Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Title: Keep Calm and Mommy On
Author: Dr Tanu Shree Singh
Publisher: Duckbill Books
Pages: 200
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Tanu Shree Singh has a PhD. Sound science determines her parenting style. I go by a mixture of instinct, and what I learned from my parents. 

And yet I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement with what she said.

In an age in which parents are pushing their kids into classes and highly evolved programmes to map and enhance their cognitive skills, I, like Tanu, am lagging behind when it comes to being a conventional Tiger Mom.

Sometimes it causes me to question my stance. As she says, Am I an adequate parent? …Have I ensured optimal levels of cognitive functioning? Have I charted their trajectories? I think the answer to all three questions is in the negative. I do not yet have my own trajectory in order!

Parenting a child in this age is like being prepared for battle. The best degrees, and Tanu has a PhD in Positive Psychology, can’t stand against the onslaught of a real child.

Generally, I have my act together but often I don’t. That’s why I hoped this book would help.

Tanu talks about the issues most likely to be felt in families everywhere. Of course, my kids are still in the single digit age. So a few of the issues that she talked about weren’t relevant to me at this stage. But at least, it’s good to know we are all in this together.

Each section begins with speech bubbles. Snippets of conversations that tell us about the topic, and the chapters that are dealt within it.

The topics are We are the World, Keeping Your Child Safe, Dealing with Friends and Family, How to keep your Child Happy, and Reading the World.

There are a range of chapters under each topic. For instance, the topic, We are the world, consists of chapters on the prejudices that children learn from grownups, ways to discipline kids, religious beliefs, how to build resilience, children who are abandoned or orphaned, and exposing children to reality as the newspapers portray it.

I found the chapter titled, Should Kids Read the Newspaper?, particularly helpful since I’d been thinking about the best way to introduce my kids to reading the newspaper.

Keeping your Child Safe talks about the difficult conversations we must inevitably have with our kids, especially once they near their teens, about teenage romances and sexuality, and dealing with peer pressure.

Dealing with Friends and Family discusses sibling rivalry, friendship across genders, death and grief, bullying, body shaming, raising responsible boys, about what happens when girls bully boys, lies and truth and cultivating empathy.

How to keep your child happy includes chapters on the importance of kids doing nothing (something I espouse too), learning respect from scratch, the needs of teenagers, addiction to digital devices, working independently, the education system, the definition of success. This section was where my personal beliefs aligned completely with the author’s.

Some chapters were named in a straightforward manner, others like The Other Side of the Coin were not. I thought there should have been some consistency.

What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t a ready reckoner on how to behave in any given situation, thought it does offer suggestions that parents could consider. Its greatest strength it that it raises the questions that few parents bother thinking about. I also liked the fact that the style was chatty, not written like a PhD thesis. The stories with Ishaan and Vivaan are interesting.

Tanu talks about the importance of keeping conversations going, not shirking from difficult conversations (children can smell parental unease with conversations), and invites us to remember that That little person you have is ideal for you, complete with her faults.

The tone is irreverent, but firm. Realise you are not a god: Even gods have beheaded their children (and fixed an elephant’s head in its place).

I don’t agree with everything she says. For instance, she says, Focus on unprotected sex and its repercussions—physical and emotional, not moral.
I believe the moral repercussions are just as important.

Careful proofreading would have helped. In the chapter on bullying, the examples of the early ’70s and the late ‘80s are described in present tense, while the example from 2013 is in past tense. There were a few cases of awkward sentence constructions. The language could certainly have been improved.

In the chapter on abuse, the author talks about beating by teachers. Children go through worse forms of physical abuse, which aren’t talked about here.

I appreciated her call to recognize the signs that indicate whether a child is being bullied and to remember that your own child could also be a bully. The tips she gives are good.

The chapter on body shaming was a necessary one. Things I appreciated: Resist praising your child for masculine or feminine stereotypes. Or calling your child too fat or too skinny.

I liked it when she saw herself as having a special responsibility to bring up boys who are respectful of women and treat them as true equals.

Like: The mechanism for crying is fairly similar, regardless of gender! Saying that a boy is crying like a girl tops the list of silliest but also most destructive things ever said. You are telling your son that men do not cry, so whatever is bothering him needs to be ignored, not resolved. And you are telling him that crying is an inferior thing to do, that girls cry and are, therefore, inferior.

She writes with a wisdom that knows when to step in and when to let the kids do what they would want to. All imbued with self-deprecating humour that I particularly liked. For instance, to the myth that bullying toughens kids up, she asks, Do you ask your doctor to inject typhoid-causing bacteria into your system so that you can toughen up your digestion?

One area that my kids don’t give me any trouble is what Tanu describes in Outsourcing creativity. When it comes to being arty and crafty, both my kids are way more creative than I am. Thank God for that! I shudder to think what would happen if they were dependent on me for jazzing up their projects.

I believe that every parenting experience is worthwhile, and could offer valuable lessons to others.

And this book, which combines her knowledge with instinct, and how they’ve worked with her boys, is quite helpful.

Friday, October 27, 2017


Title: Partho, the Unconventional Investigator -- The Mystery of the Missing Bags
Author: Rajib Mukherjee
Publisher: Kindle Edition (Self published)
Pages: 113
My GoodReads rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Partho, the Unconventional Investigator – The mystery of the missing bags was a sweet and charming story.

The story is written in the first person of Dev, whose background closely resembles that of the author. Dev’s sister, Ria, is married to Partho. Ria babies her husband, and Partho, Dev tells us, loves it.

Even though Dev tells us at the very outset that I never intended to be the Watson to any Holmes, that is exactly what he ends up becoming. Partho Ghosh is the Sherlock Holmes to Dev’s Dr Watson.

The events of the story begin inoffensively enough with Dev’s interest in an ad in the local paper relating to a black Travel Pro bag, exchanged by mistake at the airport.

The desire to solve this mystery catapults Partho and Dev into deep adventure and mortal danger, when gangsters called the Alfariqs become involved. What seems like a harmless investigation into missing bags for want of something better to do soon assumes grave overtones. 

The author puts in some interesting twists and turns, as the story picks up speed. What heightens the tension is the fact that one of the key characters has made a living will, and the mystery must be resolved within ten days, before the will decrees termination of his life support system.

On his way to fleshing out this charming mystery, the author touches upon some fascinating subjects such as living wills, the challenges inherent in archaeology and hudud law.

Partho, the desi Holmes, was adorable. I liked the traits with which the author sought to build him up. His practice of yoga and meditation, his ability to picture things in his mind as also his quirky personality, his endearing vulnerability (he shivers and is nursed by his wife in an almost motherly fashion) and his ability to design amazing gadgets that would cause James Bond to feel envious.

He isn’t, however, as unconventional as the author would have us believe. In fact, he follows quite closely in the convention of Sherlock Holmes.

In fact, in the vein of Holmes, he also leaves us with one bit of wisdom when he describes death as a change of state. He adds, Does the liquid water fear death when it changes to vapor or to ice? Not a single drop of water ever disappeared from the face of the planet; life, like that water droplet, is everlasting and imperishable.

The Baker’s Street sleuth, it was often said, lacked a woman’s benign influence in his life. Here, the author amends the situation with Ria. Ria serves as a good foil to him, following up on his ideas with her painstaking research and sound common sense.

They are supported by a colourful ensemble of characters such as Ryan, who does not mind sharing the credit, and Ahluwalia, the lawyer, besides Chandan Chatterjee, Thomas, Begum Sahiba etc. Of these other characters, I liked Ryan and Ahluwalia, both of who have the potential to walk out of this book and into another.

Ahluwalia’s character, all pretend cloak-and-dagger, was rendered more interesting on account of his needling of Ryan, the copy, and the cheeky aphorisms he spouts, which the narrator describes as his fortune cookie bits of wisdom.

These aphorisms are:
Face value has no value.

A man who measures life never knows his own measure.

And my favourite, There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

And of course, who would write Partho’s adventures down but Dev?

Dev’s character was also well drawn. He has a thirst for adventure which dies as soon as the adventure leads him into awkward situations. Like Watson, he attempts to deduce facts from the sketchiest of information but misses the mark by a wide margin.

The only parts that seemed incomplete were the descriptions of locales. They came across as half-done.

The Middle East is not a region that I am familiar with and so I can’t comment on the descriptions with any certainty. But I found it strange that the fierce Islamists would take the desecration of a graveyard so lightly.

Also, the author has not indicated whether the graveyard is Christian or Muslim. Since the locale is Abu Dhabi, I assumed it is Muslim. If that is so, then the imagery of a cross on the grave, as displayed on the cover, is highly incorrect. The author should have pointed out which it is clearly.

Since the story is based in Kolkata for a large part, it would have been nice if Kolkata had played a greater role in the story. Few cities have as much character as Kolkata, and the author should consider bringing out the character of the city, if he ever thinks of a sequel.

There was one other error I spotted when they are all discussing their plans for Abu Dhabi. Tom asks, “Who goes and who stays?” and Ryan responds, “I believe Partho and you should go.” Since Tom has asked the question, it seems reasonable to think the ‘you’ refers to him. It is only when Dev speaks up that one realizes that Ryan was referring to Dev. This confusion could have been avoided.

These errors, however, do not take away from the pace of the book. Once it starts, the story rushes headlong with one thing leading quickly to another, and the original mystery of the missing travel bag finding its resolution in an event that, at first sight, seems completely far-fetched. 

Just like Holmes, it is Partho who helps us see the links between the seemingly unrelated events. It is as much his smart thinking as his gizmos that save the day for him and Dev.

The book was entertaining. Partho is the sort of character that can grow on a reader. I hope this isn’t his only adventure.

(I read a Kindle edition of this book through NetGalley.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: EMPIRE

Title: Empire
Author: Devi Yesodharan
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
Pages: 300
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Empire by Devi Yesodharan is a skillful amalgamation of memories and dreams mixed with fiction and research into a not-so-well known era of ancient history. As a schoolgirl growing up in Bombay, the life and times of the Chola dynasty received no more than a mention in our history books. The author’s effort to bring this period to life is most welcome.

Anantha, the commander of the navy of the mighty Chola empire, wins an 11-year-old Greek girl, Aremis, as the spoils of battle.

From the beginning, she is groomed to be a warrior and archer. She receives training from Shrey, the best teacher. Years later, Aremis is an accomplished warrior. 

She misses her home and her people, and feels herself a stranger in this land. Despite spending years here, people look upon her as Yavani, the foreigner.

It is a time when rivalries are vicious and no soldier likes being bested by a woman. Even when Aremis wins the archery competition, the rewards are given to Rajivan, a competitor. Instead, Aremis is named King Rajendra’s bodyguard.

The King reinstates a woman as his Queen Amaya, a woman that everybody thought had been dead for eight years. Everybody accepts her as the queen. Only Anantha suspects her of deceit. He shares his suspicions with Aremis.

When the Cholas learn that the Srivijayans have been taking undue advantage of them in the trade against the Song dynasty of China, they decide to declare war against the Srivijayans.

Meanwhile, Mandakini, Anantha’s mistress, suffers from poisoning as a result of poppy consumption. Sent to apprehend the man who smuggles the opium, Aremis kills him in self defence. She is thrown out of the palace, no longer a throne guard.

At Anantha’s request, the King reinstates her into the war effort. As they head to war, some of the men take ill. When they land at an island looking for herbs, Aremis is brutally attacked by Rajivan and the liege men of the opium smuggler.

The book is written in the 3rd person present tense point of view of Anantha and Aremis. In choosing Aremis and Anantha for the two voices, the author has chosen well. Both affect the King.

The author takes us into the past, to Nagapattinam in the 11th century, when the Chola dynasty has its glory days. We see the essential nature of politics in the strategising, the politicking, the relationship between the king and his subjects and vassals, all seeking to further their own agendas.

I commend the author for her keen research about life, seafaring and the wars and battles then.

As the novel begins, we learn of the might and sweep of the Chola empire. As it plods on, we are not so sure. We realise the scale of the effort it takes to maintain the power, the lives destroyed.

We get an idea of the magnitude of the kingdom’s glory through many ways. The Vagnivara, the author tells us, was a ship big enough for 30 elephants and 200 men. Some of the details of the glory of those times are quite breathtaking. They give us an indication of the heights of glory which the dynasty had achieved.

The error emerges when some of us believe India’s glorious past was all glory and no stink.

The author herself gives us evidence of what wasn’t quite right. How dogs, the leather saddle etc were considered unclean, but the combination of priests and coins could make everything good again.

Not much has changed over 1000 years. War still excites the unscrupulous with its opportunity for profit. Twisted minds still prey on people through their faith.

I saw this part of the book as a critique on the people. In the person of Aremis, we see how, for a nation that speaks of tolerance, we are horribly racist and wary of foreigners.

The writing was beautiful, often rising to the level of poetry in many places, and drawing you in. It is sensual and evokes all the five senses. I could almost taste, smell and feel Nagapattinam.

Aremis speaks of her rootlessness, like seasickness on firm ground. Her memories do not run roots through the earth.

Rajivan is like those thick thorn bushes in the forest that bristle at nothing.

There are taverns that serve drinks that make you immortal at least for an evening.

The Cholas have a powerful navy, whose strength the sea tests with shipwrecks, dead sailors, fleets of invaders with outlandish dreams.

Some of the truths still hold true. Peace is an elaborate fiction that kings tell their people, and to preserve it soldiers must die in skirmishes in the dead of night, and fields must be cleared of their bodies before the jackals turn up.

How quickly it is that things that we once wanted we now feel only a distant pull for… How many things we fight for are like that? Yet we give up so much for our treasures, like the silkworm pulling the threat out of her core, weaving the silk and dying at the same time.

The truth needs time to wriggle itself out from where it’s hiding.

Anantha has the best reflections. Here they are:
He says, We never look too closely at the people we are used to seeing. It’s strangers that we examine from mole to scar, from the ends of their smiles to the slant of their accents, before we allow them into our lives.

The sword is kinder than the sea.

Elsewhere, he reflects that It is easier to build things than to keep them from collapsing. From the moment of creation, decay begins.

He says, We are a people brought up on stories of ugly monsters and handsome heroes. He also adds, The gods are like tiny tyrants, both unreasonably loving and cruel, holding people in thrall.

They still do.

While I appreciated the poetry of the prose, I couldn’t say the same about the plot. I found it loose, more like a series of sub-plots that didn’t feel as if they were part of a composite whole. Good writing alone can’t hold a  reader's interest forever.

Anantha’s worries regarding the new queen; Mandakini’s death from poisoning and the subsequent events, they all had a weak link. And the truth about the false queen didn’t come out at all. We receive no closure on that point.
Even the title, Empire seemed a loose fit.

The words on the cover, He is India’s mightiest king, She is his bodyguard, hint at some sort of a relationship between the two, which is belied through the course of the book. In reality, the book is more about Anantha and Aremis.

Also, the book blurb describes Aremis as 12 years old, while in the book, she is brought in at age 11.

In the beginning, Aremis begins a relationship with Nateshan, but at the insistence of Shrey, her guru, she ends it. Later, as a throne guard, she is required to deny her own femininity, condemned first as a warrior, and stripped of friends like Nateshan. She stands alone.

At this point, she begins a brief relationship with Kamakshi, one of the dancing girls. I couldn’t understand the motivation for Aremis’ relationship with Kamakshi – why do either of them allow it? Was it just to bring the element of bisexuality in? It seems sudden and forced.

In sum, I liked the writing, but the non-resolution of the weak links left me with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction. 

(I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review from Juggernaut.)

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Title: The Visitors
Author: Catherine Burns
Publisher: Legend Press
Pages: 288
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It was the cover of this book that lured me in. I found it rather foreboding. It showed us a shadowy figure, framed by light, standing atop a flight of stairs leading downward. The view is from the bottom of the stairs, and the legend asks, can you escape the darkness within.

As readers, we found ourselves at the bottom of the stairs looking up, not at the top of the stairs looking into the darkness below. That was my hint that this book was different.

Marion Zetland lives with her brother, John, in their big mansion of a house, three floors tall. Even though they live together, Marion is mostly alone, with Mother’s voice in her head for company, and Neil, the first man she loved. This characteristic reminded me of Norman Bates from Psycho.

Marion has always been plain, friendless, unwanted. Since Mother’s nerves were delicate as a glass cobweb, she couldn’t bear to have anyone visit. Nor does Marion have a good relationship with her neighbours, Judith, next door, and old Mr Weinberg opposite. Even though she used to babysit Judith’s daughter, Lydia, for free.

Rejected, Marion chooses to stay in her own world. She lets the house go to seed, saving junk in the hope and fear that she will need it someday. She sleeps in her childhood bedroom in the attic, with her stuffed toys and beloved children’s books around her.

John’s behavior towards Marion sways between treacly-sweet concern over her welfare to violent outbursts over the slightest provocations.

John spends most of his time in the cellar, with the visitors, people she has never seen, but whose laundry she does once a week. People whose screams she has heard. Marion resents them and prefers not to think about them. 

Until one day when John suffers a heart attack, followed by a hip fracture, and needs to be hospitalized and she has no option but to go down to the cellar and confront whatever evil lies concealed there.

The synopsis raised unnecessary expectations for me, because the evil in the cellar wasn’t at all what I imagined it to be. Also, events mentioned in the synopsis should have finished at the halfway mark in the book. Instead, by the time John is hospitalized, we are nearly 75% into the book, and there’s not much time to wrap up the whole thing. This book simmers for far too long, and then there’s a sudden increase in the temperature.

The narrative was briefly interspersed with letters from various young girls, hailing from countries where English is not the spoken language, in trouble. They write letters of friendship to a 21-year-old university student called Adrian J Metcalf, who promises them a new life in England. He sends them money and helps them get a passport.

At first, these letters, displayed in italics, seem out of place, and we wonder what they have to do with Marion and John.

Of the characters, both Marion and John were very strong and well drawn, as were their parents. The neighbours, Judith and Mr Weinberg, were well portrayed too.

Well drawn isn’t the same as likable though. As readers, we do not feel the slightest shred of sympathy towards any of them.

Both John and Marion are damaged in their own way. Both are incapable of having healthy relationships with people. It seems as if they willingly succumb to the menace that pervades their lives.

It’s hard to tell which of the parents do more lasting damage to the children. Is it the father or the mother, or the dysfunctional family relationships that bode ill for them?

While we allow ourselves to feel lulled at the thought of Marion’s essential niceness, we slowly become aware that all may not be well with her. It becomes increasingly hard to sympathise with her, increasingly hard to tell whether she is to be relied upon. John is even less likable. He is unpleasant and a pervert.

There was nobody I really liked in this story. At one level, I felt sorry for Marion, the child. She never had her parents’ affection. Her mother looks at her with an expression of vague disappointment, as if she were something that had lost its shape in the wash.

That is why Marion doesn’t mind the idea of being used; surely that was better than being unused, like a forgotten carton of milk going slowly sour in the fridge.

Marion shares with us her memories, but we learn that she also has daydreams, in the same way a starving man might swallow rags to stuff his belly. At first, we believe they are real, but then we see gaps between her versions of events and other people’s reactions to them. That is when we see her recollections for what they are: Like a cutting taken from a plant, a separate version of Neil flourished inside Marion’s head.

As she gets older, she lies on her bed, aimlessly sorting through the contents of her mind as if it were an old sewing box full of tangled threads, foreign pennies, and rusty needles.

The author’s word-picture descriptions were sharp and cutting. She says of Judith, moving with a whirr of sharp angles like some kitchen apparatus set to fast motion. It’s very telling when the author says of her, The thin red smile left her mouth and stuck to the edge of her cup. The coffee she makes is so bitter that Marion’s tongue shriveled like a slug doused with salt. 

I felt angry with Judith on behalf of Marion, for treating the latter so snidely, pinching her hard, then gently patting the bruise better. For laughing at Marion’s sentiments and making her feel that a treasure that she had carried around her for years, only to be told it was a piece of trash.

The author makes a strong point about how people can seem mousy and innocuous and yet be so toxic. Their lives filled with unseen rottenness, like jars of half-used jam that have been sitting at the back of the cupboard for so long, you are afraid to unscrew the lid.

In the end, Marion becomes an embodiment of her house. Left unloved for so long, she seems to go to seed herself. The most damning lines are spoken by a medium-cum-spiritualist, who says of her, You are the kind of evil that comes from nothing, from neglect and loneliness. You are like mould that grows in damp, dark places, black dirt gathered in corners, a fatal infection that begins with a speck of dirt in an unwashed wound.

The ending left me with a sense of dread and distaste at how things had turned out. How do things slide, nay, degenerate so badly? The horror of this book is that evil doesn’t always look evil. Sometimes the homeliest face may conceal a terrible evil behind it.

Would Marion have turned out like this if she had been loved? Maybe not. Then again, who knows?

(I read a Kindle edition of this book through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017


Title: The Luster of Lost Things
Author: Sophie Chen Keller
Publisher: GP Putnam's Sons
Pages: 304
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Everyone makes the mistake of assuming that Walter Lavender Jr is slow. Only his mother, Lucy, knows his strengths, his patience, his curiosity and kindness.

Walter has a unique talent, one that beats his weakness. His mouth is shut and the pathways of his mind remain locked. But his eyes are wide open. When he speaks, it is bursts of sounds – swapping consonants and dropped syllables and odd groupings.

At age seven, he discovers the ability to find lost things. After all, he knows the pain of loss, knows what it is like to yearn for a missing piece. His dad, Walter Lavender Sr, went missing when the flight to Bombay that he was co-piloting disappeared just days before young Walter was born. Yet, the child doesn’t stop looking. There is no giving up on a lost thing, even if it has been 12 going on 13 years.

And so he is best equipped to find lost treasure. There is a moment of incredulity, when a treasured thing becomes a lost thing.

He hones his skill, and very soon he has clients for who he helps find lost things: a bassoon, a CIA identity card, socks, a pair of thimbles, a cockatiel. While Walter helps put people in touch with their missing pieces, he faces his own struggles. His personal feelings of inadequacy stemming from the fact that he lacks something, a voice and a Dad.

And even though he doesn’t find his dad, he keeps looking. He knows that unwanted and lost or missed look the same but are different, and that lost things are bridges. They are connections to some other time or place or person or feeling.

Little acts of kindness are at the heart of this story, as they are in the world.

At first, the confectionery shop that Lucy sets up has no customers. But then she reaches out in kindness to a homeless artist, who gifts her a book of drawings, a Book that draws magic into the little shop. Customers begin to flood in, but not everybody sees the shop. It is only visible to those who need its magic.

Business improves, and Lucy hires Jose to do deliveries, and Flory to clean. Life is good. Flory does not need to rely on her coupons alone, and Jose can get his son’s tumour removed, and his own teeth fixed, if funds permit. 

The shop is their haven, until the new landlord issues an ultimatum: agree to pay double the rent or clear out by the month-end. They have two days to decide.

Just as Lucy agrees to pay the new rate, the Book goes missing, and the magic in the shop evaporates. The crowds disappear. Lucy’s disappointment is a fragile crack like an egg dropping onto the floor.

Only Walter, finder of all things lost, could help find the book. But he has only one day to achieve the impossible. 

All alone in New York, and this 12-year-old only has Milton, his dog, for company.

And so begins an adventure.

Will Walter find the book and restore the magic? And will he ever meet his father?

So many questions that Walter won’t even think about. All he knows is that he must find the Book, all seven pages, or risk losing his home forever. 

Along the way, he gets sidetracked as he helps Lan, an old Chinese woman, get home, interacts with Nico, a man who lives in a cardboard box, a rat couple who live in an abandoned subway station, Junker, who collects junk, and an art student, Ruby Fontaine, among others.

With each new interaction, this boy who could barely speak learns a valuable lesson: That is what real bonds require – not just listening and taking in but also giving back some of yourself in kind.

He also realizes, Does that mean that as isolated as I feel, alone on the waters, I only need to cast a light and look around to see that we are all a part of the same ocean, the same story?

The book is written in the first person present tense point of view of Walter.

The beauty of the writing lies in how it succeeds in making the mundane appear magical. The book is awash with sounds we miss and aromas that open up sensations and memories.

What is most heartening is that we never feel the slightest pity for Walter. Instead we are swept off into his world, which is far richer than ours could ever be. We want to reach into the pages of this book and hug this precocious lad who scarcely knows what a gift he is.

I savoured the reading of the words in this story. 

Watching a school, Walter tells us, The kids pour out like spilled birdseed.

When he finds what he is looking for, Joy pours into me like melted sunlight, or relief descending around my shoulders like a peppermint mist.

At one place, he observes of a man, He makes a gruff, sad noise like loosening the regret stuck to the back of his throat.

How do secrets feel? Like cinching a drawstring and the two of us pulled closer together by our shared knowledge.

There were so many things I liked about this book, besides the beautiful prose.

I liked the way the author slips in stories about the things Walter helped find.

The descriptions of the cake mixing were heavenly. I loved them.

Walter’s baking metaphors are everywhere. When he cuts circles into the chessboard squares, he says, it’s like removing chocolate turtle cakes from their ramekins.

But the best thing about this book was undoubtedly Walter. He carries a notebook about into which he writes short phrases, the distillations of his feelings and experiences. At the end, a dream worth waking up for. Through the course of his search, he faces love and fear and anger and loneliness, but he also finds courage and vulnerability and connection and conviction.

The story takes us into Walter’s world where he makes himself small and quiet and invisible. His slowness and the silence it forces upon him help him to see and make connections others might miss.

Right away we know that Walter is special, that he is not like most people who talked without thinking, just opening their mouths to release a volley of words like arrows. He can see The skin of the world as it gilded and stretched and caught glimmers of the underlying bones and gears. He can sense the disappointed hiss of something doused before it could be said.

For a 12-year-old, Walter understands that everyone loses things...the elderly when they forget and the young when they don’t pay attention and the middle-aged when there are too many things to do.

The Luster of Lost Things is a delectable story that reminds us that the kindness we show is the kindness we receive. That is the truest magic there is.

Yes, Walter’s Book has magic, but The Luster of Lost Things has its own blend of magic that left a warm impression on me.

(I got a free ARC from FirstToRead).


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