Sing Them Home Paperback – Jan 19 2010
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?A delight to read and a memory to savour. The compelling story highlights the losses and disjointedness of life and the many paths back to healing for those who seek the way. . . . The clever plot and luminous characters are not all that place this novel at the head of the class. . . . Book groups will enjoy discussing the layers of meaning, the stylistic nuances and the powerful message of hope secreted in these pages.?(Booklist (starred review) on Broken for You) --This text refers to an alternate 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/.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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!!!
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!
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 [...]
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!