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Sing Them Home: A Novel [Audio CD]

Stephanie Kallos , Tavia Gilbert
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 29.95 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Nov. 20 2008
The eagerly-anticipated second novel from the author of the national best-seller Broken for You is a deeply moving portrait of three grown siblings who have lived in the shadow of grief since their mother’s ascent into a tornado when they were children.

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Product Description

Review

"Fans of Ann Patchett and Haven Kimmel should dive onto the sofa one wintry weekend with Stephanie Kallos?s wonderfully transportive second novel."
?Entertainment Weekly () --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Stephanie Kallos spent twenty years in the theatre as an actor and teacher. She is the author of the bestselling, award-winning novel Broken for You, which has been translated into 10 languages. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons. Visit her online at http://www.stephaniekallos.com/.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LOVE this! April 10 2009
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is a great read. Despite some flaws that even a mediocre editor should have fixed, I was enthralled by the story from the beginning. While her previous book, Broken For You, was tighter and better executed (I gave it 5 stars), this one is more ambitious and therefore takes a little more effort at times; it can seem choppy at first. Still I wiggled with delight each time I hunkered down to read it, and put off reading the end for as long as I could. I wanted to stay in Emyrn Springs. As far as plot goes, you can read another blurb for those details, but to give you its flavour: it's Fried Green Tomatoes meets Where the Heart is, with a Welsh cultural twist that I found charming and new. It's redemptive, which is a quality that always leaves me deeply satisfied, even if the story is mostly tragic. I've never been to Nebraska but feel like I have now. Ms. Kallos captures place and character very, very well. I am surprised that this author is not getting the rave reviews and attention that she richly deserves. Perhaps it is a business problem-- agent, editor, contract, marketing to the wrong audience...
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2.0 out of 5 stars Missed the Mark--Big Time Jan. 20 2010
Format:Paperback
I didn't read Ms Kallos' first book so I didn't know what to expect when I began this book club entry. I was not impressed--neither were the other members of the club.

We all agreed that there were bits and pieces of the book that were interesting but, overall, it missed the mark. We thought it had the potential for a really good novel based on the premise of a mother dying in a natural disaster and the impact of that on her children. However, the author wasn't focused enough. Instead of an in-depth analysis of the characters, the reader's (and the author's) attention was distracted by: a fantasy representation of the dead which didn't really add to the plot (whatever that was); an exhaustive explanation of a town's burial practices which also didn't relate, except to provide a title. In addition, those burial rites were too fantastic to be believable. Frequent inclusions of Welsh were a distraction that disrupted possible enjoyment of the book. The ending was way too pat. It felt like the author had been told, after 500 pages, to 'wrap it up' and she did--with a very unoriginal conclusion.

I believe the book suffered from too little editing and too many flights of fancy. The author believes that where one adjective is good--seven is better--another distraction.

I would not recommend this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling...if uneven. March 7 2009
By Schmadrian TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Years ago, I was deeply affected by a novel. Since then, I have gifted more than 50 copies of it to friends, family, acquaintances. I remarked to a bookseller once 'If you're a writer, this novel will have one of two effects on you: it will either inspire you to write as you've never written before, or depress you so much that you never write again.'

The novel was Ann-Marie MacDonald's 'Fall On Your Knees'.

'Sing Them Home' had me thinking of it regularly. In fact, there were moments where Ms Kallos' offering was so very good, that I felt much the same sentiment I'd related to the aforementioned bookseller. But at other moments...

'Close...but no cigar.'

This novel has some of the most emphatic, some of the most commanding, brilliant, lyrical writing I've had the pleasure to consume over the past few years. I was very much caught up in it, dazzled, moved.
But it also has some missteps that, in the end, reduced the book's eventual impact, its status for me.
It reaches for a lot. And let it be said, it grasps a lot, and in some delightful executions.
But it's not a masterpiece.
It's not an unforgettable piece of literature.
Maybe it could have been.
And maybe I'm being harsh. If I am, it's because there's so much at the start to fall in love with. To not be as nourished as you come to believe you're going to be...I confess to more than a little heartbroken.
I fear that her stamina...or that of her editor...was not sufficient to get her to the finish line with the same energy as her endeavour's start.

Ms Kallos is far more talented than most of the writers out there, certainly one of the most talented writers I've had the good fortune of reading. This novel might not be for everyone, it might be flawed, but it's a testimony to the quality if fiction currently available. Brava
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2.0 out of 5 stars Sing Them Home Feb. 28 2009
Format:Paperback
The beginning of this book grabbed me and I enjoyed the read up until the first 250 pages. After that, I felt as though the story could've been told more succinctly. By the time I got to page 300 I couldn't wait for it to end. I found some holes in the story line that bothered me. I would not recommend this to my friends to read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  94 reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like The Corrections, only much nicer (3 -1/2 stars) Nov. 25 2008
By A. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I am one of what sometimes seems like six people who did not like The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. That famous tale of a family reunited in the the dying of their parents seemed to me cruel to the weaknesses and failings of his characters and unforgiving of the shallowness that, if you believe the author, pervades American life. Sing Them Home is also about a family brought back together by the death of the father and haunted by the loss of a mother to a tornado. But Stephanie Kallos entirely empathizes with Llwellyn Jones, his now dead wife Hope, their three children now grown and the Viney, their mother's stand in. She describes them in detail, leaving little to the reader's discovery, and follows them around Emlyn Springs, a tiny town near Lincoln, Nebraska, as they accept themselves and their small town strengths and come to realize that Hope brought the town back to life through the mostly inadvertent choices her children make 25 years after her death.

There is a fair amount to nitpick about. The dead participate a bit in the story, both in the extending mourning rituals of a Welsh American town (which is the source of the title), and by the dead themselves who tend to hover near where they lived. Kallos does a nice job of imagining the involvement -- and non-involvement -- of the dead but after the effort of creating their place, she uses little of it to further the ambiance of the place or the actions of the characters. If Sing Them Home is lyrical, it is lyrical in the language of today, where stress and anxiety evoke the sense of a stomach full of gerbils or a head full of popping corn. What is parsed throughout is the inner life of the characters, mostly the women, each explained nearly completely so the reader's sense of the character is not what they discover in the writing, but what Ms. Kallos tells them right out loud. The story is of the emotional life of the characters, but there are no hard edges in the books not softened by humor and a gentle distance from the pain. Her male characters remain far more hidden than the women, who are more explored and nuanced. I am usually easily caught up in an author's world but it took about half of the 542 pages before I got to the point where I did not want to put it down, and, for the last 50 or so pages, could not put it down.

There are some terrific strengths. Kallos makes even incidental characters interesting, and weaves together seemingly accidental elements of character or minor chance into the tapestry that binds a family together, and she does it effortlessly. Even the unlikely is believable. If the ending is not a surprise, it is satisfying. She has a persistent humor which is just slightly acidic enough to spice the stew.

At its length, it is not a quick read but by the end, you know these folks pretty well. In a sense, the book is about forgiveness of one's self and one's family and one's roots, but if that is the message, it is gently told. Fundamentally, Ms. Kallos likes her characters which is why it is not like The Corrections at all.
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Story Oct. 28 2008
By Jeanne Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I loved this book! It is a beautifully written story of one family and one Welsh Town in Southeastern Nebraska. We are taken through the life of Hope and Llwellyn Jones and their three children, Larken, Gaelan and Bonnie. This is also the story of Vinie (the children's stepmother) yet she never really married their father.

The couple marry in the early 1960's and settle down in his hometown of Emlyn Springs, Nebraska. It is a town that honors all their Welsh traditions and Hope falls in love with the town as a young woman. Llwellyn is a Doctor and Hope a stay at home mom, who suffers several miscarriages before giving birth to 3 children.

Through excerpts from Hope's diary throughout the book we learn of her feelings as she goes through these losses and tries to adapt to and fit in to this very "set in its ways" small town. At the same time we are taken through present day (2004) and the lives of Larken, Gaelan, Bonnie and Vinie.

Llwellyn is struck down and killed by lightning in 2004 and from that point on we learn the details of the life he has had. We learn that Hope was diagnosed with MS and that she was "taken up" during a tornado in 1978.

This is such a dynamic book, I highly recommend it. I had trouble getting to sleep at night worrying about these people and couldn't wait to get back to the book the next day. All the characters of this book display a humaness that we all have. It is believeable and inspiring to follow these people through their lives. It has heart and warmth not easily found anymore in writing. Great work!!!
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Novel! You Won't Want to Put This One Down! Nov. 7 2008
By delicateflower152 - Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"Sing Them Home" is a beautifully written novel which you will find hard to put down. Further, it may be one of those novels that you cannot forget. The basic story involves the lives of three siblings and the impact their mother's death has on their personalities and relationships with the opposite sex.

One is tempted, at first, to compare this book to "The Lovely Bones." The dead "speak" through the narrator, and through the diary of Hope Jones, the mother of the three protagonists. That comparison would be, however, a mistake. "Sing's" dead speakers help draw the picture of the tiny community of Emlyn Springs and are not a major force in the narrative. Hope Jones' diary excerpts are inserted at appropriate points in the story and serve to provide background for the characters' actions and reactions to situations.

I found this book to be particularly moving in the sections where Hope spoke of her miscarriages and her subsequent reaction, psychological and physcial, to those tragedies. Stephanie Kallos writes these scenes with empathy and insight. Further, Kallos' insight into a parent's serious illness (Hope has MS), death, and the manner in which those event impacts children into adulthood is masterful. If she does not have first hand knowledge of the subject, I would be quite surprised.

I thought the female characters were more finely drawn and much more realistic than the males. Irrespective of that opinion, I found that I liked all the individuals who peopled the town of Emlyn Springs; thought their customs were fascinating; and wanted everyone to have the life they deserved.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to read a gentle, well written novel. You will find yourself wrapped up in the lives of the characters, crying when they cry, and celebrating their joys when they celebrate. First class all the way!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It blew me away (pun intended) Oct. 31 2008
By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn - Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is a saga, a sweeping family story that lodges in your marrow, the kind of story that makes you smile, laugh, weep, snort, chortle, sing, spread your arms wide and lay your heart wide open.

With flavors tender, ribald, ironical, farcical, tragic, magical, and wondrous, Sing Them Home narrates an epic story of a family emotionally disrupted by the disappearance of their mother (and wife), Hope, in a Nebraska tornado of 1978. Hope was swept up, along with her Singer sewing machine and a Steinway piano, but she never came down. Due to the absence of her remains, all that stands in the graveyard is her cenotaph.

Twenty-five years later, the three grown-up children are still trying to cope with their grief. None ever married. Larkin, an art history professor (whose work is symbolic with her loss and grief) hides behind food and refuses to "leave the ground." Gaelan is a weatherman (ah! the irony) who has only superficial, sexual relationships with women, and the youngest, Bonnie, is a virgin and garbologist. She roams after storms to look for "archival" remains of things that flew away in the tornado with their mother. And she talks to the dead at the cemetery.

There is also a beloved but inscrutable stepmother, Viney, (although she never legally married their dad); a large supporting cast of unforgettable characters; ancestral Welsh traditions; and the Nebraska weather and topography, a salient ingredient in pulling the story together.

The prose is beautiful and evocative as the story moves along non-linearly, but with grace. Past events are revealed gradually and build momentum as it catches up to the present. You will experience an intimate relationship with these radiant, unconventional characters and their extraordinary story.

There are some themes similar to The Lovely Bones--loss, unresolved grief, isolation, the meaning of memories and the idea of home. However, Kallos' novel is richer, more sprawling and textured. John Irving comes to mind, with veins of Philip Roth, Margot Livesy, and Ann Tyler. She is an original, though--she leaves her own memorable imprint.

This is no garden-variety redemption story. It exhilarates with an elixir of spiritual, metaphysical and deeply human voices, of things said, unsaid, unuttered, and forever sung.

For a taste of the author's wit, poise, sensibility, and charm, read her bio on her website at [...]
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written drama to sink your teeth into Dec 15 2008
By A. Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I love a nice long book. I read a lot, and when I find a long, beautifully written book that holds my attention from beginning to end, I feel incredibly lucky. Such is the case with Sing Them Home.

This is an incredibly moving story of love, loss and family. The characters are so well drawn that by the end of the book, you feel you know them. Anyone who has lost someone close to them will find this particularly moving, but even if you haven't, you can't help but feel for the family and their trials and tribulations.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I was sad when I finished it, because I never wanted it to end. Beautiful prose, fantastically drawn characters and a gripping plot make this one of the better books I've read this year. You won't be disappointed!
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