Thoughts and impressions on books I loved reading…
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
Published 2014 by Knopf Canada
Riveting. Great style and voice. Compelling and controversial subject matter. My first read by this author. I will definitely be reading her other works. Really enjoyed her seasoned writing style.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
Published 2013 by Viking
An extraordinary true story of perseverance by a group of young men on their journey to Olympic Gold. Beautifully written with seamless rhythm much like the subject matter itself, rowing — perfect pacing, each chapter moving through deep historical waters one smooth, even stroke at a time. I loved this book.
A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
Published 1998 by Little Brown and Company
One of my favorites from Anita Shreve. A more personal work of fiction based loosely on her own journey to Africa when she was a young woman. Margaret married Patrick only a few months before moving to Kenya for a year. What they experience during their adventure and the horror of an accident atop a mountain on a climbing expedition forever changes them and their marriage going forward. A gripping novel.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Published 2014 by Nan A. Talese
Stunning. Each elegantly trim sentence delectably descriptive. Ian McEwan is a genius at creating complex characters who are relatable yet challenging to sympathize with, difficult to forgive, just as it is for them. And there it is…The Children Act pulls the reader in so tight, one might forget it’s only fiction. If you enjoy splendid prose, you’ll no doubt be jotting notes in the margins and dreaming of such an eloquent writing style.
The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz
Published 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
This is an endearing story of a high-achieving family from Connecticut and all the rivalry and competition and expectations they put upon each other — always out of love, of course. Sylvia, the matriarch is struggling to accept her adult children’s decisions about who they intend to spend their lives with, while feeling the passing of time and the sacrifices made for her family. Why can’t they all just do what she wants? There’s humor, tenderness and forgiveness. The closing brought a tear to my eye and reminded me that sometimes being the first to say, I’m sorry, is the most wonderful gift you can give to a loved one.
The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
Published 2016 by Vantage
Mr. Bohjalian, one of my favorite authors, has chosen a tragic subject with The Guest Room, writing at the top of his game, putting a fictional face to a sad truth. Starting back with Midwives, I’ve always enjoyed Bohjalian’s fresh voice, his masterful ability to delve deep inside character’s psyches, pulling the reader straight to the core of the story never letting go until the final word. The Guest Room exposes the sadistic underworld of human trafficking, illustrating how this atrocity infiltrates mainstream communities, ultimately begging the question — if not for demand would there even be the supply? A story of a bachelor party gone horribly wrong, but maybe even more so, a story of an entire civilized world gone horribly wrong. The Guest Room is an important work of fiction not to be missed.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Published 2016 by Ballantine Books
Incredibly beautiful writing that pulls you in and keeps you spellbound until the end. Ms. Kelly writes of the horrific surgeries performed at the all women’s concentration camp, Ravensbruck during WWII. An amazing story of resilience and grace in the face of nightmarish tragedy, but also kindness and charity. A must read for your historical fiction list.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Published 2012 by Penguin
A poignant, bittersweet love story with characters who are endearing, real and heartbreakingly funny. A deadline is looming and the race is on to make a difference, to push for change, to find life worth living. With a provocative and controversial topic looming as the backdrop, this is an intimate view inside a very complicated human experience, one that none of us can really understand unless we’re thrust into the situation ourselves. The writing is crisp, well-paced and quite simply beautiful. The characters are so well-developed, you feel you actually know them personally. You’ll find yourself crying one moment then laughing the next, but isn’t that just life? However cruel it can be, it is also so wonderfully joyful — and there in the reading is the lesson. Good movie, but like so often, the book was better than the movie.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
Published 2015 by Atria Books
Flat out exceptional storytelling! This is a fairytale for adults (but I think very wise children would love it too) about life, forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance, finding the good in others, loyalty, perseverance…I could go on, but you get idea, it’s a very inspirational tale, expertly woven between real life and fantastical other-worlds like any great fairytale. However, this one sends a message of hope and quite possibly has the ability to pry open even the tightest of closed minds. Wonderfully clever writing, intricately developed plotline with perfectly developed characters…this author is brilliantly talented.
Remember My Beauties by Lynne Hugo
published 2016 Switchgrass Books
In Remember My Beauties, author, Lynne Hugo masterfully paints a backdrop of elegant horses and Kentucky Bluegrass, the foreground a sketch of bitterness, sorrow and shame, a family tainted by lies, immorality and selfishness, forgiven only by the hope of second chances.
The Vanishing Year: A Novel by Kate Moretti
Published 2016 by Atria
Stunning page turner, about a marriage gone terribly wrong, draws you in, keeps you on the edge of your seat begging to find out what happens next, with unexpected turns along the way. A very satisfying read. This is an author to watch.
A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles
Published 2016 by Viking
Astounding, riveting, supreme writing by a very talented author. A must read.
I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around by Ann Garvin
Published 2016 by Gallery
(2017) I downloaded this book a while ago and found myself in bed this week with a terrible cold, felt a bit like the title says, really just wanting to be left alone to rest my weary mind, to not have to take care of anyone else. I’m so glad I chose this moment to read this wonderfully relatable novel. First, the writing is fresh, sharp and so real I felt drawn into the story from the first line. The family relationships are what so many of us go through, especially when dealing with aging parents, as it often falls on the shoulders of one family member, the one who is nearest, most capable in that moment. Second, this book is funny. Humorous in a way that pulls you in, closer to the characters, on an intimate level. Humor can be so smart, so deep. Garvin is a genius at using humor to reveal her character’s flaws, their true feelings, their hearts, and why they keep making the same mistakes. I still have a cold, that’s how fast I read this page turner, but I feel better for having experienced this fine work of fiction. Ann Garvin is the real deal. A writer who will grab you by the heart and pull you in to listen.
The Dream Lover: A Novel by Elizabeth Berg
Published 2015 by Random House
A beautifully evocative novel about the real woman behind the pen name, George Sand, her intense desire to succeed and be free to live life on her own terms. A complicated, flawed character drawn to perfection by one of my favorite authors. Berg never fails to pull the reader in through great dialogue, supreme character development and plenty of wisdom. A wonderful piece of literary history brought to life.
Extra Note: Ms. Berg was the Keynote speaker at Santa Barbara Writers Conference some years back and was so charming, endearing and engaging when she spoke about her life and writing. I have enjoyed many of her books. Definitely recommend her work.
The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle
Published 2016 by Harlequin
Couldn’t put this one down! Very twisty all the way to the end. I love when I don’t see the ending coming, and then it’s perfect. Great read, especially for a long weekend at the beach down south or the San Juan Islands out west with settings in both Atlanta and Seattle.
Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton
Published 2017 by Anchor
An evocative, beautifully written debut novel centered on the life of an unwed mother, Lilli de Jong, in 19th century Philadelphia. This is a powerful story of a life derailed, written as journal entries from Lilli, a strong-willed, deeply moving character, who draws you into her intimate world, detailing the emotional pull guiding her fierce determination to keep and love her baby, Charlotte, against all odds. This is an astounding work of literature crossing all boundaries of time and place, examining the passions, desires, hopes and dreams felt by women throughout history and still today, who battle poverty and shame imposed by judgmental and unforgiving societies. A must read and an incredible work of historical fiction.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Published 2015 by MIRA
(2017) I read this debut novel a few months ago and loved it, then picked it back up on a road trip across country and loved it all over again. Author, Mary Kubica does a superb job building edgy suspense all the way to the end. I wanted a second look because I was intrigued by the twists I did not see coming. This is a masterful psychological suspsense novel with many moving parts from three main points of view, the kidnapper, the detective assigned the case and the victim’s mother. With engaging characters, you’ll find yourself feeling for them, even if you don’t necessarily like them. The good girl, Mia Dennett, a complicated young woman, forms a strange romantic attachment to the man who is holding her captive in a cabin in wintry, rural Minnesota. A sort of bent love built out of two damaged pasts. Kubica is a talented force to be reckoned with and a contemporary American author who will surely be around for a long time.
More to come…