“The Gift” by Edith Eger

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I saw the book on a friend’s instagram account. It clicked immediately with my needs at that moment in time. I read it in one go. It’s truly a gift. I probably used the highlights more often than in any of the books I read so far. It’s humane, genuine, and humble.

A few of my favorite quotes:

“If you’re perfectionistic, you’re going to procrastinate, because perfect means never.”

“Power has nothing to do with brawn or domination. It means you have the strength to respond instead of react, to take charge of your life, to have total ownership of your choices.”

“If you take back your power and still want to be right, then choose to be kind, because kindness is always right.”

“We aren’t born with fear. Somewhere along the way, we learn it.”

“The most toxic, obnoxious people in our lives can be your best teachers. The next time you’re in the presence of someone who irks or offends you, soften your eyes and tell yourself, “Human, no more, no less. Human, like me. Then ask, “What are you here to teach me? “

“The Flea Palace” by Elif Shafak

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It is probably my least favorite novel by Shafak so far. It could be the timing and my mind’s needs at this point. It does not diminish one single point its value.

“The Flea Palace” is about emotional lives spent behind the doors of our dwellings, where we think we have privacy. A tragicomic look at a community of people denying themselves any sense of belonging to a community, even if it lives under one roof, the roof of the Bonbon Palace built by a former Russian general for his wife.

My favorite passages:

« Truth is a horizontal line. Be it a hotel corridor, hospital ward, rehabilitation centre or train compartment; all are horizontal. In such places, all your neighbours are lined up next to you on a horizontal plane, for a fleeting moment. You cannot grow roots at these places. Horizontality is the haven of evanescence. I too have been living on a horizontal line for sixty-six days – in the seventh of the ten cells lined up next to each other here. »

« Lies are a vertical line. An apartment building, for instance, erected with flats on top of one another with two layers of cemeteries underneath and seven planes of skies above. Here you can spread roots and grow branches as you please. Verticality Lies are a vertical line. An apartment building, for instance, erected with flats on top of one another with two layers of cemeteries underneath and seven planes of skies above. Here you can spread roots and grow branches as you please. «

“Honour” by Elif Shafak

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Honour. Think about this word. “An action of honoring or paying respect to; act or gesture displaying reverence or esteem; state or condition inspiring respect; nobleness of character or manners; high station or rank; a mark of respect or esteem; a source of glory, a cause of good reputation.” Sounds heavy, obliging, demanding, and in total opposition to “humble”.

What do you honor by killing? Can you get rid of guilt of killing for honour? … this novel raises so many questions from a variety of perspectives. What is “honour” to a sister, a daughter, a loving son, an unforgiving son, a wife, a community of the same faith, a society of many faiths… I loved the story line, and the dual timelines, and every single character. Shafak is a unique writer to me, as she breaths the life into her characters as if she lived each of their stories separately and then jointly. And she does so with grace and humility.

“The Secrets we left behind” by Soraya M. Lane

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I am very much enjoying books telling stories from the perspective of vulnerable. « The secrets we left behind » tells the story of British nurses left behind during the army’s evacuation from France at the beggining of the WWII. Cate, a brave nurse and Jack, her rescued patient, meet two French sisters who shelter them under the nose of Germans. The story takes time to unfold, so you might need to be patient at the beginning. The author tried to show us that even during unbelivable hurdles humans can fall in love. I found though this part a bit overboard, perhaps because all female characters fell in love one after another.

The background scenery serves well its purpose, so that the mind can picture and place the characters in Normandie at the time of the action.

« The Bastard of Istanbul » by Elif Shafak

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An Armenian family, a Turkish family, United States, Turkey, past and present and the unspoken atrocities of what was done… « The Bastard of Istanbul » is not a light, entertaining reading. I have enormous admiration for the unbiased way Shafak tells us the story with love and respect to all concerned.

“I must betray you” by Ruta Sepetys

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I lived across the border and we knew nothing about what was happening 150 km away. Maybe the adults knew some things, but it was never discussed in our presence. Romania was not spoken about. We only learned about Romanians in early nighties. When the Soviet Union fell, my mother travelled to Romania to sell basic food items, as many people from Moldova did. She was so upset by the poverty she saw there that she gave the sugar, pasta and rice for free to a Romanian, a mother like herself.

I love Sepetys’ writing because she gives a voice to those we will not read about in history books. She makes us aware about the way the history would be told by young and elderly, by mothers and sisters, by brothers and simple solders. I am always in awe about the extent of the research she does for her books and the time she takes to read, talk to people, ask questions and go into the depth of archives, in Romania in this case. All this to tell the story of a 17 year old Romanian in late 1989, the year of a Revolution which brought answers but also many questions. Historical fiction like this reminds us that “… history is nuanced, complicated, and doesn’t easily fit into defined categories” in the author’s own words.

«The island of missing trees » by Elif Shafak

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A painfully beautiful and beautifully painful story of love and division, commitment and betrayal, brotherhood and hate crimes, fear and renewal, hope and abyss, science and superstitions, and all – in couple of decades on one island. As Shafak herself puts it, this work of fictions is “a mixture of wonder, dreams, love, sorrow and imagination.”

Each character is a delight to get to know. The fig tree and the gentle way it narrates about what humans do not see and how it communicates with all living things around it. The Greek families and the Turkish families, and the impossible love between Kostas and Defne in 1974, separated overnight by war and reunited decades later, to become parents to Ada on British soil in London. I loved Ada’s superstitious aunt – Meryem and all her womanly advice to her niece. Yusuf and Yiorgos and their love. The Happy Fig tavern and its changing role for the characters. …

After having read the novel, I will never look the same way at trees and all those who re-planted their “roots” in foreign soil. I also wonder how much does humanity need to go through to finally learn. There is nothing to win in a war or from a division. There is no need to attack.

My favorite quotes:

“A map is a two-dimensional representation with arbitrary symbols and incised lines that decide who is to be our enemy and who is to be our friend, who deserves our love and who deserves our hatred and who, our sheer indifference. Cartography is another name for stories told by winners. For stories told by those who have lost, there isn’t one.”

“The bear knows seven songs and they are all about honey.”

“You must understand, whenever something terrible happens to a country – or an island – a chasm opens between those who go away and those who stay. I’m not saying it’s easy for the people who left, I’m sure they have their own hardships, but they have no idea what it was like for the ones who stayed.”

“I have never understood why humans regard butterflies as fragile. Optimists they may be, but fragile, never!”

“Knowledge is nobody’s property. You receive it, you give it back.”

“There was something childlike in the way grown-ups had a need for stories. They held a naive belief that by telling an inspiring anecdote – the right fable at the right time – they could lift their children’s moods, motivate them to great achievements and simply change reality.”

I coud not make up my mind which cover I like better, so I kept both.