Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

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My first book read in 2018. Although I am neither a twin nor have a sister I share a close bond with, I enjoyed Curtis’s book. I however, think that the story could have been told in fewer pages. At a point, the book seemed  like a movie with too many characters and too many sub-plots. Despite their challenges, I liked the way the sisters  looked out for each other. Style wise, i enjoy a book better when its picturesque. Although very voluminous, I could not clearly find my way around St Louis in my head and most of the time, it was dark and dull- i thought the imagery could have been better. Nevertheless, I read every single page and in record time too. I decided last year not to write out the entire summary in my reviews but this was a 521 page book and I have no idea where to leave my readers so I’m breaking my rule and doing a longer summary than usual.

The story revolves around a twin pair who have psychic abilities they call senses. Whereas Vi accepts her senses and does nothing to dull them, Kate is terribly embarrassed by her senses and does everything she can to dull and hide them so she can live a normal life. They grow up in a very dismal environment with a depressed mother who apparently did not want and had no idea she was expecting twins until she was due. Their very reticent father could do or did nothing to improve their situation. Although it remained unclear the nature of the romantic relationship between their parents it remained clear that their childhood although not terrible was not one of utter bliss.

The identity crises that Kate struggles with remains with her throughout high school up until they both go off to different universities. At this point, Vi drops out school barges in on Kate’s life and attempts to destroy all semblances of the normal life she has created in college. Kate sends her packing home and their relationship takes a nose dive. Kate realizes that she cannot marry her long-time boyfriend, after her mother dies from overdosing, because his life is too perfect and he cannot understand where she has come from. With this realisation came a shattering of the shell that Kate had attempted to build around herself. Even though she returns home, it takes her a long time to recover from her mother’s death and also to find some level of self acceptance.

In the long run, Kate meets a perfect young man, Jeremy,who loves and accepts her just for who she is-Vi had already sensed that she would meet and marry him. She settles happily with him and has two wonderful kids. She becomes a stay at home mum so she can give the kids full attention. Vi on the other hand, having never completed any degree programme, takes her “senses” to a different level and becomes a professional psychic. Everything is seemingly going well until, Vi predicts an earthquake which shakes St. Louis and becomes topical even at the national level. Although, her “senses” had been dulled, Kate picks up October 16th as an important date and when she tells Vi they both assume it’s the date of the earthquake and announce it to everyone.

 

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African Girl- The Awakening by Kezia Dzifa Awadzi

African girl_

I don’t know much about other African countries but if you went through the Ghanaian education system up until University, especially the University of Ghana, you can relate entirely to this book. If you did not grow up in Ghana and are interested in getting a good perspective about family, education, love, work and religious life in Ghana-you must definitely read this book.

Dzigbordi Dzordzorme, the main character, walks us through her life  from Achimota College through to the University of Ghana. At Achimota, she meets Michael who helps her break her social awkwardness. Later on she meets Maxwell, Michael’s cousin, and they fall in love with each other. Despite Maxwell’s fears that his father would not have accepted Dzigbordi on tribal grounds, he does. Ironically, Dzi’s very strict parents decide that Maxwell’s manners do not befit the standard of their family when on his first visit  he takes of his shoes, places them on the couch and plays with his toes ( who does that?). It is after this sad incident that their troubles begin. As staunch Christians, we are exposed to their struggle with sexual purity in their relationship. Dzi and Maxwell hold on firmly to their love despite the constant rejection Max faces from Dzi’s family. Eventually, Dzi travels to the United States to further her studies. While in the US, a new phase of their relationship unfolds.

I really enjoyed this book, I did. I think it was so easy to relate to because the setting was mainly non-fictional. The author uses actual names of halls of residence and places within the University of Ghana, where I schooled. Although, this was part of the book’s appeal, I also think this meant the author had less to do in terms of creating  a setting. I suspect strongly that this story is an autobiographical-fiction. I saw myself relive, through the main character- the parenting drama, the social awkwardness, balancing emotions and academic work, identity crises, etc.

Although I enjoyed the book, I didn’t like the packaging much- the image on the front cover of the book. The title did not appeal much to me either. If I didn’t have to read it so I could review it on the radio show, I probably would never have picked it off a bookshelf. That however, would have been my loss. I forgot to mention, there’s  a sequel to the book I’m waiting patiently for.

 

Dearest Mimi, 

Someday I hope to read this to you when you are old enough to understand the most part. Hopefully, it’ll make life easier 😊        

Mimi, journal! Remember to re-read your journal at the end of the year. In the process you’ll get to know yourself better. Aside journaling, focus on being your friend. Be kind to you, be gentle, have conversations with yourself, get to know you, pay attention to what you like and what you don’t like. Spend quality time with you without being bored. Discover your interests, your fears, your strengths and your weaknesses.

As you find yourself, be unapologetically you at all times. Grow by all means, learn from others, work on your weaknesses and improve your strengths. But do it to make the you you’ve come to know a better person. Never embrace change for the sole reason that it makes someone else happy, never do it so you feel accepted, never do it for the sole reason that everyone else is doing it. Do it because it makes the wonderful person you’ve come to know a better person and for that matter the world a better place. This will be hard if you have no idea who you are, so be your best friend and then be unapologetically you. 

Mimi,I’ll shout this from the rooftops. Learn all that you can about your salvation in Christ Jesus. I’ll teach you all that I can and hold your hand as far as I can. Unfortunately, at a point it gets very personal. Learn your verses. At least if you can learn and memorise 25 verses a year, that won’t be bad. It might seem boring but my love, read it. Read the Bible cover to cover. You might not understand it all, but get into the habit of knowing God through His Word. 

Two actions you should consciously focus on in your walk with Christ are: trust and obey. The extent to which you take this seriously will determine how strong you ll be when hard times hit (which will definitely happen). When they hit, remember to hold on unwaveringly to the faith you profess in Christ Jesus. The saddest thing in life is to lose the peace Christ gives when you are at your lowest. Hold on firmly love, hold on.

Lest I forget, baby, remember to laugh. Laugh for no reason, laugh when there’s a reason. Don’t take anything overly seriously. We’re just sojourners in this life, what won’t kill us will definitely pass. So laugh at yourself sometimes. Don’t take your successes too seriously and don’t take your failures too seriously. Learn to laugh and smile at the little things. In a dark world like ours you’ll find light if you do😍.

With loads of love till we talk again. 😙😙, Awolaryea.                                                1/1/18

Framily… When friends become family

Have I told you how among the many blessings God has given me, I count myself blessed to have such awesome friends? I remember writing a piece about them a few years ago when I was going through some really rough patches in my life. I think I did another on facebook nit too long ago too. But that’s just how special they are. I have to shout it from the rooftops. 

My friends are few and close, so few and close I jokingly tell each of them that I won’t be surprised if only six to seven friends of mine show up at my wedding. The rest of the guests will be family and friends of the groom. Each of them is as different as chalk and cheese but as amazing and special as can be.

They are there when I need to talk, when I need to fool, when I need to cry, when I need to share a joke, when I need to gossip🙆‍♀️. I can so rely on them to be there for me. They’ve seen me up, they’ve seen me down, they’ve seen me cry, they’ve seen me laugh, we’ve had our fights and our share of fun too. When need be, they’re frank with me at other times they pamper me 😊. They are my family, my clan. I can’t even explain how loved they make me feel. I thank God over and over again for my friends and pray all the time that he gives me the grace to be even  half as good to them as they are to me. When friends become family your life gets sunnier. Love you guys can’t imagine my world without you 😍😍😍

Memories

When painful memories remind me of how much power they hold

I’ll only let that be a reminder to constantly create happier ones

I hold no lasso over the horse that upsets the worms’ rusty cans

I might not be able to erase the heartache the graphic jolts load

As they bore  through their cans they’ll not my joy permeate

I will only let them be a reminder happier ones to create

 

When painful memories remind me of how much power they hold

I’ll remind them of how much power I have, so I shall fight

I’ll shuffle through them like a deck of cards until I find my knight

Then joyfully I shall dwell on my knight , happy and bold

We’ll dance and wine and dine until we are depleted

Every moment I spend in pain is a new memory created

 

 

The Housemaid – By Amma Darko

I was a bit surprised at the mention of a witch as the book ended but then I remembered that it started with one and I thought it was a great reminder about the myriad of socio-cultural problems which we face as Ghanaians. 

Amma Darko points out in her book the devastating effects of the greedy search for money and material things on the family unit. Parents consistently run after money supposedly in the name of providing a better life for children. They eventually lose these children and let loose an unloved, selfish and embittered group of people into society. 

She also harps on corruption, focusing on sexual corruption especially when women are involved. The view that women are sexual objects and in certain circles cannot attain success in their careers until sexual favours have been traded is clearly depicted in the novel. 

Amma reminds us that the rural-urban rift and its twin sister-“rural urban migration ” must be addressed. In my opinion making housemaids out of these young ladies from our villages, as Tika sought to do,  is not the solution to this menace. Quality education and other poverty alleviation schemes would be more effective in tackling the problem. 

One last social issue I noted from the reading is deceit and get rich schemes. We see the sad ending of Efia ‘s family and it’s a reminder that when someone reaches out to help us we should not grateful and not envious. 

A quick read, simple but suspense-filled plot. I’d recommend Amma Darko’ s “The housemaid” for anyone who needs to do some light reading. 

Angie’s response: Bruised reed

​Response

A bruised reed He will not break; He was bruised for our transgressions.

On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people, he will heal the bruises left by his blows.

He who knows the stars by name and has counted every hair on my head.

He invites me to cast all my cares upon Him and reminds me I am worth more than the ravens and so should never worry.

Even though He seemed to have cast me away, He promises joy in the morning, the oil of gladness for mourning, beauty for ashes and praise instead of despair.

Wonder of wonders, He delights in me and rejoices over me with singing.

Through my pain, He tells me He knows the way that I take and when He has tried me I shall come forth as gold that has been refined.

Like Job, though He slay me, yet will I trust; for I know my redeemer lives and that at the last He will stand upon the earth.

So through my sorrow, pain and rejection, I will rejoice with all my being as daily He conforms me to His image.

I will be hopeful!

Angela Azumah Alu, 6/12/15

In pursuit of passion

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