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Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au

The Australian writer of this book describes a carefully planned trip a woman takes with her mother in Japan. It is narrated by the daughter who tells in precise terms what she planned for the trip and how it unfolds. The mother grew up in Hong Kong and while Australia is never mentioned by name, that is where the mother raised the narrator and her sister. The father is not mentioned and in fact...

Foster by Claire Keegan

I have listened to this one-hour audiobook three times now and have grown to love it more each time. It is a sad story with warm loving characters. I will begin with a SPOILER ALERT; after all, I am writing to revisit what I loved about the book and it’s hard to go far without revelations in this case. It is written from the point of view of a child and begins with her being driven to stay...

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

It was my enjoyment of Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow that took me to this 2014 book of hers which has been made into a movie. It’s a little tough to imagine that a cranky literary snob who owns a failing bookstore could be made a sympathetic character. Throw in the tragic death of his wife, the theft of a rare book, and an abandoned baby on his doorstep, and things can...

The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

I came to this book by way of a tweet someone posted asking for poetic, beautiful slim novels. Those lists are a treat and I plan to go back to this one for more suggestions. I confess I am certain I failed to catch the nuances of what the author wanted to tell us about these characters. Nevertheless, it was a lovely and fun trip. The book opens with the news that Nellie left Frank, taking their...

The Weight by Jeff Boyd

It was a NYT review that took me to this book. Julian tells us—in surprising detail—about his life as a Black man who lives in that very White city, Portland, Oregon. Christian faith was important in his family and he had gone to a Christian college. When we meet him at age 24, he has given up his teaching job, ended his marriage, rejected his Christian belief, and moved to the West Coast. What...

Lev’s Violin by Helena Attlee

The author was so taken with the violin in a Klezmer band playing in a small Welsh town that she spoke to Greg, the violin player after the performance. To explain its seductive depth and unsettling power, he described its “mongrel history.” ‘I’ve been told it was made in Italy at the beginning of the eighteenth century,’ he said, ‘but it came here from Russia...

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

I was not expecting to be so enthralled by a novel about people who create video games, a topic I know nothing about. The characters might have been involved in any undertaking where a combination of talent, luck, and hard work can result in a big reward and great recognition within that field. It was the unique connections among the characters that made it such an appealing story. Sam and Sadie...

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

I have read books written in the voice of teenage boys (with lots of beer involved), but I don’t recall one in the voice of a 10-year old boy. This is set in late 1960s Ireland in a working class neighborhood that is being built up with new housing which means there are drain pipes to crawl through, and that fields available for soccer that are getting smaller. The author won the Booker...

The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li

Agnès, the adult narrator, begins by recounting that this book is her telling the story of Fabienne, her childhood friend. They were young teens in postwar rural France, in Saint Rémy, where Fabienne dropped out of school at age 11 to herd animals while Agnès continued in school. It is Fabienne who dominates, with her cruel games and her declarations that Agnès is an idiot. Fabienne will pet an...

The Sorrows of Others by Ada Zhang

Dorothy mentioned this book of short stories written by her daughter’s fellow student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I find it difficult to write about short stories to balance what I want to remember and what will reflect the collection. The characters are Chinese people in a variety of geographic locations—from Houston to Xi’an, to New York. Some have lived in the U.S. for...

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