Sunday, October 17, 2010

12 overdue books, major fines

I've found myself back in a familiar position. I've been reading voraciously - some weeks reading three or four in a week, staying up late nightly to complete an engaging novel-- and yet I haven't found enough time to review. I started this space because I love thinking deeply about fiction and non-fiction and wanted to share my thoughts with other readers. It seems I am still learning how to make time for this passion of mine. While I hope in time to finally catch you up on all my literary thoughts, I am going to list the books I've been devouring recently. I still hope to find time to finish ruminating about these engaging stories sometime soon....

1. Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch
2. Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
3. This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia
4. Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro
5. Mothers and Other Liars by Amy Bourret
6. The Blessing of the Animals by Katrina Kittle
7. What We Have by Amy Boesky
8. Where Love Goes by Joyce Maynard
9. The Writing Circle by Corinne Demas
10. The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
11. Chosen by Chandra Hoffman
12. Devotion by Dani Shapiro
13. The Rich Boy by Sharon Pomerantz
14. The Swimming Pool by Holly Lecraw
15. Bitter in the the Mouth by Monica Truong
16. Lake Shore Limited by Sue Miller
17. A Widow's Walk by Marion Fontana
18. The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek
19. The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
20. The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
21. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

I loved this novel. I loved: the tenor of the story, the structure, the pacing, the characters, the reoccurring focus on Yiddish and Jewish traditions. I enjoyed learning about life in Red Hook Maine and the story's grounding in family history. So much of this novel spoke to me, implored me to reconsider my career path (which I already do daily), to be honest, to love completely, to believe in flow and guiding points. I enjoyed reading about a University professor with a passion for her subject, two violin prodigies and a woman who discovers being a librarian is a perfect fit for her. I was completely enchanted by the grandfather character - Mr. Kimmelbrod. I learned a lot from reading this book - about classical music, violins, Maine, boat building. Pat Conroy, the novelist, writes in his review of Red Hook Road:
"Ayelet Waldman’s prose style is lovely and fresh. There is a brilliant scene that I’ve returned to again and again: The great violinist, Emil Kimmelbrod, finds the undiscovered talent of a small girl, Samantha Phelps, and brings out her instinctive mastery of rhythm, modulation, and perfect pitch. With language and example, Ayelet teaches me everything I didn’t know and can never know about music. It was like discovering a lost part of my life where I’m not only untalented, but unteachable. Each encounter of Kimmelbrod and Samantha in the book was exciting for me. Had I not read this book, I wouldn’t have understood that I’ve never really "heard" classical music before."

I agree with Conroy. I loved reading about Mr. Kimmelbrod and Samantha. I loved watching Samantha grow as a musician. I loved seeing her life intersect in surprising ways with the other characters. Red Hook Road is filled with human characters: flawed and real. I found myself in disapproving in some of the characters choices, but none of their choices were unbelievable. The story begins with a tragedy and while it is very much a story of grief and coping, it is a story of so much more.

This is a book I know I will read again, and enjoy as immensely each time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbees

I was intrigued to read this novel long before I started reexamining her as the woman who engaged in a online battle with Jennifer Weiner. Weiner called her the pretty lady or something like that.

Vanderbees is a “literary” writer. And I won’t argue with that assessment. Her second novel is certainly an accomplishment. And it is literary in the sense that I know my mother wouldn’t like it. She likes happy endings.

Strangers at the Feast is about one suburban family gathering for Thanksgiving. Ginny, the professor daughter who recently returned from a trip to India with an adopted seven year old has decided she wants to cook Thanksgiving for her parents and her brother and his family. The cast of characters in this novel are fascinating, real and maddening. Ginny is a thirty-something woman who has found a fault with everyone she has dated, and seems at times to be playing at life. Her brother Dennis longs for his father’s approval and can barely support his family now that his job in real estate is not bringing in money. His wife Denise, who was the first member in her family to go to college seems somewhat cliché. She is from Pittsburgh. Her brothers and father worked in Steel Mills. She got herself out through sheer hard work and fortitude. She falls in love with Dennis’ optimism. Now that the family is in a precarious financial situation she finds herself working as a nutritionist in a public school in Connecticut (this is another detail that bothered me some as I have worked in a variety of public schools, none of which had a nutritionist on staff but I suppose it isn’t that large a jump). The patriarch of the family, Gavin, is a Vietnam vet who was the only Yale grad who wanted to go to Vietnam. His father was a WWII hero and he wanted to be a hero too. Before leaving he meets Eleanor at the beach. Encouraged to get marry before he goes to war, they do. Gavin comes back from the war disenchanted but also wanting more. He finds himself with few career options and winds up being a insurance salesman.

It was fascinating to read about someone who choose to serve in Vietnam, finding himself in a situation in which he exerted so little agency. He hated insurance, wanted to go to law school, but oh no, he finds out his wife is pregnant, therefore he has no options. He seemed so resigned to living a life he did not choose. I suppose that is realistic but it also bothered me immensely. When we first meet Gavin through Eleanor’s eyes, he is a man who recites poetry to her and plays the guitar. He is young and idealistic. He has heros. He looks up to his father. I understand that Vietnam shifted individuals trajectories, but it’s hard to make sense of Gavin's reaction. He doesn’t return affected by killing people. He doesn’t have PSTD. He does come back pining for a woman he left behind. He does come back to realize his wife is completely different than who he imagined. He comes back and first lives in New York City, only to be convinced by his wife that they must move to the suburbs. His is so incredibly resigned and it was heartbreaking to read. He bangs on the windows of the train, wanting to fight against his commute. He star gazes, he runs early morning miles and even marathons. But he exerts so little effort – even in parenting his own children. In the end, potentially he takes agency but it felt a little too late for me personally.

The most perplexing character is Eleanor. In the opening chapter Eleanor says something to the effect of: “those who knew our family were very surprised by what happened to us. But you all were so nice.” Eleanor highlights that she raised her children to be polite and kind to others, as if offering up something to stand in contrast to her behavior. As if explaining. As I finished the last page of this novel I turned back to the beginning. The beginning took on new meaning.

I love novels about dysfunctional families. I love reading books that ground themselves in historical events. And I was incredibly excited to read this book as it discussed eminent domain and the SCOTUS takings jurisprudence. And yet, in the end, I was upset by this novel. I walked away disturbed, not sure how to make sense of what occurred. I think Vanderbees is a deft writer and I think she portrayed this upper middle class family as well as the low-income members of Bridgeport fairly realistically. I can tell she took heed from the Elijah Anderson’s Code of the Street (which I read in college and again more recently). She took major risks as a writer. I believe the voices she created. I bought into the story until I got to the last few chapters. (Then of course everything falls together in such a cataclysmic way and to be honest I just didn’t understand why all of that was necessary).

I am incredibly interested in hearing others thoughts of this beguiling novel. What did you think?

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Heights by Peter Hedges

This is a story about Tim Welch, a history teacher at an exclusive private school in Brooklyn Heights, and his wife Kate, who begins the novel as a stay-at-home mother devoted to the care of their two young sons. The family of four lives in a small two bedroom in Brooklyn Heights - that is really a one bedroom with a closet. Kate revels in her moments as "the clever mother" and aspires to provide her children with a traditional childhood. All generic enough. Although the idea of a family of four surviving in Brooklyn Heights on the meager salary of one private school teacher seems anything but easy or normal. The Welch family's lifestyle is dramatically changed when they meat Anna Brody, the beautiful wife of a wealth man. Kate, eventually goes back to work and Tim becomes the stay-at-home parent, supposedly working on his long-delayed dissertation.

I was engrossed in this story but found myself detached from the characters. Their humanity (and abundant flaws) was readily apparent and the confessional tone helped to reveal their basest reactions. I enjoyed the inside view of Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood I've found charming myself. It's always enjoyable to read a book well grounded in a place you know and understand. Hedges clearly knows the neighborhood and he fully develops the Brooklyn Heights presented in the book.

The novel is told in alternating chapters narrated by Kate and Tim, and a few minor characters. I found the ending incredibly off-putting as a somewhat minor character had the final word. We find out her interpretation on the ending scene and thus are left with a lot of questions about what actually occurred. I liked the alternating narration, and found this novel entertaining but it didn't leave me lingering in the story or thinking critically about the characters (beyond wondering initially what truly happened in the end).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart

I'm still trying to wrap my head around my true feelings about this novel. It was engrossing and artful and filled with well-drawn characters and conflict and thought-provoking dialogue and realness. It had texture. I see why Stewart has been recognized for her talent. Her writing is authentic and real and filled with texture and it is so incredibly meta. Here is a book about a woman who discovers her husband, a novelist about to publish a book titled Infidelity has cheated on her. The two met in an MFA program in Austin, where they lived a life with time to discuss the use of the word the, the value of poetry, all of their favorite authors. They lived in a suspended adolescence, and now years later, they are married with children. Sarah, the wife, is no longer a working poet but a cubicle dweller trying to provide her family with health insurance and stability. There is so very much going on in this novel, but its hard not to get drawn into the meta-analysis: a female novelist is writing a story about a male novelist and the aftermath of his story and his actions. How does art reflect life? What does one's writing say about their own thoughts? Can two writers support their family without a more stable job? While part of me was drawn into the story behind the story (how does any of this reflect Stewart's own experiences?), I found myself detached from the narrator's pain. I found myself detached when she fell apart and talked about wanting her husband to die in front of her young children. I understood that many of her reactions were real, and I didn't question her humanity, but it was easier to want to look away. I sympathized for Sarah, and felt anguish on her behalf. I found her husband's actions confusing. But I wished some of her friends would have stepped in and provided a different perspective. It was interesting to watch couple friends support both Sarah and Nathan.

The ending leaves so much up in the air, and I understand why. It makes sense as a stylistic choice. But I found myself yearning for more closure.

This novel is so very different than what it seems when one sees the title, studies the cover and reads the blurb. It is more complicated than simply a story of a man who cheats and his wife's reactions. It is about the complexities of love. We don't see attempts at forgiveness as much as we see love continue until anger bubbles to the surface. We see destructive action and complicated choices. We see that in this relationship each individual has played a role, and these roles have lead to dissatisfaction and a search for more.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Atlas of Love by Laurie Frankel

While reading this book, I decided I wanted to live inside the story. I wanted to be Janey-- an English graduate student who moves in with her two best friends to help raise one of the friend's baby. I loved everything about this book even at moments where I wanted to change the development of the plot. I loved that it grounds itself in literary theory and is so inherently meta. As Janey teachers her English class about poems, short stories, movies, plays and novels, the book itself displays elements of each genre. Janey is the Diggory; she anoints herself the unreliable narrator. And yet she is human, warm, intelligent, thoughtful, everything I desire in a close friend. I loved the characters in this novel (although I didn't understand any of Jill's charms at times). I loved learning how these three disparate women with such different backgrounds came together to form a family and how their community continued to grow to include a gay couple (another graduate student and his chef partner), a Morman boyfriend and husband, a Jewish grandmother, and a History Phd student. I loved The Atlas of Love's vision of family and the message it sends about untraditional families. I wanted to be a part of the motley crew of characters who came together to support each other, who shared Sunday dinners, child rearing and their own real family members.

Frankel's depiction of graduate student life in Seattle makes me want to run away to Seattle and study literature (even if I will be reading, writing, and grading forever). I loved the world these characters inhabited. There are dinner parties and thought-provoking conversations, conflicts and differing opinions, but also deep abiding friendship.

Frankel has created something beautiful and unique in this story. It is a novel about female friendship, motherhood, love and emerging adulthood, and yet it is uniquely different from all the other novels that touch on similar ideas. Frankel has a unique perspective and a clear voice. Her own experiences as a graduate student and professor clearly enrich the honesty of the story. Beyond that, she has a great eye for the humor in modern life. Her story is playful and fun, yet real and honest. This is truly the type of novel I can imagine reading over and over.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Father of the Rain by Lily King

I have loved both of Lily King's previous novels. I remember finding and reading The Pleasing Hour before it was chosen as a BandN Discover New Writer's pick. I was proud of myself for discovering it on my own. Years later, details from The Pleasing Hour and The English Teacher still stand a fresh in my mind. I know that Father of the Rain will stay with me for quite a while as well. King is such a talented writer. Right now she can do no wrong in my eyes (although I have to admit I didn't love the end of Father of the Rain.

I was immediately drawn into Father of the Rain. I felt the rawness and vulnerability of eleven year old Daley. Daley has a secret -- she and her mother are leaving her father-- and because of this secret she chooses an ugly dog as her birthday present. Daley doesn't choose a Newfoundland, knowing that such a dog would make it harder to leave. This detail was so anguishing, so real. Following Daley as she navigates between her mother and father's worlds and homes is fascinating and painful. Throughout I was frustrated to see that no one was helping Dailey through this transition. But I am sure that was very realistic of the time period.

King's rendering of the time period, the seventies, is fascinating. The details she chooses to harness the story in this time period are evocative, and grounded in history. She sprinkles in details of pure historical texture: "Project Genesis" (black students attending "camp" while swimming at rich white people's houses), the variety of reactions prior to Nixon true colors are revealed, the freeness about sex. Poor Daley is left asking what a boner is when Elyse, the five year old daughter of her father's new partner(Dailey's best friend Patrick's divorced mother) says: "Gardiner you better watch it or you will get a boner." It's sad that this little five year-old knows this term but not surprising considering the lifestyle happening at Dailey's father's house. Elyse is an intriguing character as she is so little and exposed to such crazy behavior. I was intrigued right away to see if Dailey's father marries Mrs. Tabor and Patrick, Elyse and Frank become Dailey's step children or if the cohabitation would end and lead to further confusion.

I truly enjoyed so many details in this story. Watching Dailey navigate between diametrically different parents in a time period that is ripe with confusion is fascinating. Dailey loves her father fiercely, even as she sees his flaws, as she is only eleven. King deftly portrays the naivete of a preteen so captivatingly.

The second part of the novel shifts to Daley's adulthood, as she prepares to drive cross-country to move in with her boyfriend (a black man) and begin a teaching position at UC Berkley. The adult Daley (a professor of anthropology) has rejected her father's narrow worldview. But after years of minimal contact with her father, she is lured home to help him get sober and her dream future sits unbalanced on a precarious edge. The reader wants to scream at some of Daley's actions and her choices to give her father more chances -- and yet her actions are incredibly human. While there is so much about Daley's father to dislike (his small-mindness, his bigotry, the way he belittles some of his children's choices), one understands why Daley cannot turn her back on him. He is after all her father. King displays humanity in a broad swath: while Daley's father, Gardiner, is a truly flawed man, he is also oddly beguiling. I don't understand or like his choices, and while they are surprising they are also somehow deeply human. He is a man who is scared to be alone. A man who grips onto relationships for dear life. And so it is surprising that he chooses to marry so soon after his wife leaves, and yet not. It is surprising that he thinks it is a good idea to cohabitate with his best friends wife in the hopes that he will become his third wife (even though she has been married to his friend for forty years). Gardiner is a man who is a product of his upbringing, and his time period, as Margot Livesey writes: he is a "man who lives in the everyday world but follows almost one of the everday rules." While one wants him to be able to ground himself, grow up and truly embrace help (and while I was shocked by the way he throws away all his daughter's efforts even after all she has done for him) the reality is many people are incapable of truly recovering. King takes no easy outs in making the story what one expects. I was truly surprised by various turns in the story. King embraces some inherent ugliness and for that I applaud her.

In his review of the book Jim Shepard writes: "Lily King's Father of the Rain is the most unsettling and exhilarating kind of love story--the sort that interrogates just how resilient the bonds of unconditional love can remain, even after a lifetime of damage at the hands of a heedless parent. This is a passionate and beautifully observed and fair-minded novel." And yes. YES.

The one thing that irked me about the novel is the final ending. Both Father of the Rain and the book I read subsequently (Men and Dogs) had tie-ins to Obama's election. And while I understand how powerful it is to this narrative to show how Daley's world (and our world) progressed from the complex world of the 70s, I found the ending too neat. I believe that Daley and her partner would celebrate the election with their children. I am just not sure how much I believe in the final version of Gardner we are introduced to. That being said, I think Gardiner is truly unpredictable and so maybe I can't attempt to predict his actions.

King broadly paints America and humanity in this novel. She creates memorable characters, she explains how far we have come as a nation, she captivates the reader and forces us to face ugly realities. I loved this novel. Part of me wants to read it again to find even deeper meaning. I can't wait to hear what others thought about this deeply crafted novel. How did you feel in the end?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Widower's Tale

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.

My pick this week's:
The Widower's Tale
by Julia Glass
Publication Date: September 7, 2010

From Publisher's Weekly:

Percy Darling, 70, the narrator of Glass's fourth novel, takes comfort in certitudes: he will never leave his historic suburban Boston house, he is done with love (still guilty about his wife's death 30 years ago), and his beloved grandson Robert, a Harvard senior, will do credit to the family name. But Glass (Three Junes) spins a beautifully paced, keenly observed story in which certainties give way to surprising reversals of fortune. Percy is an opinionated, cantankerous, newly retired Harvard librarian and nobody's "darling," who decides to lease his barn to a local preschool, mainly to give his daughter Clover, who has abandoned her husband and children in New York, a job. Percy's other daughter is a workaholic oncologist in Boston who becomes important to a young mother at the school with whom Percy, to his vast surprise, establishes a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, Percy's grandson, Robert, falls in with an ecoterrorist group. Glass handles the coalescing plot elements with astute insights into the complexity of family relationships, the gulf between social classes, and our modern culture of excess to create a dramatic, thought-provoking, and immensely satisfying novel.

I loved Glass's last novel. Can't wait for this one!

Friday, August 6, 2010

This is Where We Live by Janelle Brown

I am an equal opportunity reader: I will chase any engaging story to its point of closure. But two things deepen my reading experience and make a novel stand out. The first is powerful writing: lyrical sentences, the bite of the real, an author's ability to spell bind me with their craft. The second is a story that forces me to think deeply about new ideas.

Having finished Brown's sophmore release earlier today, I realize it's not her writing that stands out. I didn't stop while reading to linger on any artful phrases. But I did nod throughout, enjoying th realistic portrayal of modern life and Brown's ability to make me think deeply about a variety of aspects of modernity.

Janelle Brown has her finger on the zeitgeist. I remember thinking the same thought when reading her first novel and it is vividly apparent while reading This Is Where We Live, as well. She takes these planitive, straight phrases and grows them into a well-developed story with a critique of society mixed right in for good measure. "All We Ever Wanted Is Everything," and "This Is Where We Live" both dissect modern society.

To be honest, I'm not even sure I liked the characters in this novel. At times I was very frustrated with their choices. Claudia (a wife and scriptwriter/director) and Jeremy (a husband and rock musician) were realistic and like characters on a reality tv show --I cared about their story not because of some binding connection but instead because their experiences barreled forward dramatically and allowed me to reexamine my own life.

The inside of this book deems it "A novel about subprime mortgages, ruthless hollywood economics, and the unraveling of a young marriage." While those three entities are at the heart of the story, it is about so much more: the information age and its pandering to an audience which with more cyncism can be recast as "the fractured soul of the post-modern age," delayed adolescence, human disconnection. It is about vacillitating between the polls of pragmatiscism and fuck the norm idealism/following the fire in your belly passions.

Claudia, who in my opinion is much more likeable than her husband offers: "Everyone we know thought they were going to be artists. Painters or musicians or filmmakers or writers, somehow more authentic than everyone else right? But really, how many have done what they thought they would? We were all so naive. We live in an information age, not a truth age; the only way to really make it now is to sell out to the biggest distributor, pander to the broadest one cares about art anymore." (p. 121)

Brown's novel reflects modern society back at its tenants. She takes the mortgage crisis and a simple craftsman style two bedroom domicile and uses it to riff on so very much of modern life. Her novel is a discussion about the value of technology and the relevance of art in a new world. It is about reexamining what makes the good life.

I valued the way this novel made me think deeply about modern life. I think Brown's true craft is in the simple way that she coats a plot driven narrative with much larger questions and discussions. One of my two critiques is that certain plot elements were cliche. Maybe that is an intentional choice. But the idea of a failed scriptwriter teaching film was cloyingly cliche (after all, those who can't do, teach) and the brouhaha Claudia gets herself into when she chooses to give the daughter of a hollywood bigwig an As she doesn't deserve so that he will advance Claudia's career was a little too obvious for me. I suppose this happens all the time in LA - people use any connection they can to plot their careers but it just felt like a forced plot device. The second critique is the ending was too rushed for me. After three hundred and sixteen pages I wanted more resolution. Although as I continue to think about the characters, the narrative and its many messages I am starting to understand why the story ends the way it does.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt

I saw my mother shortly after finishing this memoir and was trying to explain to her why I enjoyed it so much. I had already told her about it's tragic premise: "a gifted doctor and young mother, collapses and dies and her parents move in with their son-in-law to help take care of their daughter's three children, all under the age of six." I was explaining to her that Roger wanted to be called Guapo instead of Grandfather (for the handsome one), but none of the children could pronounce it so he became "Boppo." "Boppo" often visited his grandchildren's school to discuss writing and so when children saw him they would happily announce to their classmates: "Boppo's here!" The idea of this erudite and educated man becoming a universal "Boppo" to an entire school of children warmed my heart immensely.

This book is filled with heart-warming details and resounding moments of familial love. It is a story that can renew one's belief in the goodness of people.

There is an artfulness and a power in the simplicity of Rosenblatt's writing. His entire memoir is filled with the "bite of the real," --moments that sing with their honesty, everyday-ness and vibrancy. I fea rI can't possibly testify to how much Making Toast touched me. It is a story about humanity, family, loss. It is a story about the good life (even though at the heart of the story is a huge tragedy).

As much as I grieve for the Solomon children who lost their amazing mother, I know they are being raised wonderfully in a warm and loving family. Making Toast is a clear testament to the fact that families can come in different forms and still be nurturing and a fertile environment for positive development. The Rosenblatt's story clearly illustrates what has been lost in a modern world where children often don't spend a great deal of time with their extended families, including their grandparents. Both of my parents had grandmothers who lived with them in childhood - it's sad that such a practice has been purged in modernity.

In the book Ligaya, Bubbie's (the youngest Soloman child who is actually named James) nanny says: "You are not the first to go through such a thing, and you are better able to handle it than most." And this is obviously true. The Solomans and Rosenblatts are surrounded by friends, family, positive experiences. Up until the sudden death of Amy many of the individuals seem truly blessed. Rosenblatt himself admits that before his daughter's death he was accustomed to most things going his way.

I love how clearly drawn all the individuals are in this memoir. We get a full-developed sense of Amy, but also of her amazing children. Their comments, like most young children's comments are spot-on, humorous and profound. In one passage Rosenblatt talks about visiting his granddaughter Jessie's class to discuss a book he wrote Children of War. Rosenblatt writes: "Introducing the subject, I told the second graders that one of the sad and difficult things about children everywhere is that they have no power. Jessie raised her hand. 'That's not true Boppo,' she said. 'We have the power of thought and kindness."

This memoir truly spoke to me. In Amy's short life she touched so many people. I appreciated her ability to embrace life and make decisions without regret. Beyond that, I found Rosenblatt to be so incredibly likeable. Everyone he describes in the book is portrayed in the best light. Even in the wake of a tragedy, he find the best in everyone and brings a sense of humor and lightness to life. I learned so very much from this story and I know I will continue to think about it for quite a while.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Four Ms. Bradwells

This week I am highlighting a book that will require a long wait.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Four Ms. Bradwells
By Meg Waite Clayton
Publication Date: March 22, 2011

From Waite Clayton's website:

Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

Once again, Meg Waite Clayton writes inspiringly about the complex circumstances facing women and the heartfelt friendships that hold them together. Insightful and affecting, The Four Ms. Bradwells is also a captivating tale of how far people will go to protect the ones they love.

I really enjoyed the way Waite Clayton laced historical details into her last novel and her writing is engaging and thought-provoking.

What's your waiting on pick this week?

Monday, July 26, 2010

What I've Been Reading (and Not Reviewing), Part I

I've been reading constantly: on the subway in the morning, at lunch, on the subway home, and late into the evening. I've found myself enchanted by stories, drawn in by narratives, thinking long after I close a book. But as soon as I end one, I've been quickly picking up another, swept up anew and forgetting to pen some thoughts. I am going to provide some short reviews of some my recent reads. And I am also going to post some longer reviews for a handful of my recent reads - stay tuned!

1) The Kids Are All Right by Diana and Liz Welch

I literally devoured this book. I stayed up to about 4 in the morning, needing to finish. Once I finished the book, I was on the authors' website, searching for more answersl. I suppose that is the thing with reading memoir - afterwards you need to know how the story has turned out. When I read fiction I can choose to believe in a certain ending. But with memoir you get drawn into a spellbinding story and a need for closure.

This memoir is engaging, probing, fascinating. I think it helped me a little to understand why people get drawn into reality television: seeing other people's humanity is engaging in such a different way than fiction. The Kids are Alright is the story of four siblings who went from a storybook childhood in a beautiful house in Bedford New York to being split up and in unbearably precarious situations. First their handsome father dies in a car accident. The rumor mill leaves them with lingering questions. And the family's subsequent debt leaves them with even more. Then their soap opera actress mother who has had to learn how to support her four children alone, is diagnozed with cancer. While their mother works on a soap and receives treatment, the oldest experiements with drugs in college and the second oldest daughter takes on the role of mom to the youngest sister who is around six or seven. After their mother dies the older siblings (Amanda who is 19, Liz who is 16) are left deciding what will happen to their reduced family of four. Believing that the stability of their hometown is important, they choose to split up and place the youngest Diana (who is 7) with a family Liz used to babysit for. The brother is sent off to a boarding school for learning disabled boys but no one is willing to be his guardian until their mother's old friend Karen steps in.

I love the way this story is told in alternate voices. All four siblings pipe in, correcting and conflicting one another's stories. The style felt reminiscient to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

2) If I am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Love Story by Janine Latus
I have mixed feelings about this book. The story itself sounded fascinating. In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. "Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved," it read, "but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me..."

I found reading the book harrowing to read. I felt so soundly in the author's shoes that her own low self-esteem seemed to be taking up space in my own body. And yet I found it hard to believe that she took so much ongoing mental abuse from her husband. So maybe it wasn't her self esteem that I took on, but her discomfort. It was very discomforting at times to read this memoir. The story, while about a sister's loss of her sister, is really about explaining why Amy and Janine, two sisters wound up in a series of relationships with abusive men. The authors childhood was so different from my own, and it was fascinating to learn about a large Catholic family and individuals who couldn't assume they would attend college. I applaud the author for wanting to help raise awareness about domestic violence and I think she is a talented story-teller. But at times I found her so frustrating. She is willing to let all of her flaws hang out and I suppose that is brave. But its hard to understand someone who would accept daily weigh ins from their husband, or choose to so easily cede control about major decisions such as whether to have children or whether to have plastic surgery.

3) Saving CeCe Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

There was something incredibly charming about this story. I can't put my finger exactly on what it reminded me of. At moments it seemed Candidesque. It also reminded me of some sort of YA story or fairy tale. All of the female characters are memorable and the setting Savannah in the 1960s is fascinating. I would definitely say this is an engaging read with larger than life characters but it isn't particularly deep or thought-provoking.

4) Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the perspective provided about the unique experiences of second generation Vietnamese Americans (caught between two different worlds), as well as the experiences of "short" girls (and short men) living in a world designed for taller people and in need of the Luong Arm. Nguyen is a gifted writer. Interestingly, while this novel focuses on the contrasts between two disparate sisters--the older goody-goody and the "slacker," who never graduated college and made some questionable choices--something many other novels focus on including Jennifer Weiner's latest (which I will be reviewing soon!) it felt fresh and realistic without ever bordering on cliche. While I wanted to understand what propelled these two sisters in such different directions, I didn't question the reality. I loved that this book provided me with a front row view tour of the mid west (Michigan to be exact), the life of an immigration lawyer and the colors, behaviors and customs of Vietnamese Americans. This book swelled with an authenticity and vibrancy that made it a enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

5) Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood

I really enjoyed this story and it was a truly novel read for me since a Priest is a central character in the novel. At the heart of this novel is a man who is granted custody of his young niece, who has lost both her father and mother. He is a Father in church, but he becomes a father in every other sense when he takes in his young niece. While he is a central character and his love for his niece is so vividly evident, for most of the novel he is just a memory. His niece, now grown, is rooted to the town she formerly lived in with her beloved Uncle who she was taken away from at nine years old, shortly before he passed away. The adult niece, a guidance counselor married to a man she believes is about to leave, goes for a run in the rain and is hit by a car. While recovering in the hospital, she sees a ghost of her Uncle and the experience sets her on a path which leads her to revisit her childhood and the lies that structured her tumultuous childhood. I highly recommend this book. It was a surprising gem. The book is filled with imagery and tons of surprises. I was truly surprised with how much I came to enjoy the unfolding story.

6) This is How by M.J. Hyland

I am almost positive I've read Hyland's first novel. She is a highly praised author and while reluctant at first to pick up this novel, I found it engaging while sitting at the library and opening the narrative. I was truly shocked with the direction of this story. And I found the turns in the plot so abrupt and unexpected that I found myself disappointed the story was not going to progress in the direction I imagined. I found myself flipping around great a deal in the second half of the book, wanting closure for the story, even as I found it so vexing and off-putting. Maybe I missed something with this one, but I really can't say I enjoyed it.

7) The Season of Second Choices by Diane Meier

This is a story about a college professor who leaves life in NYC for a position at Amherst College, and a chance to reinvent herself. It is a coming of age story of a forty-eight year-old woman. Considering that my other blog is called adultelescence, this novel was truly designed for a reader like me. The main character is evidence that it's never too late for someone to change.

What I really enjoyed about this book is the way it melded diverse topics. As one of the blurbs on Amazon says: "Diane Meier's liberating novel values both the arcane scholarship of college professors and the practical, artistic insights of handymen and real estate agents." This novel truly is liberating in the way it thrusts together so many different elements of modern life. There is a motley cast of characters: "coyotes," middle-aged professors on the prowl for a fresh meat, a zany thirty-year old handyman with true talent who lives with his mother, single female professors who are cousins and live together, funny secretaries and small town eccentrics. There is discussion of a unique new curriculum, but also a focus on home repair. There is physical violence but also various layers of romance. And there are surprises at every turn.

Friday, July 23, 2010

By Accident by Susan Kelly

I just finished this book abuzz with thoughts. By Accident is a story about a family coping with the accidental death of their son, a teenager, who was set to embark on the next stage of his life. The novel begins with Whit's graduation from boarding school. And thus the beginning of the story is a beginning for Whit. I found it harrowing to know what was coming. We are introduced to Whit through his mother's eyes and so the reader views him as larger than life. He is the first born, who will set out for college. He is ripe and maturing - at a cusp, ready to move forward. Thus while the tenor of the graduation is celebratory, knowing more than the characters, knowing what will come, means the reader is hesitant to plow forward.

But the story barrels forward as the family prepares for a trip to their summer cottage. Mother and son set out in separate cars as the father and daughter are getting a ride later with close family friends. The family needs two cars at the cottage; it makes sense for the son to drive. Here it comes, I thought.

Kelly's writing is sparse, yet vivid. We understand Laura Lucas's inner thoughts. We get a full sense of the moments before. And yet the aftermath is less full. The actual accident is never detailed. Instead we, like Whit's own mother, do not see the accident happen. Kelly writes, Laura thinks: "He is simply, suddenly, not there."

Laura's grief is vivid and human. Susan Kelly clearly understands the thought process of a mother. She writes: "You think if you can get them past the conventional childhood perils, past drowning, past drinking Lysol, past closing themselves up inside refrigerators, past getting run over on their bikes on the way to school, that you are free and clear." I am sure if I was a mother I would nod in agreement. (Although potentially Jewish mothers are wired to see the dangers endlessly - the muggers and lurking strange men at every corner). Laura cannot move forward after Whit's death and instead stays inside all day watching the world through closed blinds. Her husband is more logical, less emotional; he wants her to stop "brooding." I know studies have shown that parents who suffer the loss of a child have a higher rate of divorce, and Kelly's evocative novel provides an explanation for this phenomenon. Laura and her husband Russ grieve in different ways. Their son's death shows how differently they have come to view life, their neighborhood, the world, family. Instead of reaching for each other they find solace in other people, other activities.

It is a young tree surgeon who is able to help Laura rejoin the world. Eliott Hacker becomes a stand-in son, a friend, an object of desire. I found Laura's response to Whit's death incredibly realistic. The loss of a child is unimaginable and it must be that much harder when the loss is so sudden, so seemingly preventable and at a point when Whit was truly coming into his own. Before his death, Whit says something about only having so many summers left before he must find a job and enter the working world. And Laura mourns deeply the fact that in reality Whit had even less left. There is such a rawness, a wrongness in a life cut short so soon after a milestone such as graduation. It is unnatural. It is a violent break in the normal life path. Of course losing a child is always unnatural, wrong. But there is something so tragic about a person about to set out on a pathway, and dying right before they reach that pathway.

I found this story so wonderfully compelling and poignant. So many of the details were lifelike, real, textured. The characters were complex and colored-in. The representation of life after loss so vivid. And I particularly liked that some of the chapters are told from the viewpoint of 10 year old Ebie, Whit's younger sister who loved him adoringly. I think my only criticism is that I wanted a fuller picture of the aftermath of the accident. I appreciate that Kelly left out the particular details - as those were irrelevant truly to the story. But I found myself wanting to know about the funeral, the reaction of the grandparents who sent a present for his graduation but are otherwise not mentioned. I was also curious about the reaction of Whit's peers. We get some sparse details about condolences sent by one classmate's parent, and about the reaction of Whit's childhood playmate who is Laura's goddaughter but no one else.

But, overall I appreciated the choices Kelly made as an author. I love the meaning that the title comes to take on at the end of the story. I also appreciated the various questions Kelly tackles. As the blurb stated: "What constitutes betrayal between husband and wife? Can a saviour be a a lover? And are either ever justified?" And additionally: "What is the line between friendship and desire? There was ultimately something incredibly refreshing in the honesty and pacing of this story. I randomly picked it up in the library without any knowledge of the author, and yet I so deeply enjoyed becoming spellbound by her words.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Stiltsville

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.

This week's pick:
by Susanna Daniel
Publication Date: August 3

This book caught my attention after reading Daniel's engaging essay on Slate - The Quiet Hell of 10 Years of Novel Writing. I immediately remembered that Joshua Henkin's Matrimony, took ten years as well - and I loved that book. A story that is crafted and developed for ten years is not likely to disappoint.

From Publisher's Weekly:
With its lush flora and constant sun, South Florida is the true star of Daniel's exquisite debut, which follows a marriage over the course of 30 years. In 1969, having traveled from Atlanta to Miami for a college friend's wedding, 26-year-old Frances Ellerby meets glamorous Miami native Marse Heiger, who introduces her to Dennis DuVals and his house on stilts in Biscayne Bay. Though Marse has set her cap for Dennis, he and Frances fall in love and marry within a year. "I had no idea then," Frances says, "what would happen to my love, what nourishment it would receive, how mighty it would grow." Dennis and Frances have a daughter, Margo, buy a house in Coral Gables, and their life together proceeds as a series of ups and downs, beautifully told from Frances's pensive, sharp perspective. As the years pass and Miami changes, so do Frances, Dennis, and Margo, and the nuances of their relationships shift and realign, drawing inexorably toward a moving resolution.

My mother and her siblings grew up in Miami beach, and my mother lived in Miami in the late 60s as well, so I am particularly intrigued by the book's setting and time period.

What is your waiting on pick this week? And what have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Something Red by Jennifer Gilmore

This book is a tremendous feat. I can only imagine how much research was required to accurately portray various historical and cultural details from the late 1970s. It is a time period I never fully examined before. Even as an American history major (who focused on modern America), I barely made it beyond 1972. But this book -- with its lyrical language and deeply developed characters-captures the zeitgeist of the time period. And so I learned some history while languishing inside an engaging story filled with such artful description.

The book focuses in on the disparate experiences of one nuclear family living in the suburbs of Washington DC, while also exploring the history that shaped each member of their extended family and the tenor of the time periods that shaped each individual. In shifting narration, we learn about the lives of Dennis, the father who works for the Department of Agriculture, Sharon, the mother who is also a caterer for all of Washington's major dinner parties, Benji the son who leaves behind his jock image and embraces rebellion and a hippy lifestyle while a student at Brandeis, and Vanessa, the teenage daughter who embraces punk, while struggling with an eating disorder. This book has everything: spy stories, radicalism, self-actualization group, infidelity, sexual discovery, drugs, family drama and major historical moments.

Sharon looks for meaning as she ferries along in a world changed by the absence of her son (who is away at college). Dennis begins to question his long held belief that it is possible to challenge the status quo from inside the government. Benji laments the fact that he is at Brandeis ten years too late, skips class to attend Grateful Dead concerts and follows the lead of his activist and voluptuous girlfriend. He finds passion in a class titled "American Protest!" which studies his own grandfather's actions, and eventually organizes a protest against the 1980 Olympics boycott. Vanessa, sullen and angsty, falls in love with the hearty sounds of punk and experiments sexually. She is constantly in need of more -- more attention and more food (which she later throws up).

Gilmore's style and craft are flawless, her attention to detail astounding. As someone who lives in DC I was fascinated by Gilmore's depictions of DC in the late 1970s/early 1980s. So much of the depictions remain true even if suburban teenagers no longer experiment in the same form. As someone obsessed with family history, I love the way Gilmore used history as a lens to examine the roots and ideology of one family. In truth this book was perfect for me as it combined many of my deepest interests: american history, family history, and oral history.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story

Excited to be back to book blogging, and to Waiting on Wednesday!

My "can't wait to read" selection is:

The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story
By Patti Callahan Henry
Publication Date: October 12, 2010

From BandN:

Jimmy Sullivan has been living on the road with his brother, Jack, and his band The Unknown Souls. Without a place to call home, Jimmy and Jack lead a nomadic life filled with music and anonymous cities. When they return to a place Jimmy never wants to see again – their old hometown of Seaboro, South Carolina – he falls in love with Charlotte Carrington.

With a soul now full of hope, Jimmy writes his first love song. When he performs it at a holiday concert to a standing ovation, the lyrics are dubbed the “Perfect Love Song,” so much so that Jimmy finds himself touring alongside famous country music stars - catapulted into a world where the trappings of fame and fortune reign supreme.

All too soon, the hope that had once inspired Jimmy to write such beautiful, genuine lyrics is overshadowed by what the song can do for him and his career. In his thirst for recognition, he agrees to miss his brother’s wedding in Ireland to sing at a Christmas Eve concert. And his ties with Charlotte seem to be ever so quickly fading away.

Alone on Christmas Eve in New York City, Jimmy finally sees – with a little help from some Christmas miracles – that his material gains are nothing compared to love, that he is losing all that really matters. Is it too late to find his way to Ireland, to his brother, and to love?

I'm not a big seasonal book fan, and normally any mention of Christmas miracles would have me place a book back on the shelf, but I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Callahan Henry's books.

Losing Charlotte by Heather Clay

Have you ever held a book in your hands and known you were going to treasure it? Sure, I read the review first, requested it from the library, but when I had to decide which of my six to tackle first I knew. Losing Charlotte with the running horse blurring amidst a deep green cover.

The heart of this story is one of the what ifs we all ponder - What happens when a woman dies after childbirth? It is unfathomable and tragic and all too real. A young woman grows round, incubates life (x2) and then suddenly dies. How does her husband care for these two twins while facing an unfathomable reality -- the reality he never considered? And what becomes of the young woman's family?

The characters in this story are real and nuanced. I understood Bruce -- a child who grew up in NYC with a Jewish mother. That is known to me. Knox and Charlotte, products of Kentucky and a horse breeding family are outside my world. But they were all rich and developed. Clay has a real sense for human detail, and a variety of lifestyles. She easily captured the realities of totally different subsets of people. She clearly has an eye for the bite of the real.

I loved what Clay chose to tell and even what she chose to leave out. The pacing of her story was spot on. And while the story unfolded in different directions a complete picture was crafted.

While one can assume from the blurb where the story is going -- it happens in a more human way. There is a true "real" element to a myriad of the scenes in the book.

As a reader, my heart broke for the motherless babies, and poor widowed Bruce. I loved the boy he once was and his unique narration of an event which occured during his formative years involving a friend who lost his mother (one of the instances where Clay chooses such amazing elements of the past to include). Having seen this loss through his eyes as a youngster, one can't help but feel deep empathy for the man he becomes.

I loved the emotion of the story. I was drawn in and hungry for closure. In the end I wanted more which is always a sign that I love a story.

I feel Clay understands people deeply. She does such an amazing job of relaying her characters complex thoughts. Towards the end I would have liked more of Bruce's narrating but I understand that Knox is the main storyteller.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

I loved this book until I found myself horrified by the direction of the story. I should have been prepared but I didn't understand how prophetic the title was, or that I should be prepared for true tragedy. The shock I felt could easily be avoided if you read a detailed review. I am glad I didn't know what was coming but it made the book so much harder to digest. I didn't want horrible things to happen to the family at the center of the book. I came to love them and I was distressed by the eventual tragedy which comes at the middle of the book.

Quindlen creates such full characters. A family: father, mother, three teenagers ( a set of boy fraternal twins and a daughter). Generic. And yet the characters are humanized, unique; they are the bold lines of a generic coloring book with the color filled in and flying off the page. The daughter is magical Ruby, who recovered from an eating disorder and displays enormous confidence and is willing to be different from her peers. She is artsy and a gifted writer. Part of her confidence and uniqueness is surprising considering the fact that she is also the girl who once had an eating disorder. Yes overachievers often try to seek control through not eating. My own experiences led me to find the extreme self-confidence inconsistent with the underlying causes of anorexia. But I suppose this characterization also made me consider the fact that anorexia is no longer the illness of a certain type of person.

I can also see how Quindlen's characters could seem cliche: anorexic daughter, depressed son and golden boy who excels at sports. I think possibly with the exception of Alex (the golden boy athlete) the characters are more fully developed.

Maybe I just chose to believe the characters were realistic and fully developed considering the fact that after reading it became so easy to see flaws in the development of the characters. the overworked mother who can never seem content. The parents who gave up their dreams for stable jobs that would support a family. But then again these are cliches for a reason.

I think mostly my problem with this novel was the resolution. It's hard to accept that the characters would simply exhibit such a level-headed acceptance of their loss. Yes, there was numbness and fear and disbelief and agonizing and seeking of professional help. But in the end the passage to normalcy seems too easy. i also wanted more of an explanation of some of the characters actions.

That being said, I devoured this book quickly. I didn't expect where it was going. And when I discovered the direction of the story i found myself so affected by the emotions created by such a tragedy. Even now I can't fathom how one recovers from such an event. Quindlen's attempt to figure this out is quite an exercise in creativity.

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom

I read this book probably around January or February. I loved it then and I can still vividly recall some of the characters.

Back then I wrote in my journal:
There is something magical about finding a new author you love. I'm not sure why I picked up Amy Bloom's latest short story collection. The colorful cover maybe. A recent pattern of reading short story collections possibly. I read the collection on a bus ride from NYC to DC, savoring the language, loving the character development, knowing I'd be requesting all of her works from the library. There are two sections of connected short stories--the first about middle aged professors who begin having an affair and the second about a white woman, a mother and stepmother to biracial children. In the latter, after her husband's death the woman's stepson seems to fall in love with her (she has been a part of his life since he was twelve). A surprising event occurs which will make some readers uncomfortable. And while it struck me as overly Oedipal and unbelievable, I came to see it as essential to the plot.

After initially writing the above paragrah, I learned that some of the Julia (the mother/step mother) and Lionel (the step son) stories were republished from Even a Blind Man Can See I Love You ( an earlier Bloom short story collection). I found it intriguing that Bloom revisited these characters, creating a full arc of family holidays, showing us the character's individual development, the development of the family and the way many things remained the same. I love that these characters were actually revisited over a passage of years.

I love Bloom's writing style and can't say enough how much I loved each of her stories. She captures the zeitgeist in her writing. She creates rich and believable characters. She uses language in such novel and evocative ways. Even almost seven months later I can recall specific details and passages. I can remember how happily I savored the language at the beginning of the first story in the collection. Back in January when I finished it I actually read the ending of one of the stories a loud to a group of friends gathered for a dinner party because I adored the language so much.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time (or at least that is what I thought when I read it almost two months ago). I devoured this book on the megabus to NYC (note: bolt bus is a thousand times better). I was immediately drawn in, but also immediately outraged. I found myself feeling deeply distressed, deeply angered by the injustice of the situation that Kim and her mother found themselves in. I literally had to call a friend at one point during my reading binge, as I felt so riled up by the unfair treatment suffered by the immigrants in this story. And that is the thing, the story was so human and real, that the injustice felt fresh and amplified. Knowing that Kwok's own story parallels the novel somewhat made it that much more heart-wrenching.

Girl in Translation provides a fascinating lens on immigrant life. I could imagine sharing it with my former students. While the main characters are Chinese the overall story speaks to an experiences shared by a variety of cultures. It speaks to the experience of immigrants who come to America expecting the modern day equivalent of streets paved with gold. It speaks to a world of abject poverty, where no one is there to translate the comments of your child's teachers or fight your landlord to ensure you have heat. Kim is left to be her mothers eyes and ears, and that leaves her in a position where she has no one to advocate for her against the elementary school teacher who belittles her or to help her show that she didn't cheat on an exam she scored incredibly high on. It gives her freedom but it also leaves her in a precarious position.

The book made me incredibly intrigued by Chinese culture. I love the way Kwok peppers the book with Chinese idioms and her detailed depictions of China town.

Laura Moriarty writes in her blurb: "I love how this book allowed me to see my own country, with all its cruelty and kindness, from a perspective so different from my own. I love how it invited me into the heart and mind of Kimberly Chang, whose hard choices will resonate with anyone who has sacrificed for a dream. Powerful storytelling kept me turning the pages quickly, but Kimberly's voice-so smart and clear-will stay with me for a long time."

Yes, yes, yes. What a different viewpoint on America, what a different viewpoint on the immigrant perspective.

Additionally, I found the chapters detailed to Kim's time at a fancy private school (while also working at a sweatshop) fascinating. Here is a child who didn't fall through the cracks in the New York City system (too many do) and somehow made it to a school that can provide her with a path to college, and there she is being accused of cheating when really she is just off the charts brilliant, while also finding a way to lose her OTHER status and being invited to a party by a rich popular boy who once teased her, and yet she is living a life as far on the spectrum as possible from these other students. The story seems to clearly enumerate that people are often able to hide their true realities and lead a double life and that it takes a totally different skill set for children of poverty to succeed in an upper class school.

I think I am still trying to figure out how I feel about the ending of the novel. Potentially I will have to read it again to figure out if I think the ending was too sudden or out of character. It didn't end the way I imagined but I was happy for that.

I highly recommend this book and would love to hear what others thought of it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I've been reading, and even writing reviews in my journal but sadly I've been a delinquent book blogger. I've had a post called Delinquency brewing for at least the last four months. Since October (and my last post) I estimate I read at least 70-80 books. So many still stand out. I've been wanting to share my thoughts on Between Here and April by Deborah Copaken Kogan, Desire Lines by Christina Baker, the Help by Kathryn Stockert, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow and Trouble by Kate Christensen. I wanted to write at length about my new found love of Amy Bloom's writing. I read all of her short story collections and the magnificent Away in just a couple of weeks. And my mind was brimming with so many thoughts after reading Hold Love Strong by Matthew Aaron Goldman. I loved the language, I was completely captivated by the story and it helped me to reexamine the pathology of urban poverty.

More recently, I couldn't wait to finish finals and read the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I have never been a big science reader but I found myself so intrigued by the story of Henrietta Lacks and the various ethical issues that surround the controversy. I tore myself away from the book during finals but happily read it as soon as I was done. I also read the latest Emily Giffin which was in many ways upsetting. My best friend who is about to get married was pretty distraught by the picture it painted of marriage and cheating.

I absolutely loved Girl in Translation and hope to post my thoughts about it soon, as well as my thoughts on Every Last One by Anna Quindlen and Stay by Allie Larkin. I hope to be more timely with recent updates especially about books that leave me brimming with thoughts. I am so very happy to be back to reading.