Reflection: The Paul Mann Story by Titan Frey is an amazing work of fiction interweaving alternative history within it. Paul Mann is 104-years-old and in a nursing home. Every day he writes in his journal about his life and has a sack of journals that tells the story of his lifetime. He is reunited with his son and grandson in this book, where Paul tells his story through his journals. An intimate family relationship is born between grandson and grandfather where we see the hectic, heartbreaking, and even heartwarming life Paul Mann has led while also following his current adventures.
I love this book. It was intriguing and hard to put down. At first, I did not like many of the characters, but then I saw, as their story developed, that they were shaped by their pasts. The main characters are well-developed in that sense, and we get to know these characters as if they were complex, real-life people. It truly felt as if I was witnessing these events pass and getting to know them. I would have liked to understand the side characters motivations more, though, as they did seem cruel without real reason. Though sometimes, that is the harshness of the world, and this book’s theme seems to be how callous and brutal the world can be, but that love is still important.
The main aspect of this book was learning about Paul through the eyes of his past in the form of a journal, and it was done so well. I love how the journals truly seemed to be written by Paul Mann. It shows incredibly strong character development. I liked the idea of learning about someone through journals; it put me in the mindset of Marlin, the grandson, where I felt like Paul was my grandfather and I got to connect with him in that way. Frey does a marvelous at humanizing her character and allowing you to grow attached to them.
This book is an emotional roller-coaster with lots of twists and turns. Terrible things happen, but you get to see the love Paul has for his family, and that beauty shines through. The portrayal of the nursing home struck a chord with me and made it relatable; at least to me. It made me feel for the residents, especially Paul. In a way, this book made me feel more connected with my own grandmother.
I highly recommend this book. It puts you in the head of an older person by relaying their life experiences. It also shows how sometimes you do not really know a person or how they came to be who they are until you take the time to listen, or read in this case. The book also illustrates the importance of life and spending time with loved ones. In addition to valuable lessons, the book is also intriguing, thrilling, and mysterious. Marlin and his grandson truly have a special bond.
Pages: 186 | ASIN: B07MTSFWJG
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Four Letters by Lucy Hensinger follows 14-year-old Emily as she discovers letters that belonged to her great grandmother, Lucille. She reads them and while seeking out details of Lucille’s story, she learns a few things about herself as well. Her journey takes her both literally and figuratively to the place where Lucille lived. She traces her steps both in her real life trip to Boston and in her vivid dreams where she follows Lucille’s life. Emily becomes fascinated in her great-grandmothers story and can’t wait to see where her story takes her.
Four Letters has a nice flow and is easy to follow. It’s short enough that the length wouldn’t feel daunting to younger readers but at the same time is engaging enough to keep readers interested. The story doesn’t get weighed down with Emily’s problems or her great-grandmother’s tumultuous love life. Hensinger manages to keep things light throughout the book.
I liked the incorporation of real places in Boston and the surrounding areas. I have been to Boston before, and recognized the narrow streets and great big buildings with countless windows. I have also been to Salem to the House of Seven Gables and some of the museums there. Hensinger did a good job giving the reader a feel for those places and will likely inspire people to visit.
Emily is a character that many readers will identify with. She is a fiery, feisty redhead who has found her way into some trouble at home. She doesn’t always shy away from a fight. She takes a trip to see her grandmother and discovers bits and pieces of her ancestry and becomes enthralled with her great-grandmother’s story. That is probably a good and productive escape for her from the trouble she found herself in at home. I identify with the ancestry myself. I thirst for any knowledge I can acquire about my own family history. It is easy to get wrapped up in the search for family history.
If I have any complaint at all, it would be that I felt it lacked a big “aha” moment. There wasn’t a big plot climax for me. I feel like the build-up was great. I was interested to see what happened between Lucille and Opie. I followed along and felt like I was as anxious Emily to see why they didn’t end up together. I don’t feel like that really got resolved. I know Emily just sort of resigned to the fact that she was grateful that her great-grandparents ended up together, but I would have liked to know the details of what happened between them after becoming invested in the characters.
It was a good, well-written story with characters that young readers will enjoy. Any reader will enjoy touring Boston and Salem with Emily. I look forward to more stories about these characters.
Pages: 108 | ASIN: 1481733419
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A chance encounter in the park leads Yianni to develop a relationship with a family similar to the one in which he grew up and in need of the same love, unconditional support, and unfailing guidance provided him by his grandmother once upon a time. His recurring meetings with little Christina, her parents, grandmother, and brothers reveal more interesting and, sometimes, amazing coincidences between their family and his own. Eager to share the stories of his youth and finding more reasons all the time to reveal his most troubling and painful secrets, Yianni begins to save his newfound family while he saves himself in the process.
Right out of the gate, JohneEgreek strikes a powerful chord in Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist with his emotional reaction to his first encounter with three-year-old Christina. Yianni is clearly missing a piece of his heart due to the strained relationship with his son. The fact that he has never met his young granddaughter, Aubrey Rose, eats away at his soul, and the warm reaction he feels from Christina’s mother and brothers begins to fill that tremendous void. It is difficult to read without becoming overwhelmed with emotion at Yianni’s thoughtful reflections upon each of their storytelling sessions.
There exists an entire demographic of readers who will relate to Yianni’s description of his childhood. The abuse and unrelenting savagery with which his father throws his way from a tender age is unbelievably horrific. To find that Yianni is able to grow, thrive, and find a way to cope with his past is truly amazing. His story gives readers hope and provides them with a virtual shoulder on which to lean as they battle their own childhood demons.
Yianni’s grandmother, the basis for his strength, is a phenomenal woman indeed. She provides young Yianni with all the love and protection he needs once he loses his grandfather, his idol. The advice flows freely from her day after day, and she builds Yianni’s self-esteem when his father has beaten him down. Her words alone are enough to heal Yianni’s spirit.
The regular meetings Yianni has with Christina’s family are fascinating to say the least. I was stunned at the coincidences he discovered week after week between his own lineage and theirs. I felt as though the story was leading to an aha moment in which a secret relationship was revealed–that’s how coincidental and numerous the connections are. Story after story, Yianni builds a life with Christina and her parents–even her reluctant father, Ray. I have to say, I was more than pleased to see the final turn of events involving Ray and Yianni.
I give Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist by JohneEgreek 5 out of 5 stars. To have so freely opened his life to the eyes and ears of the world is an admirable thing indeed. The years he spent being abused by his father and the time he spent living as the one sibling his father refused to love shaped JohneEgreek into a man who can heal others with his own stories.
Pages: 316 | ASIN: B077PLR98B
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