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.
Amy Blumenfeld’s The Cast centers around a group of friends — Becca, Jordana, Seth, Holly and Lex — who are bonded and forever touched by Becca’s battle with cancer as a teenager. Though as adults they’re not the tight-knit group they once were, this intense bond brings them back together when life happens. Jordana organizes a 4th of July weekend getaway to celebrate Becca’s 25th year cancer-free, and that’s where we begin.
Life never goes as planned, and their get-together embodies that perfectly. Everyone is hiding something but trying to keep a brave face for the others. When that all breaks down, their friendship shines the brightest and it’s obvious why it has endured so long. It was an easy book to get through, but it wasn’t “light.”
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.
Hannah Lynn’s second novel The Afterlife of Walter Augustus was actually brought to my attention when the author herself reached out to me with a thoughtful email that mentioned our shared love of books (of course!) and cooking. Her description of the novel, which she self-published, sounded intriguing and I happily agreed to participate in her blog tour to celebrate and promote its release!
Walter Augustus, our main character, is stuck in what’s known as The Interim, a sort of waiting room in the afterlife where you’re unable to move on until every last person on earth has forgotten about you. While to some that might be flattering — and I can imagine he’s surrounded by quite a few celebrities, inventors and change-makers — to Walter, it’s frustrating. He really just wants to move on so he can see his wife and family again.
Sometimes I hear so many good things about a book that I request it from the library without even really seeing what it’s about, and that’s exactly what happened in the case of Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away. I’m glad I took the leap of faith because it turned out to be absolutely wonderful.
This novel is about a young woman who’s at the top of her game – Margaret has just finished her MBA, she has a lucrative and exciting job lined up, and she thinks her long-time boyfriend Chip is going to propose. However, on what is supposed to be a happy, celebratory day in her life, everything comes crashing down.
Many have commented on the beauty of this book cover. Indeed, Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things does feature some gorgeous floral artwork on the cover, and actually that’s part of what brought me to it in the first place. The title, too, is intriguing. What exactly is a keeper of lost things? What sort of lost things are being kept?
In the novel, Anthony is an elderly man who has become a self-appointed keeper of lost things. Since losing something very important decades earlier, he has made it his mission in life to rescue discarded, dropped or forgotten things. He brings them home, where they live safely and quietly in his study, until they can be reunited with their owners someday, somehow.
I read Molly Wizenberg’s first memoir, A Homemade Life, during my Thanksgiving readathon last year and fell in love with it. Her storytelling was warm and relatable, and her recipes sounded (and were, when I tried a couple of them) delicious. So, I was excited when I stumbled upon her next memoir, Delancey, one day while browsing near the cookbooks in the library.
While A Homemade Life was more a jumble of life stories (sometimes connected, sometimes not) and charming nonetheless, Delancey tells a linear story of her experiences while opening a restaurant with her husband Brandon. While it was more his dream than hers – like me, Molly detested working in restaurants and preferred the comforts of home cooking – she supported him as he pursued it.