Treat Yourself to a Great New Read: Weather of the Heart

 

All through her long busy life in America, Nora Percival felt impelled to learn about the family she’d left behind in Samara, the city on the Volga where she was born. After glasnost she was finally able to go there and find the places, though not the people, of her youth.Her search resurrected childhood memories of revolution, civil war, famine and exile, which she felt impelled to share, “to speak for so many others who have silently endured the loss of all they valued.” In her book the reader will meet the extended family who faced many trials in those chaotic years, and will be moved by their steadfast togetherness through want and woe. The reader will share the love and courage that sustained them and helped them survive hunger and despair, the humor that cheered dreary days and the strength that carried them through affliction and calamity. Readers will cry over their sorrows and enjoy their small triumphs, and they will live again in memory.

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Nora Lourie Percival was born just after World War I in Samara on the Volga River in Russia. The revolution drove her father out of the country to safety, and her family lived through a civil war and a famine. These tribulations were recorded in “Weather of the Heart,” her first memoir. In 1922, the family was reunited in New York, where Nora grew up. The author’s career has been largely in the editorial field. She has worked for Random House, the American Management Association, and Barnard College. Now long retired, she is still writing and working as a freelance editor. An only child, she has raised five children and now has eleven grandchildren. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina, where she enjoys the natural beauty and is inspired by the literary renaissance in the South.

Read more about Nora Percival by visiting her website at http://www.norapercival.com/

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Review of Marti Healy’s ‘The Secret Child’

ImageThe Secret Child by Marti Healy
Review by Sinead F.

The Secret Child, coming in at 196 pages, should not be dismissed as lacking in content. This was another one of those books where I had never heard of the author or the book beforehand, so it was a little bit of a risk but I am so glad I took a chance on it!

Set in South Carolina in 1855, The Secret Child follows the escapades of Marika, a young girl who is a member of the Irish Travelling Community. The book opens with Marika and her brother’s journey to another clan within the community, as Marika has been promised in marriage to the clan’s leader. However, things soon go awry as her brother falls ill and is taken in by some villagers near to where Marika’s new clan resides. Marika then makes the decision to abandon her arranged marriage, at least temporarily, and takes refuge in a nearby forest. She soon finds herself drawn into a mystical world, which she had previously only heard of in stories.

With regards to the story as a whole, I enjoyed it. Oddly enough, the simplistic story didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. The reason this book still stands up as a whole is a result of the beautiful, lyrical descriptions that are peppered throughout every chapter. Something as simple as winter changing to spring was imagined as a symphony of growth and color that really drew you into the setting of the book and added a feeling of magic to otherwise ordinary happenings.

Despite how much I loved the descriptions in this book, they never took over. I remember when reading Homer’s Odyssey, another book with wonderful descriptions, there would be pages and pages of descriptions of one particular setting or key object before anything would actually happen, which turned it from a thing of beauty to tedium. The Secret Child manages to avoid this pitfall and uses the descriptions to either draw you in at the start of a chapter or enhance the events within the chapter.

An interesting aspect of The Secret Child is, naturally, Marika’s Irish heritage. At times throughout the book, Marika slips into speaking Gaeilge [in Irish], which I felt was a particularly nice touch. However, understanding Irish is not necessary anyway as all her phrases are translated on the page!

Due to the setting of The Secret Child, it is impossible for the story to be told without reference to slavery or the upcoming civil war. Again, these themes do not take over the story, but they are present throughout. Marika struggles to understand the motivations of slave owners, as her clan did not partake in slavery so she had never experienced it before. The book briefly touches on the cruelty of some slave owners, as well as some of the laws regarding slavery. This stood as a good contrast to the magical world Marika inhabited, as it brought a stark view of reality to the forefront.

In general, I really enjoyed reading The Secret Child. It’s a great book for immersing yourself into another world. The Secret Child shows you a world that exists just out of reach, and then drags you right into the middle of it. All in all, a beautiful read.