I surprised myself with the amount of reading that I got through in this short month. Unfortunately, I didn’t love alot of what I read, so I’m afraid that I’m not reliable for many good recommendations this month. In any case, here are my reviews. Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of these!
The Paris Wife, by Paula McClain, is the story of Ernest Hemmingway’s middle life, told from the perspective of his first wife, Hadley. This book was a bit difficult to get into, and I found myself hating the characters at various points.On the other hand, I really appreciate historical fiction, and loved the descriptions of ‘jazz age’ Paris. So this book was kind of a wash for me. Yes, I enjoyed it, but I don’t know that I would read it again. I wouldn’t warn anyone off of it, but I don’t know that I would recommend it particularly highly, as an excellent read or anything.
You may have read The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, in school- I think I read it for the first time in eleventh or twelfth grade, when it was brand new. The story is told from the perspective of a young girl in America in the 1960’s. Lily, with her housekeeper, runs away from her father, who is prone to violence. They run to the home of the Boatwright sisters, hoping they can tell Lily something about her mother, who died traumatically when Lily was very young. The story was lovely, and placed an emphasis on motherhood (not necessarily biological motherhood) but I found it very wordy, and sometimes hard to wade through the descriptions of the setting. Overall, a good book, but you might have to actually want to read it, if that makes sense.
Three Sisters, by Susan Mallery, was a pretty easy read- something that I might call chick lit. As the story goes, Andi (the main character) is a doctor and was left at the alter. She sought refuge in a small town, where she bought a house that was in a state of disrepair. As the house is rebuilt, so is Andi’s spirit. She finds romance with a pretty predictable character, they go through a difficult patch because she’s a doctor and he’s a blue collar worker…on so on and so forth. I didn’t dislike this book, but it’s not something I would recommend to a friends- basically, if you need something to read for a few hours that you don’t want to focus on, this is a book for you. Otherwise, maybe try harder to find a book of substance.
State of Wonder, Ann Patchett, was certainly a book with a bit of substance. Dr Singh is the main character, and she travels into the Amazon to find more information regarding the death of her colleague. She also reviews the work of Dr Swenson, who has discovered a local tribe of jungle inhabitants who are able to bear children well into their sixties and seventies. There are several layers to the plot of this book, so I never felt bored reading it. In fact, I’ll probably add it to my list of books to reread- there were several complex stories in this novel, and I’m certain that I’ll find new information in a second read. So, yes, I would happily recommend this book to a friend.
Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline, is also a book that I am confident in recommending to others. This book is a story within a story- first, Molly is helping an elderly woman clean out her attic, as a service project. As they sort through boxes, though, Vivian is distracted by her possessions, and we hear the story of her childhood. Vivian was an Irish immigrant whose family died when she was very young, and so was placed in a number of foster homes. The story of her childhood is heartbreaking, but the author is very good at drawing the reader in. This was a book that I couldn’t put down, I was so engaged.
The Secrets of Mary Bowser, Lois Leveen was another incredibly engaging novel. In fact, at one point my OverDrive app deleted this book, and I had to manically go back into the library to finish it! Mary is a very young slave in Richmond, Virginia. She and her mother are freed by their owner, but her father is not. Mary’s mother chooses to continue to work in Virginia and send Mary to Philadelphia to attend school. Mary gets mixed up in the work of the Underground Railroad and, after her mother dies, returns to Virginia to care for her father. This book is incredibly compelling- perhaps the best book that I read last month. I cannot recommend it more highly.
I also recommend Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight, which was a page turner in its own way. First, Kate is called to the school when her daughter, Amelia, is acting out. When she arrives at the school, though, it turns out that Amelia has actually committed suicide. The rest of the book is written from the alternating perspectives of Amelia and KAte, and reviews Amelia’s life leading up to her jump, and the efforts after her death to discover the truth of what happened. One of the themes in this book, bullying, is pretty timely. Many people would also compare this book with Gone Girl, due to the many mini-mysteries that must be solved in order to find out what really happened to Amelia. Overall, I found the ending to be a bit of a let down, but was really impressed by the complexity of the story, and would likely recommend this book to others.