The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale tells what happens when a culture ruins their environment and steals the autonomy of women due to a decreased birthrate. Its scary and horrifying. Healthy babies are prized over a woman’s right to her own life. Women are separated by their ability to have children, higher class women, working class women and women of color are just sent away as not needed.

In the world we live, this tale is too reminiscent of politicians preaching about the sanctity of life while depriving poor people, especially people of color, basic human dignities. I originally read this book years ago and it didn’t have the same horror I felt this time.

This book is so well written and so horrifying, Read May 2017.

Silver Girl

Elin Hilderbrand’s Silver Girl is a fictional account based on the Bernie Madoff’s fleecing of his investors. In this world, Freddy Delinn plays the evil mastermind, but it’s his wife that the story centers around. Meredith Delinn hides from the public after her husbands arrest and seemingly knows nothing about any of her husband’s financial schemes. After loosing everything and about to be kicked out of her home, she begs her childhood friend to let her stay with her. Connie Flute, a widow, has know Meredith her entire life, but after  a falling out, they haven’t spoken in years. Connie agrees to allow Meredith to stay with her on Nantucket for the summer.

To Meredith is seems the whole world lost money on her husbands investment and she isn’t allowed to talk to her sons until they’ve all been cleared of wrongdoing. She and Connie work to rebuild their own relationship as Meredith is attacked from outside as a conspirator of her husband. Trying to lie low is harder than it seems, and Hilderbrand shows the anguish that Meredith is suffering at the loss of what was her whole world. Connie, while trying to help her friend, also suffers after the loss of her husband 2 1/2 years ago. Both woman need to find a way forward on their own, but aren’t yet sure if they can trust one another.

A great, emotional story of loss and friendship. And this novel has, like so many others, a friend who loves to cook wonderful meals without any help or resentment. I don’t know why so many novels have this “friend” in them, but I sure would want to go on vacation with someone like that!

Read April 2017

Klickitat

Peter Rock wrote a book about teen rebellion and idealizing an older sibling while incorporating an underworld of teen runaways on the streets of Portland. Klickitat is the street that Ramona Quimby lives on in Beverly Cleary’s world. Its also close to where the sisters Audra and Vivian live and a secret code between them.

Audra is a rebellious teenage runaway that sneaks back home to get her younger sister. They live with a strange man who supposedly has lots of experience living off the grid, but so far they’re petty thieves living under someones home.

The writing is almost lyrical with beautiful sentences and phrases. This help paint a magical setting for the sisters relationship, which is strained by mental disorders and jealousy.

This was a gripping story with unexpected twists.

Read August 2016.

The Ramblers

Aidan Donnelly Rowley’s story focused on a pair of New York couples, all successful and wealthy, either independently or their family. The Ramblers is a great name for this novel, since the couples seem to be rambling about their life trying to figure out what they should do, also for the spot in Central Park where Clio March leads her bird walk.

Clio, was born poor, but after her Yale education, she’s been living a much better life, mooching off her college roommate in her apartment off Central Park and enjoying a successful career at working with birds. However, Clio hasn’t come to terms with her bipolar mother, or her father who spent her life trying to hold her mom together, without any energy left for her and its impacting her relationship. Smith Anderson, the said roommate, was born into a very wealthy family, but her generosity is all her own. She’s still reeling after her fiancé suddenly cut off their engagement months ago and now her younger sister is getting married. She meets an old Yale classmate, Tate Pennington, who seems to revive her spirit.

Both Clio and Smith are at the point in their lives where decisions need to be made, or nothing will ever change. Will Clio be able to trust anyone enough to open up about her past, and will Smith be able to succeed without all her paternal support.

Starting this novel, I thought it would be a more serious read. It wasn’t, but it was a fun look at upperclass Manhattanites and an enjoyable story about 2 women working through their issues and consciously deciding where they want their lives to lead.

Read June 2016.

Love Me Back

Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back is a strange book about a restaurant worker who threw away her life, husband, and child to work nights, sleep around, and do a lot of drugs. It seems well-written and intriguing, but either I missed the point of the novel or there wasn’t one. I kept waiting for a moment of redemption or forgiveness or even a good cause for Marie’s self-destruction. There are hints about a religious upbringing and a sheltered life that she’s breaking away from, but it seems like she had a decent childhood.

I read this a month or so ago, so maybe I’m forgetting some key parts of the story (which is possible and why I should document the books right after I read it). But I still liked reading Love Me Back. The character is engaging in her effort to destroy as much of her life as possible. I’d be interested to read another Tierce novel to see if her writing can develop plot a little better than just characters.

Read May 2016

hausfrau

hausfrau is Jill Alexander Essbaum’s novel and its pretty amazing. I don’t know if I actually like any character in this novel, especially the protagonist Anna Benz. And I should feel some kinship with Anna since we’re close in age with young children. But there’s nothing familiar about this American living in Switzerland.

Anna married a Swiss man and moved to outside of Zurich about ten years ago and is just now taking classes to learn the local language. She has completely disconnected herself from her environment and the people around her. From her perspective, the Swiss people are cold and isolated, but Anna seems to do much of that to herself. As a reaction to her cold, distant husband, Anna has flings like someone else might have happy hours. She’s so desperate to feel something and uses sex, usually not with her husband, to fill her.

This could have been a trite story about a woman looking for love in all the wrong places, but Essbaum creates a woman on edge, a train wreck about to happen, that I couldn’t stop reading. All of her affairs and lies were bound to catch up to Anna, but how would it happen?

I was spellbound by how beautiful this heartbreaking story is told. The end seemed inevitable when I got there, but it was painful none the less.

Great read!!

Read September 2015

Lucia, Lucia

Kit, an aspiring playwright, befriends her upstairs neighbor in their Greenwich Village apartment. Aunt Lu invites Kit to her upstairs apartment filled with memorabilia and knickknacks from her life. Adriana Trigiani’s Lucia, Lucia is the story of how Aunt Lu, Lucia, ended up living alone in her family’s former home which was turned into an apartment building and owned by her brother’s family.

Lucia came of age in the 1950’s when young woman entered the work force en masse with the expectation that they would resign once married or at the latest when they became pregnant. Lucia worked for an up and coming designer and could put together his designs beautifully. Her first engagement ends when she learns that her mother-in-law and family expect her to resign her career immediately upon marriage, but that she would also be expected to take care of her in-laws home and would be completely under her mother-in-laws rule. Her second engagement doesn’t fare much better and as hard as she tries, Lucia cannot escape from her family obligations.

Adriana Trigiani’s characters are rich and deep, but overall this novel made me sad for Lucia. She has a full life, but the things that were the most important to her as a young woman are slowly taken away from her until she’s left alone on the top floor apartment with her gifts from a bygone era.

Enjoyable, light read.

Read August 2015.