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When I was teaching, September was my most dreaded month of the year, but now? I LOVE September. The weather is great, nothing is crowded. It’s amazing. I just returned from spending two weeks in Sunriver, Oregon (one of my very favorite places), and it was bliss. Sunny days with long walks and/or long bike rides, plus plenty of reading time. I hope the start of fall has been as nice for you as it has for me, and the three books I’m sharing today might make it even better.
This month’s favorites are all from authors I’ve read and loved in the past and their latest releases set their bars even higher! As always, you can follow me on Instagram @novelvisits, where I most often share books near their release date. (It may be the only place to see my reviews come 2024.)
My Thoughts: I’ve read Dennis Lehane in the past, but in recent years he’s sort of fallen off my radar. A couple months ago, I started seeing his latest novel, 𝗦𝗠𝗔𝗟𝗟 𝗠𝗘𝗥𝗖𝗜𝗘𝗦, popping up everywhere and reviews were incredibly positive. That’s about all it takes to pique my interest, so in went the @libby.app holds. Wouldn’t you know both the e-book and audiobook requests came in on the same day, so I took both and did a read/listen on this one. (Both formats worked for me.)
The story takes place in the summer of 1974 in Boston, where some schools are to start being integrated come September. Almost no one is happy about this, tensions are growing, and widespread protests are in the works. Then a Black teen is killed in a subway station in a white neighborhood and one of his suspected killers vanishes. The mob, very active in the area, is trying to clean things up to protect their own interests. Throwing a wrench in it all is Mary Pat, a true warrior woman, who can’t find her daughter, and Bobby, a cop and one time heroin addict, trying to solve the murder.
In some ways this was a tough book to read because that era was so fraught with hate towards anyone different. It came out loud and clear with real language that today makes most of us cringe, but then and there it was how people talked, how they thought. Still, I liked it very much. It was real. It also made me sad because nearly 50 years later how much progress have we truly made? Not enough, that’s for sure, but I appreciate that Small Mercies really made me think. So a little reflection and an intense story – you should definitely add it to your TBR. Grade: B+
My Thoughts: I expected to enjoy 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗥𝗜𝗩𝗘𝗥 𝗪𝗘 𝗥𝗘𝗠𝗘𝗠𝗕𝗘𝗥 by William Kent Kruger because I’m a longtime fan of the author, but even I’d forgotten what a masterful storyteller he is. The∙Man∙Can∙Write!
In theory this should NOT have been a book I loved. Its main character is a sheriff in a small Minnesota town in 1958. The rest of the story is populated with a whole load of other men, many with trauma from their times in WWII and/or the Korean War. There’s a complicated plot with a lot of intersecting lines.
None of the above generally appeal to me, but Kruger is an author I trust. His name alone is enough to make me pick up a book. However, it’s not enough to keep me flying through the pages which is exactly what I did with 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘞𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳. That takes a great story, beautifully told. Kruger brought the inhabitants of Jewel, Minnesota to life. There were those I liked, those I hurt for, those I loathed, and those I longed to know more about. He placed them in the midst of issues of the time including prejudices toward both American Indians and Japanese, and expectations around women’s roles in society. I was thrilled being a part of their world as the entire community went through some very divisive events.
If you’ve never read WKK, this book is a great place to start and if you have, then you already know! Grade: A
Thanks to Atria Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: I want to begin by emphasizing that I listened to 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗩𝗔𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗥 𝗪𝗜𝗟𝗗𝗦. I’m not completely sure my reaction would have been as strong had I read it in print. The masterful storytelling of Lauren Groff combined with the incredible narration of January LaVoy made for an unforgettable listening experience. That’s no easy task considering that the entire book is about one lone servant girl striking out on her own.
Lamentations has lived a difficult life, but has never waivered in her devotion to her mistress or her mistress’s young daughter. She journeyed with them from England to Jamestown, where starvation turned even the religious to monsters. After an unforgivable act she flees the colony for the vaster wilds where she hopes to find the French who might offer her deliverance. On her journey she faces blizzards, iced over rivers, starvation, injuries, sickness, wild animals, and more.
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘝𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘞𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘴 IS her story and I found it exciting, awe inspiring, and very much touching. Be assured, this is a slower paced book, with a hint of magical realism, and it’s one I’ll long remember. If you’re amiable to that combination, I think you’ll be very glad you picked up this book. It’s like nothing else I’ve read in a very long time. In fact, three weeks after finishing, I’m still thinking about it. Grade: A
Thanks PRH Audio for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
What were your favorite books of September?
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