Book Reviews June 2018:
I can’t believe June is over! I did lots of traveling in June which means a couple of these books were audio versions. Also, I went to the lake. I always read 2-3 books (sometimes 4) at the lake. Did you watch The Great American Read a few weeks ago on PBS? Because of that fantastic show, I am determined to read more of the 100 most recommended books on the PBS list (i.e. A Confederacy of Dunces).
Our Souls at Night
by: Kent Haruf
I adored this sweet, soulful story about aging and love. Addie Moore pays a visit to her neighbor, Louis Waters, and asks him to sleep at her house every night. Since the death of her husband, she hasn’t gotten a good night’s rest. What begins awkwardly (what on earth will the neighbors think?), grows into a solid friendship. Family interferes. Life moves on. Not a single word was wasted in the telling of this tale. The dialog is playful and authentic. The characters are so real I missed them after I turned the last page. I will read this again and again.
This book made me: excited to discover this author. Sad to know he has passed away. I plan to read every word he has written. (Also, I understand this book was made into a movie with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. I’ll be watching it.)
My favorite line: I can have faith in you. I see that already. But I’m not sure I can be equal to you.
by: Dana L. Brown
I rarely read romance novels. The title and fun cover of Lottie Loser caught my eye. Add an island beach setting and a banker protagonist, and I dove right in. The storyline involves Lottie Luce (who now, as an adult, calls herself Charlotte) and Nick, her first crush. The chapters alternate between older/younger narrator, a style that provides background on Lottie and Nick’s high school relationship, one that goes wildly off track. Twelve years later, when Nick reappears, Lottie (Charlotte) is rocking it as the youngest (and best dressed) bank president of Olde Florida Bank. I gotta say, even though contemporary romance isn’t my genre of choice, after reading several dark and rather disturbing books at the end of May, Lottie Loser proved to be a sweet June escape. Filled with sun and sand, Beach House wine, and sex to keep things hot, Lottie kicked off my summer in an enjoyable way. There’s a plot twist I wasn’t expecting. The book ends with a “stay tuned” sort of cliffhanger, which means you’ll need to buy book two in the series—Call Me Charlotte—to find out what happens. For fans of romance, this one is an easy, sultry summer read.
This book made me: want to go to Anna Maria Island. And by the way, I learned a new use for a cold can of Budweiser. 🍺
My Favorite Line: Do you ever just do what you’re asked, Charlotte?
A Confederacy of Dunces
by: John Kennedy Toole
This is by far the funniest book I have ever read. (I actually listened to the audio version and the narrator had the perfect voice for the main character.) The protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, is completely and utterly wrapped up in illusions of his own grandeur. He’s a lazy son, disdainful employee (on the rare occasions he works), inappropriately acting human who has been forced to function in a century which he loathes. And he’s quite possibly one of the most entertaining characters in literature. The book was published posthumously in 1981 after the author committed suicide (which makes me wonder if the story wasn’t an autobiographical account, his idiosyncrasies real). The book won the Pulitzer Prize. Anti-political correctness is a theme, but the author disparaged all people equally. I imagine A Confederacy of Dunces will offend a whole lot of people. Then, those same people will be offended that I found it to be so hilariously brilliant.
This book made me: Laugh out loud. A lot.
My Favorite Line: I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.
Before We Were Yours
by: Lisa Wingate
This fictional tale is wrapped around the devastating true story of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home. The Tennessee Children’s Home specialized in stealing poor, blonde-haired, blue-eyed children and selling them to wealthy families all over the country. The fact that this went on for years in Memphis (in the 20s and 30s) makes the story all the more horrifying, compelling, horrifying, compelling.
The author expertly weaves two narratives. The first storyline, set in 1939, focuses on the Foss children who were snatched in the night from their Mississippi riverboat shanty. The second storyline, set in present day, involves Avery Stafford, a young attorney helping with her father’s political campaign. From the moment Avery meets an elderly lady in a nursing home, the narratives begin to slowly intertwine. The author crafted different moods and sense of place for each storyline, without jolting the reader.
Before We Were Yours will occupy a big space in my mind for some time. If there’s one takeaway, children are not commodities. Of course, we shouldn’t have to be reminded of this.
This book: chewed me up and spit me out.
My favorite line: I want a pain I understand instead of the one I don’t. I want a pain that has a beginning and an end, not one that goes on forever and cuts all the way to the bone.
The Handmaid’s Tale
by: Margaret Atwood
The first time I read The Handmaid’s Tale, I was in college. I’m not sure I finished it. This time… Whoa. What a chilling story, extra horrifying because so, so many passages seem relevant today. Example: It could be old clips, it could be faked. But I watch it anyway, hoping to be able to read beneath it. Any news, now, is better than none.
The story is set in Gilead (once known at the United States). After a brutal civil war, women have been reduced to categories. Minorities have been eliminated. The religious right is in control. Fertility rates are low because of pollution and man-made viruses. I could go on. If you haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale, read it. The world Margaret Atwood created in 1985 doesn’t feel so dystopian anymore.
This book made me: uneasy. Excited to watch the Hulu version.
My favorite line: The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
by: Steven Callahan
I love a good adventure story, and this is one of the best I’ve read. (No, this isn’t connected to the current movie with the same name.) When Steven Callahan’s boat Napoleon Solo sank six days into a journey across the Atlantic, he escaped on a life raft and survived 76 days under harrowing conditions. Even though we know from the beginning he survives, Callahan builds tension throughout the story in a way only possible with near-death experiences. Sharks. Saltwater. Ulcers all over his body. Punctures in the raft. Muscle atrophy. Hunger. Callahan’s writing is poetic, spiritual, a bit like Walden on the sea. I was with him all the way, thoroughly captivated.
This book made me: thirsty. Very thirsty. How many *hours* would I survive lost at sea?
My favorite line: My plight has given me a strange kind of wealth, the most important kind. I value each moment that is not spent in pain, desperation, hunger, thirst, or loneliness.
On to July!
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
Etta James, A Sunday Kind of Love from Our Souls at Night