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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

When I finished this book I had one of those rare moments when I was so overwhelmed by its beauty that tears came to my eyes.  When the full impact of its wonderful structure became evident at the end, I felt such elation. Evaristo is the co-winner of the Booker Prize this year for this book. She tells the stories of a dozen characters who have ties to each other; sometimes the ties are...

The World According to Fannie Davis by Bridgett M. Davis

The author tells the story of her mother’s life in the numbers business in Detroit for 40-some years. Fannie and her husband were among the many black people who left Nashville, Tennessee and other Southern cities looking for a better life, in their case, in 1955. John T was not able to make enough money for the family, so Fannie ran numbers and did so successfully until her death in 1992...

The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez

The book jacket says this 2006 book is about two women from very different backgrounds who met as freshmen at Barnard in 1968. One, Ann, is from a wealthy family, successful at any endeavor she takes up. The other is Georgette, the narrator, who comes from an underprivileged background involving heavy drinking and an abusive mother in upstate New York. The two become very close, and though...

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

It was Tony’s A+ that took me to this book and I’m happy that I followed his advice. Eleanor is, of course, not completely fine when we meet her. As the narrator, she tells us about  her work in the accounts department for a graphics company. She routinely displays an impressive lack of social skills there. She disdains all those around her as unworthy. When she’s not at work...

The Yellow House by Sarah Broom

The photo of Sarah Broom that was in my head as I began her memoir is from the NYT; her look is that of a stylish woman of the 1940s. Maybe you’ve seen this image in their review. So as I began reading this memoir of her family that begins with her grandmother, born in 1916, then reaches back to her largely unknown great-grandmother, I had that picture in mind. Later as I read what she...

This is Happiness by Niall Williams

This is Happiness is a 78-year-old man recounting his memories from the time he lived with his grandparents as an 18-year-old after dropping out of the seminary. His reminiscences describe life in the little village of Faha in County Clare in 1958. He meanders from telling stories to descriptions of the countryside to exploring his own feelings and what he has learned over his lifetime. The...

Caffeine by Michael Pollan

This subtitle, How Caffeine Created the Modern World, lays out an ambitious subject for a 2-hour audiobook, even if it is written by Michael Pollan. I’m not in a position to say that it was a successful thesis, but it was interesting enough that I want to devote a post to it to remember some of the points he made. I am sorry to say that as far as I know, it is only available through Audible...

Why Religion? A Personal Story by Elaine Pagels

I know this scholar from her work Revelations about the last book of the Bible “Revelation,” a fascinating book that translates her scholarly work for the public. Her new book recounts her own dramatic life with references to her work and religious/spiritual practices that helped her survive traumas she experienced. Her best known book is The Gnostic Gospels, written early in her...

The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman

As he did in his book Seven Types of Ambiguity, the author depends on coincidences for this 617 page book to work. He begins with the story of a sympathetic character, Lamont Williams, who had just been released after six years in jail. Lamont had agreed to give a ride to his old friend and a man he didn’t know who robbed a store, making Lamont an unwitting get-away driver. He had gotten a...

Inland by Téa Obreht

The author’s previous novel, The Tiger’s Wife, was an exhausting view of life in the Balkans, with fairy tales from the Ottoman days and references to the 1990s war in the region to the uneasy postwar years when it was published in 2011. The backdrop for this one is the West; one tale begins in the 1850s, the other in the 1890s and the two collide at the end. The story featuring Nora...

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