Saturday, January 13, 2018

"The Husband's Secret"


my take: I like how Ms. Moriarty's characters seem a bit superficial at first, the novel a bit house-wifey ... and then she blows up their world (see cover pic of a pulverized flower) and their humanity breaks into their perfect facade, each character

What to do when you find a letter in the attic that's addressed to you ... only to be opened on the event of your husband's death? Cecelia finds such an envelope while her husband's on a business trip. Her story line and two others (Rachel and Tess) converge in the local school.

What's okay to keep secret and what do we need to tell are two questions that would be worth discussing after reading.

my source: My sister Jennifer handed this me this one.

my verdict: Good read, especially for vacation. I like the books of hers I've read - fairly easy to get into, though not particularly memorable enough to stand alone in my brain: they're jumbled. But it's a pleasant confusion.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"A Little Life"

my take: This is one of my top picks of 2017. And yet, I hesitate to recommend it.

It's brutal.

A kind of Brothers K ... four young men meet in college and form a diverse, close-knit group. At first it's hard to figure out who is who. With 800+ pages, you have time to get to know each one.

One of the four has had an extraordinarily harsh life. As his story is slowly (thankfully) revealed, layers of evil are unearthed.

Essentially a love story. How love can wound, maim, and nearly kill. And how love can redeem. How messy our earthly love is, even with the best intentions. Not to mention the worst intentions.

The writing is what kept me going. Wow. Beautiful writing of a brutal tale.

my source: top reading lists

my verdict: excellent but difficult read
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Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine"

my take: Socially awkward with a very precisely scheduled life, a young woman who knows she the butt of office jokes, Eleanor's solitary existence at first glance is fine. She seems to enjoy her routine and has her basic needs met. She avoids her co-workers, makes astute observations to herself about the lives around her, and gets by with Vodka.

Her life changes when an elderly man collapses on the street near her. With his fall begins the climb up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid for our heroine.

The narrative becomes heart-breaking as Eleanor (and the reader) discovers the depth of her loneliness and explores her past trauma. Happily, it's also funny, witty, and heart-warming. Near the end I sensed a small tribute to Sense and Sensibility (<3).

my source: First recommended to me by tennis friend/author Christine. Thanks!

my verdict: Very fine read - highly recommend.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Beartown"

my take: This book has it all: Man vs man; Man vs nature; Man vs himself; Sport; Team; Parenting; Neighboring; Secrets; Immigrant integration.

In a small Swedish town that reveres hockey and needs junior hockey to save its economy, boys are being boys and men and women are looking the other way. Until they are forced not to.

This is beautifully written, deeply engrossing, and a bit unsettling. It begins "Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there."  Foreshadowing throughout the re-telling creates tension and the edginess of discovering who shoots and who gets shot.

my source: Hubby received for Father's Day. Really, a treat for both parents.

my verdict: One of my best reads for 2017. Great book club book.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"The Wonder"

my take: The heroine, a Nightingale trained nurse, is hired to keep a two-week watch over a young girl who claims to be eating nothing for four months. Is it a miracle, a divine intervention, or is it a hoax? Much of the 'action' takes place in the girl's small room, from the author of Room where ALL the action takes place in a small shed.

Here she explores the nature of religious devotion, of English versus Irish, of superstitions vs fact, and of nurses versus doctors.

I thought this was a bit boring for a while and then needed to find out was it a hoax!? As the past of the nurse and the Wonder are revealed, a compelling enough tale emerges.

my source: browsing Herrick Library shelves

my verdict: Quiet, good read

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Small Great Things"

my take: Whew. Almost quit on this one. Some of the content was so disturbing I wasn't sure I wanted to read on. Ignorance is bliss.

The story is told by three narrators: a Black middle-aged Labor and Delivery nurse, a twenty something White supremacist, and a thirty-something public defender. Their lives come together when the nurse is assigned to care for the supremacist's newborn baby.

Great plot, well-developed characters, and an excellent behind the scenes look at the judicial system, the hard realities of racism in America, and the hidden world of hate groups. I was physically ill reading how such groups prey on and recruit people and how they're working to populate their movement. Truly scary stuff.

This is a thoughtful and deeply personal probing at racism for the author and her peeling back the veil for her readers:

     "Most of us think the word racism is synonymous with the word prejudice. But racism is more than just discrimination based on skin color. It's also about who has institutional power. Just as racism creates disadvantages for people of color that make success harder to achieve, it also gives advantages to white people that make success easier to achieve. It's hard to see those advantages, much less own up to them. And that, I realized, was why I had to write this book. When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they've enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits."  (from the Author's Note)

Although I see some of the advantages I have, I have progress to make in ferreting out where White privilege is unseen in my life, and I appreciated this quote/knowledge that my role is to convince other Whites of their privileged position.

my source: Son's girlfriend, Hillary, loves all things Jodi Picoult and shared the hardcover copy with me.

my verdict: Uncomfortable, necessary read

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"August Snow"

my take: This was recommended by Nancy Pearl (Book Lust) recently. She mentioned that in these unsettling times in the U.S. she's having a hard time concentrating and requires books that are page-turners to keep her attention and make the world go away.

August Snow is a former marine, former Detroit police officer, and now as a private citizen drawn into investigating a high stakes financial scheme. August is also half Black and half Hispanic which gives him an interesting perspective on many things. A macho guy with a soft heart. And lots of foibles. A little like a cross between the PBS Sherlock and The Pacifier Vin Diesel. (Just so you know, I LOVE THE PACIFIER.)

This narrative has a higher body count than my usual read. And it was a page-turner. It took me till nearly the end to figure out whodunit.

We lived in the Detroit area for nine years: it was great to revisit the places I know and to discover much more. Makes me want to visit Mexicantown.

my source: Nancy Pearl on NPR ... was running errands and heard her segment. I drove directly to the library. It was out at that (main) branch but in at northside location. By the time I got there, it too was checked out. Waited for the e-book to become available. Dang! Too many NPR listeners in town.

my verdict: pretty good detective story especially if you know Detroit