Book Review: Laika by Nick Abadzis

AuthorNick Abadzis & Hilary Sycamore (illustrator)
Publication Info: New York : First Second, 2007.
ISBN: 1596431016

This graphic ‘novel’ tells the story of the first dog in space, launched by the Soviet Union space program in 1957, with no provisions for returning her to earth.  Laika’s story from a Moscow street dog to her final journey is heart-renderingly told through the pages of beautiful illustrations.  Central human characters include legendary Soviet rocket engineer and Sergei Korolev and the fictionalized dog caretaker for the space program, Yelena Alexandrovna Dubrovsky.  Both are complex, fully-realized characters that add to the weight of what as being done to Laika in the name of science and advancement of humankind.

Favorite Passages:

“For once, it seems there’s nothing to worry about for the time being.  Of course, nothing lasts.  And why worry about that? One must learn not to.  Every day, every moment is a frontier to a country, that once crossed, can never be returned to.  Most of the time we don’t notice.  Which is just how it should be.  The secret is not to worry. You can’t back.  Although, those you leave behind will still think of you.  Most of the time, we don’t notice the small, gradual changes only the sudden unexpected ones.  But, once you understand nothing lasts everything’s all right.  After all, something always comes along that changes everything.  And once you realize this, you find that you’re no longer imprisoned by this truth but freed by it.”  – p. 111-116

Recommended booksThe Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov
Rating: ****

Book Review: TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

AuthorColum McCann
Publication Info: New York: Random House, 2013
ISBN: 9781400069590
Previously Read by Same Author: Let the Great World Spin

I’m privileged to review an advanced reader’s copy of this forthcoming novel courtesy of the Library Thing Early Reviewer‘s program.

This is a novel of contrasts.  It’s an epic story covering three centuries and as the title implies crossing back and forth the Atlantic from Ireland to Canada and the United States.  And yet it is a very personal book with detailed character studies of four men and four women.  The men are well-known historical figures: American abolitionist Frederick Douglass on a speaking tour of Ireland, Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown making the first nonstop transatlantic flight, and US Senator George Mitchell brokering the Good Friday Agreement.  The women are four generations of the same family whose lives briefly intersect with the historical figures: an Irish housemaid Lily Duggan inspired to go to America by Douglass, the journalist Emily Ehrlich who settles in Newfoundland, the photographer Lottie who marries an RAF airman from Northern Ireland, and Hannah Carson whose loses her son in The Troubles and as we read her story in her own voice in the present time is on the verge of losing all of her family history to the bank.

Just as in Let the Great World Spin, McCann does not interweave the stories, yet characters from other stories appear later on.  The stories are also connected by an unopened letter which acts as kind of a McGuffin and is one of the less effective aspects of the novel to me.  Other than though, the writing in brilliant and McCann has a special gift for capturing the human experience in words.  The fictional figures seem as real as the historical figures and the historical figures are so detailed as to appear as fully-realized literary characters.  This is another great novel by McCann and I highly recommend it.
Favorite Passages:

“What they need are the signatures.  After that, they will negotiate the peace.  Years of wrangling still to come, he knows.  No magic wand.  All he wants is to get the metal nibs striking hard against the page.  But really what he would like now, more than anything, is to walk out from the press conference into the sunlight, a morning and evening jammed together, so that there is rise and fall at the same time, east and west, and it strikes him at moments like this the he is a man of crossword puzzles, pajamas, slippers, and all that he needs is to get on a plane, land, enter the lobby of the apartment on Sixty-Seventh Street, step into his own second chance, the proper silence of fatherhood.” – p. 120

Recommended books: A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan  and Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Rating: ****

Song of the Week: “Waitin'” by Caitlin Rose

This week’s song is a country tune called “Waitin'” by Caitlin Rose of Nashville, TN.

I’m trying to figure out what artists this song reminds me of.  It kind sounds like the kind of song Bonnie Raitt might sing although Rose’s voice does not sound like Raitt’s.  If you figure it out, let me know in the comments.

What’s your song of the week?  If you have a new song that will blow me out of the water, post a link in the comments.

Beer Review: Magic Hat Pistil

Beer: Pistil Dandelion Ale
Brewer: Magic Hat Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating:  *** (7.2 of 10)
Comments: This spring beer is all about flowers and fruit.  It’s a golden, bubbly beer with a musty, wheaty, and citrus aroma.  The flavor is crisp and fruity with hints of spice and flora.  The head dissipates quickly but leaves behind nice lacing.