Wrong Time, Wrong Place: Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Wrong Time, Wrong Place: Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill CleggDid You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg
on 09/01/2015
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: West Florida Public Library
On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.

Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

Lately, I’ve been having tremendous luck finding library books that are on my TBR list: The Shore, Dietland, Fates and Furies, A Little Life, etc… And, although I already had a little pile on my nightstand, I decided to also grab Did You Ever Have A Family off the new fiction shelf. I remembered seeing several other bloggers reading and writing about it recently and thought I would see what it’s all about. I read the dust jacket and thought it sounded a little more solemn than my usual read, but I thought I’d give it a try.

I was about 75 pages into it when I realized that now was not a good time for me to be reading this book.

These last two months have probably been the most difficult of my adult life. My husband and I are both without work, and both having difficulty securing new jobs. Fortunately, with some lifestyle changes and a little savings, we’re managing, but we are both experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety.

With my current circumstances being quite stressful and often depressing, I found it difficult to enjoy this book. It’s not that I identified with the characters or their tragic losses, but reading such a sad story worked to bring my mood down even further. I kept reading, hoping for some uplifting turn of events. And while I did like the interconnectedness amongst the characters, and how it came together in a circular fashion in the end, I closed the book feeling much the same. It was just so very sad. And so was I.

Beyond my own feelings, there was also something about the way Clegg writes that didn’t jive with me. The way some parts were written in present tense was weird and it made it difficult for me to follow. But what bothered me most was Clegg’s propensity for writing never-ending sentences. For example,

“There’s safety in numbers, Lydia’s mother would say as she blew clouds of smoke through the kitchen from behind the Formica table where she sat each night with her schnapps, like a general at her battle station making speeches to the troops.”

Yet I wonder: would this have bothered me if I wasn’t having such a strong reaction to the story?

Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder how differently I might have perceived this book if I’d read it at a different time, when my personal life was a little less chaotic. Would I rave about it like my fellow bloggers? Should I read it again down the road to see if my mind changes? I just don’t know.  And that’s why I won’t give this book a rating. It’s like when a couple splits up, and the one doing the splitting says, “it’s not you, it’s me.”

Sorry, Did You Every Have A Family, the problem was with me, not you.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. MartinA Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on September 29th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Short Stories (single author)
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin's ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.   Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there was Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals--in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg--whose true name is hidden from all he and Dunk encounter. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lay ahead for these two . . . as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.   Featuring more than 160 all-new illustrations by Gary Gianni, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a must-have collection that proves chivalry isn't dead--yet. Praise for A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms   "Readers who already love Martin and his ability to bring visceral human drama out of any story will be thrilled to find this trilogy brought together and injected with extra life."--Booklist   "The real reason to check out this collection is that it's simply great storytelling. Martin crafts a living, breathing world in a way few authors can. . . . [Gianni's illustrations] really bring the events of the novellas to life in beautiful fashion."--Tech Times

I came across this book at the library (along with a couple of other great finds – I love my library), and, having heard good things from a friend, decided to give it a go. As it so happened, it turned out to be a great book for digging myself out of this blogging slump. So, here goes!

A Knight of the Seven Kindoms consisted of three novellas set in Westeros about 100 years prior to the events in A Game of Thrones. These three tales follow Ser Duncan the Tall, a wandering hedge knight, and his unlikely squire, Egg. Over the course of the three stories, they travel, serve, fight, and generally find their way into (and out of) trouble.

Like with ASOIAF, I was utterly amazed at the world building that takes places in this story, with all the lords with their sons and banners and whatnot. These stories are enriched with a level of descriptive detail that allows to reader to see exactly how GRRM sees Westeros, yet they felt different from the larger works. I think the novella format allowed for a more straightforward way of telling the story, rather than the alternation between characters’ points of view in the series.

I really enjoyed the character of Ser Duncan AKA Dunk. He was born to nothing, and was lucky enough to become a squire. The reader is introduced to Dunk around his 16th year, having just buried his master and taken up his shield and sword. It is obvious that Dunk had little education beyond his knightly training, and I found it a little irritating that Dunk’s repetitive thoughts and the recycled phrases of his old master kept finding their way onto the page. At first, I thought the use of such a device was a bit lazy, then realized that was probably a true representation of how someone like Dunk would really think – that’s pretty brilliant.

Dunk may not have been the most intelligent man, but he proved over and over again that he is a good man. He stays true to his word in a world where such a quality is rare, and manages to stick his neck out to help others, even it is costs his own. I also really enjoyed the relationship he cultivated with Egg throughout the course of the stories. Initially, I found Egg to be a mouthy little brat, but it was clear that he cared deeply for Dunk, and their differences complemented each other.

The only issue I had with these stories was following the who’s who of the Blackfyre Rebellion, which broke out between rival parts of the Targaryen family about 16 years prior to these stories. Because the family names are often similar, if not the same, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad. This is probably a common issue in these epic fantasy series, I just haven’t read enough of them to properly acclimate.

So, if you are a fan of epic fantasy or the ASOIAF series, you’ll probably enjoy this. Just be prepared to reread it in 10 years when the next set of novellas might be published! 😉