Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Review: The Belief in Angels by J. Dylan Yates

Growing up in her parents’ crazy hippie household on a tiny island off the coast of Boston, Jules’s imaginative sense of humor is the weapon she wields to dodge household chaos. But somewhere between routine discipline with horsewhips, gun-waving gambling debt collectors, and LSD-laced breakfast cereal adventures, tragedy strikes with the death of her younger brother—a blow from which Jules may never fully recover.

Jules’ story alternates with that of her Grandfather Samuel, a man with a sad story of his own. Samuel, once called Szaja, is an orthodox Jew who lived through the murderous Ukranian pogroms of the 1920s and the Majdanek Death Camp—but whose survival came at a price that’s haunted him for years.

Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: April 28th 2014 by She Writes Press 

Kristine's Thoughts:

* I received an advanced readers copy of this book from She Writes Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!*

The Belief in Angels is a truly haunting story of one girl as she struggles with the cards that she has been dealt from a very young age to adulthood. Dysfunctional doesn't even begin to describe her family life and the things she was forced to endure. As I read I felt every emotion from disbelief, anger, sadness, shock and I was glued to the pages.

The story is told from Jule's point of view with the occasional chapter from her grandfather telling his story. Both stories were equally interesting but I struggled at first to understand the connection. As the story went on it became a little more clear and I could see that it was sort of a way to explain how the events of the past shape the who, what, where and why of the now.  His story needs a book of its own (which I see is happening) and I am anxious to know it in more detail.

Ultimately this is a coming of age story about a girl who is forced to grow up too fast because of her selfish, messed up parents. Jule's is a beautifully strong character that I fell in love with. I loved the writing style and could feel every emotion right along with her. I must warn future readers that if you are looking for the silver lining in this book there aren't many. It is a dark, haunting story with not much happiness in the mix. The story is going to stick with me for some time. It would make an excellent book club book as there are many things to talk about and debate. I am curious as to how other people feel about it and will be watching future reviews.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more from J. Dylan Yates.

About the Author
 Raised on a tiny, New England peninsula, J. Dylan Yates pursued her BFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

THE BELIEF IN ANGELS,Yates’s debut novel, was written over the course of many years while she attempted a number of BFA-related jobs, including: teaching, corporate training, real estate, nursing, interior design, parenting, and reluctant housewifery.

Yates’s next novel, SZAJA'S STORY, focused on the character created in The Belief in Angels, invites the reader back to the Ukrainian orchards of Szaja Trautman’s tragic childhood, tracing his ultimate journey to America via the desperate Ukranian refugee work camps of the ’20s, his amazing survival of both the Majdanek death camp and the torpedoing of refugees aboard the Mefkura, and his fascinating experiences in the post-war Parisian couture houses.

Prior to publication, THE BELIEF IN ANGELS won the Alexis Masters Scholarship Award at the February 2012 San Francisco Writers Conference.

Yates worked with Boulder County’s Voices for Children program as a CASA volunteer for 15 years and now volunteers with the Big Sister program. She lives in San Diego with her partner and a talking cat. Her son, Jaime, is a professional musician.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds really interesting, may have to add it to my tbr list, even though it's not something I'd normally read. Great review!