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Considering I read an 800+ page book this month, I’m feeling pretty good about the number of books I manage to read. I guess that’s retirement for you! I have to admit that I’m loving every single morning when I wake up and think, “Oh, I don’t have to go to work today.” I’m sure it will wear off, eventually, but for now it’s a daily gift. It’s also nice that I’ve been free to help out and spend more time with my three local grandkids. That and more reading time have been exactly what I was hoping for from retirement. Now if we could just get to the point where I felt good about doing some serious traveling, then it would be everything I wanted.
Today I’m sharing five books I read this month, all but one released in October. On Thursday, I’ll be back with the three audiobooks I listened to this month.
The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman (debut)
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Length: 224 pages
My Thoughts: 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐁𝐎𝐎𝐊 𝐎𝐅 𝐌𝐎𝐓𝐇𝐄𝐑 by debut author Violaine Huisman is a book in translation (originally in French) that is actually an “autobiographical novel.” It’s the true story of Huisman’s life with, and deep love for her mentally unstable mother, Catherine. It’s considered a novel because it includes Catherine’s thoughts and actions at times when the author was not there, thus the fiction element.
I found the story something of a roller coaster, which might be appropriate for a book about a woman who lived her life in extremes. The first third of the book was more of a general overview from the author’s perspective and there I had trouble staying engaged. However, that changed in the second part where we really got to know Catherine from her childhood through her three marriages, including breakdowns and hospitalizations along the way. She was not an easy mother for the author or her sister, but they loved her fiercely no matter what state she was in. The third part of the book really focuses on that deep love of a daughter for her mother. It was touching.
I’d say that 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘉𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘰𝘧 𝘔𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 is a book that’s ideal for when you have time to really dig in and peel back the layers of a complex woman and the daughters who adore her despite the havoc of their own lives. Grade: B-
Note: My thanks to Scribner for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: October 12, 2021
Length: 304 pages
My Thoughts: A lot of people like to delve into thriller’s in the dreary days of fall, and if that’s the case for you I’ve got the perfect book: 𝐍𝐎 𝐎𝐍𝐄 𝗪𝐈𝐋𝐋 𝐌𝐈𝐒𝐒 𝐇𝐄𝐑 by Kat Rosenfield. From the very beginning, the book is a little creepy since its opening narrator is speaking directly to the reader…from beyond the grave. Lizzie Oullette is dead and she wants to make sure you know exactly how and why she’s been killed.
Then there’s Adrienne Richards, a wealthy woman who often rented Lizzie’s Maine lake house. She’s got something to hide, but doesn’t want to let us know what it is. Add to that one missing husband, another who needs to be handled with kid gloves, a detective trying to put all the pieces together, a really great twist and you’ve got one fine thriller. Settle in with this book, a glass of wine, a cozy blanket, and get comfortable. You won’t be going anywhere soon! Grade: B+
Note: My thanks to William Morrow (via NetGalley) for an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride & Jo Piazza
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Length: 336 pages
My Thoughts: WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM had to be a difficult one to write and it’s definitely a weighty book to read. In it, co-authors Christine Pride and Jo Piazza tackle tender, fragile topics surrounding race and unconscious biases that need to be talked about much more, but that many want to shy away from.
This is the story of best friends Jen and Riley who have known each other since preschool. Jen is white, Riley is Black. Jen spent much of her youth with Riley’s family because her own home life was unstable. Though adulthood took them in different directions, they always counted on their friendship as a touchstone to who they were. Everything about their lives looks different when Jen’s husband, a police officer, is involved in the shooting of a teenage Black boy. Jen’s world is turned upside-down, but so too is Riley’s. She’s dealing with her own feelings about yet another police shooting of a Black youth, while also reporting on the story for the television station where she works.
From this set up, Pride and Piazza are able to generate many important conversations around race, particularly shining a light on white people who “don’t see color.” I appreciated the realities the story brought to light and that it was done in a story that was also compelling to read. The authors had to walk a delicate balance between hard lessons and delivering a story that many would want to read. I was engrossed from beginning to end, so obviously they did an excellent job. I initially felt the book should have gone deeper into the epidemic of police shootings and police reform, but honestly there is only so much one story can cover and in the end the authors truly got it just right. Grade: A-
Note: My thanks to Atria for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (debut)
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Length: 816 pages
My Thoughts: It’s a daunting task to write a review of an 800 page book. I’ll start with letting you know I was awed by 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐋𝐎𝐕𝐄 𝐒𝐎𝐍𝐆𝐒 𝐎𝐅 𝗪.𝐄.𝐁. 𝐃𝐔 𝐁𝐎𝐈𝐒 by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. This novel is quite simply gorgeous. The author takes two storylines and interlaces them together into a cohesive story that brings together the many complicated generations of a Black family in Georgia. One of the story’s narrative strands follows Ailey Pearl Garfield from the time she’s a small child all the way through adulthood. Along the way, we get to know the many members of her extended family, especially the women who hold many secrets, and her great-great-uncle, Root, a history professor with a wealth of knowledge. The other strand, the “Songs,” tells the sad history of Ailey’s ancestors, from the Indigenous people who first occupied the land her family still lives on, through generations of slaves forced to call that land home.
It feels not quite right to say I loved a book that was filled with so much brutality, so much inhumanity, but I did love it. In the beginning, I struggled a little as I got to know the characters and understand the way the storylines connected, but before long, I really couldn’t let go. Jeffers focused much of her story on the women of the family, both the wretchedness they were forced to endure and the strength they found to do so. In many ways the “Songs” reminded me of 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 by Yaa Gyasi, one of my all time favorite debuts. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘚𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘞.𝘌.𝘉 𝘋𝘶 𝘉𝘰𝘪𝘴 isn’t easy, but educative, heartbreaking, horrifying and oh so powerful. It’s one that takes time to absorb, but that will stay with me for a very long time. The book has definitely given me a hangover! Grade: A
“𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘣𝘺 𝘵𝘸𝘰 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩 𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘳𝘢𝘱 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘵𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮. 𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘰𝘸𝘯𝘦𝘥, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵.”
I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Length: 304 pages
My Thoughts: 𝐈 𝐋𝐎𝐕𝐄 𝐘𝐎𝐔 𝐁𝐔𝐓 𝐈’𝐕𝐄 𝐂𝐇𝐎𝐒𝐄𝐍 𝐃𝐀𝐑𝐊𝐍𝐄𝐒𝐒 by Claire Vaye Watkins was one bizarre book! A work of autofiction, Watkins’ novel constantly had me wondering what was real to her life and what was not. In looking into her biographical information, I found many of my favorite parts of this book to be true to life. The book’s most interesting chapter told of her dad’s young life when he was a member of the Manson Family…really! I also liked that much of the book was set in the Mojave Desert and Reno, Nevada, both areas familiar to me.
Told in first person, the book opens as Claire is struggling with postpartum depression and at the same time questioning if her marriage is still viable. She goes to Reno for a few days to promote her latest novel, only she can’t get back on the plane to come home. Instead, the writer embarks on a journey through her past, trying to reconnect with memories of her parents and reconcile the impact of the life she grew up in. While I liked much of the book, I also felt parts dragged. This was particularly true of a series of letters written by her mother as a teenager. Even now, I’m not sure what they added to the story. If you’re in the mood for something really different give 𝘐 𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐’𝘷𝘦 𝘊𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘯 𝘋𝘢𝘳𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 a try. I guarantee you’ll have a unique reading experience! Grade: C+
Note: My thanks to Riverhead Books for a finished copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
What were your favorite reads in October?
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