Saturday, November 26, 2016

Five Books

I'm still recovering from this bronchitis, but am certainly no longer the wretch of a human being I was a mere week ago.  One thing I was able to do a lot of while I was sick, though?  Read!  Here's what preoccupied me from my own miserable self last week.

The Crops Look Good by Sara DeLuca

In the introduction, author/editor Sara DeLuca writes that this is a project that's been in the back of her mind to do for years and years, but didn't believe she could do it justice until now.  I think the prospect of going through stacks and stacks of your family's letters spanning decades of time and editing them for clarity, story flow, and to prevent repetition and boredom seems absolutely daunting.  She did it handily, however, as I compulsively read this book full of letters from a mother and siblings to and from the daughter who moved away from the Wisconsin family dairy farm in 1923.  DeLuca makes you care about the family whose voices form these letters, hoping that this next letter includes a note from Helen, that Margaret will be able to come home for a visit soon, and that mother Olava will get a break today before she works herself to death.

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

When I read the synopsis of this book, I really didn't know if I was going to be able to get through it.  A mother (hey, I'm a mother!) goes on a walk with the woods with her eight-year-old son (wait, I have an eight-year-old son), he asks if he can walk ahead to an oft-visited spot (our kids do this all the time), and she goes through the mental struggle every parent is familiar with:  Do I let them go?  It's not far, but I won't see them for close to a minute.  I need to keep them safe.  But not coddle them.  They need their independence.  But still be safe!

So she lets him go.  (I've let ours go!)

When she arrives at the destination, when he's been out of sight for mere moments, her son is not there.  She can't find him.  He is missing.

What follows is the investigation into the disappearance of this boy and into the lives of everyone around him.  I was haunted by this book until I finished it.  I couldn't stop thinking about it, wondering who the heck took this boy?  Complete stranger?  Someone he knew- this character or that one?  When recommending it at the library I've compared it to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, but when I say that I mean in terms of tension and story grip, for I find every last character in both of those books completely loathsome, and if I have no one to root for, I can't like a book.  While terribly flawed and imperfect, you still understand and feel compassion for the characters in this, Ms. Macmillan's debut novel.

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

This book came across my goodreads feed (the only social media that's felt safe to be on since the election), recommended by Cassi.  Alice Hoffman is one of those authors whose work I've always felt slightly ashamed about never having read; Practical Magic has been on my To Read list for a long, long time. The next day I was processing new books at the library, and this came across the desk.  I swiped it with zero remorse before any patrons could get their paws on it, then zoomed through it, both because I did feel a little guilty at my book hoarding ways but also because it was a terrific story.  I'm not going to try to describe the protagonist because I don't think I can in just a few words without making her sound thoroughly unlikable, but she gets her hooks in you early on in the book, and won't relinquish her hold on you until the very (satisfying) end- but fair warning, you'll do your fair share of frustrated yelling at her in the pages in between.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

This book was recommended to me by two separate women at the library, so when I finally picked it up, I knew to expect a can't-put-it-down read/ perplexing mystery, as that's how they described it.  What I wasn't expecting was the deep, heavy nostalgia that suffused me every time I read Ms. Pickard's descriptions of the setting and my home state of Kansas.  She gets everything spot on:  the smells, the sound, the wind, the storms.  It was beautiful in such an unexpected way.  Outside of all that, it was an excellent mystery, as all my guesses as to the outcome of the plot and the eventual villain were dead wrong, and I was delighted by it.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

This is another book I had recommended to me at the library, but when I brought it home, Adelaide was rather disgruntled to find me reading it; she had told me how good it was several months prior and I had not acted on her recommendation.  But look:  Adelaide reads so much, and she tells me about more books that I Should Read than I could ever hope to actually get through.
She was right about this one, though.  It's a really beautiful book, about a bright, funny girl with a facile mind and the body that imprisons it due to cerebral palsy.  You will want her teacher to see her for who she really is, to hug her neighbor, to physically harm that mean girl, and to cheer for how brave she has to be every day.  If Adelaide hadn't already insisted I read it, I would be doing the same to her, as any book that changes how you look at disabilities is one worth forcing on your loved ones.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these reviews. Right now I can't seem to read anything but children's poetry, Alexander McCall Smith, and John Steinbeck's lighter stuff. Your list gives me hope. And speaking of hope, I hope you can get rid of that bronchitis!


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