It’s time to recap what I’ve been reading the past few months. Hope you find one to add to your wish list!
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – A highly regarded novel. One of the better books I’ve read this year. A hefty, complex read though. And dark. The character development was
what really drove the book. The novel tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde’s life and marriage…and the unexpected twists and turns in each. An engrossing read that almost makes you uncomfortable at times but I found it hard to put down. I’ve added Groff’s two other books, The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, to my wish list.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- Wow. The best book I’ve read this year (rightfully named best book of the year by many and a Man Booker Prize and National Book Award finalist). Yanagihara is an amazing author. But it’s not for the faint of heart and it’s long. The books description alludes to it being a story of four college friends who move to New York after college – a seemingly pretty tame plot, right? And that Jude had suffered from a terrible trauma as a child. But the book ends up centering around Jude and how his relationship with people in his life (primarily his three college friends but also others) is constantly affected by his trauma-filled past. And his trauma-filled past isn’t easy to read about, I’ll just leave it at that. To the point that it’s hard to believe that one person could have suffered to the extent that Jude did. At times it wasn’t easy to read but all told it was a pretty amazing book. It’s the kind of book, with the kind of characters, that stick/s with you for a while.
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg – Another novel that got high marks, but it fell a bit short for me. While it was well-written and a well-crafted story, it was just a bit too far fetched. June loses her family in a fire the night before her daughter’s wedding. Not just her children and ex-husband but also the younger man she’d been dating and her daughter’s fiance. The book focuses on how June and the victims family members are affected by their loss and in some cases, the guilt or necessary forgiveness associated with it.
We Were Liars by E. Lockart – Well-told is a great way to describe this mystery. It had me guessing until the end. It’s part mystery and part story of a large affluent family who own an island and multiple summer homes on it. The story is told by Cadence, who’s in her late teens and was in a mysterious accident on the island and has spent two years trying to recover and remember the details of the accident. Her amnesia is a core element of the book. Cadence’s narration can be a little annoying at times, but it’s an easy read and that bit of annoyance wasn’t enough to ruin the book for me.
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave- Good pool/beach reading. Georgia was about to be married but rushes home to her family’s Sonoma winery unsure of her future. The novel focuses on Georgia and her indecision about her husband-to-be, as well as Georgia’s family and their winery. Everyone has hidden secrets (of course, right?!). While a bit dramatic and unbelievable at times, it was an easy read and the Sonoma backdrop and winemaking details were nice additions to the story.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – Nothing like some apocalyptic horror. Humans have been killed off by a disease that turns them into vampires. Neville is the lone survivor — the novel really focuses on his loneliness and survival, not just killing the vampires/blood/gore. After a few years alone, he’s shocked to meet another survivor and begins to wonder about the possibility of a future. A fairly quick read and different from the movie.
The Kept by James Scott- Set in the late 1800’s, Elspeth returns to her remote home in the woods after having worked as a midwife in a nearby city for a time. She finds her husband and four of her children shot to death. Her son Caleb survived and after some more tribulations, she and Caleb embark on a journey to find their family’s killers. There’s more to the novel than you may initially think. While it’s partially a mystery about “who done it,” it’s also about Elspeth and Caleb’s survival, Elspeth’s maternal desires and secrets, loss, and self-discovery. Well-written and smart. I read the whole book on a plane ride, it was hard to put down.
A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin – A recent bestseller, it’s a fictional story about the life of an unusual mathematical genius Milo Andret. He’s far from flawless – and while at times you want to root for him, at other times you feel like you’re watching him choose a path to failure. The characters we meet at each stage of his life are as compelling as the story itself. The mathematical genius angle was a unique one and it was wonderful writing.
The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen- In 1918 a flu epidemic breaks out and a small mill town quarantines itself in hopes to avoid an outbreak. The novel focuses on Philip, a teenager who had been adopted by the town’s founder/leader, and his relationship and interactions with his family and others in the town. Philip and other men take shifts guarding the road in/out of town and face tough decisions when approached by people from a neighboring town and lost soldiers who ask for help. Philip and others wrestle with their decisions to try to keep the town safe. I think it was a decent account of a real time in U.S. history but it was a little melodramatic and a bit slow.