I generally liked the story. It was easy reading. I personally found the quantity of characters somewhat confusing as the story went on since some had no relevance to the plot. I went back and reread some spots to make sure I didn't miss something.
Thanksgiving offers a compelling read about the New Orleans that is not on any tours. It transports you to times and places rarely written about, starting with the New Orleans suburbs in the 1970s by someone who grew up in there. Mary Arno weaves together a series of short-stories with a large cast of Louisiana characters putting you in a place you would like to inhabit, were it not for the gunfire. It’s not a mystery, but the experience is like a movie that compels you to stay up way late to find out how it plays out.
Mary Arno's Thanksgiving is set against the backdrop of the city of New Orleans and it is, at one level, a love letter to the city of her birth. It is also a great deal more.
"God, for the gladness here where the sun is shining at evening on/the weeds at the river,/Our prayers of thanks. /For the break of the game and the first play/and the last,/Our prayer of thanks." _Carl Sandburg
And so we suspect, as we read this epigraph, the kind of writer we are about to encounter.
Mary Arno chose, from all the poems she had read, this fragment from Carl Sandburg's "Prayers of Thanks." Mary Arno chose this poem that prepares us for her awareness of both the sunshine and the weeds, of the first play of the game, and the last. Mary Arno chose a few lines of a short poem that reveal a novelist whose vision is whole.
And so, Thanksgiving begins, in that best of all possible places--in the middle: "Arkansas was the last street for as far as you could see in the newest, barest western end of Kenner, Louisiana."
I first became aware of Mary Arno's novel because I spotted the cover on Koehler Books' website. I am always intrigued by a puzzle, and this book cover made me stop, look closely, and then try to figure out what each piece might be. I'm still not sure I got them all.
It was a good while before I went back for another look and discovered the locale and read a synopsis of the book and some background on the author. A while later, I stumbled on Arno's "Thanksgiving" Board on Pinterest. Oh, the wonderful photographs of New Orleans, each paired with a short passage from the book. And so, reminded of a wonderful city, discovering these small teasers of a novel well-written, I approached Mary to find out if she would submit the book for my review. She sent me Thanksgiving. It is the storyteller, after all, who decides what parts of the story are important, which characters are likable, which details must be included, and where the story ends. And when there are four? The reader had better, as I've said, be paying very close attention. The reader of Thanksgiving had best be paying very very close attention. Mary Arno's Thanksgiving is a fine piece of writing that employs many of the tried-and-true devices of good literature and employs them with skill. It juggles narrators with a particular deftness of hand, and is a wonderful evocation of a specific time and place.
Mary Arno's Thanksgiving is, above all else-and for this reviewer, the thing that defines it--a piece of writing from the heart and rich with the tradition of the best American literature.
Thanks, Mary Arno, for sharing your history, your sense of place, your writing skills, and a piece of your heart with all of us.
An amazing book by Mary Arno. Huge fan of all things New Orleans but this went above and beyond, with the quirky characters you'd expect and the grit and humanity you don't often get. The author is deft with her writer's paintbrush; she can paint a character with a single line, a scene with few words but loaded with meaning. The characters are intricate, as is the story. And the ending, well, I won't spoil it for you... Suffice to say nothing's predictable and this story will stay with you!
Thanksgiving is a short but compelling read about the lives of three women growing up in the New Orleans area. In a fairly short book Arno says a lot about women, friendships, and relationships. A lot of the male characters come off pretty badly, but not all of them, which I appreciated. And the women aren’t perfect either. There is a story line about a sexual harassment lawsuit that I found really interesting and would have liked more of.
This book has a very "local" feel to it, which is not surprising since Arno was born in New Orleans and worked as a journalist there. Arno's writing style keeps you engaged and moves the story along quickly, so you won't want to put it down. Arno’s writing, particularly about Emmaline who is being molested by her stepfather, is both spare but tragic.
My issues with the book were the frequent narrator changes, and in this short book I didn’t get to know any of these women as much as I wanted to. The time spent on Harry may be important to the plot but I felt it took away from the rest of the book. I felt it would have been better if Arno had spent more time on the three friends and developed Peg a little more.
I also thought Arno leaned a little bit too much towards the dramatic in the way she ended the book. She gives a fairly nuanced portrayal of these women’s lives up until the end.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from publisher Koehler Books. My full review is at http://thebookstop.wordpress.com.