The Little House books were among my favourites as a child, so when I saw this title I just had to read it. Sarah was able to capture the Ingalls’ journey across the prairie, but I did loose some of the story with the over detailed accounts of events. I could picture Caroline as she would of presented to Laura in her books, but internally have different thoughts and feelings. It was a good representation of what a mother and wife goes through, what it takes to hold a family together, the need to suppress your own feelings or to be a bit selfish.
Yuki is a Japanese teenager, living in New York City in the late 60s; no longer belonging in Japan, she is also an outsider in New York. Her parents return to Japan, and she stays, with an almost friend, and for the next few years tries to be an artist. The story of her son, set in the current day, is also told, as he tries to adjust to parenthood, and wonders why his mother left him. It’s a quietly bleak story, with flashes emotion, of Yuki and Jay’s internal struggle for meaning and place, and for peace within themselves. The characters are deeply flawed, most are unlikeable, and it is a touch melancholy, but it is strangely suspenseful and compelling.
Anatomy of a Scandal is a fast-paced, courtroom drama told from multiple perspectives. A powerful politician, happily married and living in London, is accused of rape, and we follow him, his wife, the prosecutor and a number of others, both now and during his time at Oxford, in events leading up to what has happened. It is clever, tight, suspenseful and very timely, dealing with the experiences of women, privilege, the abuse of power and the search for truth.
Sing, Unburied, Sing is a very moving story about Mississippi’s haunting past. Jojo is thirteeen; he and his baby sister live with their grandparents, who try to provide what his mother Leonie, can’t manage to. When Leonie takes them to pick up their father from prison, the journey is full of danger, ghosts and hope. It’s about families, belief, the legacy of violence and the hope of release, and I found it sad, raw, mystical, lyrical, dark and beautiful.
Helen Moran learns of her adopted brother’s suicide and returns to her childhood home to investigate, learning about her family, her brother and herself. This is a strange book, funny, disturbing, uncomfortable. Helen is sensitive, oblivious, well-meaning, disastrous, cringeworthy and compelling.
Maria, Niall and Celia are brought up together, two step-siblings, one half-sister, with their famous, eccentric, and not very attentive parents. Nearing forty, and have just been called parasites, they look back on their lives. None of the three are very likeable; one has realised none of her potential, two have an obsessive, destructive sort of relationship, and have exceeded expectations in many ways, and now they must all account for themselves and look ahead. Not as compelling as I had hoped, The Parasites was still a fascinating look at creativity, fame, privilege, selfishness and the bonds that tie people together.
Sofie Laguna is very good at writing about children who are very badly let down by their families, schools and society. The Choke is the story of Justine; abandoned by her mother, she lives with her Pop, who has his own demons, and is occasionally visited by her criminal father. Justine quietly tries to make sense of a confusing, and hurtful world, finding solace in nature. The book starts slowly, but then captured my heart. It’s dark, disturbing and very sad, but not without beautiful moments of love, kindness, and hope.
Having loved Everything I Never Told You, I expected to enjoy this book, and I did. It’s about a family with four teenaged children, living more than comfortably in an upper-middle class, American suburb. Their lives are going along as planned, until Mia and Pearl, an artist and her daughter, arrive and set in motion events that cause everyone to question what they believe about themselves. It’s about privilege, prejudice, vocation, love, fear and power. You know what has happened from the beginning, and then go back to understand why.
I really love this book! In order to tell his story, Cal Stephanides needs to go back and start with his grandparents. What follows is the epic story of a Greek family, beginning with an escape from burning Smyrna to their settling in Detroit. It is full of real history thrillingly entwined with the imagined; the Nation of Islam, the riots in Detroit (David Bowie song!) and an experience of being intersex. It is heartwarming, funny, over the top and very real at the same time.
Idaho is a story about the ripples of consequences, hope, forgiveness, loss, the fragility of life and situation, the power of love and friendship. There is plenty of plot, but it isn’t linear, or symmetrical. It is set, largely, on a lonely mountain in Idaho, where a family lives until something unexpected and shocking happens. The writing is beautiful, full of dreamy detail, with a wonderful sense of place.