Leif Enger is an award-winning author who I’d never heard of before coming across his latest novel, Virgil Wander. He truly has a gift for language, painting a colorful and complete picture of a Midwestern small town and its inhabitants without overdoing it. I look forward to checking out his previous work, but first, Virgil…
Despite Virgil Wander’s somewhat-aspirational last name, he describes himself as “cruising through life at medium altitude.” That is, until his car unexpectedly flies off the road and into an ice cold Lake Superior. When he wakes up in the hospital, Virgil has lost some of his memories and most of his adjectives.
Though I enjoy books about books, it’s rare that I read one right on top of the other. It felt as though I’d just finished Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore when The Bookshop of Yesterdays and The Diary of a Bookseller came in from the library. I ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to get to Diary before it was due back, but I made sure to tackle Amy Meyerson’s novel so it didn’t slip away too.
Miranda Brooks has fond memories of trips to her Uncle Billy’s bookstore, Prospero Books, when she was growing up. But when she finds out she’s inherited the beloved bookstore, she hasn’t set foot inside in over 15 years. Uncle Billy was always a lover of riddles, and he is no different in death. Along with the bookstore, he leaves Miranda an obscure message that sends her on a scavenger hunt to discover the truth behind old family feuds.
An American Marriage, the poignant novel by Tayari Jones, received a boost of popularity when Oprah selected it as her book club pick earlier this year. I bought it before reading it — something I don’t typically do — but all of the buzz about it made it feel like a sure bet. I finally picked it up as part of my two reading challenges, and while it wasn’t “unputdownable,” it was captivating all the same. Jones is brutally honest in a narrative about a broken America.
Celestial and Roy are a young married couple with their whole lives ahead of them. She is a promising artist, and he’s an ambitious executive. They are also black in America, which ultimately has a greater effect on their lives than anything else about them. As their lives together are just beginning, Roy is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit and their lives and marriage are never the same.
If you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to fall. It’s the season of cool nights, hot cups of tea, fresh baked goods and cuddling up under a blanket with a good book. Reading Louise Miller’s The Late Bloomers’ Club was so cozy and comforting, it felt like I stumbled into Stars Hollow, a fall festival just around the corner. I’m absolutely jones-ing for fall.
Nora owns the Miss Guthrie Diner, which was opened by her parents and is now an institution in the small Vermont town of Guthrie. She is well-respected in the town but mostly keeps to herself in the wake of her divorce from her high school sweetheart. When the beloved local cake lady, Peggy, unexpectedly dies and leaves her estate to Nora, no one is more surprised than her. Nora learns that Peggy was considering selling her land to a large corporation, potentially changing the town of Guthrie forever, and she must take on the burden of making the decision herself.
I included Chloe Benjamin’s novel The Immortalists on my list of Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2018 over eight months ago. It’s been sitting on my shelf for nearly as long (shortly after it came out in January), and I just — finally! — got around to reading it. I’m happy to say it lived up to expectations!
The novel follows the four Gold siblings: Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon. In 1969, when they’re still quite young — Varya, the oldest, is thirteen and Simon, the youngest, is only seven — they visit a mysterious psychic because Daniel has heard she is able to tell anyone the day they will die. They leave shaken but armed with a glimpse into their futures.
Let’s be real, the cover of Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ latest novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree is gorgeous. Like the “drunken tree” in the title, the flower’s brightness and beauty draws your attention from the darkness that lingers behind.
The coming-of-age story follows two Colombian girls in the 1990s. Seven-year-old Chula Santiago and her older sister are aware of the violence in their city but are, for the most part, protected from it within their gated community. Petrona, on the other hand, lives in a guerilla-occupied slum before she becomes the Santiago family’s live-in maid. Their lives are very different but become intertwined throughout the course of the novel.
Anstey Harris’ novel Goodbye, Paris is being marketed as “Jojo Moyes meets Eleanor Oliphant,” which is definitely what drew me to the book. I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment, but first, let me tell you about the story.
Grace was once a promising cellist, but after a #MeToo encounter in college, she has been unable to play for anyone but an empty room. Now, she runs a successful shop in England repairing and building stringed instruments, living more or less in her bubble and dreaming of a future with her long-time boyfriend. David is a married family man who lives in France. Their long-distance affair would almost be an idyllic relationship, were it not for the fact that it was an affair. When David becomes a hero one day by saving the life of a woman at a Paris Metro station, the delicate balance of his and Grace’s relationship is tipped.
I read Koren Zailckas’ memoir Smashed about her “drunken girlhood” over a decade ago, and I absolutely loved it. It was a sober (and sobering) look at her past that also touched on the societal and social pressures that cause many young women to drink so heavily in the first place. Not only was her story powerful, her writing was as well. So, when I came across her novel Mother, Mother at a used book sale a little while back, I didn’t hesitate to scoop it up.
In the Hurst family, no one is perfect. The oldest daughter, Rose, has seemingly had enough and run off with her mysterious boyfriend, leaving her sister Violet struggling to cope with an ever-changing home life. Will, the youngest, clings most closely to his mom who has been homeschooling him since his recent diagnoses with Asperger’s and epilepsy. Meanwhile, their father, Douglas, is mostly absent and, when he is home, distracted and taking phone calls in whispers. In the center of it all is Josephine, the Hurst matriarch, a narcissist and master manipulator. Hiding behind her facade of caring homemaker, she may just be the worst mother ever.
I was unexpectedly captivated by Gin Phillips’ novel Fierce Kingdom, which I read as part of the Book Challenge by Erin earlier this month. Joan and her four-year-old son are ending an otherwise ordinary day at the zoo, when suddenly, just before they reach the exit, something goes very wrong. Joan hurries to hide with her son Lincoln, and for the rest of the novel – a period of just four hours – she must keep them out of danger.
For the most part, the novel follows Joan, but on occasion it dips into other points-of-view, including that of the mass shooter who is terrorizing the zoo’s guests and animals without remorse. As you can guess, Phillips weaves a harrowing tale. Unfortunately, it’s one that is all too realistic today. I was deeply invested in the well-being of Joan and her son, and though there were times I felt as though I could’ve used a mental break, I didn’t want to stop reading until it was over.
When I’m not reading, cooking or writing about it, I’m often at work. And, for those of you who don’t know, I work at an advertising agency. I’m an account person, which in a nutshell, means that most of my job is in service to our clients, doing whatever it is I need to do to make them happy. Like any job, there are a lot of things to like about advertising and there are a lot of things to dislike about it. Luckily, for me, the good far outweighs the bad.
I recently picked up Joshua Ferris’ novel Then We Came to the End as part of the Book Challenge by Erin, for the category requiring you to read a book featuring a character who shares your profession. I don’t know why, but I expected to have a hard time finding a piece of fiction about advertising. I couldn’t have been more wrong; I found this one with a simple search. Obviously, the characters in Then We Came to the End work in an ad agency – in fact, almost all of them do.