Monday 4 September 2017

Review: Another's Child

Rachel and Benny, and Yalei and Arik are friends. Best friends. They do everything together - go for food together, go on holiday together, and have children… together? But, unexpectedly, Rachel and Benny ask Yael to take their child, Noa, if they die. Yael is pretty skeptical about the idea. Why would they be better than someone actually related to the child? But, Arik convinces her that the chances of both Rachel and Benny dying at the same time are so small, that why should they offend their friends? Reluctantly, Yael agrees.

Fast forward nine years. Benny and Rachel stayed in Canada, whilst Yael and Arik have moved to Israel. Contact between them has been virtually nil. But a woman named Debbie turns up on Yael’s doorstep with nine-year-old Noa in tow, explaining that she is now Yael and Arik’s responsibility.

From that moment on, Yael’s world is turned upside down. How could she have prepared for this? Surely, they must have changed their will after they moved back to Israel; surely no one can expect her to look after this very Canadian nine year old, whilst she has two boys of her own, and a job to be getting on with? How can she raise a girl she doesn’t even know? There must be someone else to take Noa on. 

But there isn’t. Noa’s uncle is an Orthodox Jew, and therefore not someone the couple would have wanted Noa to grow up up with. Frustrated, Yael is certain there is some mistake: this was a plan hatched years ago - they must have other friends in Canada more suitable to this task than her?

But they don’t. And, from that moment on, Yael starts to divide her life into ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Travelling back across the Atlantic to Canada with Noa, Yael tries to find a more suitable adoptive or foster family. But the plot thickens, and the past isn’t as far away as she thought.

This book had a slightly slow start, but I got into after the first quarter or so - don’t lose heart! There are some formatting issues in the Kindle edition, which is a shame, as it breaks up the flow of reading whilst you struggle to work out what time period you are in. The other main critique I would have is the punctuation of direct speech; without using a new paragraph for a new speaker, it can become very easy to lose the thread of a conversation. 

Einat Danon
However, if you can look past these things, the book was a pleasant surprise. It goes much deeper, hits much harder, than I had first expected. The point of view switches heighten interest, as we hear from Noa herself, and her intense dislike for Yael. It can be quite painful to read: this child desperate for her parents to still be alive, and a woman who, at the beginning, is just desperate to get this ‘problem’ out of the way. But the story delves far deeper than that; by the end, the reader really ‘knows’ Yael as a character. 

This is Einat Danon’s debut novel, and, setting aside the formatting and grammar issues, is very promising. I look forward to seeing her work grow in the future.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Review: Bad Ideas\Chemicals

Bad Ideas\Chemicals Bad Ideas\Chemicals by Lloyd Markham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has been likened to some cross over of the following books: A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, Naked Lunch, Stand By Me and some others (not all in the same review.)

It’s not. Bad Ideas/Chemicals is a book totally defying categorisation.

Goregree is a half-finished project, discarded by its maker. Or stopped midway because of the unearthing of another settlement there before. Or a conglomeration of houses that somehow managed to become a place. Does it matter? No. The truth is: living in Goregree sucks.

It’s become a joke. The phrase ‘I’m not from round here,’ is passed around by all of its inhabitants. Because, even though some of them were actually born there, no one feels it belongs to them. No one wants it to belong to them. All it has going for it is a Star Trek themed bar, a constant supply of oddballs, and seemingly limitless supplies of GOTE.

GOTE is a ‘Bad Idea/Chemical.’ Made from foetuses whose mother’s have ingested poison from the ‘roaches’ (that look nothing like cockroaches) this drug takes you on highs that no other drug does. It
Lloyd Markham
affects your ‘temporoparetial junction’ (don’t worry - I had to look that one up too), and causes out of body experiences. Everyone’s hooked on it. Eventually, it kills you. Unless you kill yourself first.

Fittingly, the ‘best’ job that you can find in Goregree is working for ‘Mercy:’ the NHS’ privatised company that deals with assisted dying and euthanasia. Particularly fitting for Louie, one of the central protagonists, whose father is dying of alcoholism, and feels like checking himself into ‘Mercy.’ He’s not the only one…

The characters are all whacky, interesting and well drawn. Cassandra walks around in an orange spaceship; convinced she is an alien after seeing a film about ‘Alpha Centurai’ as a child. You’d think that would be weird. Not so much in Goregree. Here, anything goes.

This book is, at times, sardonically funny, but the humour is very black. But don’t take it merely as humour. This book is actually a very well drawn comment on society today: the neglect of social and mental health care, the effects of parenting, and the casual substance misuse that is rife in small towns. Markham isn’t afraid to write about big issues.

All in all, ‘Bad Ideas/Chemicals’ is a unique, warped and very thought-provoking read. One to read in an hour, then ponder over for ten times longer.

Thank you to Parthian Press for the chance to read this book; all thoughts and comments are my own.

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