Saints for All Occasions

Saints for All Occasions tells the story of two sisters who left Ireland for more opportunity in the New World. J. Courtney Sullivan isn’t afraid to show the ugly side of being seen as proper and what people will do to protect themselves from public scorn, Nora and Theresa felt obligations to one another that built resentment and separation. The Catholic church and their belief about illegitimate children changed both sisters’ lives.

Nora remained in Boston, married, and raised a family. Theresa cut ties, moved to NYC and eventually became a nun. All affected by a youthful “mistake”.

Sullivan gets into families and rips them apart so we can see it for what they are. Everyone trying to right by others, but the secrecy can do nothing but bring pain.

Read August 2018

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Starry River of the Sky

Grace Lin’s Starry River of the Sky incorporates many Chinese myths into the story of a young boy traveling on his own. Through stories we learn about how the mountain was moved, the Magistrate tricked the emperor, the many suns were shot out of the sky, and how sun and the moon love one another.

I listened to this on CD in the car while traveling with my kids. They loved it, I loved it, and we were bummed when it was over. There were so many myths that I’ve never heard of interspersed in this novel that I felt I was also learning a little about Chinese culture.

Great listen!

Read July 2018.

harmony

Carolyn Parkhurst’s “harmony” is told from 3 perspectives: the mother, the “normal” sister, and as if visiting a strange historical monument of the family.

The Hammond family, in an attempt to help their undiagnosable, Autistic-like daughter Tilly, leaves their DC home and moves to New Hampshire’s Camp Harmony. The brain-child of a child-rearing expert, the childless man named Scott Bean, Camp Harmony will help serve kids who are struggling in their homelife by providing a community that can help support them in their own unique development. The camp is essentially cut off from the world and the residents put their faith in Scott Bean’s approach in the last of innumerable attempts to help their children.

The story’s many twists and turns help tell the struggle of the Hammond family in trying to help Tilly. And the Camp does seem to be helping several of the children that need help but at what cost.

Intersting perspective of living with a family member who does not conform.

Read July 2018

Silence in October

Jens Christian Grondahl’s Silence in October differs than any other novel I’ve read, possibly ever. An art historian wakes up one morning and his wife of 18 years walks away from their home without explanation or questioning. This begins a stream of consciousness of our narrator about his life, his past loves, and how he’s lived with someone for so long that maybe they lost touch.

Its quite an interesting read. I changed from disliking the wife who left, to disliking the narrator for not asking more questions. No one is perfect in this book as we travel from the present to the past, from current relationships and friendships to loves long gone. Can anyone even know anyone? Can anyone ever be happy or know that they are? Can we become stale in a relationship if everyone’s ok with as things are?

I slowed to this novel, having bought it years ago, and started it multiple times. But once invested in why the wife left, I needed to keep going. Maybe the question shouldn’t be why did the wife leave, but why had she stayed for so many years.

Excellent read. Read July 2018.

The Nightingale

What a great book! The Nightingale is about families, secrets, and protecting one another, and set with the back drop of WWII, where the French citizens are barely staying alive. Kristin Hannah shows a side of the war that I’ve not heard much about with a set of sisters set in a small village and Paris. Vianne and Isabelle  grew up very differently when their mother died and their father abandoned them. Vianne, eight years older, was able to marry soon and have a family. Isabelle, more rebellious, was sent from boarding school to boarding school. However, once the Germans invaded France, their lives changed. Vianne, a young mother, whose husband went to fight, needed to survive for her daughter, even if that meant living with a German officer. Isabelle, unable to stay quiet under a watchful German eye, returned to Paris where she worked with the resistance.

A great, sad story of how important it is to fight for whats right and to survive against all odds.

Read April 2018.

The Rules of Magic

In The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman tells the Owens’ Family story from the perspective of the newest generation. Three siblings, Franny, Jet, and Vincent are raised with very specific rules about magic and how to keep it out of their lives. Their mother cannot protect them forever and they are soon called to the family home in Massachusetts when Franny comes of age. The three siblings grow together as witches and farther apart as adults, but magic becomes an important part of their lives.

A very fun, witchy read! Should’ve read it around Halloween!

Read December 2017

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tells the story of its namesake beginning shortly after his wife died. A.J. comes across as a curmudgeonly old man, but is only in his early 40s when the story begins. A.J. is stuck in a pattern of self pity and self righteousness about proper literary books versus any other type of book out there.

When life circumstances change, A.J. surprisingly changes with them. He develops a community of support that helps him and builds a better community around him, all dedicated to reading. Interspersed in the chapters are educational asides meant for his daughter to read certain books and what each meant to him at the time that he read it.

This was a sweet tale of a man who asks for nothing, but gives so much and ends up getting a family.

Read July 2017