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Friday, February 6, 2015

Awakenings: A Lesbian Couple Dealing With Post WWII Trauma



I am writing this review from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the three previous novels in the Interwined Souls series.  Awakenings is my first exposure to the work of Mary D. Brooks. I purchased it on Amazon and have reviewed it for The Bookplex.

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The cover above gives readers their first impression of a book. I found the cover of this lesbian post-WWII novel lovely yet subtle.  I call it subtle because I had to look at it twice to see that it depicted two women lovers.

On the other hand, the poem that precedes the novel isn't of especially good quality.  Its language is pedestrian and it adds nothing to the novel.

 Awakenings deals with many important themes.  My feeling is that the book was overloaded with themes.  Brooks could have written several books dealing with this material. It deals with Nazi atrocities against lesbians and gay men, the long-term impact of abuse, the difficulty of accepting paranormal gifts in a world where they aren’t well understood and alternative perceptions of family. I particularly appreciated the honest depiction of Eva’s disabilities resulting from her horrifying mistreatment in the mental institution where she was forcibly consigned in an effort to eradicate her lesbian identity.  

 In addition, there is an unconventional Christian spiritual element in the novel that becomes more pronounced once the characters arrive in Germany.  This novel isn’t likely to attract religious fundamentalists, but I thought I’d emphasize that Awakenings deals with religion in a highly unorthodox manner.  As a result of research, I discovered that it  draws on a central doctrine of Pentecostalism, a Protestant evangelist sect, but the characters who are espousing these beliefs in the book are Catholic.  This seemed rather odd to me.  I also wonder how members of the Pentecostal movement would react to Brooks' use of their beliefs to explain the paranormal element in her book. 

 Awakenings develops some very interesting backgrounds for all the inter-related characters. Yet I was occasionally confused.  I recall that I initially wondered if Father Haralambos was part of the Lambros family.  I eventually figured out all the complexities, but it seemed to me that Brooks was juggling too many characters along with her multiplicity of themes. 
 
Plot seemed to take a back seat until the last section that took place in Germany.  Very little happened in real time in the first half of the book that took place in Greece.  The book as a whole is overburdened with scenes in which the characters discuss events that occurred in the past.   It’s true that some of these scenes were emotionally intense, but I would have preferred more flashbacks and less dialogue.  Flashbacks are a more immediate and effective method of handling exposition.

There were no typographical errors, but editing is about more than spelling and grammar.  Awakenings needed an editor that addressed the structural problems I’ve mentioned in the above paragraphs.  There were moments in this book that I absolutely loved, but it could have been so much better.  Awakenings really could have used more focus. 

                                                  

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