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#164 ~ Precious ~ Book Review and Blog Tour

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Precious by Sandra Novack

tlc-book-tours-graphic-tiny1Today it is my pleasure to serve as Sandra Novack’ hostess on her Precious blog tour organized by TLC Book Tours.  What a great way to kick off the week!  Please see information on her entire tour and the giveaway at the end of this post. For more information on TLC Book Tours, their authors and all of their tour dates, please click here.

Sissy Kisch grew up in a confusing family during a confusing time.  Her family lived in a Pennsylvania steel town in the 1970s, where her father has been employed at the local steel mill for his entire adult life.  Her mother, Natalia, a gypsy child who luckily survived Krackow and was raised by a German couple, has left the family to go off to Florence with her boss.  She left Sissy and Eva, the oldest child by several years, to be cared for by their father.  In reality, since Frank worked long hours, Sissy was left in Eva’s care and Eva didn’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of raising her pre-pubescent sister while she was enjoying the freedom of not being parented at the age of 17. Shortly after Natalia’s exit, Vicki Anderson, Sissy’s former best friend turns up missing from the local playground.  Being virtually neglected all around, Sissy has to come to terms with the possibility of death, losing a parent, and growing up all alone while her home is in upheaval during one long, hot summer.

Linda VanderVeen

Linda VanderVeen

Precious has a very strong sense of time. I imagine a childhood in any era is unique, but Novack captured what it was like to be a child in the 1970s. Despite coming out of the 1960s, it was a more innocent time when children were still allowed to leave the house in the morning so long as they were home on time for lunch and dinner. Most parents stayed married, whether they should have or not. There was a darker underside, though. There were the children kidnapped and murdered and no one really liked to talk about it. Look the other way, and it won’t happen to your child. I have very vivid memories of the winter that Linda VanderVeen was murdered and then dumped in a snowbank in my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI. It’s 30 years later and I can still remember her last name as if it were my own. I remembered her living near my neighborhood and that there were two assailants, but the news story proves those memories false. Funny how your mind draws you closer to something traumatic than you really were. In this way, I could very much relate to Sissy (that and the bike envy, but that’s a different story altogether).  We both told ourselves stories and those stories become real.

Every single character in Precious is flawed, from the Kisch family, to Ginny Anderson, to Peter and Amy Fulton, and even the well-meaning but gossip-mongering neighbors. When characters are not hurting one another, they are acting out in a self-destructive way. Eva especially turns her anger over her parent’s relationship and her mother’s abandonment on to herself. She was too young and immature to see it at that time, but she couldn’t control her parents or Sissy. The only thing she could do was decide to control her sexuality. The hard truth was that her choices only served to highlight how out of control her entire life was. When others were able to pass off the responsibility for what happened during that summer, she always got caught red-handed. Of all the characters, I felt the most sad for Eva.

Novack’s writing is beautiful in so many parts. The first chapter and the way that she told the story of Vicki’s disappearance drew me in to this town and to the Kisch family in general. I remained interested in what would happen to all of the characters throughout, despite the fact that I didn’t care for any of the adults.  At some point we all need to let go of what happened to us in the past, especially if that has a negative impact on our parenting.  The only problem I really had with this story was Sissy’s name.  I know there is Sissy Spacek, but I didn’t like it.  No matter how much she hated to be alone, I didn’t think it fit Sissy’s character. Regardless, I would highly recommend Precious to anyone who grew up in or lived through the 70s, experienced troubled teenage years, or enjoys reading novels about family dynamics. You will not be disappointed in this experience – so long as you’re prepared and ready for a heavy read.  This is a dark novel and it doesn’t provide the reader with much emotional downtime.

+++++

Here is a full list of Sandra Novack’s other  TLC Book Tours Stops.  Check them out and see what they have to say:

Monday, May 4th: Fizzy Thoughts
Wednesday, May 6th: Book, Line, and Sinker
Thursday, May 7th: Redlady’s Reading Room
Sunday, May 10th, Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Wednesday, May 13th: Bookworm with a View
Thursday, May 14th: Pop Culture Junkie
Friday, May 22nd: Booking Mama
Tuesday, May 26th: Book Addiction
Friday, May 29th: Diary of an Eccentric

Click here to go to Random House‘s website to read an excerpt from the first chapter of Precious.

******

To buy this novel, click here.

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14 Comments

  • At 2009.05.18 05:32, Sandy said:

    I’ve seen this book making its rounds, and it’s got my attention. You’ve written an excellent review! It is funny you mention Linda VanderVeen…I remember her and I lived in Indiana. These things do make an impression on your when it is happening to a child your own age…

    Sandy’s last blog post..Monday Movie Meme – Tears of a Clown

    • At 2009.05.18 08:21, nat @ book, line, and sinker said:

      i loved this book–the prose was so beautiful in so many places. it is something how abductions stay with you–i can still remember details of one from my home state. glad you enjoyed this one!

      nat @ book, line, and sinker’s last blog post..Review: Reunion by Therese Fowler

      • At 2009.05.18 09:29, Sandy Novack said:

        Thanks for this review! It’s so interesting what you say about how memory works. The image of the missing girl from your hometown is haunting.

        And I had to laugh about the bike envy. I had the Desert Rose! My husband just googled it and a pic came up. He couldn’t believe I remembered the name of the bike from my childhood. “How could you not?” I asked him. :) Like, d’uh.

        “Sissy” was based on “sister” and that I thought of her as a big sissy. But I love your point, because naming is so interesting (and hard!). Originally she was named something else–Cecelia, maybe? And Natalia was Nanette and Frank was Jack, and yada yada. As you can tell, I go back and forth a lot.

        Right now I’m working on a new novel where there’s a 16-year-old boy who has the power to discern things. He’s this big boy, big for his age. For about 80 pages I was just calling him the “boy” and then King popped into my head. But now I wonder if that’s too symbolic? So I started thinking that maybe I’d name him Tiny. Tiny King. Anyway, not that you want to hear this, short of the fact that it’s something I’m struggling with now (again)!

        Thanks so much, again.
        All Best,
        Sandy
        PS I really like your blog skin/banner.

        • At 2009.05.18 11:27, Amy said:

          This sounds like a good read! I’ll have to check it out. I am one of those seventies kids, so that intrigues me.

          Amy’s last blog post..The One Hundred

          • At 2009.05.18 11:38, Darlene said:

            Great review Jennifer. I’ve been seeing this one around quite a lot and it certainly sounds like a good book. I’ve got it on my wishlist.

            Darlene’s last blog post..Book Review: The Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks

            • At 2009.05.18 12:26, Kathy said:

              The book sounds great. I grew up in the South in the 60′s and early 70′s and I knew quite a few Sissys – I’m not sure it was used that much in the North.

              Kathy’s last blog post..Mailbox Monday

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              • At 2009.05.18 12:58, Lisamm said:

                Excellent review, Jennifer! I also grew up in Michigan and remember Linda Vanderveen. It’s so interesting how these things stay with you over time.

                I found Sandra’s comment about naming characters really interesting too. I think it’s important to try to get that right. I recently read a book where every single character had a strange name and it all seemed a bit too soap-opera-ish.

                Anyway, great review, and thanks so much for all the time and energy you put into reading/reviewing this book! I really appreciate it.

                Lisamm’s last blog post..Guest Post: A Little Theory of Mine by Marisa de los Santos

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                • At 2009.05.18 13:38, Ti said:

                  Jennifer.. another great review. I’ve seen this one making the rounds. Sounds like it would be a good book club discussion book.

                  Ti’s last blog post..Review: Cemetery Dance

                  • At 2009.05.18 18:58, Literate Housewife said:

                    Sandy and Lisa, I had no idea that Linda’s case got nationwide attention until I Googled it for this review. Apparently Dan Rather reported on it. Such a sad, sad thing. There were other articles that mentioned how witnesses coped afterwards. That day, she was subbing as the crossing guard for another child. He’s been burdened by that now for 30 years.

                    Sandy Novack, thank you so much for your comments about my review and the blog. I’m going to email you the most hilarious thing I found on the internet after reading your comments. I’ve found others who would have asked Ginny for Vicki’s bike, too. Names are really hard, especially when they are descriptive. And, after reading Kathy’s comment, it’s probably regional. I could see Sissy as a nickname, but not an adult name. You know what, though, if you were named Sissy, wouldn’t you think you were less brave than you really were? Self-fulfilling prophesy. Interesting thought.

                    Amy and Dar, thanks so much for your comments. I think you’ll enjoy this novel a lot. Growing up in the 70s was quite the experience and this novel captures it really well.

                    To everyone, thank you for making this tour date special!

                    Literate Housewife’s last blog post..#164 ~ Precious ~ Book Review and Blog Tour

                    • At 2009.05.21 06:35, Sandra Novack said:

                      Oh hey! I am just getting this (we’ve been taking some “mini-trips” and I’m just back. Will unearth the e-mail! Am sorting through various accounts now.

                      All Best,
                      Sandy

                      • [...] Precious by Sandra Novack The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier  Coventry by Helen Humphreys Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks  The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins (signed ARC) A Silent Ocean Away by DeVa Gantt  [...]

                        • At 2009.06.22 10:04, Anna said:

                          I really enjoyed this one. Novack is a talented writer. Sissy’s name didn’t bother me too much, but it’s not a name I care for.
                          .-= Anna´s last blog .. =-.

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                            • At 2010.11.02 02:29, muffie levanduski said:

                              my name is muffie levanduskiand i also grew up very close to were linda vanderveen lived and went to school i remember that being such the story my parents told me to warn me of the safetys and i often thought about it growing up as time went by she was still fresh in my memory after all we alkways had to go to the festival they had at john ball park zoo (parents) orders lol but then i worked at a nursing home and had the pleasure of working with her mother she had no memory or seemed to have no memory of anything in the past but she always walked around talking to a little boy and a little girl that wasnt there she was very friendly and u could tell in looking through her eyes deep into her soul she was sad and missing her baby girl i had heard that she lost it after her what had happened to linda and i just wanted to say thank u someone has to keep that babies memory alive and i wish i knew what to do to furthur what ur doing yourself may god bless u and ur family

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