My Appreciation For the Name Noah in Old Men at Midnight by Chaim Potok

“If he tells you stories, will you tell them to me?”

Full disclosure: I love the name Noah.

I like saying it, I like hearing it, and I like seeing it written on the page. The first story in Old Men at Midnight was like a love letter for the name Noah for the amount it was featured from page to page. I picked this book up at the library, upon turning around to face the library shelf it was on and randomly reaching out because I was familiar with the author’s name and wanted to read his words for the longest time, only to flip to the first page and have the very first word jump out at me: Noah.

All following details were a bonus, like the fact that he’s a sixteen-year-old survivor all on his own, living with his aunt and uncle in Brooklyn, under the tutelage of eighteen-year-old, Davita.

Old Men at Midnight is a trilogy of related novellas about a woman whose life touches three very different men—stories that encompass some of the profoundest themes of the twentieth century.

Ilana Davita Dinn is the listener to whom three men relate their lives.

Old Men at Midnight varies stylistically from what I usually reach for in my books, featuring writing style with minimal dialogue. But I was willing to take the plunge for Noah Stremin.

“Noah is the only one who survived.”
“The only one in his family? I am sorry.”
“ The only Jew in the town.”
I felt cold to the bone.
“Four thousand Jews, and he is the only survivor. My husband and I, we say to ourselves God saved him for a reason.”

I felt instant compassion and connection to Noah. His story captures so much of the loss survivors never regain. “You have pictures. I have nothing.”

I realized about halfway through the story that though I was here for Noah, his character would only be present for “The Ark Builder,” and I had two more men to get through. And following someone betraying his people to serve in the KGB in “The War Doctor,” or reading vulgar descriptions of women in “The Trope Teacher” didn’t seem ideal. Like this:

“Close up, a woman small and dainty in stature, jeans tight, without the revealing curve of panties, he couldn’t help noticing; sandals and thin ankles and bare toes; he felt the beat and drum of his blood.”

I’m perplexed as to why he seems to think this adds anything valuable to the book… And unfortunately this isn’t the worst to come:

“She must have sensed his approach, for she straightened and turned. He noticed immediately the bony shoulders and small, firm breasts and the nipples beneath the blue jersey. She was not wearing a brassiere.”

This only made me think back to this post:

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55

I got what I wanted from my Noah story, and it’s best to leave it at that. I’m still on a mission to find as many books with characters named Noah (so far my list includes: TRC by Maggie Stiefvater, the Mara Dyer Series, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and Turtles All the Way Down). If by chance you have any additional recommendations please let me know in the comments below.

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Review: Opal by Maggie Stiefvater

If you’ve previously read my reviews* for any of the books in the Raven Cycle, you probably know by now that I’m a huge fan of Ronan Lynch. So finding out about this short story dedicated to Opal, aka Ronan’s dream girl, had me beyond keen on returning to their world.

“She was to remember that she was a secret.”

Set after the events of The Raven King, this story, like all the best things, starts with a dream. And just like that, upon opening the first page, I felt like I had never left this world, even though it’s been nearly two years since I first read the books. It’s even more magical than I could have envisioned. And I have so much to discuss, so let’s start at the very beginning:

(Spoilers from here.)

  •  We’re back at the loyal Barns, featuring Opal, Ronan, and Adam, and thanks to Opal’s excellent eavesdropping, we get an insider’s scoop into their lives that just hits the mark of satisfied:

“She had to content herself with stolen glimpses through cracked doors, slender one-inch views of duvet and sheets piled like thunderheads, Adam and sometimes Ronan pillowed among them.”

I missed my sleepy boys…

  • Good: Ronan’s intent of dreaming up a better and safer Cabeswater. Watching him dream is always one of my favorite bits because that’s Ronan at his most vulnerable. Speaking of which, this delicate shared moment made my heart flip:

“The only thing that had ever made her blink away was when Adam had once encountered Ronan in the second-floor hallway. Ronan had been standing outside of his parents’ old room, one hand holding a cassette tape and the other clenched into a fist, and he’d been there for quite a few minutes by the time Adam climbed the stairs. Adam had taken the cassette from Ronan’s hand, working Ronan’s fingers loose and putting his own fingers between them. For a moment Opal, hidden, had thought they were going to kiss. But instead, Ronan pressed his face against Adam’s neck and Adam quietly put his head on top of Ronan’s head and they did not move for a long time. Something about this made Opal burn so furiously that she could not stand to look a second longer.”

As I read, all I could think of was this fanart:

  • Ronan cares so much for Adam, and you can feel it oozing off the page through the tiniest of moments:

“Ronan was less thrilled to discover Adam’s inventive way of travel. “What the hell, Parrish? I was just about to leave to get you. Who dropped you off?”
“I walked.”
“Ha ha.” Ronan’s real laugh did not sound like ha ha, but this was not Ronan’s real laugh. When Adam didn’t explain the joke, he said, “Walked. From where?”
“Work.” Adam had ceased frolicking and instead removed his shoes and then his socks before sitting at the round table in the kitchen.
“Work. What. The. Hell. I told you I was going to pick you up.”
“I needed to walk.” Adam put his head on the table.”

  • Bad: We were saved from seeing the raven gang disperse in The Raven King, but it’s pretty much unavoidable here… and I wasn’t ready.

“I’m coming back,” he said.
She tore up some more grass, but she felt a little less wobbly having heard him say it.
“I don’t want to go, but I do — does that make sense?” he asked her. It did, especially if she thought about how some of her dreamthing’s happy-sadness might have rubbed off on him because they were sitting so close. “It’s just that it’s finally starting. You know. Life.”

You deserve so much, Adam.

  • Good: Seeing things captured through Opal’s eyes was a curious experiment that I find this passage conveys best:

“Ronan was not there to tell Opal it was all right for this visitor to see her, so Opal hid herself and watched the lady stalk through the mist to the back door. The lady tried the doorknob and the doorknob shook its head no, but then she opened her purse and did something else to the doorknob and the door said yes and opened for her.”

To capture the otherworldliness of Opal I simply had to listen to this equally mesmerizing song:

If anything, this swift read prepared me for any and all future events set to occur next. I just hope the wait for the following book won’t be too long.

“There were no rules in dreams so you could try anything.”

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Opal, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Worlds from the Word’s End by Joanna Walsh

“You will agree: had you always the right book to hand, oh what reading you would have done!”

It’s only fitting that right after I post my take on The Beautiful Book Covers Tag, I stumble across the striking cover for Worlds from the Word’s End, designed and illustrated by Roman Muradov:Worlds from the Word's End-- bookspoilsThe detailed art structure sets the tone for what to expect in Worlds from the Word’s End. A swift collection of short stories that (for the most) get straight to the point was exactly the kind of read I was seeking.

From a freewheeling story on cycling (and Freud), to a country in which words themselves fall out of fashion, to a bookshelf (‘Bookselves’) full of unread books coming to life to judge you.

“Something you never thought might happen: after a certain number of years the being who has read all these neglected books will step from your bookshelves, will sit down at your table (conveniently adjacent), will make a cup of coffee at the machine, having seen you use it so many times, especially when about to tackle a book, and will light a cigarette, insubstantial as steam, the odour of which will affect neither your carpets nor curtains. It will be the opposite of you, your inverse.”

Love of books is quietly present throughout the collection.

Another noteworthy story takes on the saying “Actions speak louder than words,” as language crumbles around them.

“You like women who are quiet? In the end it was not so difficult to let you go: you were only interested in the sound of your own voice. ”

The most memorable piece for me.

Also, this:

“I prefer Departures to Arrivals, by which time everything has already happened. Even as dawn approaches in long lozenges of broken light, Arrivals do not notice the beautiful station. They look down, headed for something known, for home, for bed. Of course some are met, but fewer than you would think, and they don’t stick around. Heroics are reserved for Departures: brave looks, last embraces, minutes slowed by kisses.”

But save for the two stories above that I enjoyed most, the nineteen tales in here are all over the place. The incoherent narrative (or lack thereof) became bothersome overtime, especially for the shorter pieces. They didn’t pack a punch and were remarkably mediocre, so much so that you’d forget what it was about the minute you moved on to the next piece.

Though I was looking for short stories that were quick and precise, Worlds from the Word’s End seemed to only deliver on the quick part.

Bottom line: I was drawn to the cover and that’s the best to have come out of this collection for me.

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Worlds from the Word’s End, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!