The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Friday, January 23, 2015

LAVINA By Mary Marcus

Publisher:  The Story Plant
Expected Publication:  April 28, 2015
Pages:  358
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  Mary Jacob grew up as an anomaly. A child of Louisiana in the early sixties, she found little in common with most of the people in her community and in her household, and her best friend was Lavina, the black woman who cooked and cleaned for her family. Now, in the early nineties, Mary Jacob has escaped her history and established a fresh, if imperfect, life for herself in New York. But when she learns of her father's critical illness, she needs to go back home. To a disapproving father and a spiteful sister. To a town decades out of alignment with Mary Jacob's new world. To the memories of Billy Ray, Lavina's son who grew up to be a musical legend whose star burned much too bright.

And to the echoes of a fateful day three decades earlier when three lives changed forever.

A decades-spanning story both intimate and enormous in scope, LAVINA is a novel rich in humanity, sharp in its indictments, and stunning in its resolution.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
Murpheysfield, Louisiana – 1960’s – There was much discrimination and racial tension during the civil rights era. The black women cleaned, cooked, and many times raised the children of affluent whites as their own, before the days of civil rights and integration. The story demonstrates strong truths about racism during the era of Martin Luther King.

This book is not just about race, but also the struggle to find one’s identity and to become accepted. There are strong themes of heartache, hate, attachment, and love. I must say that I found slight similarities to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and yet they were so different.

The core of the book is formed by three extraordinary characters, and cleverly gives the story three different perspectives. The history of the day is dramatically told in their own distinct voices, which brought the story to vivid life.

Lavina – A lovable character that exuded strength, and managed to carry on and care about others despite an unjust system. She loved Mary Jacob like her own child. She really added humor to the story.

Mary Jacob hated her father most of her life. She’d always thought of him as having a hard and rigid heart, and knowing there was no love between them. The only reliable love and comfort she felt as a child was from Lavina, the family’s housekeeper. She thought of Lavina as her mother. Her biological mother was confined to bed because of being ill and there was very little interaction between them.

Billy Ray, son of Lavina, and not very likable, had been lonely for most of his fifteen years. Nobody had been in his life except his mother and he harbored so much hate and anger in his heart. But as he got older, music became a huge part of his life and he was finally able to express himself, putting his thoughts and feelings into his music.

The author certainly poured her heart and soul into this novel. I was drawn into the different narrative voices, but one of the most effective aspects of the book was the use of the vernacular – you can hear the characters speaking – just excellent!

One negative comment – I didn’t like the profanity used, especially by Billy Ray, finding it to be offensive, and it serves no purpose in my opinion. That being said, I found Lavina to be a compelling, touching, and thought provoking read. Just excellent! 4+ stars.
I received an advance reading copy of this book from The Story Plant in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:  I was born and raised in Louisiana, but left for New York after graduating from Tulane. I worked very hard to get rid of my southern accent, and now I wish I hadn’t. For many years, I worked in the advertising and fashion industries for Neiman Marcus, Vogue, Lancome, Faberge and San Rio Toys where I worked on the Hello Kitty Brand. My short fiction has appeared in North Atlantic Review, Fiction, Jewish Women’s Literary Journal and others.
My husband, Joel Goodman and I live in Los Angeles and East Hampton, New York. We have a grown son, Amos Goodman.

Why I Write

Reading a book has always seemed to me to be the greatest magic trick. You hold an inanimate object in your hands, you look down and wham, you’re transported into an entirely different reality. You encounter people you know instantly and go to places you’ve never been before. Deep reading is a relationship of complete trust when it’s really working.

To say my best friends are books may be an exaggeration–but my favorite books are like best friends: they make me laugh, they entertain me, we have fun together, I find out appalling things, wonderful things and I’m continually moved.

I never get sick of them (and books never get sick of me) unlike my human friends. Books are also very low maintenance (unlike people) requiring no more than a nice shelf and a little dusting once in a while. And of course, books don’t have anything else to do other than hang out with me (unlike my flesh and blood friends and family who have such busy schedules).

I have an electronic reader now that I like, but am just a little afraid of, that stores thousands of books and that seems to me to be both slightly sinful as well as gluttonous but in the nicest possible way. When I get in bed with my electronic reader and it lights up the dark, I feel like a teenager with a flashlight.

All my close friends are so called creative types; consequently no one really except strangers or half acquaintances ever ask me why I became a writer. I was thinking about it this morning why writing has always seemed to me to be the only thing to do (other than painting or pot throwing or drawing, though I can’t do any of those) and that’s because writing is the only form of power I really trust. And doesn’t involve telling other people what to do. Which I never seem able to do with any kind of authority or enthusiasm.

Fahrenheit 451 is the scariest book that has ever been written.

I’d be insane or dead if it weren’t for books.