Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Amy MiddlesexI 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.

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Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Amy IdahoIdaho 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.

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Anything is possible by Elizabeth Strout

Amy Anything is possibleI read My Name is Lucy Barton last year and found it a beautiful story. Anything is Possible is a companion book, in which Lucy features. It is, essentially, connected short stories about people in the small town Lucy Barton grew up in. It’s about strength of character, loneliness, loss, hope and the endlessly bizarre turns life and people can take. It’s sad, sweet, puzzling, complex and hopeful; I enjoyed it very much.

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Amy CommonwealthCommonwealth is the story of a complicated family. A man and a woman meet at a party, leave their spouses and marry each other. They each bring children to this new marriage; children now with two families, divided loyalties. When one of the children grows up, she meets a famous author and shares the story of their childhood. It’s a thoughtful, insightful book about the long lasting consequences of our actions, family ties and the ownership of our stories.

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Into the water by Paula Hawkins

Kate Into the WaterI chose the audiobook of ‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins, not as one who had read ‘The Girl on the Train’, but seen (and loved) the movie. Being the first audiobook I’ve listened to with not one but four narrators, with so many characters telling the story from their point of view, I actually thought that was clever. As each spoke in their own unique manner and voice, it helped recognise who was then telling the story, something I’ve seen others find confusing when reading the book. It was not quite the thriller I had hoped it would be, but I throughly enjoyed getting to know all the diverse characters (and such a range of accents) and wondering about, to quote the synopsis, ‘the stories we tell about our pasts and their power to destroy the lives we live now’.

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Amy CommonwealthCommonwealth is the story of a complicated family. A man and a woman meet at a party, leave their spouses and marry each other. They each bring children to this new marriage; children now with two families, divided loyalties. When one of the children grows up, she meets a famous author and shares the story of their childhood. It’s a thoughtful, insightful book about the long lasting consequences of our actions, family ties and the ownership of our stories.

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Jarulan by the river by Lily Woodhouse

Cynthia Jarulan by the riverI was looking forward to reading this book based on the blurb; Australian – Family – History, all the things that I love to read. Lily’s descriptive writing gave me a good sense of place and what life was like at Jarulan. There was an overall sense of uneasiness and I had to keep reading to find out what would happen with the family. Then came Rufina, a character that I could not feel anything for, and this let the story down for me. I was also disappointed about not finding out the full story of the ghosts that would appear at the appropiate times, but not fully explained, and this made the novel feel a bit unfinished.

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Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Amy MoonglowMoonglow is Michael Chabon’s speculative autobiography, fictional non-fiction. As Mike Chabon’s grandfather is dying of cancer, he tells Mike about his life. It’s about being Jewish, about growing up, the war, marriage, brokenness, love and rockets. It isn’t a linear story, but rambles along, back and forth, in a beautiful, full of truth, story of the heart.

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