Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus by Tim Albert

Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus by Tim Albert

Summary:

In 1969 the 22-year-old Tim Albert spent three happy months on a 12,000 mile road trip around the United States on Greyhound buses. Half a century later – to the day – he set out to revisit his trip, armed with his original 30,000-word diary. Would he find the America of President Donald Trump much altered from the America of President Richard Nixon? How would Greyhound bus travel have changed in a world flooded by motor cars and electronic devices? And would his 72-year-old body last the course?

In this funny and finely observed account, our game hero tours New York with a 50-year-old Michelin Guide; discovers that bus passengers speak into their phones and not to each other; celebrates the golden jubilees of the moon landings, the gay rights movement and Kermit the Frog; declines the offer of a mail-order AK-47; and is told by half the people he meets that the President is a dangerous embarrassment and by the other half that he is a saviour who never lies. When two older ladies assume our scruffy traveller is homeless and reach into their handbags to give him money for food, he realises that one thing hasn’t changed – the generosity of Americans.

My Review:

The year was 1969 and Tim Albert (aged 22) travelled to the USA and spent three months travelling 12,000 miles across the country via the famous Greyhound buses. This was the time of President Nixon. After this mammoth adventure Tim became a journalist both local and national and for medical publications. 50 years later in 2019 Tim decided that it was time to recreate the trip across the USA.  

This time it was the era of Trump in the Whitehouse, so setting off on his adventure 50 years later together with the original diary and his old guidebook and a 12,000-mile adventure awaits. But just how has the USA changed in the 50 years since his last trip? I have to say after swapping many emails with Tim about this, just what a fantastic idea to recreate his original trip really was. Exciting and brave at the same time.

Just stop and think for a moment, 50 years ago, there was no mobile phone, no internet let alone email! You not just Google when you needed information, you had to go and find it yourself. But now times have really moved on. People on buses not communicating with each other but would rather communicate via mobile phones. But not everyone is Google happy and have the latest smartphones.

To get to know the USA of today you must really speak to people on the street and this is what Tim does, and gets a real feel for how people think of Trump and their homeland of today. Tim writes superbly and has lost none of the journalist. Yes, you can of course read this as a travelogue but one thing his trip across the USA did prove was that just how divided the country had become under Donald Trump as President.

From July 2019 and arriving in New York to September Tim travelled across country, I loved the humour and how despite the hiccups Tim faces and sometimes asking for help you find out just how kind people really are. There are conversations with many people from all walks of life and these really are interesting. Across the bus rides visiting cities and towns Tim Albert takes the reader on a Greyhound adventure. An excellent read and Tim’s love for the USA really shines through.

262 Pages.

My thanks to Tim Albert for the copy of Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus by Tim Albert.

Two Summers: Nixon and Trump by Greyhound Bus by Tim Albert was published by Elbow Publishing on 26th June 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #17

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 17. PUSHKIN PRESS

This week we welcome to the Independent Publishing Showcase Pushkin Press a publisher I have become a big fan of over recent years. Founded in 1997 and publishes novels, non-fiction, and children’s books. Under Pushkin Collection, Pushkin Vertigo, Pushkin Children’s Books and One. You will find unique and award-winning writers from across the world many have gone on to feature on the Booker Prize, the International Booker Prize and even the Nobel Peace Prize.

They have an extremely exciting listing of books in both fiction and poetry, these can be ordered by visiting their website with details below.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @pushkinpress or visit their website: Pushkin Press

A selection of the fiction, crime and children’s books currently released:

Little Gods by Meng Jin

Published: 25th February 2021

Summary:

On the night of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a woman gives birth alone in a Beijing hospital. Years later, her daughter Liya travels from America to China with her mother’s ashes, hoping to unravel the legacy of silences and contradictions that she inherited from that night.

As Liya seeks to untangle the mystery of her family, we travel through Shanghai and Beijing, and deep into the past, uncovering an unexpected love triangle whose repurcussions are felt in the present moment.

Ambitious yet intimate, Little Gods is a gripping story of migrations both literal and emotional, and of the tragic impact of history on personal lives.

Meng Jin’s s narrative prose has appeared in the Pushcart Prize AnthologyThreepenny ReviewPloughshares, the Bare Life ReviewVogue, and Best American Short Stories 2020. A Kundiman Fellow, she has an MFA from Hunter College, and received the David TK Wong Fellowship at the University of East Anglia. Jin was born in Shanghai and has lived in the UK and the US.

The Captain’s Daughter: Essential Stories by Alexander pushkin

Published: 25th February 2021

Summary:

A dazzling new collection of Pushkin’s most essential fiction, in definitive translations by the acclaimed Anthony Briggs

Pushkin’s restless creative genius laid the foundations for Russian prose. His stories, among the greatest and most influential ever written, retain stunning directness and precision, more than ever in Anthony Briggs’s finely nuanced translations.

Upending expectations at every turn, Pushkin depicts brutal conflicts and sudden reversals of fortune with disarming lightness and sly humour. These are stories of fateful chances: a stationmaster encourages his young daughter to ride to town with a traveller, only to lose her forever; a man obsessively pursues an elderly woman’s secret for success at cards, with bizarre results; and in The Captain’s Daughter, Pushkin’s great historical novella of love and rebellion in the era of Catherine the Great, a mysterious encounter proves fatally significant during a violent uprising.

The Elephant by Peter Carnavas

Release Date: 28th January 2021

Summary:

A big grey elephant is following Olive’s father around. It leaves with him for work and trails behind him when he comes home, keeping him heavy and sad. Every day, Olive wishes it would disappear.

When she is asked to bring something old and wonderful to show her class, Olive immediately wants to bring her old bike – but she will need her father s help to fix it. Teaming up with her cheery grandad and best friend Arthur, she sets out to chase the elephant away.

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

(Pushkin Vertigo)

Translated by Ho-Ling Wong

Release Date: 3rd December 2020

Summary:

The lonely, rockbound island of Tsunojima is notorious as the site of a series of bloody unsolved murders. Some even say it’s haunted. One thing s for sure: it’s the perfect destination for the K-University Mystery Club’s annual trip.

But when the first club member turns up dead, the remaining amateur sleuths realise they will need all of their murder-mystery expertise to get off the island alive.

As the party are picked off one by one, the survivors grow desperate and paranoid, turning on each other. Will anyone be able to untangle the murderer’s fiendish plan before it s too late?

A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar

(Pushkin Vertigo)

Release Date: 2020

Summary:

A nightmare is haunting Daisy Harker. Night after night she walks a strange cemetery in her dreams, until she comes to a grave that stops her in her tracks. It’s Daisy’s own, and according to the dates on the gravestone she’s been dead for four years.

What can this nightmare mean, and why is Daisy’s husband so insistent that she forget it? Driven to desperation, she hires a private investigator to reconstruct the day of her dream death. But as she pieces her past together, her present begins to fall apart…

For further information on the publications from Pushkin Press please visit their website: Pushkin Press

You can also find them on Twitter: @pushkinpress and also their Instagram feed @pushkin_press and Facebook: @pushkinpress

If you have enjoyed this week’s showcase, please look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

Deity by Matt Wesolowski

Deity by Matt Wesolowski

Summary:

A shamed pop star
A devastating fire
Six witnesses
Six stories
Which one is true?

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rake over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Are reports of a haunting really true? Why was he never officially charged?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

My Review:

When Matt Wesolowski released his first novel Six Stories (Orenda Books) back in 2017 he had hit on an idea based on a series of six podcast interviews that try to resolve a complex crime mystery. Deity by Matt Wesolowski is book five and has just been released and the host of the podcast series ‘Six Stories’ Scott King returns in a dark and chilling novel about pop megastar Zach Crystal who has died in a fire in his remote Scottish Highlands home.

Having read all the previous four in the series and loved them all, Deity is a triumph for Matt. He has done it again. This time around focussing on a pop icon Zach Crystal who set up home in the Scottish Highlands and called it Crystal Forest, but all is not well here. With the trapping of being a worldwide pop mega star come those who follow every word that Zach Crystal says and every step he makes. In 2018 Zach Crystal just disappeared without a word and no sign of him. Was this the end for the pop icon, had he had enough of the fame and the whispers abut him. Those that loved him, truly adored him, but he has his detractors who clearly believed there was a much darker side. Was there really a tree house on the estate?

When Zach Crystal suddenly reappeared and announced that there was a new album coming but then there is a devastating fire at his isolated home and his remains are found in the ruins. There was to be no comeback for the pop icon. Now the stories and accusations started about Crystal and the young girls that was said he had an interest in. To his followers Zach Crystal was nothing more than a legend who did so much for charity and that these stories were designed to destroy his legacy and he was not there to answer them.

Now ‘Six Stories’ podcast host Scott King has turned his attention to the death of Zach Crystal. What Matt Wesolowski does with these stories is allow them to get under your skin and really make you go cold at some of the revelations and stories and how he created the pop megastar that made me feel rather uncomfortable the more you read. Truly brilliant. So now begins the six interviews that would try and unearth the truth about the man. There is so much packed into this gripping book I found that as with Matt’s previous series I could not leave the story alone. I wanted to find out more. Stop the clocks, turn off the tv and switch your phone off. Deity by Matt Wesolowski will get all your attention until the very end. If you have managed to miss the previous four in the series, then fear not as this can be read as a standalone but you may want to seek out the others in the series after.

320 Pages.

My thanks to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of Deity by Matt Wesolowski.

Deity by Matt Wesolowski was published by Orenda Books and was published on 18th February 2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #16

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 16. SANDSTONE PRESS LTD

The sixteenth in the series of Independent Publishers Showcase and this week we welcome Sandstone Press Ltd. Founded in 2020 by Robert Davidson. An independent publisher with an international outlook. Publishing both fiction and non-fiction titles from unique voices. In 2014 and 2019 Sandstone Press won the Saltire Society Scottish Publisher of the Year Award. The first company to win the award twice and the Nibbies small press of the year in 2019 and was also shortlisted for the IPG Trade Independent Publisher of the year in 2020.

They have an extremely exciting listing of books in both fiction and non-fiction, these can be ordered by visiting their website with details below or through UK Bookshop.org: uk.bookshop.org/shop/SandstonePress

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @or visit their website: Sandstone Press

A selection of the fiction and non-fiction titles currently released from Sandstone Press:

Love is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar

Published: 2nd February 2021

Summary:

 Queer. Muslim. Arab American. A proudly Fat woman. Randa Jarrar is all these things. In this provocative memoir of a cross-country road trip, she explores how to claim joy in an unravelling and hostile world.

Told as a road trip across the United Stated of America, this is Randa’s bold and frank personal story: a Palestinian daughter shamed about her weight, her background, and her decision to become a teenage mother as she rebels against her abusive family and the expectations others have of her.

The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line by Ruth Thomas

Published: 7th January 2021

Summary:

Hidden within the confines of The Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies, Sybil is happy enough with her work – and her love life. Then to her dismay, her old adversary, assertive and glamorous Helen Hansen, is appointed Head of Trustees. To add insult, Helen promptly seduces Sybil’s boyfriend. Betrayed and broken-hearted, Sybil becomes obsessed with exposing Helen as a fraud, no matter the cost.

Offbeat and darkly funny, The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is about things lost and found. It is also a story about love, grief and forgiveness: letting go and moving on.

The Munros in Winter: 277 summits in 832 days by Martin Moran

Release Date: 3rd November 2020

Summary:

The first round of the Munros in winter in a single journey was accomplished by Martin Moran 1984, ably supported by his new wife, Joy. Martin’s account of the adventure has since become a Scottish outdoor classic. This reissue is awaited by a substantial section of the outdoor/mountaineering market in Britain.

The March Fallen: 5 (A Gereon Rath Mystery) by Volker Kutscher

Release Date: 10th September 2020

Summary:

A dead man has been found lying under railway arches in Berlin. An old soldier, hideously disfigured, he has been killed mysteriously. Gereon Rath is brought onto the case while his fiancée, Charlotte Ritter, blazes her own trail. Meanwhile, the Nazis consolidate their hold on power, the Reichstag is burned down, and things become a lot worse not only for Berlin’s Jewish community but also for those police officers who can remain in action.

A Friendship in Letters: Robert Louis Stevenson & J.N. Barrie by Michael Shaw

Release Date: 13th November 2020

Summary:

A Friendship in Letters, Dr. Michael Shaw brings together correspondence between two of Scotland’s most famous writers for the first time.

Though they never met, Robert Louis Stevenson and J. M. Barrie developed a warm friendship, revealed in these amusing and gossipy letters, with vivid commentary on each other’s literary work. Until recently, Barrie’s side of the correspondence was presumed lost by his biographers. This epistolary volume reunites Barrie’s letters with Stevenson’s and contextualises them through an engaging introduction and a series of appendices, including a delightful short story by Barrie.

For further information on the publications from please visit their website: Sandstone Press

You can also find them on Twitter: @sandstonepress and also their Instagram feed @sandstonepress/ and Facebook: @sanstonepress

If you have enjoyed this week’s showcase, please look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

Lightseekers by Femi Kayode

Lightseekers by Femi Kayode

Summary:

When three young students are brutally murdered in a Nigerian university town, their killings – and their killers – are caught on social media. The world knows who murdered them; what no one knows is why.

As the legal trial begins, investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo is contacted by the father of one of the boys, desperate for some answers to his son’s murder. But Philip is an expert in crowd behaviour and violence, not a detective, and after travelling to the sleepy university town that bore witness to the killings, he soon feels dramatically out of his depth.


Will he finally be able to uncover the truth of what happened to the Okiri Three?

My Review:

The start of a new thriller series that stars investigative psychologist Dr Philip Taiwo. Lightseekers (Raven Books) is the gripping debut novel by Femi Kayode that is set in Nigeria. Dr Taiwo has been living and studying in the United States and has returned to Lagos. His country has changed since the time he has been away and Folake, his wife wanted to return to her home with their children. The United States was not for her. On their return to Lagos, he is asked to investigate the death of a young man, one of three that were brutally murdered by a gang. As Philip Taiwo specialises in mob violence and killings, he accepts the case.

The killings were captured on mobile phones and shared across social media platforms. Seven people are now standing trial for the killings of the three university students. But why where they so brutally killed? Now Philip Taiwo must find the answers and quickly. Taiwo may be back in his home country but things have changed, and he is a stranger. Chika Makuochi has now become his driver and he is wise and Taiwo needs him to guide him around they become quite a partnership as Taiwo seeks answers. The story really shifts at a pace and there are more than a few difficult situations that Philip Taiwo and Chika find themselves in.

There are many in the local community that eye Taiwo with suspicion and seem unwilling to help with answers, danger seems to lurk around every corner. But Taiwo is undaunted and pursues the case. He wants the truth, despite having to deal with some corrupt officials and historical tensions but Taiwo despite the danger is determined to get to the truth.

A brilliant and tension filled thriller, that sees the role of social media in our modern-day world that can sow hatred in a heartbeat. A complex but superb character driven debut novel. I am already looking forward to the next instalment staring investigative psychologist Dr Philip Taiwo.

You can follow Femi Kayode on Twitter: @FemiKayode_Author

#Lightseekers

432 Pages.

Thank you Laura Meyer and Raven Books for the review copy of  Lightseekers by Femi Kayode.

Lightseekers by Femi Kayode was published by Raven Books published on 4th February 2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Ice by John Kare Raake

The Ice by John Kåre Raake

Translated by Adam King

Summary:

A CRY FOR HELP

Anna Aune is on a scientific expedition to the North Pole, when the pitch black of the polar night is lit up by a distress flare.

A VISION FROM A NIGHTMARE

At a nearby research station Anna discovers a massacre – mutilated bodies strewn about the base. Then, a fierce Arctic storm blows in, cutting off any possibility of escape.

A KILLER LOOSE ON THE ICE
Anna races to find the murderer before they get to her, but she discovers a secret lurks under the ice – one that nations will kill for…

My Review:

If like me you like your thriller as cold as ice then The Ice (Pushkin Vertigo) the debut novel by successful screenwriter John Kåre Raake is perfect as it is set in the North Pole and is the first in a series which stars Special Forces Commando Anna Aune. The good news is that this is being developed into a television series.

The Ice

Imagine being at the North Pole and a killer is on the loose, so where do you run to hide? The vast wide-open expanse is at the heart of this bone chilling thriller that is perfect for a winters evening. Anna Aune volunteers to accompany 73-year-old professor Daniel Zakariassen, not a trip that Anna wanted to go on but as a Special Forces Commando she is trained for conditions such as the North Pole. But she is still suffering from PTSD and has survived war torn regions but also suffered the loss of her lover. Together with the professor Anna is at the North Pole to study the effects of Climate Change but soon things take a very sinister twist.

They are heading towards the Chinese research station when they see a flare go up but when they arrive it is a scene of mass murder. Suddenly for Anna she is at the heart of a major crime and the killer are still out there. What makes it worse is that the weather is now deteriorating rapidly and trying to stay alive and hunt the killer before the killer finds them.

Anna will now need all her special forces training to keep her and Daniel alive. Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing, but who and what is exactly at the heart of the killing spree. There are frozen dead bodies everywhere. But Anna discovers one severely injured man, and he could hold clues to what happened and just what was really going on at the Chinese research station and he could hold a clue as to how many are behind the massacre, but she needs to keep him alive.

At the same time as trying to stay alive in the worsening conditions Anna knows that she needs help and tries to locate a working radio to call for urgent assistance.

The Ice is a fast-paced atmospheric thriller that has a real sense of foreboding and not just the building storm. Raake has combined both the North Pole and a mass killer to build an incredible and compelling read with a new heroine at the heart of the storyline.

400 Pages.

Thank you Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for the review copy of The Ice by John Kåre Raake.

The Ice by John Kåre Raake was published by Pushkin Vertigo and was published on 7th January 2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Kika & Me: Me by Amit Patel

Kika & Me: How One Extraordinary Guide Dog Changed My World by Amit Patel

Shortlisted for The 2020 Barbellion Prize

Summary:

Amit Patel is working as a trauma doctor when a rare condition causes him to lose his sight within thirty-six hours. Totally dependent on others and terrified of stepping outside with a white cane after he’s assaulted, he hits rock bottom. He refuses to leave home on his own for three months. With the support of his wife Seema he slowly adapts to his new situation, but how could life ever be the way it was? Then his guide dog Kika comes along . . .

But Kika’s stubbornness almost puts her guide dog training in jeopardy – could her quirky personality be a perfect match for someone? Meanwhile Amit has reservations – can he trust a dog with his safety? Paired together in 2015, they start on a journey, learning to trust each other before taking to the streets of London and beyond. The partnership not only gives Amit a renewed lease of life but a new best friend. Then, after a video of an irate commuter rudely asking Amit to step aside on an escalator goes viral, he sets out with Kika by his side to spread a message of positivity and inclusivity, showing that nothing will hold them back.

From the challenges of travelling when blind to becoming a parent for the first time, Kika & Me is the moving, heart-warming and inspirational story of Amit’s sight-loss journey and how one guide dog changed his world.

My Review:

I read Dr Amit Patel’s incredible story of courage over two sittings and Kika & Me (Pan Macmillan) is a very personal account of how Amit lost his sight despite everything that could have been done. It is an inspiring account and one that has so much love throughout Amit’s story.

Hardback cover (February 2020)

It is not easy to tell a very personal story, but Amit does so with courage and tells the story of how this busy A&E doctor suddenly realised that he had a serious problem with his eyesight and visits to hospitals soon turned into surgery which also then included re-mortgaging the family home to pay for an American eye surgeon to come over to the UK to perform surgery that would save Amit’s eyesight. Amit was suffering from a condition called keratoconus which is a disorder of the eye that results in a thinning of the cornea. This was an extremely worrying time for the whole family.

All seemed to be going well for Amit and he was back at work and then one morning the realisation that the surgery had failed, and Amit was going to lose his eyesight. This was devastating for everyone, and this a year of getting married to Seema but Amit was not going to be down for long and soon there was a life to look forward to. With a loving family around him and the support of friends and organisations Amit was soon getting the help he needed. Amit shares with the reader his personal account of what it was like, there is no hiding anything. Amit was going to tell it as it was.

Six months after being on the waiting list there was guide dog to help Amit, Kika of course is the real star of the book and I loved how Amit called Kika ‘The fairy dog mother’ never leaving Amit’s side. There are so many stories that are shared of Kika and their travels. Theirs is an incredibly special bond.

There are of course some stories that Amit shares that left me fuming one story where Amit is travelling on a tube and is confronted by a man who after a confrontation knocks Amit to the floor of the train even though the train was busy with passengers and no-one came to help. I for one have never looked the other way and gone to help, but this was not the only occasion that Amit had to endure the worst of some people.

Despite this, Kika & Me is just a moving personal story that Amit Patel shares with the reader. Amit and Seema now have two children and Amit now helps others who have lost their sight by volunteering with the RNIB and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Amit’s story is uplifting and inspiring. I learned so much from Amit’s sight loss journey. Highly recommended.

You can follow Dr Amit Patel and Kika on Twitter: @BlindDad_UK and @Kika_GuideDog

For further information on the RNIB and Guide Dogs for the Blind please visit: RNIB  and Guide Dogs

For more information on The Barbellion Prize please visit: Barbellion Prize

304 Pages.

I am extremely grateful to Cat Mitchell, Pan Macmillan and the Barbellion Prize review copy of Kika & Me by Amit Patel.

Kika & Me by Amit Patel was published by Pan Macmillan and is available in hardback. The paperback will be published on 4th March 2021 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

THE BARBELLION PRIZE

The Barbellion Prize was founded and dedicated further the voices of ill and disabled writers. This is a prize awarded each year to an author whose work has best represented the experience of chronic illness or disability.

The award recognises work submitted for fiction, memoir, biography, poetry or critical non-fiction and can be from around the world in English or translation and can be published work from a publisher or self-published.

Further information about the prize can be found via their website: The Barbellion Prize

You can follow progress of the Barbellion Prize via Twitter: @BarbellionPrize and Instagram: @barbellionprize

The prize is named after the English diarist W.N.P. Barbellion who wrote about living with multiple sclerosis until his death in 1919.

The shortlist for the 2020 Barbellion Prize was announced:

Golem Girl: A Memoir by Riva Lehrer (Published by Virago)

The Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills (published by Fourth Estate)

Sanatorium by Abi Palmer (Published by Penned in the Margins)

Kika & Me by Amit Patel (Published by Pan Macmillan)

Golem Girl: A Memoir by Riva Lehrer

Golem Girl: A Memoir by Riva Lehrer

Shortlisted for The 2020 Barbellion Prize

Summary:

In 1958, amongst the children born with spina bifida is Riva Lehrer. At the time, most such children are not expected to survive. Her parents and doctors are determined to ‘fix’ her, sending the message over and over again that she is broken. That she will never have a job, a romantic relationship, or an independent life. Enduring countless medical interventions, Riva tries her best to be a good girl and a good patient in the quest to be cured.

Everything changes when, as an adult, Riva is invited to join a group of artists, writers, and performers who are building Disability Culture. Their work is daring, edgy, funny, and dark-it rejects tropes that define disabled people as pathetic, frightening, or worthless. They insist that disability is an opportunity for creativity and resistance. Emboldened, Riva asks if she can paint their portraits-inventing an intimate and collaborative process that will transform the way she sees herself, others, and the world. Each portrait story begins to transform the myths she’s been told her whole life about her body, her sexuality, and other measures of normal.

Written with the vivid, cinematic prose of a visual artist, and the love and playfulness that defines all of Riva’s work, Golem Girl is an extraordinary story of tenacity and creativity. With the author’s magnificent portraits featured throughout, this memoir invites us to stretch ourselves toward a world where bodies flow between all possible forms of what it is to be human.

My Review:

Riva Lehrer was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1958 and Riva was born with spina bifida. Many children born with spina bifida during this time were not expected to live. Golem Girl (Virago) is an extraordinary memoir of a life lived and destined to be different.

The first thing that struck me was the title and I had to go and look up the meaning of Golem and it is an artificial creature made of clay that turns into a real person by magic.

Riva Lehrer is a successful writer and artist; the list of awards and achievements is long as is the list of exhibits for her work. In Golem Girl, Riva talks of her early life and through the many surgical procedures she had to go through. Riva’s mother would do whatever it took to get the correct medical advice and treatment but despite everything it was tortuous for Riva. Being told she would never be loved or desired is devastating to a young person.  

As the book moved into its second part Riva talks about finding her true self and a career and being excepted for who she really is in society. Riva was going to make an impression on the world as an artist and writer and she has done that with gusto. Throughout the book there are photographs from her early years through to the artistic work where she uses her gift to express her life and how it changed as time went on.

As Golem Girl draws to a close, we see that Riva looks at the disability culture as she becomes an activist on this front as the decades moved on. Throughout Riva writes with incredible honesty and humour.

If you have an interest in disability culture, this is a book I would recommend. Golem Girl has been shortlisted for The 2020 Barbellion Prize with the winner being announced on 12th February 2021.

You can read more about Riva Lehrer via her website:  Riva Lehrer

Follow news of The Barbellion Prize: The Barbellion Prize

448 Pages.

I am extremely grateful to Cat Mitchell, Virago and the Barbellion Prize review copy of Golem Girl: A Memoir by Riva Lehrer.

Golem Girl: A Memoir by Riva Lehrer is published by Virago and was published on 8th December 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

THE BARBELLION PRIZE

The Barbellion Prize was founded and dedicated further the voices of ill and disabled writers. This is a prize awarded each year to an author whose work has best represented the experience of chronic illness or disability.

The award recognises work submitted for fiction, memoir, biography, poetry or critical non-fiction and can be from around the world in English or translation and can be published work from a publisher or self-published.

Further information about the prize can be found via their website: The Barbellion Prize

You can follow progress of the Barbellion Prize via Twitter: @BarbellionPrize and Instagram: @barbellionprize

The prize is named after the English diarist W.N.P. Barbellion who wrote about living with multiple sclerosis until his death in 1919.

The shortlist for the 2020 Barbellion Prize was announced:

Golem Girl: A Memoir by Riva Lehrer (Published by Virago)

The Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills (published by Fourth Estate)

Sanatorium by Abi Palmer (Published by Penned in the Margins)

Kika & Me by Amit Patel (Published by Pan Macmillan)

The winner of the 2020 Barbellion Prize will be announced on 12th February.

Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

Summary:

My life had been suspended, as though I had inhaled and was still waiting to let out that gasp of breath. I set aside my dreams for a future time when life might be normal again. But that night, on my mother’s birthday, as I sat and watched the sky turn from blue to black, I wondered for the first time if it ever would …

There were holes in Sam Mills’s life when she was growing up – times when her dad was just absent, for reasons she didn’t understand. As she grew older, she began to make up stories about the periods when he wasn’t around: that he’d been abducted, spirited away and held captive by a mysterious tribe who lived at the bottom of the garden. The truth – that he suffers from a rare form of paranoid schizophrenia, and was hospitalised intermittently – slowly came into focus, and that focus became pin-sharp in 2012, when Sam’s mother died and Sam was left as his primary carer.

In this powerful, poignant memoir Sam triangulates her own experience with the stories of two other carers, one she admires and one, on some days, she fears she might become: Leonard Woolf, husband to Virginia and F Scott Fitzgerald, husband to Zelda, and a man whose personality made him ill-equipped – in a great many ways – to be a carer for his troubled wife.

A mesmerising blend of literary biography and memoir The Fragments of My Father is a compelling and moving account of what it means to be a carer.

My Review:

I am extremely grateful to have been asked to review the shortlisted books on The 2020 Barbellion Prize shortlist. The Fragments of My Father (Fourth Estate) by Sam Mills is an extremely beautifully written memoir about caring for her father. Inside there are some very wise words and about her own life suspended as she cares for a loved one.

Sam Mills by profession is an author and is also the co-founder and MD of indie publisher Dodo Ink. When her mother died in 2012 Sam became the carer for her father, who was suffering from a rare form of schizophrenia. This meant putting her life plans on hold while she became carer with the financial implications that go with being a carer for a loved one as well as the challenges of this illness.

Through Fragments of My Father we see Sam’s own personal journey, but also she tells us of others who have become the primary carer and as Sam is an author she shares stories of Leonard Woolf the husband of Virginia Woolf and F. Scott Fitzgerald husband of Zelda who also became carers themselves.

As a primary carer what many do not realise is the loneliness that goes with being a carer and at times being cut off from the outside world as well as the lack of financial support, Sam does make the case that the government needs to step up to help those who have become primary carers.

For anyone who has been in a similar position this poignant memoir will be like a supporting arm around you. Sam’s writing about caring for her father is brave but beautiful.

Fragments of My Father is profound and important, as Sam points out that she was not sure about writing this, I like many are pleased she did.

416 Pages.

I am extremely grateful to Cat Mitchell, Fourth Estate and the Barbellion Prize review copy of Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

is published by Fourth Estate and was published on 9th July 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Sanatorium by Abi Palmer

Sanatorium by Abi Palmer

The Barbellion Prize – Shortlisted

Summary:

A young woman spends a month taking the waters at a thermal water-based rehabilitation facility in Budapest. On her return to London, she attempts to continue her recovery using an £80 inflatable blue bathtub. The tub becomes a metaphor for the intrusion of disability; a trip hazard in the middle of an unsuitable room, slowly deflating and in constant danger of falling apart. Sanatorium moves through contrasting spaces bathtub to thermal pool, land to water, day to night interlacing memoir, poetry and meditations on the body to create a mesmerising, mercurial debut. ‘There is a dreamlike quality to Abi Palmer’s exquisite Sanatorium. In lucid, gorgeous prose, she tells the story of a body, of illness and of navigating the complicated wellness industry, but ultimately this is a book about what it means to be alive. A striking, experimental debut that will stay with me.’ Sinéad Gleeson

My Review:

Author Abi Palmer is the narrator of her first book Sanatorium (Penned in the Margins). Shortlisted for 2020 The Barbellion Prize and is written in short paragraphs of her experiences of spending a month in a water based rehabilitation programme based in Hungary.

Throughout Sanatorium you get to understand just how important water and floating is to our narrator and there is a dreamlike prose to the narration. When Abi is in the water the sense of pain dissipates as she floats in the water. Abi is in so much pain from the conditions that she suffers from being in the water is an escape.

It is 2017 and the trip to the sanatorium is funded by a research programme and the month she spends here, on return to her home in the UK she decides to buy herself a plastic tub for her home so she can float and ease the pain.

As the writing is in small paragraphs the reader will notice at the top of each page the location that moves from Budapest to London and Chertsey (Surrey). At times the prose is poetic with the use of drawings.

Abi is in so much pain that she cannot walk for too long unaided, the descriptions are vivid and descriptive about living with a chronic illness and learning too trust your body even if your body does not want to work.

This was never meant to be a straightforward memoir which makes Sanatorium so unique and but also important in the way that Abi writes about her life living with chronic pain, there is no self-pity here from Abi but just the beautiful way she writes. At times funny and also sad.

We all know what it is like to slide into a warm bath at the end of a hard day. Just stop for a minute and think what getting into a warm pool is like for someone like Abi living in constant pain and illness.

I read Sanatorium in one sitting and in my own view a strong candidate to win The 2020 Barbellion Prize.

222 Pages.

@abipalmer_bot

@PennedintheM

#TheBarbellionPrize

I am extremely grateful to Cat Mitchell, Penned in the Margins and the Barbellion Prize review copy of Sanatorium by Abi Palmer.

Sanatorium by Abi Palmer is published by Penned in the Margins and was published on 20th April 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Barbellion Prize

The Barbellion Prize was founded and dedicated further the voices of ill and disabled writers. This is a prize awarded each year to an author whose work has best represented the experience of chronic illness or disability.

The award recognises work submitted for fiction, memoir, biography, poetry or critical non-fiction and can be from around the world in English or translation and can be published work from a publisher or self-published.

Further information about the prize can be found via their website: The Barbellion Prize

You can follow progress of the Barbellion Prize via Twitter: @BarbellionPrize and Instagram: @barbellionprize

The prize is named after the English diarist W.N.P. Barbellion who wrote about living with multiple sclerosis until his death in 1919.

The shortlist for the 2020 Barbellion Prize was announced:

Golem Girl: A Memoir by Riva Lehrer (Published by Virago)

The Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills (published by Fourth Estate)

Sanatorium by Abi Palmer (Published by Penned in the Margins)

Kika & Me by Amit Patel (Published by Pan Macmillan)

The winner of the 2020 Barbellion Prize will be announced on 12th February

The Journal of a Disapointed Man by W. N. P. Barbellion (Penguin Classics)