Me(Moth) by Amber Mcbride

Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

(possible spoilers)

I’m finding it difficult to put into words how much I loved this novel. I don’t often gravitate to novels written in verse but honestly, the cover of this one was breathtaking so I had to take a look inside. For the entirety of my reading, I had to sit still for fear of breaking the magic in which I found myself, magic that kept me transfixed upon the spiritually intimate relationship between Moth and Sani.

It’s been two years since Moth lost her family in a car crash. Although she lives with her aunt, she feels guilty to have survived and has felt displaced and lonely ever since. Moth drifts through school friendless and alone until she meets Sani, a beautiful young man who draws, sings, and plays music. But there is something amiss with Sani, he is loving and creative one minute, and then withdrawn and isolating the next. Moth suspects it has something to do with the medication he sporadically takes.

Moth and Sani form a bond that grows beyond friendship. He too feels displaced living with his mother and abusive stepfather and soon decides to travel to Window Rock on the Navajo Nation to be with his father. Moth, having fallen in love with Sani, goes with him. On this journey, they both discover truths about themselves truths that are both disturbing yet freeing.

After reading Me(Moth) I can say it’s one of the best YA books I have ever read. I found myself consistently writing down beautiful lyrical lines such as “ why do I feel like the dust of your name is buried in my bones (71)  and “ I don’t know how to be whole anymore/whatever you need you can borrow from me. ( 134.) Aren’t they beautiful?!

I read it quickly the first time quickly because I needed to see a resolution of a multitude of thematic strings that had started to weave together, and then I needed to read again so I could pause and savour McBride’s beautiful use of language and imagery. 

If I were still teaching High school I would use this novel or portions of this novel in a literature study. Foreshadowing, imagery, voice, atmosphere, figurative language are just a few curricular links you can make using this text as support; a text that most young adults would find enchanting.

When I read I often read from the point of view of a teacher. I envision how can I use an engaging book or portions of this book in class to teach figurative language, literary devices, or Author Style. If I was still in the classroom, Me(Moth)  would be a mainstay for instruction on author style. More importantly, it is SUCH an engaging read it will definitely inspire a love of reading novels, especially novels in verse.

The novel deals with themes of identity, grief, mental illness, physical abuse, loneliness, culture, the importance of ancestors.

An interesting addition is Moth and Sani’s playlist. The lyrics of a few songs are scattered throughout a section of the text where Moth and Sani go on a road trip. McBride kindly includes this playlist at the back of the novel so if we so choose, we can listen to the same songs as the characters while the story is unfolding before us.

Amber McBride offers her book as “a gift, an iron/to smooth the wrinkles of [our] spirit” 

And it indeed does just that.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

I’m a nerd. I love books. I especially love books about books, libraries, and words. I also gravitate towards feminist literature. Lucky for me, The Dictionary of Lost Words is a wonderful combination of both.
Our protagonist Esme loves words as well, probably because she spends her childhood under the table in the scriptorium where her father works compiling words and definitions for the Oxford English Dictionary. While there, little treasures in the form of words accidentally fall from the table, and she reverently gathers them up and keeps them safe. However, as she gets older, Esme notices that other words are carelessly left and that these words tend to be more relevant to the world of women. So Esme takes it upon herself to collect as many words as she can so that she can build a dictionary that will acknowledge and preserve these words.
I love Esme. She is curious and brave and so, so smart. I love the relationship he has with her father; for a man who works with words, he can find no word appropriate enough to express the love he has for Esme.
I fell into this story immediately. William’s vividly transported me back in history, where I viewed a world from the shoulder of a fictional character whose story was inspired by true events. What a wonderful place to experience history!

“Shuggie Bain” a novel by Douglas Stuart

      This is a sad, frustrating, yet compassionate story. In this book, is the main villain (I was going to write "antagonist", but villain is more appropriate) is alcohol that seduces and creates monstrous behaviour sympathetic characters.
      Although Agnes seems to be the main character, this is Shuggie's story. He is our anti-hero. For most of the story, Shuggie is a child trying to survive the hardships of poverty in Glasgow without an adult's guidance to help. It is Shuggie who has to take care of his alcoholic mother once his father abandons the family for another woman.
     Agnes is both beautiful and ugly. She leaves her first husband, "The Catholic", the father of her first two children, to marry a taxi driver by the name of Hugh Bain and soon after gives birth to Shuggie.
     I felt NO sympathy for Agnes for most of the book; I thought it was her vanity more than her addiction that led to her make the stupid, selfish decisions that jeopardized her life and the life of her children…until I came across this quote "She loved [Hugh], and he had needed to break her completely to leave her for good. Agnes Bain was too rare a thing to let someone else love. It would do to leave pieces of her for another man to collect and repair later." To me, the cruelty and selfishness of Hugh outweighed Agnes's weakness.
     Like I mentioned earlier, though, this is Shuggie's story. His heartbreak over his mother, his father's treatment, and his confusion about his sexuality make him a genuinely sympathetic character.

I thought about Shuggie long after I finished reading.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

“…that’s what influenza means, she said. Influenza delle stelle- the influence of the stars. Medieval Italians thought the illness proved that the havens were governing their fates, that people were quite literally star-crossed.” (pg 147).

The Pull of the Stars is a novel that takes place over 3 days in a “Maternity/Fever” ward at St. Lukes hospital in Dublin, Ireland. It’s 1918, and the Spanish flu has grabbed hold of the country, leaving death and sorrow.
Our main character is Julia Power, the lone nurse on the ward tending to incredibly sick women who are about to give birth. Thankfully Julia is joined by Birdie Sweeney, a volunteer who, although incredibly naive about how the human body functions, is brave and tireless and a quick study who proves her usefulness.
The story centres around three patients who will eventually give birth while suffering from the ravages of influenza. True to life, each delivery is be different, resulting in different outcomes for both mother and child.
As if by some miracle, Julia and Birdie are eventually guided by Dr Kathleen Lynn, a member of the Irish Citizen Army wanted by the police.
Dr Lynn is my favourite character. We only get glimmers of her back story, but I was mesmerized by her words and actions. She was brave, confident and ultimately, a woman who knows who she was and what she stood for and, interestedly enough based on a REAL Dr. Lynn who practiced medicine in Ireland.
Be warned that the author does not hold back when describing complicated childbirth and other traumatic medical procedures. It is a gory story.

The Pull of the Stars is a bloody read with strong female characters…my favourite kind of book.

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

Over the last year, I have been attracted to gothic mysteries and crime novels. Sometimes I google the genres I’m interested in to see what pops up on the screen. So when I typed “mystery gothic crime novels”, Elizabeth Brundage’s novel came up.
What I thought would be an easy, quick, pulp fiction read turned out to be one that was so incredibly well written. I immediately made Brundage my new favourite author.
The novel starts off with the central crime, a gruesome murder of a young mother (not a spoiler; it happens in the first chapter). The story then proceeds to flashback to introduce and develop the characters directly and indirectly affected by her death.
The little town of “Chosen” has 2 types of residents: those who have always lived there struggling to make a living from a depressive economy filled with bankruptcy and alcoholism, and those with money and education who have moved to Chosen to because of its proximity to the neighbouring university. Needless to say, this diversity leads to all sorts of interesting interactions between residents.
As with most good stories, I loved some of the characters and hated others. Even though the story is centred around the actions of a psychopath, it is also a story about family, strength and redemption.
This novel is definitely one of my favourite of the year so far.