Book Review: We need to talk about Kevin

In a nutshell, I was disappointed. Cue, big sigh. The book had come highly recommended and to be honest, the story is right up my alley. I have a morbid fascination with the backstories of sociopaths and can get lost in the annals of Wikipedia reading up on them and trying to figure out what made them tick. So clearly this book was a no brainer for me, right? Wrong.

I think it was the style of writing why this book just didn’t connect with me. It seemed stilted and just didn’t flow naturally. The story is told from Eva’s perspective and is about her son, the eponymous Kevin. And I get that Eva is stilted and has never really felt genuine maternal affection for him, so perhaps that was Lionel Shriver’s intention in writing the book this way. It’s made up of a series of letters, Eva writing to her husband Franklin and essentially recounting their life together up to this point.

It’s no spoiler to tell you that Kevin is a 16 year old school shooter, but in Eva’s letters we get the sense of how who he was, made him into who he is now. She visits him religiously while he’s imprisoned and also writes about those interactions in her letters. She was something of a reluctant mother, but always figured that the feelings would come, like everyone said, it’s different when you have your own. But in the case of Kevin, her feelings never really did change, and it didn’t help that he seems to have been as unlovable as anyone could ever have been.

So over and over we hear of incidents that, I suppose, in any normal child, would’ve set off red flags, but when the child’s default state is abnormal, all these things are merely another day of parenting for Eva. And her situation isn’t helped by her husband refusing to see any ill-intent in Kevin, until it’s too late of course.

As someone who’s ambivalent about having children, it reinforces the point that you should really be certain before you bring another life into the world. Eva’s feelings towards Kevin bring up the old nature versus nurture argument, and even by the end of the book we’re still not sure, and I don’t think Eva is either. Is it her fault that Kevin turned out the way he did? Or was he really and truly just rotten to the core? Who knows.

For me, I found reading the wiki page more interesting because I got the plot without having to deal with the writing. But maybe the style will appeal to you? It’s an interesting topic for sure. A movie was also done based on the book, so maybe that’ll be better. I might check that out at some point, but the trailer didn’t really thrill me either.

Let me know if you read We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and what you thought of it?

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Book Review: Night Theater

My reading habit has been off to a rocky start since 2020 hit. Not for any real reason, just that nothing much has caught and held my attention. I’ve been re-reading Anna Karenina for a while, and as much as I love the book, it’s not exactly the kind to make me forego all else in favour of reading, especially since I already know how it’s going to end. 

So when a bookish friend (@gailrenatta in the bookstagram community) offered to loan me Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar it was a welcome break. I didn’t really know what to expect out of it, other than what the blurb gives away, but I generally love books set in India or with Indian characters (excluding Shantaram – that book was rubbish) and the fantastical premise was tantalising enough. 

So after I picked up the book, I went to Ragamuffin, my favourite Saturday morning cafe (pre-covid-19 lockdown) and figured I’d spend an hour or so enjoying a chai latte and the book. Three hours later I was out of book and out of breath. You know that feeling at the end of a workout you hadn’t really planned on doing, energised but a little breathless? That’s how I felt. From the moment I started the book I was hooked, and devoured it along with my latte and brownie.

Night Theater is about a doctor, shunned from his medical career in the city, who now operates a clinic in a rural Indian community. It’s an exhausting, thankless, frustrating job where the medical resources are low and the sick and injured are high in number. Then one night, a family of three stops by and asks him to fix their wounds. Plot twist…turns out they’re actually dead. Well, not really a plot twist since we know from the blurb that they’re dead. Killed in a robbery, some benevolent being in the afterlife has agreed that they can have a second chance at life if this doctor can repair their injuries before dawn.

And so begins a sleepless night of operations and procedures in the hopes that he can bring this family back to life. I won’t tell you how the book ends, only that it’s totally worth reading all the way through.

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Amalgamation 2019

If you’ve been reading these for a while you might have seen that one of my highlights for 2018 was meeting/hugging/opening for Misty Copeland (and Complexions Contemporary Ballet) in last year’s staging of Amalgamation by Plie for the Arts. 

This year, there were a number of dance celebrities performing, instead of a full company, which made for an interesting and very varied show.  And as part of the Plie Dance Collective (a group of dancers from different dance companies and backgrounds) we performed in the show, opening each night with Virtuosi, as well as reprising last year’s piece Confrontation…both by the amazing Renee I. McDonald.

Dancers like Dusty Button (who I’ve followed for years), Terk Lewis, Autumn Miller, Michael Dameski, Osiel Goueno, Nikisha Fogo (half-Jamaican half-Swedish) and so many others graced the stage along with some local dance companies like NDTC and Movements. In addition to performing, many of the international guest dancers hosted masterclasses giving us a chance to be taught by some of the best in the industry globally.

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(L-R) Dusty Button, me and Terk Lewis at their combined masterclass

I haven’t really danced all year, so it was good to get back into classes and rehearsals as we prepped for the show and, of course, the energy of show weekend was absolute bliss. This show kicked off the active dance season for me and between now and December I have two or three more shows to go!

For the first time ever in life I took a day off (from school or work) the day after the show and I’m so glad I did. So often with shows you go so hard until it’s over and then just go straight back to business as usual (which often leads to me getting sick), but this time I’m happy I took the time to rest and recoup before getting back into the thick of things.

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Virtuosi by Renee I. McDonald, shot by (IG) @button_built from in the wings backstage

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New Wave: Live Cooking + Poetry

If you read my blog regularly (who knows, maybe I actually have fans lol) then you would’ve seen me mention New Wave earlier this year in the context of Celebrity Closet. It’s a charity thrift pop-up shop that uses clothing donations to raise funds that are then used to impact social change through the arts…phew, that’s quite a mission!

Aside from thrifting, New Wave provides a platform for Jamaican culture and talent through their curated events (and social media page). This summer they had a series of events at Kingston’s newest watering hole, Janga’s Soundbar. I missed the Film Night + Open Mic on August 12, but got to catch some of the Live Cooking + Poetry night on August 19.

 

With Pink Apron Jamaica and Kamila McDonanld cooking up a storm and Gladstone Taylor and Tami Tsansai on the mic, the audience was treated to a feast for the eyes, the stomach and the mind. I had to leave early so I wasn’t able to see Kamila’s cooking and as an aspiring vegan (this is what I’m calling it now) I opted not to try Pink Apron’s lobster quesadillas, but their demonstration definitely inspired me to try making my own tortillas one of these days.

Next up in the summer series… New Wave: Music The Story of Wayne Marshall on September 2, 2019 at Janga’s Soundbar

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Mac & Faux-Cheesy

I saw this tweet the other day saying that in France, vegan cheese is called “fauxmage” (regular cheese is “fromage”) and I just thought that was so brilliant! I haven’t been as vegan as I’d like for a multitude of reasons, but that’s still the goal that I’m working towards. As such, I’m still experimenting with different ways to create some of the dishes I used to love.

It wasn’t until this vegan experiment that I began to feel like I could really cook, I’ve always considered myself more of a baker but because of my raw meat phobia, cooking what I’d call “real food” wasn’t something I did. Now that I’ve removed the pressure of needing meat in my meal to make it “real food” I’ve been able to just look at random ingredients and come up with a meal. I can cook seasonally, with whatever fruits and vegetables are available for sale, or literally go outside and pick stuff from a tree in my backyard and voila…I’ve got food. It still kind of blows my mind lol.

I’ve also managed to enjoy things I’d never liked before (callaloo, I’m talking to you) just because I’ve figured out how prepare and season it myself. And, after seeing that tweet about fauxmage it got me craving some mac & cheese so I started thinking about how I make that without using an actual block of vegan cheese (another successful experiment btw). This time around I read a few recipes, in particular one for a vegan cheese sauce on Loving it Vegan, in order to form the basis for my own recipe.

Most (if not all) faux-cheese recipes call for nutritional yeast, which gives you that umami, kind of cheesy, nutty flavour that is kind of reminiscent of cheese. Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely not cheese…so don’t jump in thinking this is going to be an exact substitute, it’s almost more of a savoury creamy pasta, but for me it works to satisfy the same taste buds that are craving some cheesy goodness. It’s the kind of thing that’s great as a side or just on it’s own.

Mac & Faux-Cheesy (8 side servings)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2.5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • ¼ onion (chopped)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast (more to taste)
  • ¼ tsp seasoned salt (more to taste)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper (more to taste)
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • Escallion/green onion (garnish)
  • Macaroni (prepare according to package instructions)
  • Hot pepper sauce (because pepper makes everything better)

Directions

  1. Prepare macaroni (or other pasta) according to package directions.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp coconut oil in a large frying pan until it starts to bubble.
  3. Add sifted 2.5 tbsp all-purpose flour to the pan and stir to prevent it from clumping up.
  4. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, add 2 cloves chopped garlic and ¼ chopped onion and let it cook a bit in the mixture.
  5. Add 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup soy milk to the mixture and stir until everything is well blended together.
  6. Mix into sauce ¼ cup nutritional yeast, ¼ tsp seasoned salt, ¼ tsp black pepper, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp paprika, ½ tsp cajun seasoning and ¼ tsp turmeric.
  7. Pour the finished sauce until your macaroni and mix together until thoroughly coated, serve and garnish with escallion and your favourite hot pepper sauce.

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