Tag Archives: America

Searching for Home Between Two Countries | My Father’s Gardens, a Memoir by Karen Levy

My Father's Gardens by Karen Levy“But at home, despite the classical music father likes to hear on the radio each morning, and the semblance of familial bliss we try to feign, there is a heaviness of words unsaid, thoughts collected and stored in places hidden from prying eyes. … Father’s unspoken regret for his choice of wife. Mother’s disappointment at his lack of ambition for the glory she believes he can achieve and she deserves. … Four tongues among us, four ways to yell, tell a joke, break a heart; whisper sweet nothings; keep appearances. Four ways to break this silence molasses thick, wet air too heavy to breathe before the storm. And yet four tongues remain silent, keeping secrets, keeping score, keeping the beat of disappointed hearts, sticking it out no matter how miserable.

~ Karen Levy, My Father’s Gardens

Synopsis: My Father’s Gardens is the story of a young girl who comes of age in two languages, and on two shores, between warring parents and rules that change depending on the landscape and the proximity of her mother. Struggling to find her voice and her place in the world as a result of her frequent travels between her native Israel and the United States, she feels that she must choose a place to call home. As her scenery alternates between warm Mediterranean and snow capped mountains, loud-mouthed Israelis and polite Americans, so do her loyalties: Is she more Israeli or American? How will she know when she has arrived? And while she chooses she is slowly transplanting bits of her father’s gardens on foreign soil.

 (Synopsis and image via Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

Stunning and lyrical narrative transported me into Karen Levy’s world. Israeli born, Karen Levy invites her reader into a world of mental questions of who am I and where do I fit in. Not only is she moved back and forth between Israel and America by a restless and unhappy mother, but her parents are also waging silent battles with each other.

Unhappiness and restlessness become the norm for Levy in her home. Out of time and place because of her Israeli-American heritage, she seeks friendships among neighboring families and school friends. But each time she moves again, the cycle repeats itself.

Levy’s writing style is transparent allowing you to see everything, every truth, every difficulty, every painful moment in her world. And also every happiness that she experiences. At times, I felt as though I were reading poetry instead of prose, her use of words and language is so exquisite:

When our neighborhood has had its rest teapots whistle and dishes clatter, welcoming friends for afternoon sweets. Children chase and shriek in the gardens, car engines tick their cooling down song, housewives bang pots and set tables, their heads craning out windows to call children in for supper. Shutters are lowered against the gathering dusk as crickets croon their lullabies. This is the music I learn to love, the music of my heart.” 

This is only one example of Levy’s exceptional descriptive talents, and with poetic word choices, she kept me painting mental images of the places in her book.

Despite all the beauty and love expressed in her writing for both Israel and America, I sensed a deep heartache pulling Levy in two directions. A pulling which in the end would require a decision on the writer’s part.

Levy has now found her home, and I believe she is at peace no matter where she puts down her roots.

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My Recommendation: 

My Father’s Gardens is one of the best memoirs I have read. Levy has written a series of vignettes of her constantly changing world and culture with multiple moves, and then she threads them together showing the reader where one world ends and the other begins for her. If you love reading life stories and stories from different cultures and backgrounds, Levy’s memoir is one I highly recommend. It is one I will read again, I assure you.

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Meet the Author:

Author Karen LevyKaren Levy is an Israeli-American writer. Born in Israel, Levy spent most of her childhood traveling between her native land and the United States. Commuting between these two countries and having a keen eye for detail have afforded Levy the knowledge necessary to recount the immigrant experience in a very candid style. Following her military service, Levy pursued her studies in the United States where she earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California at Davis, and an M.A. in English/Creative Writing from Sacramento State University where she teaches composition and interpretation of literature.  Her work has appeared in Welter Magazine, So to Speak, the Blue Moon and The Meadow. She lives in Davis, California with her husband and two children.

(Bio and image via Homebound Publications)

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Paperback Publication Date: April 26, 2013
Publisher: Homebound Publications
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
Paperback: 248 pp
ISBN: 978-1938846038

I received a copy of My Father’s Gardens from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions and recommendations expressed are my own.

HFVT Blog Tour | Review and Giveaway — The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Cover image of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

“An epic novel ….[Epstein] thoughtfully describes the hellish realities of war: the lack of tolerance for, and unwillingness to understand, other cultures; the universal pain of loss and human suffering; the brutality of mankind as lives are torn asunder.”

~ Advance praise from Kirkus Reviews



One summer night in prewar Japan, eleven-year-old Billy Reynolds takes snapshots at his parent’s dinner party. That same evening his father Anton–a prominent American architect–begins a torrid affair with the wife of his master carpenter. A world away in New York, Cameron Richards rides a Ferris Wheel with his sweetheart and dreams about flying a plane. Though seemingly disparate moments, they will all draw together to shape the fate of a young girl caught in the midst of one of WWII’s most horrific events–the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo.

Exquisitely rendered, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the stories of families on both sides of the Pacific: their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses–and their shared connection to one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

(Synopsis and book cover image provided by Historical Fiction Virtual  Book Tours)

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My Thoughts:

Initially I struggled to feel comfortable with the slow forward progress in this story. However, once the characters began to align, the plot unfolded a little more, and a variety of interactions between characters arose I was intrigued by developing story line and the author’s detailed research with respect to Tokyo during WWII and the aircraft used in its bombing.

Additionally, Epstein researches so well that the disturbing details of the aftermath of war and its egregious battles and treatments became mental images for me. Epstein is an exceptional crafter of scenes and images.

However, the layering of the impact this world, time and war would have on the girl, Yoshi’s, life becomes overshadowed by random scenes and dialogue and sex scenes that seemed unnecessary to the central theme of the book: the universal experience of loss in war not because we necessarily hate the people our country opposes but because we lack an understanding of who they are and what they stand for, their culture and traditions, and likewise they don’t understand us or our culture and traditions.

Finally, those who suffer the most in war are those who are left to pick up the pieces and carry on. This is where Yoshi is left.

My Recommendation: 

Lovers of historical fiction, especially centered around World War II and particularly Japan, will enjoy this book. If you like to read a story that spotlights a character who has the grit to rise above circumstances, you will enjoyThe Gods of Heavenly Punishment.

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Meet the Author:

Jennifer Cody Epstein, Author

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller, The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and an especially needy Springer Spaniel.


(Bio and image provided by Historical Fiction Virtual  Book Tours)

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Paperback Publication Date: January 13, 2014
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback: 400 pp
ISBN-13: 9780393347883

I received a copy of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment from the publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions and recommendations expressed are my own.

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To enter the giveaway, just follow the link below.
The contest ends at 12:00am on January 13th.

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