My review of Don’t Close Your Eyes, by Holly Seddon

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For those of you who follow this blog, you may remember having read my review of Holly’s first novel, Try Not to Breathe, back in January 2016. As with her first novel, Don’t Close Your Eyes is a fast-paced, gripping psychological thriller filled with surprises you won’t see coming, but which make perfect sense in light of the story and characters.

Though twins, Robin and Sarah had very little in common growing up in the small village of Birch End, near Reading. Robin was outspoken, rowdy and wild while Sarah was eager to please and the picture of propriety. Still, almost despite themselves, the sisters were close. Then, one day, a new boy shows up at their school—Callum Granger. Sarah immediately gets a crush on him and before long Callum is fast friends with both Robin and Sarah. Shortly thereafter, their parents meet, and also become good friends. Before the kids know it they’re spending all their weekends together at one or the other of their houses. From there events spiral in a way that no one could have foreseen.

Now adults, Robin and Sarah live very different lives, in separate parts of the country. Robin, an ex-musician, lives alone in a flat in Manchester while Sarah lives with her partner and daughter in a house in Godalming, Surrey. But neither of their lives is going well. Robin suffers from severe agoraphobia, making it almost impossible for her to leave her home. Meanwhile, Sarah is facing an almost unbelievable turn of events in her relationship—her partner, Jim, has declared her unfit to look after their child and is taking their daughter away to be cared for by his parents. Powerless, Sarah leaves her home and checks into a B & B, hoping to somehow come up with a plan to regain custody of her daughter.

The story is told alternately between the adult and child versions of Robin and Sarah. This generally works well to both speed the story along and to give a full picture of their lives.  However, there were a few places where it felt like the author was flitting between them and it would have been nice to settle in just a bit more with each character before moving on. Of course, upon reflection, this unsettling effect is likely what Holly Seddon was aiming for when she chose to structure and pace her novel in this way.

Don’t Close your Eyes is an insightful and thoroughly disquieting read from a masterful storyteller.

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Don’t Close Your Eyes is published by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books and is available from Amazon and all good bookstores.

You can follow Holly on Twitter at: @HollySeddon

Like her page on Facebook: Facebook/HollySeddonAuthor

Or visit her website: http://hollyseddon.com/

 

 

My review of Dogged Optimism: Lessons in Joy from a Disaster Prone Dog, a memoir, by Belinda Pollard

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I say to Mum, “What do you think? It’s not as if I’m going to buy a puppy today. But you can cuddle one, I’ll buy you some coffee and cake, and then you can come back home for a nap.” She smiles. A glance passes between her and Dad.

When Belinda decided to adopt her first dog, she had no idea what she was in for. Killarney Karinya, named by Belinda for two special places she visited as a child, was an old-fashioned Australian terrier and the runt of her litter. While Belinda had grown up with dogs, she had never raised a puppy of her own. In this delightful memoir, Belinda recounts the difficult but happy years they shared together and how her time with Killarney changed her outlook on life.

Belinda relates several experiences which any pet owner may be familiar with, such as when she worried about Killarney’s health, her concerns about Killarney’s behaviour and training, and the many unexpected messes she suddenly found herself responsible for cleaning up. She also relates several incidents which won’t be familiar to most pet owners as they were unique to her life in Brisbane, Australia–an area known for its deadly reptiles and amphibians. Belinda talks about chasing poisonous cane toads around her yard, in an effort to keep them from getting near her beloved Killarney, who liked to chew on them, and calling the vet on numerous occasions due to Killarney’s being bitten by poisonous snakes. Of course, over time, Belinda learned to strike just the right balance between keeping Killarney safe and letting her learn her own lessons. And Belinda and Killarney had a lot of fun together too, spending time with family, making new friends and having new life experiences. Along the way, Belinda learned to accept the eccentricities of Killarney and the unpredictable nature of life itself.

Belinda’s memoir is heartfelt, funny and, occasionally, sad but it’s ultimately uplifting. Dogged Optimism will resonate with pet owners everywhere, regardless of species.

You can purchase Dogged Optimism as an ebook or in paperback from Amazon.

In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dogged-Optimism-Lessons-Joy-Disaster-Prone-ebook/dp/B018VVJ7KS/

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/Dogged-Optimism-Lessons-Joy-Disaster-Prone-ebook/dp/B018VVJ7KS/

Follow Belinda on Twitter: 

Check out her website: http://www.belindapollard.com/

The Third Note by Virginia King

Being a big fan of the Selkie Moon Mystery series, I was delighted when Virginia offered to let me be involved with the editing of book 3, The Third Note. Of course, I said I’d love to. One of the great pleasures of editing is being able to appreciate a book on a deeper level. Watching the story develop and take flight was a privilege. Getting to read it again later, as a regular reader would, only enhanced the experience.

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My Review

There’s a pattern here—the losing and the finding take me on incredible journeys of discovery. Things I need to know about myself. It’s what happened when I lost my memory and had to travel across the world to get it back. I mustn’t forget what I discovered then: that the answers are in my own heart.

Virginia King weaves a mystical web of suspense, psychic intuition and self-discovery in The Third Note. With Selkie now attempting to settle in Hawaii, her great-grandmother Bridie’s much delayed parcel comes as a huge surprise to her.  Why did Bridie wait until 35 years after her death to send it to her, and what is the significance of her mysterious gift? While Selkie knows that Bridie was Irish, she doesn’t know why she left Ireland nor why she chose Selkie as the recipient.

When Selkie meets up with her old friend Davina, she asks Selkie to accompany her on a trip to Ireland—Davina’s birthplace. Davina has secrets of her own which need investigating. Selkie figures it’s the perfect opportunity to do some research into her own family history.  What she finds will both shock her and have far reaching repercussions.

Exploring the idea that our past affects our present far more than we realise, The Third Note is a chilling, yet thoughtful, page turner with a good dose of humour thrown in to lighten things up.

If you enjoyed the first two books in the Selkie Moon Mystery series, then you’ll love The Third Note. In fact, even if you didn’t read the first two books in the series, chances are you’ll be fascinated enough by book 3 that you’ll want to go back and read them too. Oh yes, and, did I mention there’s a free prequel available on Virginia’s website?

The Third Note is available from Amazon.

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XT31XD3/

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XT31XD3/

You can purchase the first two novels in the Selkie Moon Mystery series from Amazon.

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Virginia-King/e/B00K2N9AGK/

US: https://www.amazon.com/Virginia-King/e/B00K2N9AGK/

Download Laying Ghosts, the free prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery series here: http://www.selkiemoon.com/laying-ghosts/

Check out Virginia’s website to learn more about the series and Virginia’s writing: http://www.selkiemoon.com/

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries/

Follow her on Twitter: @selkiemoonbooks

 

My Review of Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain by Allan Ropper & B.D. Burrell

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“A confused person behaves in a way so foreign to common experience that it can be unnerving, even for professionals. It is an alternate state of being.”

Allan Ropper explores these many various states of being in his fascinating memoir of his days as an eminent neurologist at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. From investigating the effects of transient global amnesia—a dramatic, temporary memory loss—to differing treatments for Lou Gehrig’s disease and Parkinson’s, to the extreme and unpredictable results of various forms of brain surgery and everything in between, this is an absorbing exploration of an underappreciated area of medicine.

Ropper focuses on the patients he meets, as well as his quirky co-workers. These come across almost as characters in a good novel. There’s patient Godfrey, a 55-year-old man who drives all the way from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Boston, Massachusetts before getting stuck on a rotary (roundabout) for nearly an hour before being pulled over by a traffic officer and sent to the emergency room. Then there’s Gordon, a 67-year-old bowling alley manager who loses his job due to increasing periods of confusion, one of which leads him to forget to turn up at work.  When Gordon discovers that his boss has fired him, he decides to take a walk to blow off steam. Having lived in the same small town his entire life, he’s shocked to find the streets becoming unfamiliar. Assisting Ropper in his diagnoses is his ever-capable senior resident, Hannah and the intensely knowledgeable (and very facetious) neurologist Elliot.

Reminiscent of Oliver Sacks’s captivating The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Allan Ropper is remarkable in that he learned about neurological disorders and disease not from utilising state-of-the-art technology—which, of course, is crucial in diagnosing and treating neurological conditions–but from watching and listening to his patients, even when many around him were convinced that those patients were speaking nonsense. It is precisely because Ropper listened to his patients that he was able to write this book.

Although some of the stories in the book are sad, just as many are hopeful and have happy endings, of sorts. Through his study of the brain, Ropper investigates the basis of who we are and what makes us human. What is frightening is how close we all are to falling down our own personal rabbit holes.

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain is available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reaching-Down-Rabbit-Hole-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B00LRHW99U/

My review of The Flower Angel by Katrina Hart

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! To celebrate, I’m featuring my review of Katrina Hart’s latest romance novella, The Flower Angel. Some of you may remember that her book featured on my blog a couple of months ago. If you missed it, you can view that post here: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-flower-angel-by-katrina-hart/

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“Have you ever made a choice in a moment of complete panic and lived every day since praying you could go back and make it right? But you know you can’t, even when the present blurs with the past in your mind?”

The Flower Angel is a heartwarming story of love and forgiveness which is perfect for cuddling up with on a cold winter’s day.

When Chris checks into the charmingly quaint Forget-Me-Not-Inn for the weekend, he’s doubtful he’ll find love, even though the inn’s brochure promises he will. His well-meaning friends convinced him to take a much-needed break and see if he couldn’t find time for a little romance in his life. Since his girlfriend broke up with him and he found himself at the centre of a distressing car accident, he’s been plagued by nightmares and constant anxiety. All he remembers of the accident is seeing a young woman lying in the road, the blue forget-me-not-flowers he’d been bringing to his girlfriend now strewn across this stranger’s chest.

Meanwhile, Lara has also checked into Forget-Me-Not-Inn, hoping to forget the trauma of her car accident and the devastation it’s inflicted on her life. After her accident she’d spent several weeks in a coma and had to move back into her parents’ house as she couldn’t manage on her own. Lara can’t understand why the man who knocked her down couldn’t so much as apologise to her—she knows he all but disappeared afterward and his seeming indifference to her suffering infuriates her.

Of course, soon after checking in, Chris and Lara discover each other and begin to fall in love. But when Lara discovers that it was Chris who hurt her so badly, she is conflicted and finds it difficult to forgive him. Will the magic of Forget-Me-Not-Inn prevail?

Besides the lovely romance in the story, I enjoyed watching Chris and Lara learn to conquer their fears and come to terms with the events of their past. Featuring characters who suffer from anxiety and the  after-effects of traumatic brain injury, The Flower Angel presents a refreshing, fantasy-filled twist on the age-old notion of finding one’s soul mate in the most unlikely of places.

The Flower Angel is available as an ebook and a paperback. You can obtain the paperback from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrina-Hart/dp/1540629341/

The ebook is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

To check out more of Katrina Hart’s novels and novellas, visit her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Katrina-Hart/e/B013KPPUGK/

The Flower Angel, by Katrina Hart

This post is dedicated to Katrina’s lovely nan, Jean, who sadly passed away yesterday. Jean was an avid reader and a quiet encourager of writers everywhere, but especially of Katrina’s writing, and also my own. 

Today I’m featuring Katrina Hart’s latest novella The Flower Angel.

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The Flower Angel is an imaginatively written contemporary romance which also features elements of fantasy. Here’s a brief description of the story:

The Flower Angel: Two strangers. One past. Can the Flower Angel help Lara and Chris find love? Lara and Chris are strangers when they meet at Forget-Me-Not-Inn, the place where lost and lonely souls come to find love. Drawn to one another from the start, Chris soon realises that they have a traumatic secret in common – something that Lara will find challenging to forgive… Will the Flower Angel be able to work her magic and help Lara and Chris find true love together? Anything’s possible at Forget-Me-Not- Inn.

But I thought that, rather than tell you my thoughts on the story, I’d let you read a little of it for yourself. So, without further ado, here’s an excerpt:

One Year Later…

Chris swung his bag over his head and waved to his friends who’d insisted, a week ago now, that he take up their offer of a weekend at Forget-Me-Not Inn. They’d told him its secret: that all who entered fell in love with their soulmate, destined to find forever love. Of course he’d not believed either of his friends as they’d followed him about his bar reading the brochure out loud. He’d thought it most likely seemed that way because couples took romantic nights there together or something.

He knew his friends were only being kind and believed he should relax and stop working every hour at his country club. They never stopped reminding him that he should get back to looking for love after his break up with a girl who’d never really loved him in the first place, no matter how much he loved her. In truth he’d been hoping that every moment he was working he’d heal from the dreams that consumed his sleeping hours. The night the accident happened not only left him broken hearted, but with a tortured soul and many questions he might never have answers to.

He turned to face the huge stone inn and started walking through the tall grass towards the building with stained glass windows and flowers around the door. As he got closer he noticed that all the flowers were blue and open in the sunshine. A flash of those flowers landing on the chest of the young woman he’d crashed into a year ago had him clutching his chest struggling to breathe.

Katrina Hart has also kindly agreed to answer a couple of my questions about the story and the writing of the novella.

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Welcome, Katrina!

Thank you for having me on your blog Kendra.

Firstly, where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Well, The Flower Angel started after I completed Love in Little Snow, my first novella. I was inspired to write my new novella by the publisher who had published my first one (Love in Little Snow). However, while writing the story of Chris and Lara, I found that I was also inspired by my boyfriend–those feelings of new love and the idea of two people colliding in a life changing way. Also how one moment can impact on a huge part of one’s life be it in a good way or not.   

I’ve always been fascinated by angels ever since I was around seven. I think they watch over us when we need it most, in a spiritual way. But also there are people in life who try to help each other and bring love and peace into each other’s lives. They kinda remind me of earth’s angels, a bit like Sally and George at Forget-Me -Not Inn.

Where did you get the idea for a flower angel? I love this idea.

I’ve always loved the idea of angels and believed in them ever since I was around seven, because at that age I believed one flew into my window and she transformed into my mum’s nan who died that night. I didn’t actually know that my mum’s Nan had died until I told my mum about the experience. But ever since then I believed that angels watch over us from just out of our eyes’ view, unless they choose to let us see them of course.

So, when writing The Flower Angel I imagined all kinds of angels and that’s how The Flower Angel came about.

How have you found the publishing process? I understand that the novella was initially going to be produced by a publisher who unexpectedly stopped trading.

I’ve found the publishing process very interesting. It was exciting working on the cover with the cover designer and then having the book formatted for both Kindle and paperback. I think it was a great experience getting to grips with how the whole publishing process works and it’s possibly something authors should consider trying at least once, to get to see how it all builds up and turns into the finished book.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about this story or the writing of it?

The Flower Angel is a mixture of a moment that changed two people’s lives and their inner strength to try again.

Thanks so much for sharing your lovely novella with us and for answering my questions. Best of luck with The Flower Angel and with all of your writing!

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The Flower Angel is available as an ebook and a paperback. You can obtain the paperback from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrina-Hart/dp/1540629341/

The ebook is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

To check out more of Katrina’s novels and novellas, visit her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Katrina-Hart/e/B013KPPUGK/

You can catch up with Katrina by visiting her blog: https://katrinamarie25.wordpress.com/

Checking out her website where you can also read her short stories: http://katrina134.wixsite.com/muses/books

Follow her on Twitter:@KatrinaHart2015

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Katrina-Hart-1785712648319624/

 

The Story Behind Laying Ghosts

For those of you who read my review of Virginia King’s latest story, Laying Ghosts, yesterday, I thought you might be interested to read more about the inspiration behind the story. Of course, even if you missed my review you might still enjoy hearing the story behind the story. 🙂

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And for those who missed it, just a quick reminder to let you know that Laying Ghosts is now available to download FREE from Amazon UK, Amazon US and other retailers.

So without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Virginia King:

A Ghost Story Needs … a Ghost

(A version of this post first appeared on ‘Hey Said Renee’  in May 2016.

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Vasilisa the Beautiful at the Hut of Baba Yaga, by Ivan Bilibin 1899, public domain image, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasilisa_the_Beautiful#/media/File:Vasilisa.jpg

My psychological mysteries have a mythical twist so I’m into visionary mirrors and mystical graveyards, suspect stalkers and symbolic objects. I’ve never sidled up to a ghost. But the idea to write a ghost story – as the prequel to the Selkie Moon mystery series – crept up on me, especially in the middle of the night – just like a … ghost.

Click here to continue reading: http://www.selkiemoon.com/la-bloguette/a-ghost-story-needs-a-ghost/

 

Review of Laying Ghosts by Virginia King, a new #FREE short story ebook

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Having read and enjoyed both of Virginia King’s novels in her Selkie Moon Mystery Series—The First Lie and The Second Path—I was both excited and flattered when Virginia approached me back in February asking if I’d like to read her 10,000 word short story prequel to the series, now titled Laying Ghosts. Of course I said I’d love to.

At the time that Virginia approached me she was still in the process of developing the manuscript and wanted my honest opinion on what I liked/didn’t like as a fan of the series.

One of the things that instantly struck me about the story was how well-developed Virginia’s characters are—I instantly recognised Selkie from the novels and could picture her friend Rina well. And, of course, the story as a whole was strong and required very little work from an editorial point of view. In fact, my desire to publicly offer my services as a development editor partially arose from my experience of working on Laying Ghosts with Virginia.

When Selkie Moon plays sick in order to get out of attending husband Andrew’s business conference in Vanuatu, she finds herself with a full four days to herself. She decides to settle in with a glass of wine and have an early night. But that all changes when she receives a mysterious text message on her phone, ‘Help me at Crystal Cottage. Rina.

While Selkie and Rina were once best friends, they’ve not spoken to each other since attending a sinister house party nearly four years ago, at a remote beach house called Crystal Cottage. When Selkie responds to the text, she receives the same message back. ‘Help me at Crystal Cottage. Rina.’ Uncertain as to what’s happening, Selkie decides to drive up to Crystal Cottage to meet her friend, and see if she’s okay.

When Selkie arrives, however, the house appears to be deserted. Or is it?

In Laying Ghosts, Virginia King slowly and tantalisingly reveals the mystery to her readers. As is usual with Virginia’s work, there are many layers to this story. A fantastic tale in its own right, it also provides a fascinating backdrop to Selkie’s later adventures.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the series, enjoying a great (free!) ghost story or have already read the novels but would like to know more about Selkie Moon, you’ll love Laying Ghosts.

“A strange message, a deserted beach house, a shocking incident from the past … Selkie Moon’s life will change forever.

When a text message from a long lost friend lures Selkie Moon to Crystal Cottage, the events from a house-party four years earlier wrap her in ghostly fingers and turn her life upside-down.

A prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery Series plus your bonus first chapter of The First Lie.”

Laying Ghosts is available FREE from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Laying-Ghosts-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01LAFOIRE/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Laying-Ghosts-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01LAFOIRE/

It’s also available from Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBooks:

https://books2read.com/u/38DEy6

And from Virginia’s website: http://www.selkiemoon.com/laying-ghosts/

You can follow Virginia King on Twitter: @selkiemoonbooks

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries/

Check out Virginia’s website where you can also subscribe to her newsletter to be the first to hear about Selkie’s latest adventure: http://www.selkiemoon.com/

 

Review of Islanders by Teow Lim Goh

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If I don’t tell her story

we cannot see her,

and without a reason for her being,

how will we let her survive?

–from “Her Story,” page 71

As a follower of Conundrum Press—a small publishing house based in Denver, Colorado which specialises in quality, literary titles—I was very pleased to hear about the publication of this poetry collection back in July.

To give some background to the collection, between 1910 and 1940 as many as 175,000 Chinese immigrants were detained and processed at Angel Island Immigration Station which is just off the coast of San Francisco, California.[1] They had made the long, arduous and often dangerous journey from China to seek a better life in America, only to find themselves imprisoned under racist and discriminatory immigration laws designed to curtail the influx of Asian immigrants. Some were joining family members who had already immigrated, others were arriving with their families in tow, only to find themselves separated upon landing, sometimes forever in cases where one partner was allowed to remain while the other was immediately sent back to China (usually the wife).  Others were single and hoping to find work and create a life for themselves free from the poverty and hardship they’d experienced back home, as so many immigrants to America sought to do.

Many of these immigrants were detained for months or even years under harsh, prison-like conditions. Others were sent back to China, never to see their families again. Between interrogations by immigration officials—supposedly designed to test their credibility but in reality designed to exclude as many Chinese as possible—the immigrants languished in their overcrowded barracks. To help cope with their miserable conditions, many of them composed poetry upon the walls of their cells, some of it carved onto the wooden surface.

All of the poems on record come from the men’s barracks. The women’s poetry was destroyed by a fire which happened in 1940 and which resulted in the closure of Angel Island.

In this poignant and powerful collection, the lost voices of these women are imagined, remembered and brought to life for modern-day readers.

In the opening poem, ‘Angel Island,’ Goh recalls the legacy of the Chinese in America, ‘To the miners who sailed the Pacific / with dreams of golden rivers. / To the workers who built the railroads / over mountains and prairie skies. / To the farmers who made the desert bloom.’ She then contrasts the hardships they endured with her own relatively easy experience as a recent immigrant. ‘This is my history. / I crossed the sea. / I sat on a plane. / I came with the dream / of freedom / to speak / to believe.’

Goh then goes on to structure the collection in five sections.

In the first section, ‘Voices: Angel Island 1910-1940’, Goh imagines the experiences of the women who were imprisoned on Angel Island, waiting to go ashore and separated from their families. In the poem, ‘In a Wooden Building,’ she writes: ‘Each day we knit in silence, / socks for the children, / hats for the parents, / and our words swirl in the sea.’

‘The Waves’ tells a story about a young man whose father dies suddenly. In order to help support the family, he goes to America to work. When he makes enough money, the man returns to China, to marry his sweetheart and bring her to live with him in San Francisco. But when their ship docks in California, she is turned away, ‘There’s nothing / we can do. Foreign wife / of a Chinese merchant, your case / is automatically / denied.

In ‘Between the Sea and the Sky,’ a woman commits suicide while in Angel Island, and another tries to.

The second section is titled, ‘Echoes: San Francisco: 1910-1940.’ Here Goh tells the stories of the family members waiting for their loved ones in San Francisco. Some of these stories overlap, such as in ‘Letter Unsent,’ which is written from the point of view of the same Chinese merchant whose first wife was refused entry and who has now married for a second time, only to find his second wife detained at Angel Island for over a year. Also, in ‘Consolation,’ the husband of the woman who committed suicide, reflects on the experience. He is told she died of ‘causes unknown,’ but he knows the truth as he too has been on Angel Island and is aware of the terrible conditions there.

In ‘Tomorrow’ a man anticipates the joy of finally bringing his wife home. ‘I will hug you and never let you go. /  / I will bring you home to a feast.’

‘Work: Angel Island 1910-1940,’ includes the stories of those who were involved in running Angel Island. These include the privileged, smug and disdainful official whose decision changes lives for better or for worse. Then there are those officials who are the children of recent immigrants and who cannot help but see their own parents in the faces of the families who arrive. ‘In her eyes he sees his mother / fleeing a homeland plagued by famine, / huddled on Ellis Island.’ (‘Daydreams’) There is also the cleaner in ‘Housekeeping’ who tries her best to make sense of the words scribbled on the walls, having only recently learned to write herself.

In ‘Riot: San Francisco, July and August 1877,’ Goh skilfully and sensitively imagines the voices of all those who were involved in the Anti-Chinese riots. The Anti-Chinese riots happened during an economic downturn in the American economy when labourers, including those in trade unions, blamed the Chinese for the lack of available work, claiming that their willingness to work for reduced wages drove everyone’s pay down. Instead of trying to unionise the Chinese workers, they persecuted them instead.

She empathises with both the out-of-work labourers as well as the Chinese immigrants who’ve come to carve out a new life, much as many of those labourers did a generation before. ‘Maybe his wife just left him / in a string of shattered plates. / Maybe he’s looking for / something beyond himself, / a crowd he can become.’ (‘To Chinatown’) But Goh does not shy away from exposing their racism for what it is either. ‘I hear him tell the boy / he should count his blessing: / / unlike those dregs of Asia, / he was born to a worthy people,’ she writes in ‘Nob Hill’. In ‘Immolation’ she tells the tale of a Chinese man who committed suicide by overdosing on opium, unable to bear up any longer. A mob discovers him dying in an alley and stuffs the head of a duck down his throat.

In the final section and poem, ‘Pilgrimage’, Goh reflects on the history she shares with those long-ago immigrants as she herself pays a visit to Angel Island, ‘the borders we inhabit, the borders / we inherit, and in writing this story / / I find my way home.’

Islanders is a beautiful and remarkable collection, as important for the stories it tells as for the restrained and resonant way in which it tells them. Goh brings a little known piece of American history vividly to life and reminds us of how relevant this history is to our modern day experience of living in a world where people cross national boundaries every day in their search for a better life.

Readers can purchase Islanders direct from the publisher: https://squareup.com/store/conundrumpress/item/islanders

From Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Islanders-Teow-Lim-Goh/dp/1942280319/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Islanders-Teow-Lim-Goh/dp/1942280319/

Learn more about Teow Lim Goh’s writing by visiting her website: https://teowlimgoh.com/ 

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My cat, Othello, enjoyed her poetry too.

[1] http://www.cetel.org/angel_poetry.html