Thursday, May 17, 2018

Book Review- Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth: A Novel (July 17, 2018) by Zoje Stage

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 17, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250170753

Entertainment Weekly writes that Baby Teeth was like “We Need to Talk About Kevin meets Gone Girl meets The Omen....” I’m still a bit haunted by We Need to Talk About Kevin so I hoped that I would like the book.

The book description:
Suzette is a devoted stay-at-home mother doing everything she can to connect with her seven-year-old daughter, who cannot—or will not—speak. But ever since Hanna was a baby, Suzette couldn’t help but feel despised by her. Manipulated. And scared to death.
Alex, Hanna’s father, wants to believe his wife’s accounts of Hanna’s cruel and unusual behavior. The only problem is that Alex has never really seen it, himself: Hanna shows him nothing but love. Which is driving Suzette literally crazy. Could it be that Hanna is just a typical, naughty girl—one whose everyday antics toward her mother point to intelligence, creativity, maybe even charm? Or is Hanna, as Suzette fears, actually trying to kill her?
A powerhouse, razor-sharp novel of psychological suspense from blazing new talent Zoje Stage, Baby Teeth raises more questions than it answers—and will leave you guessing until its shocking conclusion.

The story is told in alternating points of view between the mother, Suzette, and the daughter, Hanna. I did not really want to read a seven-year-old’s point of view at first but even this turned out to make the book creepy. At times this narration was a bit too omniscient for my taste but by the end of the story it worked.

Unlike We Need to Talk About Kevin that includes a much longer period of time with the *I’m-glad-he’s-not-my-kid* Kevin, Baby Teeth sticks to a much shorter time period.

What’s creepy: Hanna does not talk. Except, of course, when she conjures a French accent for her first (creepy) sentence to her mother. This very much reminded me of Richard Matheson’s “Drink My Red Blood” with young Jules who “never spoke a word until he was five. Then, one night coming to supper, he sat down at the table and said, ‘Death’.”  Hanna’s phrase is not explicitly problematic but I doubt it would sit well with any parent.

I liked that the narration lets us see how Suzette speculates about Hanna’s condition: is her daughter possessed? Is her daughter a psychopath? Is her daughter being molested by her father, whom Hanna adores?

There are specialists, counselors, special schools, and Suzette is more likeable than Eva (see, I keep going back to We Need to Talk About Kevin) but she is whiny.

Dad is in major denial but I doubt you will hate him for it.  He is also Swedish, which brings an interesting aspect to the book since some phrases are purely in Swedish with no translation. There is an emphasis on Swedish traditions. Further, there is a witch theme and they celebrate Walpurgisnacht, which surprised and delighted this reader.

In some ways, the book nods more to Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, which to me is the ultimate compliment because that book was amazing.

I was not too surprised by the ending but I also liked it; and, if you know me, I cannot stand neatly *tied up with a happy bow* endings so be forewarned.

The first ten chapters are currently available on Amazon Kindle for free. Follow the link for access.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

...Arbor Day at Hollywood Cemetery...

April 27, 2018 was the most perfect Arbor Day! The weather was amazing (finally!) and it was the perfect day to be in the cemetery.

Arborist Mike Van Yahres, who holds a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Virginia and who has published numerous articles on tree management is the owner of Van Yahres Tree Company from Charlottesville, Virginia. In fact, he is the third generation of Van Yahres in the business. Throughout the morning, Mr. Van Yahres cited his grandfather’s advice as he gave a walking tour of some of Hollywood Cemetery’s most prized trees, including some of the Monarchs, trees that are considered outstanding examples of their species.
Although many visitors come to see the resting spots of presidents or have an interest in Civil War history, Hollywood contains some of the finest examples of native trees and historic roses in the Commonwealth. There are over 2,000 trees in the cemetery today, of which some predate the cemetery.

Trees are part of what makes Hollywood Cemetery so beautiful, especially this time of year with all the native ornamental trees being in bloom. Mr. Van Yahres is much more interested in Hardwoods, especially the White Oak, which is his favorite tree. Yet, when asked if he had a least favorite tree, he hesitated for a moment and was given suggestions by those on the tour.  

I learned about the tallest tree in the cemetery, a 142’ tall Bald Cypress that is in the “lake” area right down the hill from the bricked-in plot of the Harvie family.
I learned that Mr. Van Yahres’ favorite tree, “because of its shape and its size,” is the Black Gum, which is frequently considered Virginia’s most beautiful native tree. This one was included in Remarkable Trees of Virginia (2008). Mr. Van Yahres explained that Black Gums typically have a single stem so this one is atypical. I have to say that I love that his favorite tree is not one that seemingly follows the rules.

The largest tree in the cemetery is the Tulip Poplar located near the large obelisk for Dr. R.W. “John” Dove, who served as the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Virginia for over 30 years. It is common for Tulip Poplars to grow to great heights. While children have delighted in finding a secret passage to another world in the open trunk bottom, I always worried about this tree. I was thrilled to learn that it is common for mature Tulip Poplars to be hollow inside. Mr. Van Yahres stated that this tree was structurally sound and he would sleep under it.

Finally, Mr. Van Yahres discussed the new tree digitization program. To conclude the tour, a White Oak tree was planted in the cemetery.

This was an excellent opportunity to learn more about a place that I adore.

To learn more about Hollywood Cemetery’s trees, check out their Notable Trees & Roses guide.