This post may include Amazon links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Fall is officially here, though it always feels like fall to me as soon as kids go back to school. It’s impossible to get rid of those teacher habits, but this fall I’m learning a fun new habit, that of fall vacations. I spent 10 days this month enjoying Sunriver, Oregon after all the summer crowds were over and it was delightful. Next month, I’m heading to Morocco for two weeks and could not be more excited for that trip. Because of that, I don’t anticipate getting a ton of reading done in October, so I’ve tried to go hard this month. I’ve read some really great September books…and some stinkers. Today I’m sharing two I loved, and one I liked and felt compelled to share because, well, it’s Backman!
As always, for all my reviews delivered close to publication, you can follow me on Instagram!
The Net Beneath Us by Carol Dunbar (debut)
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: September 13, 2022
Length: 320 pages
My Thoughts: I’ve read quite a few fantastic debuts this year and thanks to to a couple fellow Bookstagrammers, I have another to add to that list: 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗡𝗘𝗧 𝗕𝗘𝗡𝗘𝗔𝗧𝗛 𝗨𝗦 by Carol Dunbar. This is just the sort of rich, complex story that I most love. As the story opens, Elsa’s husband has just been severely injured in a logging accident. He’s the unexpected love of her life, and that love has brought her to the woods of Wisconsin. There, she and Silas live off the grid in a partially finished house with their two young children. It’s a life unlike anything Elsa could have ever imagined and after the accident she realizes just how much Silas has done for them and how very unprepared she is. This is both terrifying and humbling, and Elsa, fearing judgment, is resistant to the help around her.
This is also a story of grief looked at beautifully from many different angles. Everyone in Silas’s life is living with the pain of his injury: his aunt and uncle, Elsa, their daughter Hester.
“𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘥: 𝘎𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘧 𝘪𝘴𝘯’𝘵 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘵; 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘰 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦.”
“𝘏𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘰𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘥𝘥𝘦𝘥. 𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘤𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘯𝘰𝘪𝘴𝘦, 𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘴 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘺𝘦𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘏𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘯’𝘵 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵. 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘺𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘯’𝘵 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦, 𝘴𝘰 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘭𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘥, 𝘩𝘰𝘵 𝘭𝘶𝘮𝘱.”
I’m so grateful to the readers who pointed me toward 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘕𝘦𝘵 𝘉𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩 𝘜𝘴. This is a book bursting with the heart and humanity that so often define our lives. Its characters and the struggles they grapple with are ones I will be thinking about for a very long time to come. It’s definitely one I can highly recommend. Grade: A
The Old Place by Bobby Finger (debut)
Publisher: Putnam Books
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Length: 336 pages
My Thoughts: You’ve got to be thrilled when you find a book by a debut author that you just love. Believe me when I say I was 𝘛𝘏𝘙𝘐𝘓𝘓𝘌𝘋 with 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗢𝗟𝗗 𝗣𝗟𝗔𝗖𝗘 by Bobby Finger. So much about this book just resonated with me, and without getting into many plot details, I’m going to share why.
- The main character, Mary Alice, is a reluctantly retired high school math teacher living in a small Texas town. A bit of a curmudgeon, Mary Alice reminded me of Olive Kitteridge, only I liked her much more. Mary Alice’s sad, complicated life pulled at my heartstrings.
- Though I’d call this a character-driven story, it’s one that moves quickly and still has a good deal of action going on.
- This is a story of friendships found, lost and found again. It’s a story of what it means to truly be a friend.
- Family stories are among my favorites and in this, family trauma and deeply buried secrets are at its core.
- 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘭𝘥 𝘗𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 is populated with charming, quirky small town characters brimming with authenticity.
- For what initially feels like a whimsical, odd little story it gets pleasingly emotional by the midpoint.
- Finally, you have to appreciate male authors who write women so well. Bravo to that, Bobby Finger! I couldn’t put it down.
If 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘭𝘥 𝘗𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 isn’t already on your TBR list, I highly recommend you add it. Grade: A-
Thanks to Putnam Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
The Winners by Fredrik Backman
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Length: 684 pages
My Thoughts: I finished 𝙏𝙃𝙀 𝙒𝙄𝙉𝙉𝙀𝙍𝙎 weeks ago, but have struggled to gather my thoughts into any semblance of coherence. The final installment of Fredrik Backman’s 𝘉𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘰𝘸𝘯 trilogy was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year, and with two caveats, it did not disappoint.
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴 takes place two and a half years after 𝘜𝘴 𝘈𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘵 𝘠𝘰𝘶 ends. In that time the balance of power has shifted. Beartown is excelling both on and off the ice, as Hed is in rapid decline. It begins with a massive storm that cripples both towns, and puts them further at odds. Over the ensuing two weeks, Backman brings back the most beloved characters from the previous novels and introduces us to a few new ones to love.
I reveled getting back into Backman’s writing. He’s still a master of foreshadowing, drawing you deeper and deeper into the story. He also writes about family and relationships with a wisdom and authenticity unrivaled among today’s authors. And, dang! He knows how to pull at your heartstrings.
Now for the caveats. First, the vitriol and just plain hatred between the rival towns, especially in the beginning, almost made me stop reading. (Though I’m glad I didn’t.) Next, at 680 pages, I think the book was too long. I could have done with fewer political, legal and financial parts which really slowed the story. A lot of repetition from the previous books added to the length and could have been cut. I think it would have been a stronger book at 500 pages.
Still, what I liked was much greater than what I didn’t. It’s wise to keep in mind that 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴 is not a book about hockey, but instead one about love in many forms, and nobody does that better than Backman. Any book that can make me cry like a baby has to have a lot going for it. Grade: B
Thanks to Atria Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.