking for ice cream. The boy arrives with the start of a hell-hot heat wave. This is the story of what melted that summer in that heat. It’s the story of how everything can change during the course of one moment too long in the sun.
2. What inspired you to write this story? I always say I’m inspired by the characters themselves. To me, my characters feel like real people. That in their ghost-like presence they hover around me as I type. Telling me their story. I’m inspired by them to write the best beginning, middle, and end of a story I can. I owe that to the characters. I owe that to the readers.
3. There are some unique names in the book, with the town of Breathed and Autopsy Bliss being the standouts for me. What influenced the names you chose? I was told my maternal grandfather was born in Breathitt County in Kentucky. The first novel I ever wrote was inspired by my mother’s life growing up in southern Ohio, so to honor my grandfather I had used Breathitt in that first novel, changing the spelling to Breathed so as not to be confused with the Kentucky region. Breathed ended up being a character itself, and as of date the town has made an appearance in all of my novels. As far as the other names like Autopsy—because my characters feel so real to me, I feel like these are their names long before I type them on the page. One day I had seen the word Autopsy and it stuck in my head. I think this was in essence a hint from Autopsy himself about his true name. At first, I didn’t yet know how important a meaning the name would come to represent throughout the course of the novel. But once I looked up the definition of what the word means and its origins, it became clear that Autopsy’s name would become a major theme. Continue reading “Author Interview: Tiffany McDaniel”→