Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: September 5-9, 2022

Kibogo

Book Cover
Scholastique Mukasonga
Mark Polizzotti, translator
Archipelago Books
Softcover $16.00 (160pp)
978-1-953861-36-8
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Two outcasts from a troubled Rwandan village try to save their country in Scholastique Mukasonga’s novel Kibogo.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Rwanda faced numerous tragedies, including drought, famine, war, and continuing repression by colonialists and missionaries. This story begins in this context, and in a village beset by drought. Having received no practical help from the chief or priests, five old men dare to consult Mukamwezi, a pagan priestess who has been disowned by the community for her faithfulness to deified Kibogo, a self-sacrificing prince. Other stories grow out of this one, woven into a brilliant tapestry of superstition, oppression, and faith. With Akayezu, a defrocked seminary student, Mukamwezi becomes convinced that only Kibogo can save the village from destruction.

The stories of Kibogo, Mukamwezi, and Akayezu echo through the years, inspiring fear and rebellion in the villagers. Despite their many oddities, Akayezu and Mukamwezi share in their determination to protect their village from harm. They fight to maintain their traditions, to bring their own versions of salvation to others, and to survive. Christianity is now widespread in their village, but paganism and traditional beliefs still retain a grip on the locals’ imaginations, even among those whose entire lives revolve around spreading the word of Jesus. The story of Kibogo, in particular, resonates across generations, giving hope to the more rebellious villagers and frustrating European missionaries, who try to control them with their own myth-like stories of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. And in the end: what others might call objective fact has no place in a world governed by the all-encompassing power of stories.

Kibogo is a rich novel about how real people and events are transformed into legends, and how those legends empower the marginalized.

EILEEN GONZALEZ (August 27, 2022)

The Orchard

Book Cover
Beverly Lewis
Bethany House
Softcover $17.99 (352pp)
978-0-7642-3753-9
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

An unassuming fruit orchard holds the promise of a peaceful future for a hardworking Amish family in Beverly Lewis’s novel The Orchard.

Ellie values her faith and her family, but tending to a generations-old peach and apple orchard brings her the most happiness. Her twin brother, Evan, is poised to take over the orchard from their father, while Ellie seeks a husband and a future away from home. All of that comes into doubt when Evan questions his place among the Amish and agrees to be registered for the Vietnam draft. His number is called, and he decides to serve alongside those whom he’s come to regard as friends.

While Evan is overseas, Ellie tries to adjust to a potential future in which she’ll marry and move away from her beloved orchard. She begins an unexpected courtship with a family friend; it could lead to him taking over the orchard’s guardianship if anything were to happen to Evan. She’s torn between wanting to stay with the orchard and wanting to build a loving family—both of which hinge on Evan’s fate. Her inner turmoil is one that her faith is unable to assuage. Still, she continues to rely on her community and her church. Her struggles and burgeoning romance are beautiful, tender, and heartwarming, even under their circumstances.

Relationships intertwine in this intricate book as Ellie’s entire family deals with Evan’s service, all understanding why he wants to serve but wishing he’d honor their religious tenets. The book treats faith and family as its core elements. They anchor Ellie’s endearing romance as she works to find her footing in the face of uncertainty.

The Orchard is a peaceful, heartwarming romance novel set amid the quiet solitude of an Amish family’s orchard during the Vietnam War.

JOHN M. MURRAY (August 27, 2022)

Witches

Book Cover
Brenda Lozano
Heather Cleary, translator
Catapult
Hardcover $26.00 (240pp)
978-1-64622-068-7
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

In Brenda Lozano’s Witches, an Indigenous healer tells her story to a reporter who has her own unhealed wounds.

Paloma was killed for being Muxe, a third gender recognized by the Zapotec, one of Mexico’s many Indigenous groups. The two people most affected by her death are her cousin Feliciana, a renowned curandera who heals people from around the world, and Zoe, a journalist who feels compelled to interview Feliciana after Paloma’s murder. As Feliciana’s story unfolds, Zoe recalls her own past, revealing how Feliciana helped her to recognize and make peace with it.

Despite surface similarities between the women (both lost their fathers when they were young, and both had formative relationships with their younger sisters), Feliciana and Zoe lead quite different lives. Each woman tells her story in her own words: Feliciana relates hers to Zoe in rambling, lyrical sentences, showing how she applied her abilities to everyone from locals to international celebrities. Her relationship with Paloma was her guiding light from childhood, allowing her to follow in the footsteps of ancestors who were men, and who also cured others’ ills. And Zoe has also seen her share of uncertainty and sorrow; she navigates her relationships with her quiet but supportive father and her troubled sister.

Regardless of public scorn and physical danger, Feliciana and Paloma defy gender norms to tread the paths they know to be right for them. They are both bound by their devotion to their crafts, and by how their unique—and, as Feliciana believes, God-given—talents help others. Their connections make their stories so powerful.

Witches is a glorious novel about gender-nonconforming people who brave a hostile world to be themselves.

EILEEN GONZALEZ (August 27, 2022)

A Costume for Charly

Book Cover
C. K. Malone
Alejandra Barajas, illustrator
Beaming Books
Hardcover $18.99 (40pp)
978-1-5064-8405-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Bigender Charly is having trouble picking a costume for Halloween: Red Riding Hood leaves their boy half lost in the woods, while Dracula sucks the life out of their girl side. The detailed illustrations contrast bold reds with moody blues, depicting Charly’s frustration, creativity, and ultimate joy in their search for the perfect ensemble. In the end, Charly discovers that just because they are wearing a costume doesn’t mean they can’t still be themselves.

DANIELLE BALLANTYNE (August 27, 2022)

Superspy Science

Science, Death and Tech in the World of James Bond

Book Cover
Kathryn Harkup
Bloomsbury
Hardcover $28.00 (320pp)
978-1-4729-8226-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Kathryn Harkup’s Superspy Science unveils the science and technology behind the gadgets that co-star in James Bond films.

James Bond’s exploits have thrilled readers since the 1953 publication of Casino Royale, the first in Ian Fleming’s series about the handsome, urbane, and always perfectly attired secret service agent. Beginning with the 1962 production of the first James Bond film, based on Fleming’s Dr. No, audiences have been kept on the edge of their seats with evil plots, secret missions, massive explosions, hair-raising stunts, and last-minute escapes from certain death. None of it would have been possible without the amazing gadgets, tools, and devices covered here, which were designed to keep the ever-stylish 007 alive and ready for his next conquest.

Fleming, who did his writing on a special-order gold-plated typewriter, was no stranger to real-life espionage and intrigue, and Harkup’s book reveals that there’s a grain of truth in each Bond adventure that lends an aura of credibility to his otherwise unbelievable exploits. And it’s Bond’s life-saving gadgets, some of which were good enough to make real-life secret service agents drool, that Harkup credits with allowing him to ooze self-assurance, even when escape seems impossible. Flame-throwing bagpipes, a man-eating revolving sofa, and a Rolex packed with so many gadgets that Bond’s knuckles should have been dragging on the ground are just a few of these fantastical devices. Some of them, like the EM pulse bomb that was to be exploded over London in GoldenEye, the nanobots programmed to kill in No Time to Die, and the genetic manipulation featured in the 2002 film Die Another Day, are too close to current reality for comfort.

Superspy Science brings science, technology, history, and adventure together in a tantalizing look at the gadgets and inventions that make 007 invincible.

KRISTINE MORRIS (August 27, 2022)

Barbara Hodge

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