Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup July 9-July 13


Teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga

A Practical Guide

Book Cover
Brendon Abram
North Atlantic Books
Softcover $17.95 (152pp)
978-1-62317-224-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Accessible, well guided, pragmatic, and impactful: to describe Brendon Abram’s Teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga is to describe an ideal manifestation of its subject matter. Drawing on a deep well of experience as a trauma-sensitive yoga instructor as well as on his experiences as a veteran, Abram outlines his teaching framework with a conscientiousness that is rare in today’s yoga world. This is a welcome handbook for anyone looking to grow in their yoga teaching practice.

“Trauma” and “yoga” are both words that, as they seem to be applied to everything, have come to mean almost nothing. Abram excels at reclaiming the true sense and significance of the former, explaining it in lay terms without resorting to dilution. He gives yoga teachers the solid psychological groundwork that they need to offer somatic healing. His sedulous approach not only provides impetus for good work in the future but could prevent a good deal of the harm that is created by a cultural prevalence of pop psychology and spiritual bypassing.

While it exceeds expectations at supporting the yoga teacher in becoming trauma informed, the book occasionally falls short on yoga philosophy. A yoga sutra is misquoted; avidya is said to arise out of the other kleshas rather than the other way around. Later, Ganesh becomes a shallow metaphor for “the elephant in the room” of spirituality, a parallel barely tangential to the deity’s origin.

The pragmatic guidance offered on the practice of teaching yoga, however, glows with sincerity, humility, and dedication. Especially impressive is the book’s insistence on understanding scope of practice for yoga teachers—refreshing in a world which often sees yoga as being anything and everything.

The world needs more yoga teachers this conscious and conscientious, and Teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga is a substantial step in that direction. It should be required reading for anyone teaching yoga—at least, anyone who’d like to see their students thrive.

JESSIE HORNESS (June 27, 2018)

The Girl from Blind River

Book Cover
Gale Massey
Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover $26.99 (336pp)
978-1-68331-640-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The Girl from Blind River is a gritty debut thriller about high-stakes poker in a small town in New York. Jamie Elders, born with a gift for cards and a criminal streak, learns that Blind River is a hard place to live and an even harder place to leave. When Jamie gets in over her head, she needs every trick she knows—and she’s playing against the house.

Jamie has crime in her DNA. Her uncle, Loyal, runs gambling games and pushes cash through Blind River’s seedy coin trade shops. Jamie’s mother, fresh out of prison, passed on her magic touch with cards. Jamie learns early that the only way to win is to be the best at cheating.

Although she’s only nineteen, Jamie has an abiding, earned distrust of other people that gives her perspective an edge. She’s no do-gooder: her poverty and loneliness sharpen her and make her a compelling character. Although many of the other characters, from a crooked judge to the sly good ol’ boys who crowd around the game table, feel overly familiar, there are a few twists and reveals that keep Blind River from falling into stereotypes.

The book moves fast, quickly mapping the Elders family history and establishing well-drawn landscapes. Diners, trailers, gas stations, and casinos: Jamie’s world is dingy, lit by tacky neon.

It’s easy to want Jamie to win, and when she starts on her path out of Blind River, it’s with a drive that kicks the plot into high gear. However, she has a few obstacles, including a dead body and her irresponsible younger brother. Gale Massey peppers the text with authentic, chilling details: the texture of a marked card, the exhaustion of digging a hidden grave.

From corpses to counting cards, Blind River plays it close and smooth.

CLAIRE FOSTER (June 27, 2018)

Lala

Book Cover
Jacek Dehnel
Antonia Lloyd-Jones, translator
Oneworld Publications
Hardcover $24.99 (336pp)
978-1-78607-357-0
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Jacek Dehnel’s Lala is a wonderful mosaic of stories about a woman’s unbelievably adventurous youth; they were shared with family members so many times that her children and grandchildren could recite them practically verbatim. Lala’s memories began to crumble, though, under the onset of dementia. Dehnel, Lala’s grandson, decided to compile the stories to keep his grandmother’s memory alive.

Lala’s stories are outrageous and humorous. She is situated in a family in which the women all share a certain attitude: part confidence, a little craziness, and absolute hilarity. Scenes set during World War II find Lala standing up for what she believes in despite great personal risk; she could have been killed time and again but was miraculously honored, instead, for her brazenness. She is shown tricking people into doing exactly what she wanted and joking that she “always had more luck than common sense.”

The pace of Lala’s stories is rapid fire, and new character introductions are frequent. Each time a family member becomes the sudden star in a story, a bit more of their personality and background is divulged; the broader picture doesn’t come into focus until the very end.

Each story is spellbinding and captivating, moving out of order but related in ways that suggest good humor and sly smiles. Lala’s story is a tapestry of intriguing memories, and pictures of her family are peppered throughout, putting faces to personalities and demeanors.

As Lala moves toward death, her story teems with life, each shared event building upon another, slowly surging forward and back. During his gradual shift from the position of a listener to the primary storyteller, Dehnel successfully carries on his grandmother’s memory in his interpretation of her life.

KATIE ASHER (June 27, 2018)

The Con Artist

Book Cover
Fred Van Lente
Tom Fowler, illustrator
Quirk Books
Softcover $14.99 (288pp)
978-1-68369-034-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The Con Artist is a lively romp loaded with geek humor. A longtime comic book writer, author Fred Van Lente has a deep familiarity with the annual San Diego Comic-Con, which has become the central event of the comic book industry. Along with all of the associated television, movie, toy, and video game publicity and attention, it makes for a unique spectacle—and a great setting for a quirky and humorous mystery.

Mike Mason, a comic book artist (and the subject of the book’s title) arrives in San Diego to live a nomadic existence, going from one convention to the next. When his rival turns up dead, all eyes turn to Mike, and he embarks on a desperate mission to clear his name and solve the crime.

There are enough geek culture jokes and references to keep any fan happy—one two-page sequence name-drops Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Black Widow, Spider-Man, and the 1979 Plastic Man cartoon, among others. But Van Lente is able to poke fun at real-life situations, too. In one laugh-out-loud sequence, Mason encounters a religious proselytizer, declares himself a “real big fan” of the Bible, and expounds on it, in geek culture terms:

The scuttlebutt for a long time was that it couldn’t really expand past a small niche audience. But then, you see, they did a really smart thing: a soft reboot between Books One and Two that retconned out of existence a lot of the stranger and more confusing aspects of the continuity.

Mike’s sketches, provided by artist Tom Fowler, add a visual element to the proceedings, and the murder mystery itself is competent, involving valuable original art and the requisite cast of possible suspects. But first and foremost, The Con Artist serves as both a love letter and an expert skewering of the excesses and eccentricities of comic book culture.

PETER DABBENE (June 27, 2018)

The Favourite

Book Cover
S. V. Berlin
Myriad Editions
Softcover $16.95 (520pp)
978-0-9935633-8-6
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In The Favourite, S. V. Berlin’s quietly compelling debut novel, estranged siblings reunite following the death of their mother, troubled by old resentments and misunderstandings at a time of both raw and numbing grief.

Edward and Isobel are now fortyish and living in separate countries. Edward remained near their childhood home in Sussex, England, while Isobel boldly moved to New York twenty years ago, hoping for a career in the movie industry. When their mother Mary is suddenly taken ill, Isobel returns to Sussex; following Mary’s death, she stays to help Edward plan the funeral.

The Favourite includes three perspectives, alternating between Isobel, Edward, and Edward’s seemingly meek girlfriend, Julie. The narrative shifts with an engrossing rhythm. Even the newly departed Mary is evocative in her absence, as Isobel and Edward uncertainly sort through her wardrobe and eclectic possessions. The novel balances keen observations with welcome moments of humor; there are also subtly eloquent undertones about matters of loss, life, and death.

Beyond Isobel’s outwardly vivacious confidence is an increasing uncertainty, particularly about her life in New York. Her captivation with Manhattan began with Woody Allen–esque cinematic yearnings—“a city in ‘black and white’, mythic and romantic”—but now she feels displaced and isolated, and contemplates moving back to England.

Edward’s generally dour, sarcastic personality seems to buttress a rather classic British repression of intense feelings as well as an intriguing vulnerability. Timid Julie clings to a New Age self-help book that promotes positive thinking, eventually managing to twist its teachings into her own curiously surprising power play.

Caught up in a triangle of tension, miscommunication, emotion, and memory, the characters of The Favourite are appealingly dysfunctional, flawed, and not soon forgotten.

MEG NOLA (June 27, 2018)

Hannah Hohman

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