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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.
In today's world of foodies, famous chef inspired dinners and truffles, you might not imagine that chocolate habaneros, lutefisk and Minnesota would be of interest to readers, but you would be wrong. The narrator, Eva, is abandoned by her mother before she is one and her father decides he can compensate by educating her palate and not with babyfood but with bits of bison, smelly cheeses, and spice! Unfortunately, he, too, is gone in a flash and Eva is left to her own devices. She fights her way through school, meets a cast of curious and lovable characters and in the end, becomes a famous chef herself. The characters were well developed and given that the author is a man, the women were extremely well portrayed. The story is a tender, poignant and remarkable one. You will read this and give it to your friends.
We go through life meeting people, forming relationships, ending friendships, suffering illnesses of our own or our family members, losing dogs and cats, participating in life’s transitions—weddings, births, celebrations—and rarely do we read about these in the way that Abigail Thomas writes about them. Some pages are a paragraph long, others a few pages but every entry conveys emotion, rich complex thoughts that take her content, moving from middle age to older age, to a new level of memoir writing. I devoured this book.
Grief is never pretty but in the words of poet, Elizabeth Alexander, it is made tactile, understandable and movingly felt. Her husband, the love of her life, the father of her children, dies suddenly in his mid-forties and she is left to navigate this profound, life altering experience alone--as any of us might. But in her prose we find solace and a deeper understanding of what it means to love, lose and move forward again. Like Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, this book will become a classic.
I'm not sure exactly how many children the dying mother in this beautiful novel gave birth to in her too-short life, but they range from under two years old to twenty, with few years between. This sweet, steadfast family takes a roadtrip to visit pieces of their parents' past, and in doing so they reveal themselves in a pithy and magical way. The writing is poetic (Huddle is a fine poet whom I've read for years), funny, and poignant. As the mother fades, her children and husband shine in their own reconstructed orbits. A family saga like none I've ever read. I loved it from beginning to end.
This is a quiet book. Toibin slowly creates a character that evolves, despairs, contemplates the meaning of life, and then ultimately blooms. But not without anguish and self examination. Nora's husband dies when she is only 40 and leaves her with little money, four children and a sense that the world she thought would always shelter her is in fact harsh and bleak. She must regroup, restore her children's faith — and her own — in the possibility of normalcy that only comes a glimpse at a time. Beautifully written, a joy to read and savor.
I love finding a great new author whose first book draws me in, keeps me reading, and whom I can recommend to our customers. S. J. Watson is just such a writer. Before I Go to Sleep is a literary thriller that is both well written and scary, but not too scary. And if you are a wannabe author and like movies such as Memento, Ground Hog Dayand Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—movies that feature memory and suspense—this debut novel will drive you crazy with envy for its author. The heroine, Christine, has lost her memory in an accident; she wakes each morning having forgotten who she is, who she is sleeping with, what her former life had to do with her current reality. She doesn’t know if she can trust the doctor she is secretly seeing, or the husband who tells her every day what happened twenty years ago. She writes in a journal, and each day rereads the entire book so she can make sense of her crazy existence. Did she have a child, was she injured in a car accident, is her best friend living in Australia or someplace nearby trying to find her? Who are the people in the pictures that surround her bathroom mirror? I couldn’t stop reading this novel and think it would make a great movie! —Gayle
Aaron Burr, Vice President under Thomas Jefferson, had a daughter who was lost at sea following his famous 1804 duel with the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. She may have drowned, but it has long been thought that she might have been abducted by pirates. Michael Parker suggests that there were pirates involved and she was abandoned on an island off the coast of North Carolina. His novel travels back and forth between her life and and that of her 20th Century descendants—two unmarried aunts living a strange and lonely existence in a house that barely protects them from rain and hurricanes. Their welfare is dependent on another reclusive inhabitant of the island, whom may also be related to Theodosia Burr’s husband—a black man who grudgingly cares for them. This is a story of madness and devotion filled with love and a great sense of place and community. I loved the characters—their often tortuous bonds of family and community—the writing, the historical context and the author’s ability to bring the early 1800s into the present.
I avoid books about sociopaths who kidnap, rape and put women into escape-proof rooms for seven years. But I heard from several bookseller friends that this book was not one to miss in spite of the topic and saw that it was also nominated for a Booker Prize. It’s told through the eyes of a child, conceived & birthed in a tiny, 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper's yard. The boy’s perceptions are insightful and there are enough plot twists to provide a dramatic arc of breathtaking suspense. It kept me reading late at night -- highly recommended. -Gayle