Your father’s hands were always rough.
In your memories, they were nimble, too; enough to fix a doll or thread a hook as easily as holding a fork, and it was never a problem for your little fingers to fit around his. Your father’s hands were calloused and strong but, unlike the new book “Inside an Honor Killing” by Lene Wold, they were not meant for murder.
She had to lie to set up the interview.
Lene Wold knew that, as a lesbian, she was in danger just traveling through Jordan, so she made up a fictitious husband for her own safety. She lied to be prepared, should the subject come up during conversations she had with “Rahman” who, after over a year of effort, finally sat across from her in a small café.
He was a killer, but she knew that he deserved to tell his side of the story.
When he was a child, Rahman told her, he witnessed the death of a young classmate buried up to her shoulders in desert sand. The 7-year-old had been raped, he said, but that act brought shame on her family because villagers believed that she had caused it. Stoning her brought honor back.
Rahman wasn’t supposed to have witnessed the killing, and when his mother learned that he did, she packed her things and left, a departure that impacted him for the rest of his life. He vowed that what happened in his father’s house wouldn’t happen in his when he married a very conservative woman, and raised two daughters and a son.
You have free articles remaining.
Years later, as the younger daughter, 17-year-old Amina, prepared for marriage, she noticed that her 19-year-old sister, Aisha, seemed preoccupied. Only when Amina overheard intimacies and learned that Aisha had fallen in love with another woman, did she understand her sister’s fears: there is no law against homosexuality in Jordan, but it’s a cultural sin that brings shame on a family, and Aisha’s secret couldn’t be held.
And so, pressured by his wife, Rahman acted to restore honor…
There is no way to soften this: “Inside an Honor Killing” is absolutely chilling.
An ice-down-the-spine account of a rape that inexplicably didn’t happen opens this book, illustrating the dangers author Lene Wold endured to get the interviews she needed to tell this story. That, and the how and why of it, are the books’ introduction and while you’re there, Wold also shares statistics that will put you in a heightened state of anticipation, though you ultimately know what happens. Take a quick breath, then, before you plunge into Chapter One, because that’s the last chance you’ll get for air as this story alternates between "Arabian Nights" and "Nightmare on Elm Street," between idyll and magic, and horrors we can only imagine.
This book isn’t one bit easy to read but if you’re concerned about women’s rights or current events, it’s essential that you do. But beware: “Inside an Honor Killing” will stun you almost the minute you get it in your hands.
Fiction: 'All the Ever Afters'
Just about every person alive grew up feeling sorry for poor little Cinderella. In “All the Ever Afters” by Danielle Teller, we see the classic story from the POV of Agnes, the evil-not-evil stepmother. This novel is an eye-opener: there are always two sides to a story, and both could be correct.
Fiction: 'The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein'
Another two-sides-to-the-tale tale is “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Kiersten White, a novel of the woman who loved Victor Frankenstein. Or did she? Without him, she’d be homeless, broke, and hungry. With him, she would always fear his temper and the horrible things she was discovering about him. It’s a dark-and-stormy kind of book, perfect for anyone who wants winter chills of a different sort.
Fiction: 'Berlin 1936'
A lot of mini-stories make up “Berlin 1936” by Oliver Hilmes, translated from the German by Jefferson Chase. It’s a multi-level tale of Nazis, gypsies, homosexuals, and secrets in the infancy of the Third Reich, told in a conglomerate, slice-of-life sort of way that will make you forget that it’s all fiction.
Fiction: 'How to Stop Time'
Every year, it seems, scientists claim that humans will achieve immortality within a few decades. That’s a curse in “How to Stop Time” by Matt Haig. In 1598, a man named Tom fell in love with a woman named Rose. They had a daughter and then Rose fell ill and died; Tom, however, survived because he’s an “alba.” Tom is more than 400 years old and there are two things he wants: to feel as normal as he did in 1598, and to find his daughter, who is also an alba. Romancy? Yes, but also part sci-fi, part history, a little drama, and a whole lot of wonderful.
Fiction: 'Tin Man: A Novel'
To round out the fiction list, there’s “Tin Man: A Novel” by Sarah Winman. It’s also the story of Ellis, who lost his wife and his best friend, the former to a car accident and the latter to AIDS. Ellis misses Annie because she opened his world; he misses Michael because Michael pushed him to do things he would have never tried. But there were so many things Ellis never knew about Michael, until he finds Michael’s journal. Emotional, dramatic, also romantic, here’s a book that’ll make you curl up in your chair, stricken, for an hour after you’ve finished it.
Nonfiction: 'Here is Real Magic'
For anyone who’s ever wondered how that guy on TV does those illusion tricks, “Here is Real Magic” by Nate Staniforth is a book for you. Staniforth always wanted to be a magician but he wanted to do it big. Little coin tricks were old-school so, in this book, he goes on a journey to find out of magic is real or not. Hint: this isn’t a magic book. Read it, and you’ll be left with answers you weren’t even asking for.
Nonfiction: 'The Language of Kindness'
You may never see “The Language of Kindness” by Christie Watson on any other Best Of list and that’s too bad. Watson is a nurse, and this is a book about being ill, care-giving, living, and dying. Beware that some of the stories are a bit gruesome, but this is a lovely book for anyone alive.
Nonfiction: 'Natural Causes'
And not that there’s a theme here or anything, but you’ll also want to read “Natural Causes” by Barbara Ehrenreich, a book about the things we do to avoid dying. It’s informative, funny, wry, and intelligent. Hint: rant, rail, avoid sweets, eat kale, do all you want, but you’re going to die someday anyhow…
Nonfiction: 'The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row'
There’s a ton of surprising gratitude inside “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hardin with Lara Love Hardin. The reason is that Anthony Hardin was put on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. First surprise: it took thirty years for him to be exonerated. Second surprise: this book holds a whole lot less anger than you’d think it would, and a whole lot of uplifting. Of all the books on this list, it’s the one you’ll never regret reading.
Nonfiction: 'West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express'
Rounding out the nonfiction list, there’s “West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express” by Jim DeFelice. History fans will love this book because DeFelice focuses on the Pony Express but doesn’t ignore other major players in the Civil War era. Readers who like tales of little-known life will love this book, too, as will anyone who loves a good oater. Bonus: it’s one of those easy to browse books that will pull you in tight.
For any child who loves the Little House on the Prairie books, “Hardscrabble” by Sandra Dallas will be a winner. It’s a tale of twelve-year-old Belle Martin, who moves with her family from a farm in Iowa to the prairie in Colorado in 1910, and it wasn’t easy. For your 8-to-13-year-old, though, Dallas eases through the difficulty and happiness of this historical novel.
Children’s: 'Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away'
Much as I loved the bouncy, joyful words that make up “Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away” by Ketch Secor, and as much as they made me so very happy, the cherry on this literary sundae are the illustrations by Higgins Bond. Lush, colorful, and radiant, this is the tale of a girl and her grandfather, their love of music, and a mysterious spate of missing items. Your 3-to-6-year-old will like that. You’ll love the artwork.
Children’s: 'They Lost Their Heads! What Happened to Washington ’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts'
Something totally fun to read, for the kid who loves oddities: “They Lost Their Heads! What Happened to Washington ’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts” by Carlyn Beccia. This is a book that will inform your 10-to-14-year-old. It’s also going to give them light shivers, a few laughs, and a big dose of informative history that doesn’t feel like schooling. What better thing to have while school is out?