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I have had quite a month and it has little to do with books. For the first time in well over three years I traveled outside the United States, spending two wonderful weeks in Morocco. We traversed the country by car which at times was an adventure in itself. This was a bucket list trip for me and it did not disappoint. I’ve been asked over and over what I liked the best, but the list is far too long. For cites, Marrakesh and Chefchaouen top the list, but the Sahara and the High Atlas Mountains with their beautiful gorges were also wonderful. The delicious food and many kind, friendly people were true highlights. It’s definitely a trip I’ll never forget!
Despite the travel, I did manage to read some books this month and am very excited to share my favorite three with you today. All were written by authors I’ve read and loved before, so expectations were high and they did not disappoint! These three books could not be more different, yet each was wonderful in its own way. As always, for all my reviews delivered close to publication, you can follow me on Instagram.
My Thoughts: 𝘈 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘯’𝘴 𝘉𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦 by Lydia Millet was one of my Best Books of 2020, so you know I was excited to read her new novel, 𝗗𝗜𝗡𝗢𝗦𝗔𝗨𝗥𝗦. Let’s just say I was 𝐧𝐨𝐭 disappointed. This is a very different kind of story, but one that shone for its own unique qualities.
𝘋𝘪𝘯𝘰𝘴𝘢𝘶𝘳𝘴 is a beautifully simple story of a wealthy man, Gil, who walked from NYC to his new home in Arizona. He wanted the difficult journey to honor his new life, and needed to make himself work for it. Once there, he quickly becomes friends with the family of four living next door. Their modern home has a wall of glass facing his, and even though Gil quickly becomes very close to the whole family, sometimes he sees more than he would like. The relationships he builds in Arizona make him question some of his own life choices, including what it means to be a rich man. Can a rich man also be a good man? His wealth is his burden, yet he wouldn’t want to be without it.
“…𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘢𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘢 𝘭𝘰𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘺, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘱𝘢𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘴𝘵, 𝘴𝘰 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘴 𝘧𝘳𝘦𝘦. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦’𝘴 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘢 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘦-𝘰𝘧𝘧, 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘢 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘴𝘢𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘦, 𝘶𝘯𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘶𝘱 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦, 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘮𝘦, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸? 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘯 𝘪𝘵.”
I know my description doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a quiet, character-driven novel, beautifully written – the hallmark of Lydia Millet. Not a lot happens, but growth on all fronts is immense. That, and the fact that Gil is one of the most likable characters I’ve ever come across, will having me thinking about this story for a very long time. At a slim 240 pages, I devoured this book as will many others. Grade: A-
Thanks to W.W. Norton for an electronic ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: I need to start by telling you two very important things about 𝗢𝗨𝗥 𝗠𝗜𝗦𝗦𝗜𝗡𝗚 𝗛𝗘𝗔𝗥𝗧𝗦 by Celeste Ng. First, I loved it! Next, it IS dystopian and it IS political. I know both those things scare some readers off, but here I don’t think it should. It’s dystopian in a political way much like 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘥’𝘴 𝘛𝘢𝘭𝘦 (not as extreme) or 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘔𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦 (slightly more so).
In Ng’s new book, the United States had gone through a period of inflation, massive shortages, unemployment and violence. Right or wrong, much of the blame was placed on China, and out of that time rose a new political power that required complete loyalty to U.S. values. People who spoke out would often find themselves punished. For some, their children were taken away and relocated to a loyal family with the “right values.” Anyone Asian became particularly vulnerable, not only from the government, but from angry citizens.
The story follows Bird, a 12-year old boy, whose mother, a Chinese American poet, voluntarily left Bird and her husband three years earlier. She did this to protect Bird from being relocated. He is now at an age where he’s becoming acutely aware of the world around him and he begins questioning more and more why his mom left and where she could be. The book brings us Bird’s quest to find answers.
As always Ng’s writing is spectacular and her characters extremely well-developed. This has a clever, heart-felt plot in which she wove together many elements beautifully. I suspect there will be those who don’t like the political angles in this book, and they’ll need to examine their own reasons why. I would simply say that no matter where you stand politically, 𝘖𝘶𝘳 𝘔𝘪𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘏𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘴 is a wonderful coming-of-age story and a book I highly recommend. Grade: A-
Thanks to Penguin Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: If you don’t already think of Barbara Kingsolver as a national treasure, reading 𝗗𝗘𝗠𝗢𝗡 𝗖𝗢𝗣𝗣𝗘𝗥𝗛𝗘𝗔𝗗 will undoubtedly convince you. I was already a fan, but now I’m feeling a little gaga over her. A 546 page chunker, her latest book is nothing short of brilliant, a masterclass in great storytelling!
The title character, Demon Copperhead, is loosely based on that of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, but don’t let that scare you off. Demon tells his own sad life story in a voice that is strong and clear, and has you rooting for Demon throughout. He’s a boy born under the worst of circumstances: Appalachia as it’s being devastated by Purdue Pharma, oxycontin, heroin, and the addiction, poverty, crimes, and death left in their wake. His mom is a victim, his father dead, and Demon is left to find his own path even as a young boy. We get a look at the failings of the foster care system, the importance of a few loyal friends, and the undeniable lure of escaping it all that helped to make opioids so successful.
The book is populated with an incredible array of characters who come in and out of Demon’s life, some to help and others to exploit. I started this book before leaving for Morocco, and even though a lot was going on there, I was eager each night to get in a bit of reading. I may have finished it more quickly at home, but the slower pace enabled me to savor every bit of this book and for that I’m grateful. 𝘋𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘯 𝘊𝘰𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘥 has been added to my growing stack of possibilities for Best Books of 2022! Grade: A
Thanks to Harper Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.