Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore

I immediately handed this book off to my mother as I knew she would enjoy it. It was interesting to read about grown children moving in with their parents as I am infinitely interested by family dynamics. While reading the novel I kept thinking about how the story would develop differently if the family was Jewish instead of Catholic. My mother actually called me while she was reading to exclaim: "You didn't read this closely." She was remarking on the fact that the mother felt more attached to her son than her daughters whereas my Jewish mother always recites: "A sons is a son until he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter for life." So as I mentioned there are some clear cultural differences.

I think this novel also raises some interesting questions about gender dynamics in a modern world. The mother at the heart of the novel is upset to find out her son will be staying home with his daughter and not his wife. She thinks her daughter-in-law will be missing out and doesn't seem to understand that this makes the most sense financially. Her eldest daughter (who stays home with her children) raises the point that it didn't bother her that she paid for her expensive schooling and now she is staying home with her children. It was interesting to consider how some gender expectations persist. My father was a "house dad" so it I suppose staying home with children isn't something I naturally assume I will do. And yet I can imagine wanting to.

I most empathized with the youngest daughter who was jealous of what others had in their relationships although I think we have very different personalities. At times it was hard to accept Rachel's destructive choices and yet they came across as deeply human. Sometimes its easier to run away from our problems than to tackle them head on.

I think this may be one of my favorite reads of the summer.

Friday, May 27, 2011

First Husband by Laura Dave

I loved both of Laura Dave's first two novels. I think I have a special kinship for Dave, Julie Buxbaum and Alison Scott Winn, three Jewish woman authors who attended my Alma Mater - the University of Pennsylvania (I suppose I hope to one day fall into the same category as these three engaging authors).

I wasn't aware Dave had a new book out, but as soon as I exited my finals haze and discovered this fact I download the First Husband on my Kindle (even though I've owned a Kindle since September I still mostly read library books). I finished the book in one evening, and felt completely taken in by the story. I actually immediately started rereading the book once I finished it (something I've honestly never done before).

While I'd say there are details of this novel that seemed unrealistic to me, it was exactly what I needed after a grueling finals period. I fell in love with the characters in the novel and even freezing Willamsburg, Massachusetts. I was particularly taken by the character of Griffin, Annie's "first husband," and his genius Phd brother Jessie. I love how Annie and Griffin met and how their love spiraled so fast. And I love that the real world suddenly crept in. I love the rapport that developed between Annie and Jessie and found the description of the small town life in Massachusetts particularly charming.

This book made me think about how couples meet in the modern world. Annie and Griffin met randomly at 2 am in a hotel bar. Annie and her previous boyfriend met because Annie went to college with the previous boyfriend's sister. Most of my friends met their significant others in college or through friends. Most people I know who are dating use online dating. I wish more people met through a fun twist of fate.

Some of What I've Been Reading During My Hiatus (from Book-Blogging)

I have been reading, even if I haven't been book blogging. Here is a list of some of the books I read over the past few months (those that I can recall):

Secret Daughter -Shilpi Somaya Gowda
The Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown
Skinny - Diana Spechler
The Four Mrs. Bradwells - Meg Waite Clayton
Half Jew - Susan Jacoby
You Know When The Men Are Gone - Siobhan Fallon
Bent Road - Lori Roy
The Silver Boat - Luanne Rice
Swim Back to Me - Ann Hood
The Other Life - Ellen Meister
Three Stages of Amazement - Carol Edgarian
Soloman's Oak - Jo-Ann Mapson
The False Friend - Myla Goldberg
These Things Hidden - Heather Gudenkauf
Look Again - Lisa Scottoline
Left Neglected - Lisa Genova
Georgia's Kitchen - Jenny Nelson (on Kindle)
If You Lived Here - Dana Sachs (on Kindle)
Jump at the Sun - Kim Mclarin (on Kindle)
A Scattered Life - Karen McQuestion (on Kindle)
Stay With Me: A Novel - Sandra Rodriguez Barron (on Kindle)
One Day - David Nicholls (on Kindle)
Simply From Scratch - Alicia Bessette (on Kindle)
Prospect Park West - Amy Sohn (sister-in-law-to-be's library book)
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky - Heidi Durrow (re-read)
What I Thought I Knew - Alice Eve Cohen (re-read)
Outcasts United - Warren St. John
Wherever You Go - Joan Leegant
The Tenth Song - Naomi Ragen
My Before and After Life - Risa Miller
My Hollywood - Mona Simpson
The Neighbors Are Watching - Deborah Ginsburg

I highly recommend: (fiction) Soloman's Oak, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Wherever You Go, My Hollywood; (short stories): You Know When The Men Are Gone, Swim Back to Me; (non-fiction) Half Jew, What I Thought I Knew and Outcasts United.