Review of Alicia Maldonado: A Mother Lost by Ardain Isma

This modern, aristocratic book portrays real-life events and how hard it is to deal with them, overcome them, or even struggle with them. Such is life, anywhere you put it, in the Caribbean or otherwise. Many people might have problems dealing with the material in this book. But it's involving, shocking, yet mellifluously elegant in its portrayal of a wealthy woman's humble and downtrodden existence. She cannot fathom the dark side of life, and in her pure yet misguided rebellion, she becomes a metaphoric symbol for humanity in general--not to mention impoverished, yet mysteriously happy.

Professor Ardain Isma's excellent first novel painstakingly describes the fact-based life story of Alicia Maldonado, a young, aristrocratic white woman born in Cuba to a land-owning family, members of a seemingly elite class. Alicia arrives in Haiti with her parents and older brother Mario after fleeing Cuba, following the political turmoil within the Batista regime. But what she discovers there is that, in its own way, there is no such thing as fleeing. What her family left behind had to catch up with her slowly, surely, like a creeping plague of sophisticated reality that could only draw to a bad conclusion...

She marries her next-door neighbor and best friend, Richard Laveaux, the son of a rich mulatto family, in spite of her mother's protests. The marriage is happy at first, and Alicia enjoys working for the family business and raising their two children. But the altogether too soon deaths of her father and her alcoholic husband raise questions in her mind about the sanity and purpose of her carefully kept upper-class existence.

Was she really meant to be happy, or is something else, a mysterious fate much darker and deeper, in store for her?

Unable to cope with her problems, Alicia leaves Haiti with her youngest child, Jean-Marie, and vanishes without a trace. None of her family or friends knows her exact whereabouts, and a prolonged and heated search for her begins. How does it ever end? How long must she suffer, and what happens?

You must find out, by reading this gripping, poignant and sophisticatedly charming book--full of the flavor of the islands, the richness of the soil, and the death of all meaning.

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John Oliver's parody book about Vice President Mike Pence's family pet has sold out. The "Last Week Tonight" host appeared on "Ellen" on Tuesday to talk about his new children's book, "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo." The book, which Oliver is using to troll Pence, coincides with the Pence family's release of their own children's book about the family pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo.

The American Library Association is facing significant financial challenges. The Trump administration wants to gut federal support for libraries. And librarians are fighting over whether its next executive director should be required to have a MLS degree...

The National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of its 2017 awards tonight:

Poetry: Layli Long Soldier, Whereas (Graywolf)

Criticism: Carina Chocano, You Play The Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Trainwrecks, & Other Mixed Messages (Mariner)

Autobiography: Xiaolu Guo, Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China (Grove)

Biography: Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books)

Nonfiction: Frances FitzGerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Simon & Schuster)

Fiction: Joan Silber, Improvement (Counterpoint)

The John Leonard Prize: Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf)

The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing: Charles Finch

The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award: John McPhee

About three-quarters (74%) of Americans have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2012, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January. Print books remain the most popular format for reading, with 67% of Americans having read a print book in the past year.

And while shares of print and e-book readers are similar to those from a survey conducted in 2016, there has been a modest but statistically significant increase in the share of Americans who read audiobooks, from 14% to 18%.

Overall, Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when the Center first began conducting the surveys of Americans' book reading habits.

Netflix will begin streaming the movie adaptation of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society in North America, Latin America, Italy, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia on April 20. Studiocanal will release the film in the U.K. on the same day, followed by Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany.

Accused by at least 10 women of sexual harassment, author Sherman Alexie has decided not to accept the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction that he won for You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir (Little, Brown). His publisher has also delayed the release of the paperback edition.

The Guardian reports on the quandary facing romance authors--in the wake of #MeToo and Time's Up, how 'bad' should the bad boy be?

Introducing what will be an ongoing project, The New York Times writes, "Since 1851, obituaries in the New York Times have been dominated by white men. Now we're adding the stories of 15 remarkable women."

The obituaries published today include Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Bronte and Qui Jin (a feminist poet and revolutionary who became a martyr known as China's 'Joan of Arc.')

Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington will star in and executive produce the TV series Little Fires Everywhere, based on Celeste Ng's book.

Three women have gone on the record with NPR's All Things Considered--and at least seven others have spoken off the record with the show--about author Sherman Alexie's abusive treatment of them, confirming the anonymous and somewhat vague allegations that have been made recently online. ©