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When she's not working in her garden, Gayle is usually reading or watching reruns of West Wing and ER. She loves contemporary fiction, mysteries and memoirs. Occasionally you'll find her reading essays by people like Malcolm Gladwell, Paco Underhill, Daniel Pink or John McPhee.
Damnation Spring is a brilliant novel. Through the characters we get a glimpse of rural America brought to life by the incongruities of families whose livelihoods depend on vanishing old-growth forests; whose life cycles include early age deaths and severe injuries because the hazards of timbering are many, who suffer from toxic chemicals used to kill undergrowth, and who, in spite of these hurdles, love their children, fight hard to maintain their dignity, and ignore so much that is harming them. They have no other choice. It's the story of a marriage, a deep love underwritten by fear and heartbreak and family ties. If ever there was a novel for our times as we are trying to understand how whole swaths of our country voted for a man who promised them that he would make America great again, this book will help you understand the conflict. Ash Davidson brings dignity to her rural community whose way of life is disappearing in front of them and who know the ills of which the environmentalists speak but have no alternatives for survival when the larger world renders them helpless as politics and greed take the place of compassion and a united community. I can't get this book out of my head and I don't want to.
There is a promise in these stories that nothing will be held back, that the reader will be absorbed into the emotions, the pain, the hope, the lack of fairness, and uncertainty of living through the next day. The reader takes the writer’s journey and tries on the vicissitudes of loss and striving to live a meaningful life, and what it means to be thwarted by forces so huge that the hostility and history behind those forces are present but no longer register because it comes from centuries of bigotry, enslavement, biased assumptions, and complicated suspicions not based in reality but in inherited presumptions. Jocelyn Nicole Johnson has written a collection of stories that will haunt me, have educated me, and have left me in awe of her writing and storytelling talent.
For those of you us who loved A Gentleman in Moscow, our writer friend, Amor Towles is back and has created another cast of characters you won’t easily forget. Two brothers in search of their mother, a war hero who can’t face the world unless he’s riding on trains back and forth across the country, two almost loveable juvenile delinquents hoping to steal an inheritance, a miscreant preacher, and a book that tells stories of mythic and real life heroes that is never far from the reader nor its owner make up a piece of this wonderful novel. The rest of the story you will find as you travel the Lincoln Highway--the first transcontinental road for cars in the US, stretching over 3000 miles from New York City to San Francisco--with this motley crew pulling at your heartstrings on a non-stop adventure.
One of my favorite all time novels is Sarah Winman’s, The Tin Man and I was thrilled to find the galley of her new novel waiting for me in my office just before I left on vacation. It was the first book I read and I totally loved it. As in the Tin Man, her characters and her writing are beyond the pale. You are drawn in and captivated by the quirkiness of the people, the beautiful descriptions of food and art in Italy, the pathos of war and its aftermath and above all the love that transcends generations and gender. There’s even a beautiful blue parrot who quotes Shakespeare and trees that render advice to those who sit beneath their branches.
I love Elizabeth Strout--everything she’s written--and this is no exception. She plays with us in her novels, bringing back characters from her past stories who we thought were gone when we closed the book and in this novel, she breaks the frame and talks to the reader as if we were there with her. Lucy Barton reluctantly reconnects with her ex-husband William and together they explore their pasts while trying to understand what keeps them connected. It’s filled with surprises, insights, and laugh out loud moments. The perfect novel.
This novel delves deep into the issues of the reckless killing of Blacks by police officers who are hired to protect citizens, not harm them. It's told through the eyes of two women, one black and one white; lifetime friends who have shared intimate and confidential details of their lives and suddenly find themselves looking deeply into those components and coming up with deep-seated, unanswered questions. It's honest, brutal, and doesn't shy away from racist issues, and it is also sweet and heartbreaking in its intensity.
If you haven't been on a plane for a while because of COVID and you read this literary thriller, you may think twice about boarding a plane ever again. A pilot is forced to choose his family or his passengers when terrorists force him to crash his plane or lose his wife and two children. The author worked at Changing Hands and left for a job with Virgin Airlines and her book is infused with insider info she learned in both professions. Scary and gripping--you can't put it down so don’t start it if you don’t have a block of time in front of you to read.