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Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey was the US Poet Laureate in 2012 and 2013; this book is a memoir that tells of her connection with her mother who was killed when Trethewey was 19. Gwendolyn Grimmette was killed by her second ex-husband (not Trethewey’s father). For the ten years Joel Grimmette was in their lives, he beat her mother and though he tormented Trethewey, there was no mention of physical abuse...

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession

Leonard and Hungry Paul are two 30-something friends who lead quiet and largely contented lives.  Leonard works as a writer for children’s encyclopedias and is diligent and careful in his work. His mother has recently died; his social time is spent largely with his friend playing Monopoly one evening each week. Hungry Paul lives with his parents and works for the post office only on days...

A Million Aunties by Alecia McKenzie

I think it was the New York Times review that took me to this book. It was pleasant to be transported to Jamaica where we meet the loving Auntie Della. Christopher, a young artist recently bereaved was sent to her by his agent Stephen who had been plucked out of an orphanage by her when he was young. With her healing care, especially those hearty breakfasts, Christopher broadens his  horizon to...

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

What a wonderful book–I love an author who came make me fall for an old drunk called Sportcoat. The book is set in 1969 in Brooklyn around projects called the Cause Houses when drugs had become a significant business. The story begins with Sportcoat shooting a young smart drug dealer that he had taught to play baseball and had cared for in church. And, oh yes, Sportcoat is a Deacon in the...

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Dorothy mentioned this book and I am so glad she did–it’s been an exceptional book for me. I loved Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo, but have found some of his short stories to be too dark for me. This is something quite different; it is his careful reading of seven short stories by Russian writers, a 400-page recounting of a course he has taught for 20 years to MFA students...

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

This book was touted as a good choice for our stressful times and it worked for me — no bad surprises, characters are predictable and engaging. I was quite happy to have them as companions as I cooked and did other routine chores. It’s not that the characters didn’t have their difficulties and traumas. The book opens with Astrid, a widowed matron present at the gruesome death of...

Intimations by Zadie Smith

I have listened to this audiobook twice now and will again. While I’m sure the essays are brilliant in print, hearing her voice gives them a great new dimension. I loved both of the books of her fiction that I have read. In the forward written at the end of May 2020 Smith notes that many books will be written about the pandemic; hers is an accounting of some of the thoughts and feelings it...

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

It was a pleasure to listen to Barack Obama review his political life in his usual measured and literate style, although the specter of the four years following his time in office hung over the narrative. And the Republicans’ stated goal of making him a one-term, failed president rather than address the 2008 financial crisis added to that pain. I plan to remember some of the fun bits. He...

The Yield by Tara June Winch

The enthusiastic response that I have seen to this book is wholly warranted. Its structure is unique and impressive, the tale it tells is engaging, and it relies on clear factual foundations. The story unfolds through three voices. One is the story of August, a modern-day Wiradjuri woman who after 10 years in the UK, returned to New South Wales on the occasion of her grandfather’s death to...

The Power of Adrienne Rich by Hilary Holladay

I wanted to read the biography of the famous poet and feminist because I know so little about this person whose name is so familiar. I am left thinking I learned about her personal life, but do not have a grasp of her influence. Adrienne’s father was determined to make her a successful and well-educated person; she turned her attention to writing poetry and in her third year at Radcliffe...

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