CategoryOther Reviews

Happiness by Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna’s mother was Scottish and her father was from Sierra Leone. When she was young, her father worked in Sierra Leone as a physician. He was imprisoned and declared an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience and later was hanged in 1975. According to Wikipedia, her memoir includes an investigation into the conspiracy surrounding his death. She has become a well-respected figure in the...

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

This is my fourth Kate Atkinson book (Life After Life, A God in Ruins, and Case Histories) and I have loved each one. This one and Case Histories feature Jackson Brodie, a former policeman who became a private investigator. The appeal of all her books for me are the characters that you come to love, however improbable they are. There’s Reggie, a teenager who manages to live on her own after...

The Kappillan of Malta by Nicholas Monsarrat

Because of a planned visit to Malta next year, I googled “books set in Malta” and began with this one. It is remarkably good at putting you in the place and I feel I have walked the hill of Valetta, wandered through Sliema, and taken the ferry to Gozo myself. The main character is a priest who honors his noble birth and ancient family, but prefers the humble life of caring for his...

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

I bought this book on the occasion of hearing Paul Auster speak about it at the 92 Street Y, an event we attended because our wonderful kids gave us tickets to it for Christmas. It was over a year before I found the dedication required to read an 866-page book. The weight alone is daunting. At his talk he said that his father had died unexpectedly at the age of 66 and when he began thinking about...

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

The masterful storyteller Elizabeth Strout has written a series of connected stories that are each dramatic and engaging. In each we learn that whatever events occurs in a person's life, anything does continue to be possible. For me the best was the first. Tommy Guptill had a successful dairy farm; the night it burned down he had a realization that he experienced as the presence of God...

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This National Book Award winner is truly an amazing book. I hardly know how to convey its strength. The narrative passes among three characters: A 13-year-old boy, his addicted mother, and one of the unburied. As unpromising as this seems, the story of a road trip by Leonie, her son Jojo, her three-year-old daughter, and her druggie friend Misty to pick up her boyfriend (the kids' father)...

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

I have enjoyed two books by this author (Someone and After This), both of which I admired and appreciated. This one, as I read in a description, begins with a suicide and ends with a possible murder, so the reader is prepared for grimness. The Catholic Church always figures in McDermott’s books whose characters are generally Irish. In this one we see the church in both a good light and in a...

Real American by Julie Lythcott-Haims

When I saw Jenna Wortham’s tweet saying this book about mixed race doesn’t a) make her cringe or b) center whiteness to talk about blackness, I figured it was a book I should read. Jenna Wortham, who writes for the NYT, was in Charlottesville this fall for a panel about race and news media. She was the most articulate speaker even with Jamelle Bouie on the stage. Julie Lythcott-Haims...

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

The title refers to women who become invisible as they live carefully, fulfilling their obligations, putting the needs of others before their own. In a superficial way this book has a connection with Barbara Pym's Excellent Women the much admired (except by me) book centered on British women characterized as spinsters who live a circumscribed life, helping others, and wearing...

Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated by Eliza Marciniak

This book by a poet growing up in Poland during the 1970s and 80s is autobiographical fiction. You notice that the unpleasant smells of rural life vie with the visual descriptions to an unusual degree. And there are plenty of home remedies thrown in. Right off the bat is this description of her mother bringing her home from the maternity ward: She brought me home in February. Still bleeding after...

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Blogs I Like