The ratings are as follows:
1 star = a snoozer.
2 stars = lukewarm.
3 stars = Likable.
4 stars = Excellent.
5 stars = A triumph.
★ ★ ★ ★
Anne Griffin’s memorable novel, “Listening Still,” is an enduring portrait of the meaning of afterlife.
Jeanie Masterson can talk to the dead. It is a talent she inherited from her undertaker father. Growing up in Kilcross, Ireland, with parents who own and operate their own funeral home, Jeanie is curious about death and always has been. She has lived with dead people coming and going from her life for many years.
One day, when Jeanie’s father decides to retire from the funeral business, he hopes his daughter will take over. Jeanie does not want to disappoint her dad, but she might have different plans for her future, a husband, and children. Jeanie’s life takes a life-altering turn when she meets and marries a man named Niall.
Deciding whether or not to run the family business or leave Kilcross with Niall only ruffles Jeanie’s plans. She doesn’t want to disappoint her father or keep the legacy of listening to the dead an active part of her present life. But her desire for Niall is unyielding, and she isn’t sure if the strain of running a funeral business is her true calling. Talking to the dead has taken a toll on Jeanie. Still, the decision to break her father’s heart is much bigger, a barrier she does not know if she wants to confront.
Jeanie’s calling to work with the dead has been her life’s passion since childhood. As a relative relates to Jeanie, “Who will listen to you when you go?”
“Listening Still” is a poignant, nostalgic love letter about lasting friendship, desire, the mysterious beauty of the afterlife, and what happens when a physical body dies, but the spirit remains.
★ ★ ★ ★
“The Paris Apartment”
Lucy Foley’s superb new thriller, “The Paris Apartment,” finds the main protagonist in a state of worry and flux as she searches for clues to the whereabouts of her half-brother.
Paris is bustling with beauty and romance. It also has its fair share of dark secrets, as Jess soon discovers when she visits the hypnotizing city to begin a new life. Down on her luck, destitute and alone, Jess calls her half-brother Ben to ask if she can stay with him until she gets back on her feet. Ben is not thrilled with Jess moving in with him, but he accepts.
When Jess arrives in the City of Lights, Ben is not there. As she starts inquiring about Ben’s whereabouts to the odd company of residents staying at the opulent residence, Jess is met with hostility and notices something is wrong.
She digs deeper into the mystery, but as she meets other tenants living at the apartment and dredges up pieces of Ben’s past, Jess is in over her head. Someone is watching her every move. If she wants to find Ben, she will have to investigate the city’s dark past.
Foley ratchets up high-wire tension and keeps the pace steady. Readers will have a lot to contemplate with this fast-paced, satisfying thriller.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“The Last Confessions of Sylvia P”
Unforgettable, heartbreaking, and entertaining, Lee Kravetz’s “The Last Confessions of Sylvia P,” part fiction/nonfiction tale of one of the world’s finest literary poets, is tragically mesmerizing.
The novel blends past and present. It is narrated by Estee, who delivers the original manuscript of Plath’s “The Bell Jar” in a journal to Plath’s psychiatrist, Dr. Barnhouse, and Boston Rhodes, a rival of Plath. It is the basis for this plot-driven literary masterwork.
The novel is a brief glimpse into a poet’s chaotic, lonely, and complex life. Plath’s downward spiral and suicide attempts drive most of the story, along with her most famous work, “The Bell Jar.” Energetic, witty, and oftentimes ruminating, Plath’s final days and life as a poet are compelling and dismal. The novel forces us to look at life through Plath’s eyes as told by others close to her. Fans of Plath’s “The Bell Jar” will treasure this stunning gem of historical fiction.
Kravetz’s novel is a magnificent and exquisitely written work that inspires, surprises, and amuses. He captures the highs and lows, and the light and dark, of a poet’s excursion filled with passion and tragedy.
The fictional Agatha Rhodes (a.k.a Anne Sexton) exclaims in the book, “Absence has not diminished her (Plath’s) name but solidified it.”
Thomas Grant Bruso is a Plattsburgh resident who writes fiction and has been an avid reader of genre fiction since he was a kid. Readers and writers are invited to connect and discuss books and writing at www.facebook.com/thomasgrantbruso