I had mixed feelings about The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi. On the one hand, I liked the story. It was sad, but interesting. On the other hand, it dragged for me for a long while and I really struggled to finish. Amazon describes it as: “One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships….But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.” This book got very positive reviews and I think you will need to decide for yourself if it’s up your alley. Overall, it didn’t work for me.
In many ways, I enjoyed The End of October by Lawrence Wright, but it took FOREVER for me to get through it. It isn’t especially long and the plot keeps it moving at a good clip, but it still took me much longer than usual to work through this one. Without spoiling the story, it’s basically about a pandemic much like the one we are experiencing now. So, if you aren’t game for what might have felt like crazy last year, but is normal now, don’t pick this one up. If you can handle it, though, this is a pretty good read.
Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel was a nice change of pace. And, while overall, I liked this one, it dragged a bit in the middle. Still worth a read, however. Amazon says, “Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.” It’s a romance and fun, and also available at the library.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite was recommended to me by a Grade 8 student! If the title doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will. And, what a delightful romp it was. Amazon says: “Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her. Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.” It was a quick read and fun, though I didn’t feel that the ending was entirely resolved for me. However, I would recommend it.
Sea Wife by Amity Gaige is an absolute delight. I kept thinking it was a memoir, because it felt so real, but it was a wonderful novel. On the surface, it is about a family who abandons their suburban life to spent a year at sea. But, it’s so much more than that. Jennifer Egan writes, “Sea Wife is a gripping tale of survival at sea—but that’s just the beginning. Amity Gaige also manages, before she’s done, to probe the underpinnings of romantic love, marriage, literary ambition, political inclinations in the Trump age, parenthood, and finally, the nature of survival itself in our broken world. Gaige is thrillingly talented, and her novel enchants.” I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed this story and I highly recommend it.
The Last Flight by Julie Clark was a recommendation of Gayle Weiswasser (Everyday I Write the Book). It’s a thriller about two women who need to find new lives. They switch places right before they are supposed to board planes to different destinations. In alternating chapters we learn about both the present experience and the days leading up to the plane trips. It was a heart-pounding ride. Nothing deep here, but a good read.
I loved The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson and was eager to read her summer release, Caste. She ropes you in during the introduction by talking about that famous Nazi shot where one guy (August Landmesser – I never knew his name) stands alone, not saluting Hitler. She urges us all to be that guy. While the topic is challenging, and the reading difficult, Wilkerson weaves stories together to tell the history of race in this country in a way that is fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately, like reading a novel. She has a true gift. The thoughtful and guided way she compares castes in India, the Nazi regime, and race/class issues in America made so much sense. Even so, I didn’t love this as much as I loved The Warmth of Other Suns (which would have been hard to top), but it is well worth a read. The back half picked up steam and was more interesting to me than the first.
Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle was beautifully written, but not for me. The story didn’t move along at a good enough clip and I found myself wishing for it to end from pretty early on. It’s told in four voices and is ultimately mostly about Lil.
Amazon: “Lil and Frank married young, launched into courtship when they bonded over how they both—suddenly, tragically— lost a parent when they were children. Over time, their marriage grew and strengthened, with each still wishing for so much more understanding of the parents they’d lost prematurely. Now, after many years in Boston, they’ve retired to North Carolina. There, Lil, determined to leave a history for their children, sifts through letters and notes and diary entries—perhaps revealing more secrets than Frank wants their children to know. Meanwhile, Frank has become obsessed with what might have been left behind at the house he lived in as a boy on the outskirts of town, where a young single mother, Shelley, is just trying to raise her son with some sense of normalcy. Frank’s repeated visits to Shelley’s house begin to trigger memories of her own family, memories that she’d hoped to keep buried. Because, after all, not all parents are ones you wish to remember.”
While I recently posted about the power of giving up on a book, I really did enjoy the way McCorkle wrote, but I was too bored with this one to recommend it.
I picked up The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary on the recommendation of Gayle from Everyday I Write the Book. It’s a light and fun read, not much of a surprise, but a cheerful read overall – just what one needs in the crazy world we are living in. Tiffy and Leon share an apartment – he sleeps there all day because he works the nightshift and she sleeps there at night. They live this way, never meeting, for months. You can guess the trajectory of the story, but it was a good distraction and a creative story.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri has gotten a lot of praise. And, I am sure it is a good book. However, I abandoned it about 2/3 in. I just wasn’t into the story and life is too short to keep reading a book you aren’t into unless you REALLY need to know what happens at the end. Too bad for this one.