The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
We are close, so close to Margaret's apartment, and I feel myself sinking deeper into the passenger seat, relieved that I have succeeded in my small mission of getting Margaret out of her home, if only for a few hours. The day is a success. Sure, I had to let her drive, something I usually avoid. Margaret is always too nervous, too chatty, looking around at the pedestrians, forgetting to put on her signal, stomping on the brakes too late. But today I actually managed to snap her out of her sadness. I have done everything a good friend should.
I was well pleased with this choice of book to 'change it up' a bit. Siobhan Fallon's debut novel was very, very thought provoking. She's also written a short story collection that I read a few years ago when it was one of the Mayor's Book Club selections for the Austin Public Library - You Know When The Men Are Gone. This author is the wife of a career military man, and she can write with knowledge and authority for what it's like to be the family of these individuals. She moved to Jordan in 2011 and that is where this novel is set. I think it's hard for us to understand what it might be like to be living in a culture so very different from what we are used to, a country with different 'rules' and norms and then also have to cope with a spouse that is deployed or sent to yet another country for extended periods of time. The loneliness, the desire to fit in, the lack of friends and just your children or maybe just yourself to have as company for much of the time.
In this story of two women, Cassie and Margaret, the reader sees quite the different ends of the spectrum in abilities to adapt or adjust to a culture with more rigid rules for many things, especially gender issues. Cassie and her husband, Dan, have lived in Amman, Jordan for two years and they are the 'sponsors' or 'mentors' of Margaret and her spouse, Crick. Margaret has a baby. Cassie wishes she had a child. Cassie follows the 'rules' set out by the American Embassy for 'life in Jordan'. She has constructed a little box of a life in order to manage her time there. Margaret has a harder time doing this. She sees this move as an opportunity to learn about new things, new people, and she reaches out with abandon to see and do everything, while rarely regarding the cautions and warnings about societal norms. The title of the book is apt - there is indeed a 'confusion of languages'.
Told by both women, Cassie, mostly over the course of single day, and also through Margaret's journal, which details her life after her arrival in Jordan, the tension increases more and more. The women are in a car accident and Margaret goes to the police station to settle things - then doesn't return. Time passes and Cassie finds the journal and starts reading it. Many things were not as they seemed. And that's all I'll say, other than to promise that when Siobhan Fallon's next book is published, I'll be racing to read it. There is beauty here and sorrow and wisdom. Recommended.
Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that’s about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie’s become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret’s toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie’s boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn’t Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret’s apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend’s whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret’s disappearance.
I'm putting this one on my list--I remember being interested in her first book (but have yet to read it)--and I like the sound of this one too. Enjoy your weekend!ReplyDelete
Oh, I hope you will try it. I think you'd enjoy both her books.Delete
I loved her first collection, so I'm not sure why I haven't read this yet. Bad me.ReplyDelete
It might be good on audio, though I read it on my Kindle.Delete
I loved Fallon's first book (it was a favorite a few years ago) and plan to read this one... why does it always take so long? Downloaded the library ebook to my mother's kindle earlier this week, so she'll get to it before I do.ReplyDelete
I really liked the first one too. I corresponded with the author after reading that first one - she did an event at the library here. She was very nice and amazed that her short stories got picked for an all-city read.Delete
I loved this one - I thought the author did such a great job creating the characters! And her knowledge on the subject matter really came through.ReplyDelete
Yes, I agree about that. She knows about what she writes. I think it was on her website that she had a bit of back information about this book and what made her write it.Delete
I read this last year and really enjoyed it! I also read the one about when the Men Are Home or whatever the title was. She knows her topic and writes it well.ReplyDelete
I agree, Rita. It was a very interesting book.Delete
I loved this book!ReplyDelete
As I recall, you didn't care for the first book as much. Glad you liked this one.Delete
Sounds fascinating! We seldom see how difficult it is for military wives (and children) who must adapt, not only to military culture, but to the different cultures in which they find themselves. I haven't read this author, but she is now on my list.ReplyDelete
Yes, and to me, she did a good job of showing all aspects of that life and what they must get used to.Delete
This one sounds pretty good. That first paragraph really makes me want to read more. I love that cover too.ReplyDelete
I think you'd like it, Ti.Delete
I really liked this one, too. I'm not a big short story fan, but I think I'm going to check out YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE since I found this book so fascinating and well-written.ReplyDelete
You should at least try it, Susan. Some of the stories were better than others, but they were very poignant.Delete
This sounds really good ~ Hope you enjoy it a lot! Thanks for stopping by my blog.ReplyDelete
I did like it very much. Thanks, Renee!Delete
Ok, I want to know what happens next! I'm hooked from just what you've written. Have a great weekend, Kay. Hope you don't have to come to town so you can avoid all the SXSW madness - I'll be staying in my 2 mile radius from home. Haha...ReplyDelete
I completely try to avoid the SXSW stuff. Between that and spring break, things get a little nutty, right?Delete
Completely new author to me but I am so intrigued by your description and review that I will add it to my 'keep an eye out for' list. I don't read enough about the middle-east and this would be a good start.ReplyDelete
I really liked the book, Cath. Hope you'll try it if you can.Delete
Oh I really like the sound of this one! I hadn't heard of this one until now but I am adding it to the TBR list :). How could I resist after this review?ReplyDelete
I think you would like this. A bit of change from what you and I usually read, but a good story.Delete
I vaguely remember hearing about her first book, but never got around to reading it. This one sounds very good, so I'll look for both next time I'm at the library! Great review, Kay!ReplyDelete
I found it very good, Les. And I also liked the first book - short stories. A lot of the short stories were set at Ft. Hood, just north of Austin. Her husband had been stationed there.Delete