This borders a Suspense/Drama and a Psychological Thriller!
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An exciting debut that crosses fantasy and literary fiction, Loreena’s Gift is a thought-provoking meditation on life and death and what ultimately lies beyond this world.
* Loreena’s Gift was recently named 1st place fiction in the 2016 Idaho Author Awards
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Loreena had lost both parents – a father she remembers very little about & a mother who was an angel but died in a tragic car accident involving nine year old Loreena and eleven year old Saul. Saul escaped with a few lacerations and bruises. Loreena became permanently blind. It was several years later the painful discovery was revealed that the blindness was accompanied by a “gift”.
Their Uncle Don – a single minister – took them in, loved and raised them the best he could, and became their “father figure”. Adventurous Saul often got into trouble and, at the end of his high school years, had a strong disagreement with his uncle and left home to “sew his wild oats”. Unfortunately, that led him into an undesirable crowd.
Loreena’s Uncle Don resolved her “gift” had to come from God so tried to find ways to use it for the good of mankind. However, he insisted they keep it a secret between just them.
Saul had been Loreena’s eyes for years. He was very protective of her and dragged her with him while he described their surroundings in detail. Through him she enjoyed sunrises, sunsets, weather and seasonal changes, plus, descriptions of events and people’s appearances. Without him, she felt very lonely.
Although blind, she played the cello and piano for church. She was very adept in doing things by feel and was very self sufficient. She only used her cane in unfamiliar places or on uneven ground.
After using her “gift” at the house of an acquaintance of her uncle, her brother and the daughter of this acquaintance showed up together. The daughter was distraught but she shared a moment with her brother – gone for three years – and planned to meet him on the weekend for a date with him. As the night of the date arrived, she was disappointed to find his new girlfriend was there also.
The evening turned into a disaster! From this point on, Loreena’s life turned “upside down” and her brother went missing. oud she ever find him?…If she did, would he be alive? Would she ever escape this nightmare?
The adventures and action steadily move along as Loreena desperately searches for her brother and is forced into despicable situations. The reader will experience emotions of endearment, empathy, anger, frustration, shock, and joy – not I that order. As the reader feels he/she knows what will come next, a twist in the plot is made and the reader is left guessing again.
The Book Cover is passable, but may not catch the “browser’s eye”. The Title is a great fit. The characters are described well and easily visualized. The situations and background scenery is portrayed well. There is a steady “flow” in literary content and the story line is somewhat unique.
^Reader beware, there is some profanity and a sexual situation.
I offer this book a Four and a Half Stars rating.
I received this book as a gift but am in no way obligated to give a positive review. This is my honest review.
Can Reading Make You a More Empathetic Person?
Do you think that novel readers have more open minds?
Have you noticed that your friends who regularly read novels seem to be able to put themselves in others’ shoes? Do they seem to understand others’ motivations more clearly than those who don’t read novels?
If you’ve thought something like this in the past—or even thought that you, as a heavy reader, were more empathetic than some of those around you—you may have been onto something.
At least that’s what researchers concluded in a recent study.
Emotional Intelligence Just as Important as IQ
It used to be when talking about intelligence, we focused mainly on IQ. Lately, however, there’s been more talk about EQ—emotional intelligence.
Whereas IQ is an assessment of how well you can think and reason, EQ is an assessment of how well you can perceive, control, evaluate, and express emotions. In recent years, some scientists have speculated that EQ may be just as important as IQ for long-term success in life.
One study, for example, found that insurance agents who scored high on emotional competencies greatly outsold those who scored low on these skills.
We know that study and education may improve IQ. What about EQ?
Turns out that we can learn skills to improve that, as well. Meditation, for example, positive self-talk, anger management, and other practices can help us to better manage our emotions and those of others around us.
There may be one other thing we can do, too: read novels.
What Kind of Fiction Improves Empathy?
Researchers at The New School in New York City conducted five different studies on reading and an individual’s ability to understand what someone else was thinking or feeling. This is an important skill to have in life, as it helps us to better understand how other people behave, and to be more effective communicators and problem-solvers.
In each of the five studies, researchers divided participants and gave them different reading assignments. These included excerpts from:
- Popular (genre) fiction
- Literary fiction
- Nothing (no reading assignment)
After the participants finished their reading assignments, they were given tests that measured their ability to perceive and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions—their ability to be empathetic.
Results showed the following:
- When participants read non-fiction or nothing at all, they didn’t perform well on the empathy tests.
- When they read genre (popular) fiction, they still didn’t do that well.
- When they read literary fiction, their test results improved markedly.
Why would literary fiction have this effect, while genre fiction didn’t?
Why Was Literary Fiction Most Effective?
Researchers theorized that literary fiction is more likely to result in a rise in empathy because it focuses more on the inner lives of characters and their relationships.
Most popular (genre) fiction—including romance, mystery, thriller, and fantasy—follows a certain formula, and focuses on giving readers an exciting experience. Settings may change, but the plots and outcomes are often predictable.
Literary fiction, on the other hand, requires the reader to understand a character’s motivations and intentions. We are put into a character’s shoes—into her psychological world—so that we can understand why she does what she does. It is this type of experience, researchers believe, that carries over into the real world.
Further, researchers stated that literary fiction has the power to “disrupt our stereotypes.” In addition, it’s filled with “complicated individuals whose inner lives are rarely easily discerned but warrant exploration.” As we read about these people, we practice the same types of interpretations that we must later practice when dealing with real people.
We Live What We Read
Of course this is only one study, and we’d need many more to say for certain that literary fiction improves empathy. Some experts have pointed out flaws in the study, noting weaknesses in some of the methods.
The results, though, correlate somewhat with other studies that have shown how we “experience” fiction. In a 2014 study, for example, neuroscientists found that reading fiction taps into the same brain networks as real life experiences.
In other words, if you’ve felt worn out after reading about a race, or emotionally distraught when one of your favorite characters died, it wasn’t just all in your head.
Researchers used brain-imaging tests to study how the brain reacted in participants reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When they read a section where one of the characters was flying on a broom, the same areas of the brain lit up that would regularly light up when watching someone moving in the real world.
Study author Lisa Wehbe said, “It turns out that movement of the characters—such as when they are flying their brooms—is associated with activation in the same brain region that we use to perceive other people’s motion. Similarly, the characters in the story are associated with activation in the same brain region we use to process other people’s intentions.”
Another study found that when students read Harry Potter, their attitudes concerning others who are “different” (homosexuals, immigrants, refugees) improved. Researchers explained that when readers get lost in a story, they become the characters they’re reading about, absorbing their experiences and expanding their understanding of different types of people.
More recently, Keith Oatley, a Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development in Canada, published a study review in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. He noted that as readers explore the inner lives of characters in their books, it helps them to better interpret emotions, motives, and ideas in real people, as well.
“Fiction is the simulation of selves in interaction,” he wrote. “People who read it improve their understanding of others. This effect is especially marked with literary fiction, which also enables people to change themselves.”
Books Offer a Lot More Than Entertainment
Studies such as these tell us what most committed readers already know—we get a lot more from reading fiction than simple entertainment.
I know as a writer, I definitely experience, on some level, what my characters go through. After writing a particularly difficult scene, I am often emotional, sometimes fatigued, and occasionally elated, depending on what happened to my characters in that scene.
I’ve felt similar emotions when reading, and I’m not alone. Readers understand how the practice expands not only our minds, but our hearts as well.
As Oatley stated, “Almost all human cultures create stories that, until now, have been rather dismissively called ‘entertainment.’ I think there is also something more important going on.”
Kendra Cherry, “IQ or EQ: Which One is More Important?” VeryWell, June 23, 2016, https://www.verywell.com/iq-or-eq-which-one-is-more-important-2795287.
David Comer Kidd, Emanuele Costano, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind,” Science, October 18, 2013; 342(6156): 377-380, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377.
Leila Wehbe, et al., “Simultaneously Uncovering the Patterns of Brain Regions Involved in Different Story Reading Subprocesses,” PLoS, November 26, 2014, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0112575.
Christopher Bergland, “Can Reading a Fictional Story Make You More Empathetic?” Psychology Today, December 1, 2014, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201412/can-reading-fictional-story-make-you-more-empathetic.
Loris Vezzali, et al., “The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, February 2015; 45(2):105-121, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jasp.12279/abstract.
Keith Oatley, “Fiction: Simulation of Social Worlds,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, August 2016; 20(8):618-628, http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613%2816%2930070-5.
“Power of the Mind? Scientists suggest reading novels helps encourage empathy,” Express, July 19, 2016, http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/690969/Scientific-research-reading-novels-help-encourage-empathy-news.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Colleen M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is also a freelance writer, instructor, and motivational speaker specializing in creativity, productivity, and personal wellness. Her latest novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” was released with Dzanc Books April 12 2016. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” is a North American Book Awards winner, and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection (Young Adult). She is the founder of Writing and Wellness (writingandwellness.com) a motivational site for writers and other creatives.
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