I'm Lynn, and I've always loved to read. These days I mostly read literary fiction and mysteries, social science and spirituality.
In her masterful new collection of linked stories Natural History, Barrett depicts both the natural world and the human heart with wonder, tenderness, and deep understanding. Women trying to reconcile responsibilities to family and community with their own ambitions is a central theme here. (Two of the characters in this collection first appeared in Barrett’s National Book Award-winning Ship Fever, out in a beautiful new edition this month. But it’s not necessary to read Ship Fever first if you missed it—although I wouldn’t discourage you, either!)
"Beautiful stories about the wonder and work of science...In Barrett's hands, science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange, and thrilling fictional material." – The Boston Globe
“The title novella is devastating: as with every story here, you enter right into it, and cannot entirely leave it behind.” – The New Yorker
“[Andrea Barrett's] work stands out for its sheer intelligence, its painstaking attempt to discern and describe the world's configuration. The overall effect is quietly dazzling.” – Thomas Mallon, The New York Times Book Review
In The Marriage Portrait, O’Farrell builds a rich interior world while vividly re-creating an entire era. The era is the Italian Renaissance, with all its brocade and ornament, intrigue and pomp, blood and lust and ambition. The interior world is that of the real-life Lucrezia di Medici, married at 15 to an older man to cement the two families’ dynastic ambitions. History tells us Lucrezia is dead within a year, perhaps by her husband’s hand. But in O’Farrell’s hands, Lucrezia is no mere pawn—she is ferocious and capable of anything! I loved this rich, immersive, and very, very suspenseful book!
In this quietly radiant new novel, a woman named Lucy recounts her complex, tender relationship with William, her longtime friend, confidant, and ex-husband. William is struggling with recent changes in his life, including a stunning revelation about his late mother. This book is full of feeling and gentle wisdom. Another must-read from Elizabeth Strout!
Mbue’s quietly devastating second novel has really stayed with me! In the African village of Kosawa, an American oil company’s leaking pipelines are poisoning the land and children. The government is corrupt and fails to take any action, so the villagers strike back, sparking a series of small revolutions that have an outsized impact. Thula, a village girl with the benefit of some education, becomes a charismatic revolutionary and a heroine. Beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking!
Forget the title--just focus on this being the latest from Rebecca Solnit. Her fine intellect is on full display, probing the connections between politics, freedom & justice, and trees, nature & gardens. It’s also Solnit’s tribute to an essayist of an earlier generation she deeply admires. When she says “Clarity, precision, accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness are aesthetic values to [Orwell]," she is also describing herself!
Sam, a middle-aged woman, unhappy in her marriage and her middle-aged body, on a whim buys an old house in another part of town and moves into it--alone.
“It was wrecked. It was hers,” describes Sam’s home, her body, and her frayed relationships. Exasperated, insomniac, ineffective, she scrubs and smokes and thinks. But then she reaches out, with all her funny, searching, unpredictable self . . . I loved this!!
Doerr expertly weaves together stories set in three different locations and time periods that share a basic optimism for humanity—that in the end, the harm and damage we do does not overwhelm our capacity for kindness and bravery. They are also about the power of stories to bind us together, and the importance of keeping those stories alive! Glorious!
An interpreter at the Hague is assigned to a war crimes trial involving the former president of a war-torn African country. She comes to recognize her role(s)--(human being, translator)--in more and more nuanced ways. She vanishes, she connects, she sees and can’t bear to see. She begins to understand that criminals and banality are everywhere. Haunting, interior, precise!
By all means—buy this for your dad for Christmas! But if you don’t also read it yourself, you’re really missing out! Towles is such a terrific storyteller. And this book has it all—including wonderful characters and a plot full of surprises and detours. I was rooting for the two brothers, and their ragtag mix of friends, all the way! “A mischievous, wise and wildly entertaining novel.”
Featuring characters mostly drawn from life, confronting illness, loss, violence, and death, this exquisite collection of pieces defies classification. Are they essays? Stories? A mix? It doesn’t matter! Beard combines intuition, memory, and observation and arranges them with such precision that the reader sees everything with new eyes. One of my Top 5 books of 2021!
How can a woman who never existed come back to haunt you?
Gerry Anderson has been having trouble sleeping. He's unwell--bed-bound and befuddled by painkillers--and has only his night nurse and his assistant for company. But what's really troubling him are the phone calls--from a woman claiming to be the 'real' Aubrey. But that can't be--Aubrey's just a character Gerry made up in a book years ago. Is Gerry succumbing to the kind of dementia that killed his mother? Or has his long-overdue moment of reckoning finally arrived?
This first novel by an Indian journalist probes the secrets of a shantytown, where families live below a smoggy sky in tin-roofed huts. When first one, then several, classmates go missing, three 9-year-old friends begin a search, despite terrified parents, school bullies, and an indifferent police force. We witness the unfolding of a tragedy through the eyes of children, who are having their first experience with an unjust and complicated wider world. But the seriousness is successfully balanced by moments of real joy and exuberance.
Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family–a Thai wife and two kids living in Queens. Devastated by this revelation, Ethan’s mother spends a year abroad and returns to New York much changed. Meanwhile, Ethan becomes involved in a love triangle of his own. Intimate and immediate, this novel proves that no one is better than Joan Silber at revealing the hidden links that connect people. This is a mesmerizing story of love, lies, the consequences of betrayal, and the possibility of finding peace.
Is Abigail, a once-promising painter experiencing a typical midlife crisis, hallucinating about her lost youth? Or is the problem neurological? Or could she really be traveling back in time and interacting with her 22-year-old self? Woven throughout are the reflections and communication of two scientists and a police officer, trying to solve the mystery from the vantage point of the following year, allowing past, present and future to converge. You Again is an unboxing of memory, desire, and regret, and a secret that lies buried in Abigail’s past like an undetonated bomb.
In Summer, Smith contrasts our current pandemic world with a period of the past—WW2—and finds seemingly unlimited commonalities. Characters in both time periods share alarm at the rise of right-wing nationalism, xenophobia, and the terrible treatment of refugees. Belief in science and the power of art to help people understand their world are also common threads. But, most hopefully, these characters respond with heart and decency to crises, both personal and global. This is my favorite of the Seasonal Quartet, and it can DEFINITELY be read as a stand-alone! One of my favorite books of 2020!
A white family’s getaway to a rented house in the Hamptons is disrupted by the late-night arrival of an older Black couple, who claim to own the house and ask to stay the night, having escaped a mysterious blackout in NYC. They’re all trying to figure out why there’s no cell signal, wifi, or cable when the terrifying noises start, and strange animals appear in the yard. With an apocalypse looming outside their walls, the two families must endure an uncomfortable dark night of the soul. Leave the World Behind is a thriller that asks uncomfortable questions about family, race, class, and what matters most.
A propulsive, richly entertaining novel about two adventure-seeking brothers, the enemies who threaten them, and the women they love. The women include Ursula the Great, a vaudeville singer who performs with a live cougar, and the real-life union organizer and firebrand Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. The whole cast of characters is remarkable--suffragists and labor unionists, cops and industrialists. Atmospherically set (mostly) in 1909 Spokane, a city that was doubling in size every few years and was equal parts big city and frontier town. A powerful and moving tour de force!
Biss is financially secure for the first time in her life and has even just purchased her first home. From this vantage point--via short pieces of memoir, history, and cultural criticism--Biss explores her personal experience of class and money in America and the meaning of concepts like value, work, and service. The questions are uncomfortable, but her thinking is as clear-eyed and insightful as ever!
I loved this book about a woman and her relationships to various kinds of plants and animals. But it’s also about being a brown person in society, a parent, and a daughter. You will find essays on a wide range of plants and animals, from the dragon fruit to the narwhal, and from the corpse flower to the axolotl--all of which are gorgeously illustrated. Her writing urges everyone to find beauty and connection in the natural wonders in our own lives.
Just before Christmas of 1957, DI St. John Strafford is summoned to Wexford county to investigate--a parish priest has be found murdered and mutilated in the home of the aristocratic Osborne family. The Osbornes, like Strafford, are Protestant, but behind the scenes, the Catholic Church pulls nearly every lever of power. Strafford is determined to identify the murderer, but when his own deputy goes missing it becomes a race against the clock to solve the mysteries before the community's secrets, like the snowfall, obliterate everything.
The writing is spare and beautiful, and somehow the author is able to use it to create characters and situations that are fully real. A tour-de-force!
A husband and wife, Frank and Lil, both lost a parent in childhood—Lil lost her mother in the 1942 fire at the Cocoanut Grove in Boston, and Frank lost his father in a train wreck in North Carolina in 1943. Other characters include Shelley and her son Harvey, who now live in the childhood home that Frank, in his older age, has become obsessed with. Some of the characters have a lot invested in keeping long-buried secrets buried, while others feel it’s finally time to set the record straight. I loved how McCorkle weaves real-life events (the fire and the train wreck) into this story! Excellent!
I loved this! It made me think a lot about corruption and lies, and the misplaced faith we sometimes still have in "the system." I'll never think about witness testimony in court the same way again.
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of the New South. She is an emerging artist, and he is a young executive. But before they can settle into their life together, Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime he did not commit. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the hearts of people who are victims of our current mass incarceration crisis but must somehow face the future. A profound and stirring book!
The perfect summer read! An engrossing story, a beautiful setting, and surprisingly contemporary in the issues explored.
For the old math Professor, time stopped in 1975--the year he suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost the ability to remember anything that happened more than 80 minutes before. The Housekeeper and her son do more than take care of this gentle, diminished man—despite all odds, they become his friends. This is an elegant and enchanting story about finding joy in the moment while respecting the power of memory. (And the math formulas and baseball stats just add to the fun!)
Written when Chang was only in her 20s, these poignant but unsettling stories are set in 1940s Hong Kong and Shanghai. These are tales of love and longing set in a time when Chinese customs are fading, women’s roles are changing, and the effects of war and the West are never far away. Chang’s female characters have rich, well-developed emotional lives, but don’t expect to like them all--they can be treacherous!
This is the story of both the Los Angeles Central Library and of all libraries everywhere. Everything you’ve ever wondered about books and libraries is likely covered here, from how long it takes for a book to burn to how do library systems decide where to open new branches. But it’s also a terrific true crime story: Was the 1986 fire arson, and can it be proven? A terrific read!
Retired history professor Nell Painter decides to enroll in art school. In this memoir of her time there, she explores the idea of starting over, as well as how the words art and artist are defined and who gets to decide? She feels left out much of the time—she’s older, a woman, and African American. This book was so thought provoking! And after reading it I enjoyed looking up all the artists she talked about. Now in paperback!
French has stepped away from her terrific Dublin Murder Squad series to bring us this intricate, nuanced novel — equal parts crime thriller and psychological study — about an arrogant art gallery publicist named Toby and his family’s possible involvement in an unsolved murder. By the end, Toby has to question everything he’s ever known about himself, his family, and his history. Brilliant, and timely, too! Now in paperback!
I loved this! Transcription is laugh-out-loud funny and paced like a spy thriller, but is also a twisty tale (including a surprise ending!) in which many of the characters have multiple identities and no one’s loyalties can be assumed. Set partly during WWII, it also explores consequences and reckonings after the war. Historical, comedic, feminist—what a combination!
This eloquent novel is a tremendous work of empathy and imagination, featuring a Barbados slave boy in the 1830s who flees barbaric cruelty and embarks on a life of adventure that is wondrous, melancholy and strange. Unique and captivating! One of my favorite books of 2018!
“As fresh and deliciously strange as the first days of filmmaking it so dazzlingly brings to life, The Electric Hotel is utterly absorbing, astonishingly inventive, and richly imagined. Dominic Smith is a wizard.”—Andrea Barrett
The Electric Hotel is a portrait of a man entranced by the magic of moviemaking, a luminous romance, and a whirlwind trip through early cinema—a must read for anyone who loves Hollywood and silent films.
If you’ve had a rough year, take comfort and inspiration from this book! After going through a bumpy patch himself, Ross Gay decided to write an essay every day, each one focusing on something delightful. The result is this collection of warm, thoughtful reflections on such things as tomato plants, high fives, and airport security. Keep this book beside you at all times for brief moments of emotional respite. Definitely one of my delights of 2019.
Faye, a divorced mother of two sons who is a writer attends a literary festival in southern Italy. Her inner life is illuminated via encounters with others, and her cool scrutiny turns to issues of parenthood, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of human interaction. Cusk’s recent novels, when taken together, describe in haunting detail what it’s like to walk through the world after your life goes up in flames. One of my favorite books of 2019, now in paperback!
This is the story of three sisters growing up in the countryside near Athens before WWII--Maria, the oldest, sexually bold but also eager to settle down; the beautiful but distant Infanta; and the rebellious Katerina. Over three summers, the girls share and keep secrets, fall in and out of love, try to figure out the people around them as well themselves. A big-hearted coming-of-age story, beautifully told.
Ondaatje (the author of The English Patient) has already proven his mastery with characters on the periphery of war. Here he tells the story of a London family fractured by Allied intelligence work. Post-WWII London is seen through the eyes of a teenage boy cast adrift among a motley band of adults and caught in the slipstream of their sometimes-illegal activities. The city is a bombed-out zone where fates and identities change with every shift in perspective. Definitely one of my favorite books of 2018!
Both epic in scope and intensely personal, this is a story of a generation of Chicagoans devastated by the AIDS epidemic. Yale works hard to land a collection for the art gallery he works for. Fiona’s mission, after losing her brother Nico, one of the disease’s earliest victims, is to be nurse and witness. Richard is the photographer who documents one of the great tragedies of our time. Essential reading!
This is the story of Thomas McNulty, an Irish cross-dressing soldier in the Indian wars, whose life work is to keep safe his lover, John Cole, and the Sioux child they’ve made a home for. The judges who awarded it the Costas prize called it “A miracle of a book – both epic and intimate – that manages to create spaces for love and safety in the noise and chaos of history.” I couldn’t agree more! Gorgeously written!
Comprised partly of quirky interior musings and vivid descriptions of life in rural Ireland, Pond is utterly original! Bennett writes as if in a lush dream, with frequent circling back to images and ideas that particularly intrigue her, esp. the idea of solitude. By turns hilarious, melancholy, and poignant, this is a captivating meditation on home and community.
A deadly explosion the night before a wedding leaves only one survivor, the bride’s mother, June. Within days, June—completely distraught—has fled town without a word to anyone. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving connections based on heartbreak. Beautifully written—a gorgeous book! Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Strout or Let the Great World Spin.
When Vivian, who never realized her early promise as an equestrian, meets Mercury, a magnificent horse with a tragic history, she becomes obsessed in a way that her staid husband cannot understand. A riveting psychological study of human nature and the ways we see, both literally and figuratively.
When a professor at the Sûreté academy is found dead, with a copy of a whimsical old map (decorated with a snowman, a pyramid, and a cow) by his body, Gamache and Beauvoir must race against the clock to prevent more people from being killed and to stop the rampant police corruption at its source.
When the police find human bones on a beach, DCI Harry Nelson asks forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway for help. Are the bones Iron Age, or more recent? Could they be related to a cold case that has haunted Nelson for years? This is the first book of a terrific series with a strong sense of place—the desolate marshes, and the tides and cliffs—are a real presence here.
A flawless blend of police procedural, psychological suspense, and gothic horror. Detective Harbinder Kaur is a 35-year-old closeted gay Sikh living with her parents, who are desperate for grandchildren—which is complicated enough. But when an English teacher at her former school is brutally murdered, she has a faculty full of suspects and a crime scene that’s reputed to be haunted with the ghost of an author whose most famous story seems to be the inspiration for the murderer’s actions. An absolutely terrific standalone mystery! One of my favorite books of 2019!
As Commissaire Georges Dupin struggles to unravel the murder of a very old local man, he spends as much time consulting art critics as the usual crew of forensics and pathology professionals. Dupin walks a fine line of insubordination to his superiors (hence the work reassignment from Paris to the hinterland of Brittany), and even his "team" is often left in the dark while he works a case. The first of a series set in Brittany, France. I'm in love!
Note: If you like the untamed coastal setting of an Elly Griffith mystery, the Francophone charms of Louise Penny’s work, and/or Donna Leon’s ability to give an American reader exactly the right amount of information about a beautiful foreign locale, this could be the next series for you! (Alert: there are many typos, but if I can ignore them, then you can, too!)
Ill and confined to a bed, the author begins to observe a tiny snail that lives in a pot of violets on her bedside table. What follows is an oddly compelling tale of natural history, human nature, and companionship. Her witty and astute observations, as well as the scientific information she provides about these tiny creatures, are fascinating, and the peacefulness the reader feels while reading the book is a real gift.
The latest book by Neil Abramson--tightly plotted, humane, and eye-opening. A must-read for all animal lovers!
I think Solnit is one of our most important public intellectuals working today. In this wide-ranging essay collection, she examines culture (especially music), war and natural disasters, the environment, and social responsibility. She’s a beautiful writer and so clear-eyed.
Sophia, a young commercial artist, marries Charles, an unsuccessful painter, in Depression-era England. Their story is a vivid portrait of bohemian life, with precise details of class and place. At first Sophia is ill equipped to cope with having babies and raising children, while being the family’s sole support. They live a chaotic, hand-to-mouth existence. Sophia’s unique voice is intriguingly matter-of-fact, esp. on gender politics. Such an eye-opening read!
A must-read book (from a much-loved author!), esp. if you're planning a trip to P-town!
This is a terrific book—the writing is beautiful, and O'Farrell makes her characters and setting come to life. This is the story of two women living in the same city, London, but fifty years apart. The first story focuses on the bohemian artistic movement in Soho in the 1950s and a young women named Lexie, a journalist working for an arts publication. In the present is Elina, a young Finnish painter living in London who has just had her first child. We experience along with Elina the shock of new motherhood, the rawness of the emotions and the exhaustion of it. And, yes, the two story connect—I won't say any more!
I loved this book! Four adult siblings along with assorted children, spouses, and a young friend, spend a few weeks together in their grandparernts' crumbling house, trying to decide what to do with it. Their time together reveals the cracks just beneath the surface of their seemingly steady lives—memory, love, envy, and nostalgia are all part of the mix. Perfect for fans of Rachel Cusk or Kate Atkinson.
This book is about both the craft of writing and the writing life. Rosenblatt, a successful writer himself, has been teaching writing for more than 40 years. In this book he tells the story of a fictional class of students (composites of real students he has taught over the years) as they create short stories, essays, and poems. We see how a wide range of work is considered—the questions asked, the ideas exchanged, and the banter and fun. Rosenblatt's tremendous intellectual spark and humor make this a joy to read. Highly recommended for anyone considering going into an MFA program—or anyone who is curious about writing and writers.
Following the sudden death of their 37-year-old daughter, Amy, Rosenblatt and his wife help raise the three young children she left behind. Doubtless there were days when the idea of just getting up each morning must have seemed impossible, and yet they did it, and their story of perseverence is a gift to all of us. This quiet but beautiful book contains innumerable small moments lovingly stitched together into a story of strength and courage.
Peter has grown dissatisfied with his life—he feels disconnected from his wife and grown daughter, and his career is stalled. Although he is an art dealer, he believes his life lacks beauty, and he longs for it. When Mizzy, Peter's wife's younger brother, comes to stay with them, Peter realizes he is attracted to him and begins to think of Mizzy as Rebecca's younger, more beautiful self come back to him. Peter is completely conscious that this situation is complicated on many, many levels, which only adds to the confusion, frustration, and despair he feels. Cunningham writes beautifully (as always!) here of desire and yearning, youth and middle age, art and beauty, happiness and complacency, self-identity, and sexual fluidity.
This book is smart, funny, and sly. The book opens with Joe and Joan Castleman traveling to a ceremony where Joe will be awarded a prestigious literary prize. But on the plane, as Joan looks back over the course of their marriage, we learn that she is actually the more gifted writer. So why is it that he's the one being awarded a literary prize? Wolitzer's dry wit and crisp pacing propel us toward a brilliant finish—and a devastating message about the price (for women) of love and the seeming impenetrability of the male ego. Wolizter clearly has great fun satirizing the academic and literary worlds but never lets anyone—neither the men nor the women—off the hook.
When an earthquake hits, nine men and women are trapped in the Indian consulate. Two are consulate employees, and the others were there to get visas. While the building slowly crumbles, and the area where they're trapped begins to flood, survival becomes an issue. To pass the time while they await rescue, Uma, a college student, suggests that they each tell an “important story” from their lives. The diverse characters and their tales—of dreams and disappointments, of youth and old age—come vividly to life. A rich book full of great wisdom and compassion.
In masterfully melodious and image-rich language, Urquhart weaves an entrancing saga of four generations of women that evokes both the spiritual and political sides of the Irish as a people. As a young girl in Ireland, Mary is taken "away" to the faeries after a young sailor dies in her arms. Mary eventually marries, has a family, and starts a new life in the Canadian wilderness, but continues to hear the call of her sailor and ultimately leaves her family to live the rest of her life alone by a lake. If you have never read this acclaimed Canadian writer, the time is now! Sadly, many of her books have recently gone out of print. Literally, read her while you can! She is a treasure.
In this beautifully crafted first novel, the unfolding of the characters moves the story along. The focus is Fenno McLeod, the oldest of three sons, a transplant from Scotland to New York City. The book is divided into three sections, each told form a different point of view and each giving the reader a different perspective on Fenno—his father's, his own, and a stranger's. The book is filled with witty, intelligent characters who must deal with the fundamental issues of life. I especially loved the author's nuanced treatment of family life. As one reviewer said, "if you want a book as messy, vivid and believable as real life, this is the book for you."
I loved this book focusing on the Bradshaw family—three brothers, their spouses and children, and their aging parents. Thomas, the novel's protagonist, is an elusive character—one we are trying to figure out to the very end. All the characters' complex interior lives unfold gradually, and we get to know them via the small moments of their days—working, picking up children from school, planning family events. The relationships (and power struggles) between the characters are also brilliantly realized, whether between husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, or inlaws. Cusk's characterizations are, as always, razor sharp throughout. Now out in paperback!
I can't say it any better than these reviewers: "[Thompson's] at home anywhere and everywhere. She's at home in the skins of women and men, young and old, losers and winners, tyrants and victims, flakes and dupes and dopes and geniuses and soldiers and bikers and moms. Her characters hail from small towns and big cities. In her sparkling and sometimes heartbreaking short stories . . . Thompson channels all kinds of personalities, but she does it so artfully, with such supple, unaffected grace." -Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune "Thompson takes tragic, ordinary figures and lifts them to the sublime in prose that's often as funny as it is sad." -Jeanne Kolker, Wisconsin State Journal
This wonderfully funny and warm novel explores the tensions between motherhood and work. The story focuses on four women, all vividly drawn, who have been stay-at-home moms for a while but are now considering going back to work. Making this decision involves considering a whole array of difficult questions, including: Was staying home the right thing to do? Will I have to start my career over because I've been away so long? The characters all realize they are incredibly lucky to have this choice, but the anxiety and frustration they feel are very real all the same. A wonderful book-simultaneously wry and thoughtful.
It's New York City, the summer of 1974. A Frenchman walks back and forth across a cable strung between the newly completely World Trade Towers. People look up and see the tight-rope walker, and this shared experience becomes a part of them. Beyond all expectations, the characters in this story—a radical priest, an opera lover who lives in the Bronx, a judge, a young artist, several recent immigrants and several prostitutes—come together on that day. Do things happen for a reason? Or is at all just chance? The best thing I've read in ages. Read it!!!! Winner of the National Book Award.
Jeanette Walls originally planned to write a biography of her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, but there were too many gaps in the story, so she turned the material into a novel. Lily was born in 1901 and lived in a dirt dugout in west Texas for the first 10 years of her life. From there she went on to be a horse breaker and rancher, schoolteacher, wife and mother, ruthless poker player, airplane pilot, and Prohibition dodger. (She and her husband sold bootleg liquor from bottles hidden under the baby's crib.) Lily is a spirited heroine, fiercely outspoken against hypocrisy and prejudice. (Twice her outspokenness cost her a teaching job.) Walls gives Lily a plainspoken voice, but she is an indomitable, irrepressible character who carves her own destiny.
Olive is a retired schoolteacher in Crosby, Maine, who is stubborn, prickly, and opinionated. In the course of these thirteen stories, Olive's experiences and relationships (with her husband and grown son, her neighbors and ex-students) touch and change her. Sometimes painfully, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life. She not only comes to realize how very lucky she has been, but she also begins to understand and empathize with the plights of those around her. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires. A really terrific book!
Tinkers opens with the final, disjointed thoughts of George Washington Crosby as he lies dying, surrounded by his family, in the New England home he built by hand. We learn not only his remarkable story but also that of his father, a tinker who sold his wares all over rural New England. Both father and son are drawn to nature and believe life to be a great mystery. However, the father is widely believed to be crazy (even by some in his own family), at least in part due to his epileptic seizures. The story is tender but also powerful and moving. As one reviewer said, "The real star here is Harding's language, which dazzles whether he's describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, or the many engaging side characters who populate the book." Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize!
The book opens in Sarajevo in 1996. Under the watchful eyes of many guards and officials, Hanna Heath, a 30-year-old book conservator, is about to examine the precious Sarajevo Haggadah, a lavishly illuminated 15th-century manuscript that dates from a time when Jewish belief was firmly against illustrations of any kind. Alternating with the story of Hanna's life and work on the manuscript, we are transported back to Sarajevo, Vienna, Venice, and Seville and learn the story of the Haggadah's creation and survival through centuries of purges and wars. This is a meticulously crafted work with beautifully realized characters and a richly textured plot. Storytelling at its very best!
The narrator, a successful playwright, is staying in Molly Fox's house in Dublin while Molly is out of town. Molly is a celebrated stage actress, a woman who seems mousy and nondescript in person but is inspired and charismatic onstage. The narrator is hoping to spend her time in Molly's cozy house working on a new play (something she's been struggling with lately), but she keeps being interrupted by people who stop by, not realizing that Molly is out of town. The conversations, and the memories that the conversations trigger, reveal the personal histories of the narrator, Molly, and a close circle of friends and family—Andrew, an art historian they've both known since college; the playwright's brother Tom, a priest; and Molly's troubled brother Fergus. This is a beautifully written and insightful story of relationships, identity, and home.
Wolf-like Katri Kling insinuates herself and her younger brother, Mats, into the life of the wealthiest woman in their small town in Finland, a reclusive painter and children's book artist. Katri persuades Anna, who had been a beneficent, trusting soul, that the world is not as she had thought. Is an artist's vision a kind of self-deception? And who is lying to whom? (And when do the ends justify the means?) This book is so unsentimental and understated, and the tension so fine, you will have flown through most of it before you realize just how dark the story is. I loved it! (Note: the book begins with a wonderful essay by Ali Smith, which I recommend you read after finishing the novel, not before.)
A terrific collection of short stories. As one reviewer put it, "Superior writing and well-crafted stories that touch on contemporary family issues and the inner lives of characters grappling with life-changing forces and events." My only gripe is that this reviewer forgot to mention the characters--who, despite their diversity, are all real and finely observed and often seem to communicate directly to the reader through their vivid dialogue. Now out in paperback!
This is an unflinching memoir of a not-very-happy childhood. Small's mother likely had a difficult childhood and was cold and distant to her son. His radiologist father subjected him to experimental x-rays for minor ailments, leading to cancer, which his family failed to have treated for years. Some of the most harrowing moments contain no words at all. Through the drawings, the reader sees Small's fear and anger and feels it, too. Although this is a deeply sad story, there are funny and sweet moments as well. Most importantly, Small is not judgmental and seeks to understand the people and events that made up his childhood.
Three generations of a large family reunite in Dublin for the wake of Liam, the black sheep. Family secrets (some quite tragic) are revealed one by one, but doubts and uncertainty remain as well. Did the tragic events actually occur? Enright shows us that memory is fragile and that sometimes the will to forget the truth-or to hide it-is very great. A terrific book! Winner of the Booker Prize and a New York Times Notable Book of 2007.
This is the first book in Donna Leon's terrific detective Brunetti mystery series set in Venice. The setting is La Fenice opera house; the victim, world-renowned conductor Helmut Wellauer. Did the soprano do it? Or the trophy wife? And was Wellauer really a Nazi sympathizer? In addition, we meet the series' other permanent characters
This is a wonderful first novel! In 1983, 14-year-old Saira travels alone from California to Pakistan to represent her family at a wedding in Karachi. On this trip, Saira learns many family secrets, including that her maternal grandfather (who she'd been told was dead) is alive and well. She also learns about her family's experiences during the Partition and that her favorite great aunt is a college professor. Saira is soon dreaming of going to college, too-in contrast to her sister, who marries a boy selected by her parents. As Publisher's Weekly said, "Haji achieves an effortless commingling of family and social history in this intricate story that connects a young woman and her family over continents and through generations."
This novel tells the stories of ordinary people, struggling to raise families, eke out a living, keep their faith, and understand the changing times they live in. To me, this book is about love and the importance of living one’s life boldly and embracing every moment of joy that you can. And it shows that no matter who you are or what you do, you are never too old to chase your dreams. Alice Walker has said that Cooper's style "is deceptively simple and direct, and the vale of tears in which her characters reside is never so deep that a rich chuckle at a foolish person's foolishness cannot be heard."
Adamson's debut novel is a terrific story and beautifully written. Mary Boulton, aged 19, has killed her husband and is now on the run. As she makes her way through the mountains of Idaho and Montana, she manages to stay one step ahead of her dead husband's brothers, who are after her and want retribution. Day after day she faces down the dangers of living in the wild. During her journey, she falls deeply in love for the first time in her life, but unfortunately her lover believes he has lived alone in the mountains too long to change his way of life for her. Somehow she finds the strength to continue on, but she soon makes a critical error that almost puts her in the hands of her pursuers . . .
In the hands of Rachel Cusk, the tried-and-true examination of marriage, motherhood, and life in the suburbs is made entirely new. You might think you know these themes, but you've never seen them in quite this way before. Cusk is not making fun of these characters, but she is definitely not cutting them any slack, either. By the end of the book, you may feel like you know Juliet, Christine, Maisie, and Solly better than you know yourself.
Set in post–September 11th New York City, three 30-somethings struggle to start their lives. Danielle is a struggling TV documentary maker, Julius is barely surviving as a freelance critic, and Marina—the stunningly beautiful daughter of a celebrated journalist—is still living with her parents on the Upper West Side. Messud has a wickedly keen eye for ironies, pretensions, and hypocrisies of all kinds—especially those sprinkled with generous amounts of sex, ambition, and naïveté. A New York Times 10 Best Books of 2006.
In this book, Lively explores the life she might have lived had she (and others around her) made different decisions along the way. What if Lively's family, evacuating Egypt during WWII, had gone to South Africa rather than Palestine? What if she had gone on an archeological dig in college and become an archeologist rather than a writer? This book will have you examining the consequences of various events and decisions you've made in your own life. A fascinating read.
In this atmospheric novel we meet an orphan girl named Silver who lives in the lighthouse of an austere Scottish seaside town. The lighthousekeeper (who raises Silver) is also a storyteller, and he tells her beautiful, interconnected stories about truth, love and loss, and staying versus leaving. When it's Silver's own turn to leave, she is prepared to embrace love and happiness. This is a complex book told with the utmost simplicity.
This is a wonderful coming-of-age story as well as an exploration of grief. Both threads are handled with subtlety, and the writing is beautiful. The main character, Nico, is an innocent, confused teenager made painfully vulnerable by the sudden loss of her older sister. This is a wise and powerful book.
This book looks at the ways in which 9/11 and the war in Iraq affect the lives of three young women in the Hand family-Winifred, Louise, and Olivia. In particular, we trace the evolution of Olivia's opinions about the war through the newspaper editorials she writes for her work. Olivia ponders human nature and why it is inevitable that our opinions change when we have "some skin in the game." For Olivia, that "skin" is her new husband, a Marine reservist who is deployed to Iraq. This book will have you asking yourself not only what is right, but is it possible for a person to ever really know? And, as usual, Gilchrist's writing is beautiful. This is an interesting and enjoyable read.
Helen puts her own life on hold for three weeks when her friend Nicola comes to town to pursue a course of alternative treatment for cancer. Helen tries to balance her friend's needs and desires with her own but is soon battling exhaustion, guilt, anger, and despair. It doesn't help that Nicola blithely refuses to acknowledge that her condition is worsening or that she requires around-the-clock care. In a completely honest way, this book shines a light on the toll illness takes on both the patient and those around her. This well-crafted novel by veteran novelist Garner explores the limits of love, friendship, and generosity.