Victoria McQueen was born with a special gift; whenever she’s riding her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, a bridge will appear can transport her wherever she needs to go. Once there, she can find things that are lost. It starts out innocently enough, with Vic looking for things to keep her parents from fighting, but the temptation to do more with her trick is always there.
Meanwhile, Charles Talent Manx is out on the prowl for children. He has a special vehicle of his own, a Rolls Royce Wraith, which he uses to transport children to Christmasland, a ghoulish twilight zone of yuletide cheer where soulless children revere Manx unconditionally. Hundreds of children (and sometimes their parents) have mysteriously disappeared over the years, and when Vic figures out that she might be able to find them, she goes looking for trouble. She ends up barely escaping from Manx’s Sleigh House, the only child to ever have done so. In the process of her escape and subsequent rescue, Manx is caught and imprisoned for life, assumed to be a pedophile and serial killer.
Now Vic is an adult, and Manx has never stopped thinking about her. But rather than come for her when the opportunity arises, he decides to come for her son, Bruce. Meanwhile, Vic is convinced that she’s always been mentally ill; once would have to be schizophrenic to actually believe that magic bridges and places like Christmasland exist. Unless she can find a way to trust her instincts and her sanity, her son’s life is on the line.
Fereiba is dealt a cruel twist of fate at birth: her mother dies in labor, and although her father eventually remarries, Fereiba is never truly welcomed by her stepmother. It’s a bit of a Cinderella situation; her stepsisters are doted on and sent to school while Fereiba is kept at home and taught to serve. It’s only by her sheer force of will that moves up in the world, and then her fortunes truly turn when she meets the love of her life, Mahmoud, a man who treats her as his equal and whose family respects her.
While their family lives a comfortable middle-class life in Kabul, trouble is brewing in other parts of Afghanistan. The Taliban is rising to power and people are fleeing the country in droves. Fereiba and Mahmoud don’t realize the error of staying until it’s too late, and their lives change drastically once the Taliban reaches Kabul and imposes their new fundamentalist regime. With two children and another baby on the way, they make plans to flee, but as a government employee, Mahmoud is targeted and murdered by the Taliban. Now, it’s up to Fereiba to escape and get her children safely to London. They manage to stay together part of the way but end up being separated in Greece; at that point, her oldest son must figure out how to get to London on his own.
Nerdy D’aron Davenport has never truly felt like he belonged in his tiny hometown of Braggsville, Georgia. He bides his time in high school and sets his sights on getting as far from Braggsville as he can. He’s confident in his decision to attend UC Berkeley but quickly learns that being at the top of his class in Braggsville means little in a place like “Berzerkeley;” it’s a culture shock that leaves him feeling out of his element. Fortunately, he makes friends with three other students early on: Charlie, a Black teen from inner-city Chicago; Louis, a Malaysian comedian from San Francisco; and Candice, a hippie-ish white woman from Iowa who sometimes claims to be of Native American descent. After one of their earliest PC-policing encounters at Berkeley, the four end up calling themselves the “4 Little Indians.”
Coming from a tiny town in the South, the hyper-awareness with which liberal Berkeley students treat political correctness is at times mind-boggling to D’aron. Then, in a radical history class that’s been blowing his mind all semester, he volunteers some information that freaks everyone out: his town still holds Civil War reenactments every year. Suddenly, the 4 Little Indians have a class project on their hands. They’ll stage a “performative intervention” — aka a mock lynching, complete with slave costumes — at this year’s Braggsville reenactment. In their minds, it’s just the kind of protest that people need to see the error of their ways.
A GIrl Walks into a Wedding is the second book by Helena S. Paige, the pseudonym of co-authors Helen Moffett, Sarah Lotz, and Paige Nick. I was really curious about it because of its format, something I’d seen before in erotica ebooks and in children’s books (ha!) but never in print books aimed at adults: you’re given multiple scenarios and periodically get to decide your own fate.
The plot, if you can call it that, is pretty straightforward: your best friend is about to get married and you’re her bridesmaid. You choose things like whether your dress is tasteful or hideous, and whether or not to take the new guy you’re dating to the wedding or to go solo. From there it branches out even more: Do you want to have a one night stand? Is the guy you’ve chosen a total bore? Do you catch your best friend doing naughty things the night before the wedding? You get the idea.
As you can imagine, it’s pure fluff. I’d always wondered what this type of format would be like in print format, and now I know. It’s weird. You’re given a choice, then you’re directed to go to page__ for X scenario or to page __ for Y scenario; I think this format is better suited for ebook because tapping the link of your choice is less awkward than finding the right page and seeing a bunch of “The Ends” along the way. It also makes the book reaaaally short. The earliest point I saw “The End” was on page 97, and that included several skipped sections where you had jump to your scenario of choice.
A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of those books that I kept hearing everyone rave about but I just never got around to. I’ve actually had the book on my shelf for over a year now, so when The Estella Society announced the book as its pick for a summer readalong, I figured it would be a good push to get the book finally crossed off my TBR list!
The book is about two boys, Johnny Wheelwright and Owen Meany, and their unique friendship that lasts from childhood through early adulthood. At first glance, the two are opposites. Owen is unusually small, with a squeaky and unique voice that’s WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. He’s an extremely intelligent boy from a working class background. Johnny doesn’t know who his father is, but he’s a Wheelwright in a town where legacy is important; he lives with his grandmother and mother on a well-off part of town. The two boys are inseparable, and Owen is practically part of the family. Then the inexplicable happens: Owen kills Johnny’s mother in a freak accident. Rather than ending their friendship, the two become closer than ever.
The plot is mostly linear, though it’s narrated by a much older Johnny who is haunted by his past. He keeps looking back on his youth and thinking of all the ways that Owen changed his life. Owen would be a hard person to forget even under normal circumstances, what with THAT VOICE and all, but Owen was anything but unique. He believes that he’s an instrument of God, and that everything that happens to him or because of him is part of God’s plan. This is at times exasperating to Johnny, but nothing can dissuade Owen from that belief.