The Paris Orphan

Natasha Lester’s The Paris Orphan tells two separate storylines over 60 years apart. Jessica May, a former model turned photojournalist, trying to break a story by imbedding  with American troops in Italy and France during WWII. She’s constantly fighting against sexism and misogyny to be allowed the same rights and existence as all the men reporters. Jessica teams up with Martha Gellhorn, wife/exwife of Hemingway, to be allowed to be close to whats happening in the field. She befriends a rising star Captain Dan Hallworth, who recognizes the crappy treatment she’s received and helps her when he can.

60 years later, we meet D’Arcy Hallworth, an art mover, who travels to France to pack up a photographic collection of a reclusive and unnamed photographer. While there, she uncovers a personal connection to Jessica May.

There’s so much hardship and love within this book. The atrocities of WWII are not ignored, but the main part of the book is how women were excluded from so many aspects of journalism, but not the harshness that is unique to woman in war. This is also a tragic love story where people who should be together are kept apart by terrible people and circumstances.

Quick, easy, great read.

Read May 2020

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is a quirky, wonderfully weird story about an eclectic/dysfunctional family. Bernadette, the mother, is a recluse who detests any and all parents of the private school her only child attends. Bee, the daughter, is bright beyond her years, extremely intelligent and successful at her school, who requests a family trip to Antartica for doing well in middle school. Elgie, the father and tech genius, seems distant from the family and busy with work. That is, until Bernadette disappears.

This book was so much fun to read and no way to properly describe what happens without giving away so much. When does mental illness reveal itself? How easy is it to hide behind brilliance and run away? There’s so much that happens in this book and then it’s retold from another perspective and I had to rethink everything I was thinking. Who’s delusional? Who’s hiding information?

Great, easy read!!

Read April 2020

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng shows what its like to live in a perfectly planned world. Shaker Heights, OH is a community that plans everything. Including having duplexes look like single family homes, so they’ll “avoid the stigma of living in a duplex house”. Elena Richardson grew up in Shaker Heights and believes in its purpose and rules, even planning the births of her 4 children. Mia Warren moves in to Elena’s duplex and brings with her a nomadic existence, many art projects and an unknown past.

The teens from the 2 families go to school together and end up spending time at each other’s houses. Its almost as if the “normal” kids end up in the structured Richardson home and the “troubled” kids take turns with Mia. Ng really captures the struggles of teenagers living in a perfect world or a world that doesn’t conform to the Shaker Heights ideal. There are some huge events that lead up to the Richardson home burning to the ground, and it almost feels like the house needed to burn. Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. And sometimes no matter how hard you plan, your kid burns your house down.

Fun, quick read.

Read March 2020

Esperanza Rising

Pam Munoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising was an Oregon Battle of the Books in 2019 and I read it with my son’s fifth grade classmates. It tells the story of a rich, property owner’s daughter who must leave Mexico and her lifestyle behind after her father dies and her unscrupulous uncle attempt to marry her mother and ship her off to boarding school. Once in southern California, she must work as all the other migrants on the farms. She must learn to be a servant after being the master her whole life.

There’s talk of uprisings against the farmers for more farmers rights, but others just need the money to survive. This led to many good discussions of racism – subtle and overt and workers rights.

Great read for an adult or kid.

Read February 2020

Fleishman is in Trouble

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner tells the story about Toby Fleishman, who is in trouble. Newly divorced, Fleishman discovers what it means to be a middle-aged, reasonable attractive, although on the shorter side, single male in a new digital dating world. Sex seems to come easier than it did during his marriage to Rachel. He seems to be getting a handle on his new life, although with much bitterness towards the ending on his relationship. Then Rachel drops the kids off at his house, unannounced, and disappears. Toby cannot reach her by phone, at her apartment, or her assistant.

This is an interesting story where we hear one-side of the relationship for a good chunk of the book before seeing another side. Toby is so self-involved that he never saw what was happening in his relationship unless it was happening to him.

Funny, sad, but ultimately a true look into the breakdown of a relationship.

Read December 2019

Side note: This was the 52nd book of 2019. I was worried I didn’t hit the mark (again) but then remember I read this in early December and never wrote it down! So yea! Hopefully 2020 will bring lots of new, exciting stories!

The Water Cure

The Water Cure, by Sophie Mackintosh, tells the end of days of what seemed like a cult. King, the father or father figure, disappears at the start of the novel. Will he be gone days, weeks, or forever. Remaining behind are King’s wife and 3 daughters. Each alone on this island that had once healed many woman looking for the water cure. The narrators are not the most reliable since they have suffered under King’s delusional view of the world and how unsafe it is. When 3 strangers arrive and King remains gone, the girls begin to change and how they are navigating their world.

Interesting, creepy novel. Great read.

Read November 2019.

The Last Romantics

Tara Conklin dissects a family in The Last Romantics. After their father’s death, the Skinner children raise themselves until their mother is able to return to them. These wild, feral years cement their characters for the rest of their lives as well as determine their roles within the family.

There’s a lot of love between the kids, but as they grow up and move away they find it harder to relate to one another except with their weakness. Always in need of money. Or a people pleaser. Their past defined their future in many ways and their relationships with one another can change, but what damage comes out of it.

Great storytelling with suspense about a downfall in the Skinner family.

Read September 2019