Book review: The Mountain Story, by Lori Lansens

Reviewed by Marilyn Herbert

Mountain StoryMountain climbing and hiking are not for the faint of heart, yet Lori Lansens (author of The Girls) has given us an amazing story to experience vicariously in her novel The Mountain Story. The book’s cover says: “Five days. Four lost hikers. Three survivors.” From the beginning, there are pressing questions.

Wolf Truly is 18 years old when he takes what he believes is his last tram ride up to the mountain located at the edge of the California desert. Once there, he intends to hike to a spot at Secret Lake to take his life. His objective is diverted by first two, then three women who hope to head to the same location, but need his help to get there.

Nola and Bridget decide that Wolf is a mountain guide and offer him money, which he refuses and he resolutely heads off into the bush. Hearing his name in the wind, he turns just in time to see the two women heading off in the wrong direction.

Poor Wolf. Soon afterwards, the third woman, Vonn, catches up to them — there is a swarm of bees, a beetle-infested log, confusion, and nervousness at having to spend a night on the mountain. In trying to clear a sleeping spot, they fell, “lost in the kaleidoscope of rocks and ochre dust and manzanita and sage, conveyed by round, rushing boulders, and silt, and brush, hitting the ground with a thud.”

In an instant, they have fallen down a steep wall at the edge of a cliff overlooking Palm Springs — so near, yet so far. Despite the California location, the weather at the top is extremely cold. Nola has a broken wrist, Bridget is dressed as a yoga instructor and Vonn is wearing green flip-flops. Wolf feels responsible for their well-being and their hopeful rescue.

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Happy Pi Day! Save 25% off the guide to Yann Martel’s Life of Pi

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March 14th is Pi Day (a celebration of the mathematical figure), so we’re offering 25% off the guide to Yann Martel’s classic novel Life of Pi, about a boy named Pi, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, and their adventures both real and philosophical after a shipwreck leaves them stranded on the Pacific Ocean.

Make Life of Pi your book club selection and brush up—for today only, we’re offering the Bookclub-in-a-Box PDF discussion guide to this book for 25% off. Just use the coupon code LIFEOFPI at checkout.

The Bookclub-in-a-Box PDF discussion guide includes:

  • Novel synopsis
  • Author information
  • Character analysis
  • Focus points and themes
  • Writing style and structure
  • Symbols
  • Important quotes from the novel
  • Book club discussion questions

Book review: Living Legacies (Volume V), by Liz Pearl

Reviewed by Marilyn Herbert

 LivingLegaciesVThe newest collection of Liz Pearl’s stories — Living Legacies: A Collection of Narratives by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women (Volume V) — is a welcome addition to the series. As Pearl assembles the thoughts of women in each volume, new ideas and connections emerge.

As Pearl herself admits, she is in her 50s — midway through her life’s journey. With each publication, more of Pearl is revealed to herself and to each of her readers. The usual familiar topics are present: food, tikkun olam, education, family, identity, love, and loyalty. They are bound up with the ribbons of tradition and community. They show a strong bond between the generations and promote one of Judaism’s most loved values — l’dor v’dor — the giving from one generation to the next.

Whether it is blintzes or knishes, everyone’s favourite time is sharing food with friends and family. There are traditional foods eaten at holiday times or for Shabbat, and there are traditional foods that come from a variety of geographical locations. After all, the Jews have been scattered over the globe for centuries and have picked up great culinary tips. These food ideas have been passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter and will hopefully continue.

Sara Aharon had an aversion to all of her mother’s home-cooked meals, but loved the blintzes that she helped make. These “thin, smooth, white and velvety flat cakes filled with sweet or savoury fillings” kick-started her interest in other foods. When she had children of her own, she enjoyed seeing their interest and love of food, and of course, the one thing she took from her own mother was the making of blintzes with her children as assistants. Blintzes have “become part of our family lore.”

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Get the guide to ROOM, the book that inspired the Oscar-nominated film

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Room is nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and the winners will be announced at the Academy Awards this Sunday. Get the PDF discussion guide to Emma Donoghue’s touching novel for 25% off until Monday at 11:59 p.m. — use the coupon code OSCARS.

Room tells the heartwrenching story of a young woman named Joy who has been held in captivity in a small room for seven years. She tries to make as normal a life as she can for her five-year-old son, Jack. The feature film has been nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Brie Larson), Best Director (Lenny Abrahamson), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Emma Donoghue).

The Bookclub-in-a-Box PDF discussion guide includes:

  • Novel synopsis
  • Author information
  • A one-on-one Q&A with Emma Donoghue
  • Character analysis
  • Focus points and themes
  • Writing style and structure
  • Symbols
  • Important quotes from the novel
  • Book club discussion questions