Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Widow

Gone Girl. Girl on the Train. Luckiest Girl Alive. Are you ready to be thrilled again? The Widow by author Fiona Barton. Taking the reader on a completely unexpected suspenseful twisted story until the very end. From page 1 my mind is racing ahead and the British accents of the cast are clearly speaking to me. Jean and Glen Taylor live a fairly quiet life outside London. Having married very young, Jean always looked up to her older, much more sophisticated husband. Pretty much, he ran the show and she pleased him and never questioned his decisions. Sort of a very quiet, gentle abuse. He was loving, he adored her and then one day the police knocked at the door. Jean’s world came tumbling down. Not very many family or friends around, after 17 years Jean and Glen’s world revolved around each other. When he is accused of a horrendous crime, Jean is by his side defending every action and word he says, until one day she turns to him and his eyes are blank, he doesn’t look like the same person. And there is no going back. She won’t lie about her lies and she cannot figure out how to go forward in this relationship. And then tragedy strikes again. Glen, what have you done? Throw into this suspenseful UNPUTDOWNABLE read a kind of cool reporter and old time copper who refuse to let go of the case. I highly recommend this new novel and I can already picture the film being cast.

Monday, April 25, 2016

As Close To Us As Breathing

It is 1948 and three sisters spend the summer in their childhood cottage on “Bagel Beach,” a small vacation enclave on the shores of Woodmont, Connecticut. Ada, Vivie and Bec had been coming to this small Jewish community for their entire lives. With their parents long gone the sisters now enjoy the weekends with each other and the children; Vivie’s teenage daughter Nina and Ada’s son’s Howard and Davy and daughter Molly. A terrible tragedy occurs that summer and completely changes their lives and each of their futures. With chapters reflecting back to their childhood and the events that made them who they are, the sister’s illustrate how each and every decision affects our destiny and the people closest to us.  I was deeply immersed in this generational saga. It perfectly captured this typical family and each character was fully imaginable; their voices rang in my ears for days. I highly recommend As Close To Us As Breathing, beautifully written by Elizabeth Poliner. Every family has a history and each relationship is stronger and more meaningful than we may ever realize. It is only when putting the pieces of the past together and passing on those stories that we can get a glimpse of our ancestors, who they really were and ultimately who we are.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Nest

The Plumb family have been patiently waiting for their sister Melody to turn forty. On her birthday a trust falls into effect for the Plumb siblings. Leo, Beatrice, Jack and Melody come from quite the dysfunctional family. Their reserved father who died rather young left a small “Nest” for his children, not so they wouldn’t have to ever work, but just enough for a comfortable gift a little later in life. Their incredibly distant, cold mother oversteps her boundaries when tragedy strikes Leo’s life and drains The Nest to fund his settlement. Leo finds himself in a precarious position facing serious charges and rehab that slowly place all the siblings against each other. And so begins the tumultuous rollercoaster of their relationships, each quietly disappointed in Leo, whom they all revered and the money they secretly had already spent. In New York this artsy, talented family tries hard to find their way through the mess of life back to each other and the familial bond that one hopes is always on your side. I highly recommend this creative, fun, kind of crazy family that you kind of love even when they are hard to understand. Fabulous writing, author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, wow! Great job, will definitely be waiting for your next one!

Friday, April 8, 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard

It is 1838 and James and Sadie Goodenough set out from their overcrowded family farm in Connecticut  and pretty much land where they land. After a horrible, difficult journey, the mud so thick they can barely struggle through it, they call it a day in northern Ohio.  Sadie and James and their five children pretty much struggle daily. Their land is swampy and unrelenting. It is hard work just to meet basic needs. James begins to fulfill his dream of having the apple orchards he grew up with and with a few seedlings he brought on the journey and more he purchases from a traveling salesman, his focus becomes apples. There are apples that are eaters and apples that are spitters. Sadie becomes much too enthralled with the spitters which are made into alcohol and she is drunk much of the time. She is downright mean and very unhappy. The children are sadly neglected. James finds solace in the orchard until tragedy strikes and changes their lives forever. Flash forward to 1853 and Robert, the youngest who was always the apple of their eye, finds himself traveling west towards California. Many years pass with the Gold Rush, some odd jobs and finally using the knowledge he absorbed helping James in the orchard, Robert begins to assist a naturalist, botanist English gentleman that he finds traveling through the Redwoods. And so begins his journey to make his own future and find peace with the past. Author Tracy Chevalier is a magnificent storyteller and I love historical novels filled with characters so detailed you can see and hear them, but I have to admit there was way too much apple tree and plant information for my liking. It did not keep me from enjoying the book but I found those parts tiresome.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Inside the O'Briens

Joe O’Brien lives with his family in Charlestown, MA. It is a small, old fashioned, mostly Catholic town and their lives revolve around the church, the sports, the bars and family. At just 44 years old Joe already dreams of putting in the rest of his days as a Boston police officer and having the nice retirement Rosey and he long deserve. Joe begins to experience very minor, manageable but distinct symptoms of something he cannot put his finger on. When Rosey insists he sees a doctor they are faced with a life changing diagnosis. Joe is suffering from a genetic disease called Huntington’s Disease or as they refer to it: HD. There is no treatment, there is no cure and there is a 50% chance one or all of his four children may carry the gene for this fatal neurodegenerative disease. As the news hits his family they each handle it in a different and meaningful way. Like author Lisa Genova’s other best sellers touching on neurologic diseases, it is hard to say “I loved it” or “It was fabulous” when it was heartbreaking, tearful and way too real to face our fragile mortality head on. But when the writing is as beautifully simple as Ms. Genova’s, you are immediately pulled into the lives of these characters so deeply that you better have the box of tissues ready. Highly recommend this enlightening, tender story of an average family going through extraordinary circumstances.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Cruel Beautiful World

The last two days have been a blur reading Cruel Beautiful World. It as if someone tapped on my shoulder and whispered this story in my ear. Immediately connected to the characters in this phenomenal new novel, I could hear their voices, picture their faces. I could not escape from the stories within the stories. It is 1969 and Charlotte and Lucy come to Waltham, MA to live with Iris, their Mother-like, Aunt-like, Half- sister caretaker - after they are tragically orphaned. Two beautiful little girls entering a new life. Iris, who always dreamed of love and family finds raising these little girls late in life a blessing she could have never fully imagined. Years later, seduced by the idea of what grown-up means Lucy disappears. Charlotte, always the big sister, who has cared for Lucy’s every need turns her back for a moment as she desperately plans her college future and “poof” - she is gone, just like that. And so begins the next story, Lucy’s coming of age in the time of “free love,” realizing too late that it is not so free after all.  The love, friendship, devotion and family ties of these characters is extraordinary. The hints of what is coming next is both shocking and mesmerizing. While you cheer and hope for all their well being the reader is magically lost in this beautiful prose written by author Caroline Leavitt. This may be her best novel yet, or do I say that every time? Highly recommend Cruel Beautiful World and thank you Net Galley for the opportunity to read this fantastic new novel.