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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...

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang

Both Dorothy and Jen were enthusiastic about this book. Its author is the Director of the Iowa Writers Workshop, so its focus is on the business of teaching people to write. SPOILER ALERT!! One of the main reasons I write about books is so that I can remember whatever odd bit or important point that strikes me. So, be forewarned. The initial setting in the book is an exclusive (fictional)...

Island Home: A Landscape Memoir by Tim Winton

It was such a treat to read a book that lovingly describes Tim Winton’s unique home, “the world’s largest island,” as he has it. For me the best part is being reminded of the sense memories of my own childhood, though my Virginia countryside couldn’t be more different from Australia. One topic he wrote about that resonates with me begins this way:  “Like most...

The Road Through Miyama by Leila Philip

Recently I read a book by an American woman living in Japan who wrote about her experiences there including taking a pottery class. That moved me to look for this book which I read many years ago and I found it to be as wonderful to read again as the first time. It is the story of a college-age woman who spent 1983 to 1985 in a “folkcraft” village, Miyama, in Japan apprenticed to a...

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

In just a few sentences Murakami can bring you into a world you know nothing about, but you are ready to let him guide you as he wishes. The first story tells about Kafuku, a successful actor, who found himself in need of a driver because a minor accident uncovered a glaucoma-caused small blind spot. Despite his reluctance to be driven by a woman, he agreed to be driven by Misaki who turned out...

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