Ain’t No River by Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No River  

Sharon Ewell Foster

Everyone and everything in Garvin Daniels’ life seem to be going wrong: her 70-something Meemaw is hanging out with a young and handsome fitness instructor named GoGo, her friend Ramona is embarking on a bicycling fundraiser with a pastor that she just met, and her high-powered law firm has given her a case that will surely mean the end of her career. Has the world gone crazy? After an involuntary leave of absence, Garvin decides to leave Washington, D.C. and head back to her hometown of Jacks Creek where she is determined to set things right…no matter what it takes.

If you were to search Google and look for ideal character traits of lawyers, you’d get things like compassion, willingness to listen, good judgement, and great emotional balance. GARVIN DANIELS HAS NONE OF THESE! Instead, Sharon Ewell Foster gives us a whiny, insensitive, self-absorbed, inconsiderate, spoiled, selfish, petulant…well, the list goes on and on. I understand why an author would make their main character absolutely insufferable because their end goal is for that character to finally realize the error of their ways and be redeemed. They clearly realize the hell they are putting their readers through by having to deal with this horror of an individual, but we remain loyal because we know—we just know—that all of this emotional turmoil will be worth it because the character’s ultimate salvation will be our reward, too. Not so with Garvin Daniels. Nope. Even when she begins to understand that maybe she isn’t her best possible self, it doesn’t take long before she’s back to slinging insults, scorn, and contempt. And by the way, complaining about life in your tailored suit while standing in a gleaming marble restroom of a prestigious law firm to a woman who is currently busy cleaning the toilets is NOT a good look.  

I would have enjoyed this book so much more had Foster instead focused on the complex, quirky, and beautifully damaged residents of Jacks Creek: Monique, the teenager forced to give up her child and then has live with the shame and stigma afterwards; Big Esther who runs her own salon and dispenses truth and wisdom in never ending supplies; Smitty, the seller of snowballs who basks in the glow from the attention of the women at the hair salon but is looking for something more; GoGo, retired pro-football player who can’t seem to outrun his past; and Meemaw, the town matriarch who always seems to know just what a heart and stomach needs and is ready to graciously fill both. I wanted to know more about these people and spend a few more nights on the front porch with them to understand their pain and share in their journey towards healing. But those opportunities didn’t come often enough and instead I was sent back to Garvin where I counted the pages until I might be rewarded with Meemaw’s words of wisdom or one of Smitty’s deluxe snowballs with marshmallow on top.

At the end of one of her poor-me pity parties, Garvin wondered to herself why everybody around her expected her to fix everything for them. If only she had searched Google and used one of those ideal lawyer character traits. If she had, she would have quickly discovered that nobody does.

Rating: 2/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com 

The Invisible Wall (Biography) by Harry Bernstein

The Invisible Wall

The Invisible Wall

Harry Bernstein (Adult Biography)

“It was a quiet, little street, hardly noticeable among all the other larger streets, but what distinguished it from all others was the fact that we lived on one side, and they on the other.  We were the Jews and they were the Christians.”

Harry Bernstein describes growing up on a street in the English mill town of Lancashire—one of two sides of the same street separated by an invisible wall, but bonded by poverty.  He writes with fearlessness and bittersweet honesty about his selfless and strong mother who tries to make ends meet with the money left over from his father’s constant gambling and drinking.  The reader is taken on an emotional rollercoaster that goes from tragedy and despair to triumph and delight.  We cringe at his father’s heartlessness and disinterest in his own family, while we hold out hope for his mother who continues to wait for that elusive steamship ticket to America.

At times, Bernstein’s story is painful to read as dream after dream and opportunity after opportunity are unmercifully shattered.  If this was a work of fiction, one could justifiably harbor resentment toward the author for his unusually cruel treatment of his characters.  Knowing that this story is true makes it all the more unforgettable.  This book truly took my breath away and kept me engaged from the very first page to the last.

The Invisible Wall made Harry Bernstein a first-time author at the tender age of 96.  After reading his incredible and compelling story, all I have to say is, “Better late than never, Harry.”

Rating: 5/5