Book Club: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

I am a week late on posting my book club book review. I must admit that I had not finished the book on time to write this post last week.  I got a late start on reading my January pick, The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, because I decided to read another book first.  At the beginning of the month someone recommended that I read In Pursuit of Love by Rebecca Bender.  It is Bender’s real-life story of how she became enslaved into human trafficking and her journey to freedom.  It was an excellent read.  It covered a very tough topic and was truly heartbreaking, but it opened my eyes to the real crime that is happening right here in the US.  Bender’s struggles led to her creating a huge online academy for survivors of human trafficking where she has hundreds of women. So much good has come from her sharing her story and advocating for change.  I highly recommend it! 

My reading of the other book coupled with me struggling at first to get into The Beekeeper of Aleppo put me behind in finishing it.  I don’t know if my struggles to get into the book initially were because my mind was still blown by the other book or what, but I found myself having to reread a lot of pages in the beginning.  Once I got into to the storyline and figured out what was going on and all the characters, I did enjoy this book.  It was a story about a beekeeper (Nuri) and his wife’s (Afra) journey to freedom in the midst of the war in Syria.  After losing their son and the Afra becoming blind, the two made the decision to flee their home in Aleppo for fear of their safety.  They had a long and treacherous journey to the UK where they would meet up with the Nuri’s cousin and business partner who had fled before them. It was a story of loss, heartbreak, survival, and healing.   By her own admission, the author, Christy Lefteri, explored what it means to really see in this book.  This was a journey of sight not just for Afra who had been blinded, but also for Nuri as he learned to cope with so much loss.   

The story flashed between the beginning of their journey and the end of their journey.  It was interesting how the author switched between the present day and the past within one chapter.  I don’t know if there is a technical term for the way she did it or not, so I may butcher trying to explain it.  Each chapter would begin in the present day but would switch to the past halfway through.  I didn’t catch what she was doing at first and was a little confused until I figured it out.  One sentence would begin as the present day, and the last word of that sentence would be cut off.  Then you turn the page to have that last word in a larger font and bold at the top of the page, almost like a title.  That word will have ended the previous sentence of the present day on the previous page, and that same word would be the start of the next sentence into the past.  Here is an example:

“It is”

a key

“was placed in my open palm.”

“It is a key.” was the end of the portion of the chapter about the present day.  “A key was placed in my open palm.” was the beginning of the portion of the chapter about the past.  I hope that makes sense.  When this happened in the first chapter, I thought I was missing pages, or something was wrong with the download of the book.  It took me until about chapter 3 to figure out that this was intentional and what the author was actually doing.  Maybe I am slow and should have caught on instantly, but I didn’t. Once I understood what was going on, the story began to make much more sense, and I began to enjoy it so much more. I would give this book 4 out 5 stars.  I wouldn’t say that I loved it, but I did enjoy reading it.

My pick for February is a much-anticipated book by Kristin Hannah.  I have been a fan of hers for a while and am excited to dive into her newest book, The Four Winds. It is a historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression about a mother trying to protect her family.  Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about this book.

“Hannah brings Dust Bowl migration to life in this riveting story of love, courage, and sacrifice. In 1934 Texas, after four years of drought, the Martinelli farm is no longer thriving, but Elsa is attached to the land and her in-laws, and she works tirelessly and cares for her children, 12-year-old Loreda and seven-year-old Anthony. Her husband, Rafe, has become distant and something of a hard drinker, and after he abandons them, Elsa reluctantly leaves with her children for California with the promise of steady work. Her dreams of a better future are interrupted by the discrimination they face in the unwelcoming town of Welty, where they are forced to live in a migrant camp and work for extremely low wages picking cotton. When Elsa’s meager wages are further reduced and she has the opportunity to join striking workers, she must decide whether to face the dangers of standing up for herself and her fellow workers. Hannah combines gritty realism with emotionally rich characters and lyrical prose that rings brightly and true from the first line (“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love”). In Elsa, a woman who fiercely defends her principles and those she loves, Hannah brilliantly revives the ghost of Tom Joad.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

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Book Club: White Ivy

Since I took my unplanned break from blogging for the holidays, I never got around to giving my review of my December Book Club pick, White Ivy by Susie Yang.  I have to start by saying that I had a hard time staying interested in this book.  If fact I just had to go back and read some parts of it again to even remind myself what it was even about.  It clearly did not stick with me. I’m not sure how good this review is going to be since my memory of the story has faded.  I do recall having to reread multiple pages at a time because I found myself daydreaming or completely not really paying attention to what I was reading at all.  I would read and then realize I had no idea what I just read.  In all fairness to the author, this could have been simply because it was December and there was a lot going on and a lot on my mind during the time I was reading it.  I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn’t do it for me.  It was really slow to start, and I felt like there were side stories that really weren’t necessary or that didn’t really go anywhere. Some would likely say that it was good character development but I kind of felt like a lot of it wasn’t needed.   I will say that the second half of the book was a little more interesting and presented some turns that I wasn’t necessarily expecting.  I do think there were some interesting concepts, but I didn’t feel like it was all that it could be.  I would probably give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

The story is about a Chinese immigrant, Ivy, who was brought up learning to steal and cheat by her grandmother at a young age.   She always dreamed of the finer things in life and wanted what she couldn’t have.  She had a determination to get what she wanted to matter what it took or how she had to compromise herself to get it.  Her biggest obsession was a boy named Gideon that she met at a young age. Gideon was the son of a prominent and very wealthy politician, and Ivy set her sights on him right away.  After lying to her parents about her whereabouts, she was caught at Gideon’s house the morning after a sleepover for his birthday.  Her mother, whom she had a tumultuous relationship with, immediately sent Ivy back to China to live with her relatives for the summer in order get her away from Gideon and what her mother thought were bad influences.  While Ivy was away her parents moved to a new home in a new state as a way to keep Ivy from Gideon and those bad influences upon her return.  It wasn’t until after college that Gideon and Ivy’s paths crossed once again. Ivy quickly set her sights on him again and was soon living a life wining and dining in Boston and in the Cape with Gideon and his family.  It looked like she had finally gotten what she had always wanted until a certain someone from her past reappeared in the most unexpected way and threatened to take it all away.  Ivy was determined do whatever it took to keep the wealthy life and to hold on the Gideon including lying, deceit, debt, and even murder.  With a surprising end, you learn that money, wealth, and prestige were far more important to Ivy than actual love.

Despite my feelings on the book as a whole, there were good parts to it.  The ending was definitely better than the beginning.  There were all the things you want in a book like some suspense and a few unexpected twists, but I wouldn’t call it a thriller necessarily.  It was more of a coming of age story with a bit of suspense thrown in.  Some of the characters like Ivy were very complicated.  She was the villain that you wanted to dislike but at times rooted for.  I think that the story just got started so slow for me that I lost interest before it got to the good parts.  Maybe if I had read it at a different time in the year when I wasn’t so busy as well, I may have liked it better.  I would be interested to see what any of you thought about it if you read along with me. 

Looking back at all the books I chose for the Anchored Book Club in 2020, I am really hoping that I choose better books for 2021.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some that I really enjoyed like Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabet Russell.  There were just also a few that I really didn’t like.  I had high hopes for some that just didn’t really live up to my expectations.  I would say that my least favorite of the 12 books was The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.  That one really disappointed me the most because I felt like it had so much potential.  It is incredibly hard to choose a book unless they are widely known as exceptional. I try to choose books that you may not necessarily read otherwise. Sometimes I choose well and sometimes I don’t. It is just the nature of the beast.

I am going out on a limb for my first pick of 2021 despite what I said above.  This could end badly or be an unexpected treasure.  I totally just happened upon this book when it came up as a suggestion under another book I was looking at.  I was really captivated by the synopsis, and hope that I am choosing wisely this time.  Some reviewers described it as heart wrenching, realistic, and captivating.  Some even said they were left speechless.  For January, I have chosen a historical fiction novel entitled The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.  This is a story about beekeepers, Nuri and Afra, and their plight as they lived through and escaped Syria during the Syrian War. Here is what Publishers Weekly had to say about this novel.

“Lefteri tells a haunting and resonant story of Syrian war refugees undertaking a treacherous journey to possible safety. In 2015, Nuri Ibrahim and his wife, Afra, who was blinded in an incident during the Syrian civil war, cling to their home while everyone else flees the bombings and violence. They are emotionally devastated by the loss and destruction of their neighborhood but decided to seek asylum in the U.K. after soldiers attempt to forcefully recruit Nuri. They travel through harsh conditions in Turkey and Greece, waiting in camps for the proper paperwork and meeting more refugees along the way. Nuri is determined to find his cousin Mustafa in the U.K., where the two men can return to their beloved work as beekeepers. Afra recons with the reality that she will not be able to continue her life as an artist because of her blindness, and the couple recall painful memories as they are drawn into the agonizing experience of other refugees. Lefteri perceptively and powerfully documents the horrors of the Syrian civil war and the suffering of innocent civilians. Readers will find this deeply affecting for both its psychological intensity and emotional acuity.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

**This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.