Listen, you guys. Here’s the thing.
Books are my sanity. They just are and ever will be.
I’ve realized (and embraced) this, particularly as I live in and consider our social media-saturated culture. When I am in the thick of a book, I am less restless, and more curious. I am actively participating in a story, rather than blandly consuming a random stream of posts. I’m simply happier when I’m reading and thinking and making connections, instead of passively scrolling. Which leads me to:
My Recent Reads: a list.
Yet Another World War II Story
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck.
Most of this book takes place after WWII, but it’s set basically at ground zero in rural Germany, so the war is both an ever-present character AND landscape. It follows three women, wives of Nazi resisters, who are left to pick up the pieces of their families lives once the war ends. I struggled with getting into this book for the first hundred pages, and considered not finishing it. After the hundred page mark, I was invested. I could see the weaving of the storylines creating patterns, as well as a compelling outcome. Like all war stories, it’s really sad. Marianne, Ania, and Benita are extremely flawed and realistic characters. Ultimately, I really enjoyed this read.
I’ll Tell You What by Ann Cannon
You all know I am powerless to resist memoir/personal essays/creative nonfiction, and you may know that Ann Cannon is my writing mentor and hero. I love her dearly. If you enjoy humor, relatability, honesty, and wisdom, you will relish Ann’s collected Trib columns about family, pets, change, parenting, losing a parent, and a host of other subjects. This book is delightful and makes me want to be a better person.
Model Mormon by Rosemary Card
I’ve followed Rosemary on social media for some time now, and have delighted in her refreshing, inspiring voice as a young Mormon woman. She writes about her unique childhood, which spanned New York City and Sandy, Utah. At age sixteen, a series of events prompted her to pursue a modeling career in NYC, so with her parents support, she signed with an agency and left home for the Big Apple, Milan, Singapore, Tokyo, and Thailand. She writes about maintaining her relationship with God during this time of independence, while also having to fight daily to maintain her standards. Rosie writes about her college years, her mission, and her job working in the Church broadcasting department, all of which led to her starting her own business–a temple dress company. I raced through this book. It was fascinating to little old Utah resident me. Also, her testimony inspires me and she’s an amazing person.
Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh
Set in 1950’s colonial Kenya, this book tells the story of a girl named Rachel who returns to Africa after six years (following her mother’s death) at a boarding school in England. She’s eager to return to the idyllic farm life of her childhood, but finds that nothing is the same as it was before. Her father has an unabashed live-in mistress, who is at odds with Rachel. Most significantly, there is great unrest in Kenya as the Mau Mau rebels begin to rise up against white farmers and essentially the whole colonial system. There is a fair amount of violence in this engaging story, which is also really beautiful in places. It’s not unlike Africa itself, which is both unforgiving and harsh, yet also exquisitely beautiful. Rachel’s perspective of life in Kenya evolves from a binary sense of right and wrong to a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of the politics and culture in British colonized Africa. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
*Frances MacDormand “Raising Arizona” voice* “I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUUUUUUCH!” I do. I absolutely love it. It’s reminiscent of A Man Called Ove, which everyone everywhere adores (as they should), meaning it is hilarious, poignant, human, and ALSO HILARIOUS. Eleanor is an unlikely protagonist, a grumpy thirty-year-old woman whose life is ruled by routine and predictability. I don’t want to give anything away in this perfectly wonderful story, so I’ll just say it’s set in Glasgow, Scotland, features a main female character with literal scars on her face and some serious opinions, and the personalities and relationships in this book will endear you to humanity. You will have hope in people and see them with love. At least I did, after racing through this story.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Ng (pronounced “ing”) crafts a compelling story about two families in the luxurious Shaker Heights neighborhood of suburban Cleveland. The Richardsons and Warrens are as completely different as two families can be, yet their teenage children develop a bond which connects the families. It also creates a schism when members of the two families take opposing sides on an unfolding legal custody drama involving a little Asian baby, her adoptive white parents (fellow Shaker Heights residents), and her single Chinese immigrant birth mother. I’m still in the middle of this book, so I can’t tell you how it resolves (not that I would do that to you anyway, sheesh!), but I’m intrigued and am eager to see how the threads of this story play out.
As always, send me your book picks. What are you reading?