On My Bookshelf: Levi Koenig A Contemporary King Lear by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

July 07, 2015

The Literary Maven's book review of Levi Koenig, a contemporary King Lear tale.
This is a sponsored post. I received this product for free in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own.

Plot: Three sisters are struggling with the decline of their father’s health, while also trying to sort out their own personal problems. The eldest, Gloria, is divorced and the primary parent for her two children. She is an accountant, and as the responsible one at work, she finds her boss calling on her to handle important files and keep an eye on the office in his absence. Gloria does not enjoy being single and becomes involved with a young, reckless taxi driver. Corinna, the middle daughter, is married with two children and works in a bank. She lives furthest from her father and outside the city. She feels unappreciated by her husband and children and uses eating as an outlet for her emotions. Renate, the youngest, is a stay at home mother with three school age boys. She often feels overwhelmed by her household tasks, frequently drinks, and does not drive. She is highly sensitive to her father and sisters’ criticisms. Each of the three sisters is self-absorbed and feels that she is doing the most to help their father Levi. Their father's physical health is failing and at times, so is his mental health. He is affectionate at times and cold and harsh at other times. He asks his daughters to take care of his finances, but is upset when his daughters discover he has been sending a mysterious woman, Barbara, large sums of money. The book ends with Levi's death; Corinna is there holding his hand as he dies and feels triumph that her sisters are not there. 

Why I liked it: While it is hard to like any of the three sisters, you can at times sympathize with them. Caring for an aging, ailing parent is challenging. My favorite character in the book is Flora, Levi's Filipino caretaker. She is kind and compassionate to Levi despite his daughters scrutinies of her. She appreciates the way Levin treats her "like a queen" and her broken English is endearing.

Classroom application: As its title suggests, the book shares a similar plot line with Shakespeare's tragedy, King Lear. The novel is an easy read and would help to illuminate some of the themes in the play. Students could also write their own version of King Lear, choosing a new setting and/or context for the play as the author did.

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