The Exile by Gregory Erich Phillips

“Everything was dark.  Though her eyes could see little, her other senses became acute, telling her she wasn’t dreaming. Terror reached down into the pit of her stomach as her worst fear was revealed by the sound of whirring jets and the sensation of changing air pressure—she was on an airplane…was she really being deported? Even after everything that led up to this, it was unbelievable.”

THE EXILE

A novel by

 Gregory Erich Phillips

As a pre-teen, Leila made a risky escape from an evil man and a life of poverty in Colombia.  Today, a full-grown woman with a seemingly perfect life and successful career, Leila is well on her way to having it all.  But buried secrets have a nasty habit of coming back to haunt us, and in Gregory Erich Phillips’s new novel THE EXILE (Koehler Books; April 6, 2019; Paperback; ISBN: 978-1-6339376-5-9; $18.95) events steadily mount to a fever-pitch when Leila and others are forced to face extreme challenges to avoid losing everything they love.

It is the mid-2000s and Leila is working for one of the top mortgage brokers in Phoenix, Arizona.  Her manager, Samantha, applauds Leila’s hard work while at the same time taking every opportunity to remind Leila of her Hispanic immigrant status.  Leila’s perfect life begins to unravel, precipitated by the mortgage crisis of 2008 and an ill-timed romance with Samantha’s son, Ashford. Seeing Leila with her son brings all Samantha’s latent racism to the surface, and she lays down an ultimatum with disastrous consequences.

THE EXILE is a captivating story about love, family, home and the courage it takes to protect them. It is a timely novel that sheds light on the challenges faced by Hispanic immigrants living in the United States. Phillips, whose first award-winning novel Love of Finished Years depicted the complicated life of a German immigrant woman in New York during World War I, is adept at presenting events, whether current or historical, on an emotional level through his strong characters.  In THE EXILE he also draws on research and professional experience to express the realities of an abrupt deportation and the fallout for well-meaning people in the mortgage business.

A prolific writer with another novel already underway, Phillips is quickly establishing himself as an author to watch.  THE EXILE has already won first-place for mainstream fiction in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest and is well on its way to being on must-read lists in 2019.

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Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Night-Circus-UK-cover
Erin Morgenstern/Random House LLC

“The sign says Hall of Mirrors, but when you enter you find it is more than a simple hall. You are met not with floor-length unadorned planes of mirrored glass, as you half expected, but hundreds of mirrors of varying sizes and shapes, each in a different frame.

As you move past one mirror reflecting your boots, the mirror next to it shows only empty spaces and the mirrors on the other side. Your scarf is not present in one mirror and then it returns in the next….

As you walk farther into the room it becomes a field of endless  streetlamps, the stripes repeating in fractal patterns, over and over and over.” –The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a beautifully crafted story over 500 pages long, yet it certainly doesn’t feel that way. The novel is about two lovers bound to each other since childhood.  Unbeknownst to them their destinies are intertwined in a competition where only one can be left standing.

Celia is a young girl when her mother commits suicide and she is brought to her father, the great illusionist Prospero the Enchanter, otherwise known as Hector Bowen. To win a bet  with the man only known throughout the book as Alexander or Mr. A.H, Bowen commits his 6-year-old daughter to participate in a game. Alexander adopts his player, Marco, just three years Celia’s senior, from an orphanage and begins to teach him all he knows about illusions.

When the Night Circus first came to fruition from the great and eccentric mind of Chandresh Christoph Lefevre, Celia and Marco had no idea that they were to be pitted against each other.  But once the event was underway for several years they both realized that they had been set in opposition to each other from the start.  They fall in love anyway and their relationship sets off a domino effect of events resulting most often in the deaths of beloved circus employees.

While Marco, with his magical intelligence, holds the circus together with charms (such as slowing down everyone’s aging so that the circus employees seems to never mature), Celia goes on a mission to end the competition and keep everyone she loves out of harm’s way.

The plot is the strongest part of the book and it will keep the reader flipping the pages. Morgenstern undoubtedly knew exactly how the circus should unfold in her mind, and how the characters’ interactions and discoveries of each other would develop. Another striking aspect of the book is Morgenstern’s brilliant descriptions: each beautiful old home, every musty library, and every inch of the circus is filled with beautiful images, and she makes it easy for one to sink into the setting: “The entire compartment looks like an explosion in a library, piles of books and paper amongst the velvet-covered benches and polished-wood tables. The light dances around the room with the motion of the train, bouncing off the crystal chandeliers.”

The characters are all quirky in their own ways, but while reading the story, I felt like I never got to really know Marco and Celia as well as I would have liked. They’re in love, but you never really see it develop except for the fact that they were smitten the moment they saw each other. But they hardly have interactions in which I felt their love over their lust. The rest of the cast and their reasons for being in The Night Circus, however, are so worth the read.

Before you pick up the other well-known circus-related book Water for Elephants, pick up The Night Circus. The Night Circus is much more fun and has a more developed story and setting, and believe me, by the end of it you’ll be hoping for a movie, and a real Night Circus you can attend.

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