"I have not actually chosen this life. The path of least resistance is not a choice, in the usual sense of the word. I know it appears to be one. But when the resistance you encounter on every other path seems, you know, indomitable, then there you are. I'm sure I have been too easily discouraged."
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Monday, September 28, 2020
Reprinted from auburnpub.com:
Marriage is a topic that is ripe to be explored in depth in a novel, and this month’s Book Report features two novels that take a look at marriage in two different stages.
Sue Miller’s latest entry into fiction is Monogamy. Graham and Annie have been married for thirty years, a second marriage for each. Graham owns a bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Annie is a photographer, currently working on a show in a local gallery that she hopes will revitalize her career.
They met years ago when Annie attended the grand opening party of Graham’s store. Annie married young and divorced her husband after six years. Graham’s wife Frieda left him because, although she agreed to the idea of an open marriage, the reality of living it devastated her.
Graham and Frieda remained friendly, coparenting their son Lucas, now working in publishing in New York. Frieda and Annie became friends too, and Frieda is always a part of their family celebrations. Annie and Graham’s adult daughter Sarah lives on the west coast.
Graham was a big man, taking up a lot of space. He was always the life of any party, gregarious, making everyone feel important. Annie was quieter, some people may have even thought her a bit cold. Her career as a photographer, seeing life through the lens of a camera, suited her personality. They have a happy marriage, enjoy each other’s company, share in each other’s successes.
On the eve of Annie’s big show, she wakes up to find Graham dead in bed next to her. We watch as Annie has to deal with the multitude of things that need to be taken care of, as well as her own grief.
At a memorial service for Graham, Annie discovers that he had been unfaithful to her. This guts her, and causes her to reassess her entire marriage to Graham. Why did this happen? Was he incapable of fidelity?
Miller deftly explores the history of a marriage and loss, and the reader becomes completely absorbed in the emotional aftermath of Graham’s death. We see Annie and Graham through the eyes of their daughter who says “My mother is always okay. That is the division of labor in my family. My mother holds it all in, my father lets it out.”
Monogamy is a quiet book, with characters who are so well drawn we feel as though we know them. Sue Miller is at the top of her game with this beautifully written story.
If you want to read a novel for Hispanic Heritage Month Angie Cruz’ novel, Dominicana is a great one. Fifteen year-old Ana lives in the countryside in the Dominican Republic in 1964. Her family struggles financially, and when an older local man, Juan Ruiz, has his eye on her, Ana’s mother is thrilled.
Juan travels to New York City, where he has an apartment and works many jobs. Ana’s mother believes that if Ana marries Juan, it will enable the entire family to emigrate to the United States where they can make money and have a better life.
Ana does not want to marry Juan, but has no choice. She must do this for her family. She travels to New York where she is expected to cook and clean for Juan and his brother Cesar, who also lives with them. She speaks no English, and is not allowed to leave the apartment.
We see 1965 New York City through the eyes of these hard working immigrants. Juan and Cesar line up daily outside a hotel, hoping to be chosen as day worker in the kitchen or as a bellboy. They work two or three jobs, often in a single day, to make enough money to send home to fulfill their dream of opening a restaurant.
Ana does not love Juan, he can be abusive and demanding. She is lonely, and wants to learn English and get a job to have her own money. She’s not allowed to make any friends.
When there is political upheaval in the Dominican Republic, Juan returns home to protect his property. That leaves Cesar to keep watch over Ana. Cesar allows Ana more freedom, and she experiences life in New York on a different level. She and Cesar become closer as well.
It’s interesting to read an immigrant story set in this time period, to see New York City in 1965 through their eyes. It’s not a story often told. This celebrated book is a Good Morning America Book Club pick.
Monogamy by Sue Miller- A
Published by HarperCollins
Hardcover, $28.99, 352 pages
Dominicana by Angie Cruz-A
Published by Flatiron Books
Trade paperback, $16.99, 336 pages
Friday, September 25, 2020
etc.). It turns the people in the town upside down, including Douglas, a schoolteacher, and Cherilyn, his wife. It's an interesting, unique premise for a novel.
Friday, September 18, 2020
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Monday, September 14, 2020
Friday, September 11, 2020
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Reprinted from auburnpub.com :
This month’s Book Report features three new novels about people each facing a serious crisis. Each author has written characters that we can empathize with and care about.
Ellen Marie Wiseman’s The Orphan Collector is set in 1918 Philadelphia, during the Spanish flu pandemic. Thirteen year-old Pia lives with her German immigrant family- Mom, twin baby brothers, while her father is away fighting for his new country in Europe in WWI as part of the U.S. Army.
The war has just ended, and thousands of people attend a celebratory parade, including Pia, her mother and brothers. Soon, people all over Philadelphia are dying from the Spanish flu. It is a gruesome death, and people fear seeing the black fabric tied to doors indicating a death there.
Pia is left to care for her baby brothers, but soon the food runs out and she must venture outside to find supplies. When she faints and comes to in the hospital, it is days later and Pia is panicked about her brothers.
Unbeknownst to Pia, her neighbor Bernice sees her leave and hears the babies crying. Bernice is bereft after losing her beloved baby boy to the flu, and makes a decision that will define her and Pia’s life going forward.
Pia ends up in an orphanage, filled with children who have lost their parents to the flu. Even though she is trapped, she cannot stop searching for clues as to what happened to her brothers.
Bernice meanwhile has come upon an idea. Angered at the immigrant families she believes responsible for the deadly flu, Bernice uses the children in orphanages to fulfill a greedy plan.
When Bernice and Pia’s paths cross, can Pia discover what happened to her brothers?
The Orphan Collector is a brilliantly written, riveting piece of historical fiction. Every detail feels so authentic. You will find yourself dropped right into 1918 Philadelphia, and feel like you are right alongside Pia as she never gives up her quest to find her brothers. Fans of Christina Baker Kline’s The Orphan Train and Lisa Wingate’s “Before We Were Yours” should put this next on their reading list.
Helen Cullen’s The Dazzling Truth takes place on an Irish island near Galway, where Murtagh and Maeve are raising their four children. From the moment Murtagh saw Maeve at Trinity College, he was smitten.
Maeve was from America, studying acting. Murtagh made ceramic pottery, and they both loved art. He was given the opportunity to apprentice with a famous potter, and Maeve gave up her dreams to follow him and raise their family on the island.
Maeve also suffered from severe depression and anxiety. She would spend days, sometimes weeks in bed, and nights wandering the countryside. As her children got older, they didn’t understand what was happening, as it was never discussed openly.
The story moves back and forth in time so we get to see Murtagh and Maeve’s courtship, and their lives of the children as they grow older. The characters are so well drawn, you care for each of them, and ache for each of them as Maeve’s illness affects them. Your heart will break for them.
In Caroline Leavitt’s latest novel, With Or Without You the main characters deal with a physical illness. Stella is a 42 year-old nurse who longs to settle down and have a child with her longtime love Simon, a rocker who has one last chance to make it in the music business with his bandmates.
When Stella falls into a coma, it upends both their worlds, as well the life as Libby, her best friend, a doctor who is caring for Stella. Libby becomes close to Simon as they bond together working and hoping for Stella’s recovery. Simon also becomes close to Stella’s mother who moves in with him. Their relationship is so touching.
We see the story through Stella’s eyes as she is in the coma, and Simon who gives up his last chance to stay by her side. When Stella awakes, her world is completely different. She has a new artistic ability that eventually brings her the fame that Simon had once hoped would be his.
Caroline Leavitt excels at writing characters facing a crisis not of their doing, and this is her best book yet.
If you want to get lost in a good book that makes you feel something for the characters, take you out of your everyday sameness, each one of these three is a great choice.
The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman- A+
Published by Kensington Books
Trade paperback, $16.95, 400pages
The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen- B+
Published by Graydon House
Trade paperback, $17.99, 336 pages
With Or Without You by Caroline Leavitt- A
Published by Algonquin
Hardcover, $26.95, 288 pages