As usual I am fortunate to have more than I can read, but it has been a wonderful diversion during the cold weather. How wonderful it is to read good books and have the pleasure of talking about them with family, friends, and coworkers!
My recent most favorite!!–Anne Tyler is the author of about twenty novels, many of which I’ve enjoyed. Her most recent, A Spool of Blue Thread, is wonderful. With humor and poignancy, the story of the Whitshank family is recounted. Family sagas usually grab me, and this one finds Abby and Red in their later years, living in the house which has been in the family for years. There is a wayward son who pops in and out of their lives, an adopted son, two daughters, several grandchildren and the accompanying “in” and “outlaws”. Red owns a construction company, and Abby has recently retired as a social worker. She still brings ‘strays’ in for family gatherings. If you read this book, you will laugh and perhaps, cry, but I think you will enjoy it!
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is a kind of Gothic page turner set in 1922. Widowed Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, who has a secret past, are forced to take in lodgers in order to keep their ‘upper crust’ home on Champion Hill. The arrival of a lively young middle class couple as tenants brings a big change of circumstance into the house. Living in close quarters involves the characters in relationships which ultimately result in a love triangle. Waters infuses the mystery with sensuality, drama, and intrigue, all of which lead to a thrilling conclusion…I couldn’t put it down!
Sweetland by Michael Crummy kept me mesmerized for most of a weekend! It is set in Newfoundland on an island with an economy based upon fishing. The island is about to be resettled, and a monetary payment made to all the inhabitants only when all agree to move to the mainland. Moses Sweetland whose ancestors originally settled the island is the last holdout. Sweetland wants to stay, and he must withstand increasing efforts to move off the island. When tragedy strikes, the quirky characters are spurred to action, and Moses has to make a fateful decision. The rugged landscape and the bleak setting may not appeal to everyone, but I couldn’t put it down.
My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh is a debut novel which has been receiving lots of acclaim. It is set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1989 where a young girl is the victim of a crime. The narrator is a fourteen year old boy who is ‘in love’ with the victimized girl who lives across the street. The narrator, along with several boys and men are suspected of the crime. The novel evokes the damp heat of a southern summer and and elements of ‘coming of age’ along with themes of family, memory and forgiveness. It is an engrossing story.
The Big Seven by Jim Harrison is classic ‘Harrison”. In this follow up to The Great Leader, retired Detective Jim Sunderson has bought himself a small cabin in a remote area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The new neighbors are a family of outlaws which Sunderson must confront, while trying to relate to the ‘seven deadly sins’. He remains the crusty character we saw in his previous Sunderson novel. The ending seemed a little weak, but if you like Harrison’s writing, this one will not disappoint.
The Women by T.C. Boyle was the February library book group selection. It is a fictional work which reads like a biography of the four women which Frank Lloyd Wright married, and or, lived with during his life. The narrator is a fictional Japanese student who has become one of Wright’s apprentices. It is an interesting depiction of what happened as Wright moves through his ‘adventures’. Boyle arranges the narration so that it culminates with the most dramatic episode at Taliesin. As usual, the discussions were lively with varying reactions to the novel. Most agreed that although Wright was a charismatic architectural genius, he was a dastardly character in his personal life!
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin was a topic for discussion with my personal book group–my selection, chosen because it’s one I always wanted to read! It’s a novel based upon the real story of thirty two inch tall Lavinia Warren Stratton who married Tom Thumb in a highly publicized wedding which rivaled that of Charles and Diana. The book depicts P.T. Barnum in an interesting light–historical fiction which seemed to have a strong aura of truth. The book group gave it mixed reviews. I like learning a bit about history when reading for pleasure.