Intergenerational family stories are a genre unto themselves. What makes one narrative compelling or another boring depends on the writer ensuring that all of the threads weave together to create a coherent and engaging tale.
No Country, by Kalyan Ray, was published in 2014. The novel starts in a small town in rural Ireland in 1843. Brendan and Padraig have been best friends since they were young. As it usually happens when we are on the cusp of adulthood, the boys are torn apart by blossoming and confusing romantic feelings. Padraig is unaware that his girlfriend, Brigid is carrying their child, when he leaves for the city to fight for his nation’s independence. Instead of returning home, he makes a dangerous mistake that sends him instead to India.
Back in Ireland, Brendan is raising Padraig and Brigid’s daughter, Maeve as his own child. When the potato famine struck, he decided that it would be better to start a new life in America. As the years pass and different branches of the family tree come into being, questions of identity, politics, and history play with the fate of their descendants.
The book started off well enough. I was drawn into the narrative and the character’s struggles. The problem is that about 2/3rds of the way in, I got lost. I can’t put my finger on what went wrong, but for whatever reason, the story lost its momentum. While I did finish it, the ending left me with an empty feeling.
*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie A League of Their Own. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations..
Being a working mother is never easy. The scales between parenting and raising the next generation can seem like they will never be balanced. In A League of Their Own, Evelyn Gardner (Bitty Schram) has been forced by her husband to take their son, Stillwell (played by Justin Scheller as a child and Mark Holton as an adult) on the road with her. Evelyn is a bit of an indulgent mother, attempting to keep Stillwell from getting into trouble with multiple chocolate bars while on the bus in between games. To say that this does not go over well with her teammates is an understatement. She also allows Stillwell to taunt the team, which also gets under the skin of the rest of the women.
Evelyn is also an emotional softie who does not respond well to criticism from her coach, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) when she makes a poor decision on the ballfield. But that does not mean that she is weak. Evelyn has a backbone that allows her to be a trailblazer, as both a working mother and a female athlete.
To sum it up: I think we, as an audience, underestimate Evelyn. She may appear to be a softie, but underneath that softness is a will of iron that is not often associated with women from the period. The truth is that we, as women have had it all along, we just needed the opportunity to show it.
Martha becomes an unlikely hero for democracy as she realizes that her husband is in on the scheme and does everything she can (in her own way of course), to save the nation and her man.
What I am enjoying so far is that the spotlight is not on the usual suspects (i.e men), but on the women whose heroic acts are either ignored or downsized. I also like that Martha is unwilling to stay silent in the face of truth, even if it means opening the door to trouble. The acting is fantastic, the storytelling (so far at least) is easily watchable, and the politics is a reminder that even though it’s been 50-ish years, nothing has changed.