Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Lullaby of Polish Girls -- a review

Dagmara Dominczyk’s The Lullaby of Polish Girls has a great title – one that enticed me to request it from the Early Reviewers Club. There doesn’t, however, seem to be a lullaby quality to the novel, nor references to lullabies – literal or figurative. I’m not sure why the author chose it. Nevertheless, I’m glad it got me to open the book.

The novel is told from three different character points of view, and in three different time lines.

Three Polish women have separate personal obstacles to their happiness. They all know each other, but were separated in their teenage years and are estranged through geographic distance, and lifestyle. The novel weaves in their separate stories, going back to when they were children and had first met each other, to when they were teenagers and young adults, up to the present.

The story ends with a poignant reunion, but not before each woman grows in strength to the point that they are able to solve their own immediate disasters.

I was really glad that the novel ended this way. It’s empowering to read that they all individually “fixed” themselves first before reuniting.

Yes, camaraderie is lovely, and being part of a community of friends is the only way I want to live my life, but knowing that each woman had personal strength and courage to make it by herself separate from her friends is important.

The characters were real. The author did a great job at separating them with distinctive voices. I did have trouble with the multiple time lines. Dominczyk was careful to identify in which year the setting was taking place, which town they’re in, and which character was speaking. But still I struggled with matching the adult characters with their adolescent counterparts. Was Anna, the adult, the one who did such-and-such when she was a teenager? Or was that Justyna?

I liked the interspersing of Polish words, even though I don’t know any Polish. It added flavor and color to scenes that might’ve sagged without it. I also got a kick out of knowing that anyone from Poland reading this would get extra pleasure, glee, and resonance from seeing those words.

Dagmara Dominczyk writes well and develops her characters with flaws and fears – just like real people. The Lullaby of Polish Girls is worth reading if you like family or friend dynamics, well-developed characters, Poland, or stories with unique time lines.

3 out of 5 stars; I liked this book, but probably won’t read it again.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Found Poem ~ "In My Dream"

I was looking around the house today for a blank journal to use in an art class I'm taking next week, and I discovered what looks like a poem. Since I don't consider myself a poet, I can only assume it wasn't first intended as a poem, and just turned out that way -- like a kitchen concoction that turns out way different than you expected, but is still good.

My only disappointment in the poem is ... I don't remember who I was writing about. Also, it's a little "flowery."

Or not.

In My Dream

In my dream, you were my soul coach,
Writing down my words faster than I could.
Recording words and ideas
Plummeting from the sky,
Or my lips.

Sometimes they'd float by in bubbles,
Iridescent with purple glint,
And you'd reach out with calm,
Like swamp water slippery with waiting crocodiles,
And pluck them from in front of you.

In my dream, you'd hold up the thought
And clear your throat,
Examining it for flaws.
You'd exclaim/proclaim it sound
And write it down
And then give it a kiss.

In my dream, you heard a hoard of elephants,
Stampeding through your mind,
Interrupting your thoughts and dreams,
And you were angry.

But then you help up your own thought,
And cleared your throat,
Examined it for flaws.
You exclaimed/proclaimed it sound
And wrote it down.
And then gave it a kiss --
No longer labeled as anger.

In my dream, you wear brown cowboy boots
And leap and stomp and laugh and plead
With eyes of brown and green and blue --
Mirrors of angst and joy,
Pleasure and guilt and desire.

In my dream you hide from, what,
I don't know.
Sometimes it is yourself and
Sometimes it is me, but
Always it reminds me of fear.
Distrust in a child's countenance,
When he is trying so very hard to 
Understand this grown-up world,
And meets with disbelief at the
Strangeness of it.

In my dream, you are
3 and 20 and 48.
And 14.
All ages of knowledge
And import.

In my dream, you are 
Or with me
But always you smile
And always you

Monday, July 8, 2013

I Know It's Summer When I Stop Writing

I once wrote how I knew it was winter. Perhaps it's time to write about how I know it's summer. And it really has nothing to do with bar-b-ques and heat waves.

It's summer when I have bursts of energy to clean and to organize -- which steals not only my writing time, but my impetus. Where I learn to brew kombucha, pick roses and plums from my backyard. It's summer when I only grumble and rant about my teenagers playing WoW and Minecraft non-stop for hours on end, rather than giving them time limits -- because what else would they do while I'm massaging clients, taking yoga classes, or working in the garden?

Summer time is for not thinking big thoughts, stuffing them instead while I busywork through the day, taking advantage of the light. The skin-peeling consequence of that, is that if I don't allow myself to think them, I can't write them down either. And then THAT starts a cycle of writer's block.

I know this pattern.

I breathe it.
At least twice a year.

(I wonder if it correlates to when the seasons change, or if it happens when my life twists and alters course.)

Summer is for new business ventures, self-publishing books, and splashing merrily in the waves of a nine-month-old romantic relationship with my Turk. Summer is the time to break up dog fights with hoses, and walk the neighborhoods looking for those same cherished doggies when firecrackerfear compels them to jump out windows and push through six-inch openings in fences and find their way to the other house they live at, all by themselves.

I know it's summer when I fold my laundry and wish that I had a clothesline to capture the scent of sun.  When ants and fruit flies invade my compost bucket under the sink, and no amount of bait alleviates the swarms. When sneezing doesn't make people shrink back from your germs: It's just allergies.

I know it's summer when my arms itch for no reason, except maybe ambient pollen. When I make jam from the raspberries in my yard. When I surprise myself with gardening prowess. I know it's summer when doggies sleep on the bare hardwood floors in my house instead of upholstered squishy green couches.

When I envy the neighbors' gardens and flower beds.

When I think of all manner of things to do BUT write.

I can't write because I'm not caught up with the housework, and I don't want to leave it for another four days before I get back to it. (I clean in spurts.) I can't write because I often over extend myself, not just in summer, but it feels like I do it more in this season. So much so that come 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I'm bushed. Extra sunlight be damned. All I want to do in the afternoon is read. So I trick myself into reading books that are "good for me." Non-fiction mostly. Or that one novel I need to read for the Early Reviewers Club.

Summer is for looking at my knitting bag with wist and longing, because knitting is for winter days by the fire.

Summer is for remembering to stay hydrated, but then peeing every forty-five minutes until I'm bored with it.

I know it's summer when I only find out I have a fruit tree in the yard by almost stepping in the too-ripe ones on the sidewalk in front of my house.

If Summer isn't for big thoughts, it's for big PLANS. So many plans that I effectively gouge out huge slabs of writing time and just watch them fritter to the floor. Camping for a week, a conference for a long weekend, a flight out of state to take my children to their grandmother's place, and music festivals with costumes.

Summer is here when I take an art class for a day, sleep with the door open because it's so hot I'm counting on the dogs to scare away any intruders, and finally getting around to taking my first Spanish lesson.

I know it's summer when I meet new friends at cookouts and birthday parties. When I feel inspired to change things up. To build a chicken gate for the run that has no chickens yet. And to run yet another errand. It's a season of feeling euphoria, and then worry that the euphoria might be manic, and thinking I should probably write about it, but instead allow the weather and my productiveness to give me an artificial high so that I forget about that reason I'm not writing.

I wonder if Autumn is the season to write.