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The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

Tim Winton’s most recent fiction is yet another amazing work. The narrator is a teenage boy who begins his story telling that his father has once again beaten him, leaving one eye swollen shut. Later Jackson returns to find his father had died when the car he was repairing collapsed on him. Jackson, believing he will be accused of killing his father, runs in hopes of getting far enough away...

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Thirty-eight year old Tsukiko Omachi recounts the story of her connection with her former high school teacher Harutsuna Matsumoto who she encounters by chance while drinking in a bar. She didn’t remember the name of this man 30 years her senior, so she calls him Sensei, and continues to do so. They meet by chance over many months, drinking saké and eating together, most often at a...

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

The narrator tells the story of leaving home in Bangalore as a drifting young adult to search for a Kashmiri man she knew from childhood. From the start Shalini says that her privilege and naiveté had caused her to do great harm to others in that troubled area. The reader waits for that blow, as Shalini described the family dynamics as she is growing up and at the same time told of the events...

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I can’t think when I’ve read a more addictive book. I was hooked from the moment I began reading. SPOILER ALERT! I may be more revelatory than the usual review, but I think most let you know the basic story is that one and a half years into his marriage to Celestial, Roy, a black man, was falsely accused of rape and was sentenced to 12 years in jail. Roy, the son of hardworking poor...

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

This is Marilynne Robinson’s first novel; here’s what I wrote about two of her others:  Gilead and Lila. She certainly gives me much to think about and I find that I see things in a different light from one moment to the next (or one decade to the next). It begins this way:  “My name is Ruth. I grew up with my younger sister, Lucille, under the care of my grandmother, Mrs...

Shell by Kristina Olsson

A wonderfully complex tale beautifully told that focuses on one of the most awe-inspiring man-made structures in the world and an issue that loomed large in my own young life, well, how can that be wrapped up in a single book? Shell is set in Sydney when the opera house construction was underway and coincidentally, conscription to send men to fight in Vietnam began, in late 1965 and 1966. Pearl...

Heartland by Sarah Smarsh

The subtitle A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth describes Sarah Smarsh’s family background.  She tells of escaping the poverty that engulfed multiple generations in her family in Kansas. Two pieces of advice I took away from this book:  1) Don’t live in a country whose economic system makes it very hard for those in poverty to change their...

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

For a book that is a thoughtful rumination on a fraught relationship, it is surprisingly adventure-filled with a dramatic variety of locations. While visiting his brother who owns a sugar plantation in Barbados in 1830, Titch asks to use the help of an 11-year-old slave with his work to create a hot air balloon. It is the connection of Titch and George Washington Black that illustrates the...

Favorite Books for 2018

When three of my January reads made the favorite books list, I knew it was going to be a long list this year. Of my thirteen favorite books, five are by Australian writers. I read 50 books this year. Mr. Hogarth’s Will by Catherine Helen Spence.  An Australian wrote this 1865 book in a writing style reminiscent of Jane Austen with the political sensibility of Ezra Klein, or perhaps...

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

This is the sixth in the series that I have enjoyed listening to.  Though we have moved into the Depression era (the beginning of 1932) the Great War continues to be an important backdrop to the story. Maisie is recruited to work with the police, in particular a high-ranking Scot named Robbie McFarland, to find a madman sending threatening letters to the PM and others. While others are looking...

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