Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Must-Read Debut Novel

I got the ARC in the mail on Saturday, started the first chapter that night, and couldn't stop thinking about it. Sunday afternoon I decided would be reading day. It had been a hectic week, I deserved a reading day! I was eager to get completely immersed in the fascinating world of Jessica Bell's debut novel, STRING BRIDGE.

The print book is a reader's dream: just the right length, a cover you can keep turning back to, finding meaning in each detail. And nice paper! Not that rough cheap stuff but pages with a good feel to them, a sensual pleasure to hold and read. I was thrilled that an ARC was available in print version.

The writing is deep and beautiful, with imagery and details that make the characters come alive and move the narrative along seamlessly. Bell writes literary fiction, but don't let that stop you. I realize that some literary writing is self-conscious, overdone, lacking in plot and well, just plain dull. Not this book!  String Bridge has a strong narrative that kept me turning pages to see what happens next with Melody and Alex, the troubled couple living in Athens, raising a precocious and adorable (omigosh she is so dang cute!) little girl named Tessa.

Woven through the relationship between Melody and Alex is the complex relationship that Melody has with her bipolar mother, and the fears that she will become like her own mother and do irreparable damage to Tessa. In fact, Melody is so afraid of being hurt by those she loves that she effectively creates barriers to protect herself. It's not until tragedy strikes that Melody begins to understand how very much she did love and was loved in return.

The last novel that moved me and engaged me to this extent was Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. Like Conroy, Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel. I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.

29 comments:

  1. What a great review! I've read the book as well and felt the same. I will go into it more in my review that I plan to write in a few months but when this book comes out, buy it.

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  2. Yes, buy it. And if you, like me, are a reader who loves reading a print book, buy it in print, because it's the kind of book you will want to go back to again and again. I actually put it on the shelve that has "books which inspire me to be a better writer."

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  3. Thank you so much for this, Karen! It means more to me than you'll ever know! :o) I'm sure you know how the insecurities come to the surface when a book just comes out. Ohmygosh, it's nerve-wracking. So wonderful to know my book touched you the way it did. To touch readers is my ultimate dream. Thank you for making that come true!!! XOXO

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  4. Karen, I somehow knew Jessica was a brilliant writer, without ever reading anything but her blog entries. I already planned to purchase her book as soon as it's available. This only makes me want it NOW.
    Karen

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  5. It's on my TBR list! Can't wait.

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  6. I've heard good things about this novel. Loved the book trailer too.

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  7. This is an awesome review. I, too, enjoyed String Bridge, and feel honored I got to read the arc.

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  8. I'll be reading and reviewing it, too. (BTW: Her book of poems was awesome, too.)
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

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  9. WOW! What an over the top fantastic review. Congrats to Jessica for such a successful start, and I'll definitely be looking for her book when it's released. Thanks for the heads up.

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  10. Hi Karen .. fantastic review and now I definitely want to read it - her book trailer video was so good too..

    Jessica - many congratulations .. I'll be buying it in due course .. and would love to do a review anon.

    Great news Karen - and I think you did deserve a sit down .. cheers Hilary

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  11. Great review for Jessica's book! And what's with all of the guys named Alex in books these days? Not that I mind the trend...

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  12. What a beautifully written review about a book by a new author whose writing career I will be more than glad to follow.

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  13. This is a great review. Very moving!

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  14. Great review. I'm going to check to see if there's an electronic version of Jessica's book.

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  15. Yay for Jessica Bell!!! Thank you KarenG for a most wonderful review and info about this book!

    Take care
    x

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  16. Brilliant review, brilliant author.
    :)

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  17. Wonderful review and now I've added it to my list. Congratulations Jessica.

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  18. What a beautiful review, Karen. Thank you. I have my copy, too, and now I'm ever more anxious to dive in!

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  19. Nice review and what I would have expected of Jessica's book. I think the book will have some impact.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  20. This book sounds great and I love literary fiction! I think that is what I'm writing when I'm not writing mysteries.

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  21. Awesome review! I can't wait to read it... it's next on my list. :)

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  22. Sounds like a must but reading your comments about being able to turn back to the front cover, feel the quality paper, has got me wondering if I really should be persevering with my Kindle. I miss those things.

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  23. This sounds like a MUST READ!! I love the cover as well. I was immediately drawn to it. I can't wait to get my hands on it. And you most certainly deserved a reading day after the past week or so!

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  24. You've written a smashing review Karen. I've offered to host Jessica but haven't read her book - yet. Sounds great.

    I love literary fiction. Pat Conroy is one of my fave writers (his Beach Music is my favourite book of all time) so if you're comparing Jessica's writing to his, she must be a marvel. I've read some of her short stories and they are amazing.

    Denise

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  25. Oh wow, this sounds amazing. I love this kind of book. Thanks for the recommend, Karen!

    Amy

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  26. Great review, it sounds amazing, tightly taunt and full of tension. Sounds like there will be a few gracenotes~ Can't wait~

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