Book Reviews

Mini-Reviews: Dysfunctional Families

mini-reviews

Well, what family is functional? None that I know of. After Thanksgiving and more holiday indulging just around the corner, I’m sure we all have stories to share. Or not.

These books are long overdue for a review and I liked them this year for different reasons. Some might even make my favorites of 2016 list. We’ll see.

The Book That Matters Most – Ann Hood (Aug. 9/ 358 p./WW Norton) This alternating story narrated by an estranged mother and daughter was darker than I expected. After Ava’s 25 year marriage falls apart, she joins a book club and as the title states, each member chooses a book that mattered most to them in their life. While the chosen books are a bit cliché, and the story a bit melodramatic at times, book lovers and book groups will have much to discuss with this new release from Hood.

“When you read a book, and who you are when you read it, makes it matter or not.”

Siracusa – Delia Ephron (July 12/ 304 p./ Blue Rider Press) What could possibly go wrong on a vacation on the coast of Sicily? Everything. Two couples (one with a daughter) go on a vacation and the deceit, lies and secrets slowly reveal themselves. The story is told from alternating points of view and the reader doesn’t know which character to believe. A bit of a thriller to keep the pages turning. Remind me to never vacay with another couple.

“Marriage. With whom do you want to take the journey? The thinker? The confabulator? Or the free spirit? Do you want to take it with someone who knows you, even intuits your secrets, or from whom you can remain hidden? By that last standard, which choice did I make? I’m still unsure. And why do most of us want marriage? Crave it for status or for stability that is an illusion. Marriage can’t protect you from heartbreak or the random cruelties and unfairness life deals out.”

This quote is much longer, but ouch. Brutal.

Commonwealth – Ann Patchett (Sept. 13/ 322 p./ Harper) This is my first Ann Patchett but I am now a huge fan and see what all the fuss is about. Two families intersect one day and the choice between two of the adults leave an impact on the children that span five decades. Keeping track of the Keating and Cousins families, the flashbacks, the adult children and new characters was a bit confusing at first. But I made a little family tree and settled right in to let the story unfold. I listened to parts of it on audio and it made it all the more riveting. What could be a mundane story about two families turned into a heartwarming, insightful and unapologetic meditation on familial life. One of my faves for sure this year. What stories do you share and what do you keep private? So many great quotes to pull from this book but I’ll settle on…

“Half of the things in this life I wish I could remember and the other half I wish I could forget.”

 All the Ugly and Wonderful Things – Bryn Greenwood (August 9/ 346 p./ Thomas Dunne Books). Love is a funny and strange thing, isn’t it? I know for a fact this will either be a book people really like or find unsettling. After reading the synopsis of a young girl, Wavy, living with parents who were meth dealers and some of the worst people, I knew it would be heavy. And then to read that she falls in love with a 20-something year-old man (she was 8 when the book began), I knew the open mind needed to stretch. And it did. I wasn’t as disgusted as some readers and I didn’t love it as some did. But the beautiful writing and heartfelt sentiments are there. The rest is up for debate, making it a challenging and controversial book group selection.

“Girl that age ought not to have so many troubles, but she did. Looking at it that way, them two was about made for each other.”

*I set out to write shorter reviews of some of the books that left an impression this year. What I found is that it’s a bit challenging because once I get started, I want to talk about them more. A good sign. It’s been somewhat quiet these past few months but hopefully ending the year with some blurbs will get me back to writing more next year.

Next up: Some more mini-reviews: Historical Fiction.

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3 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: Dysfunctional Families

  1. Siracusa and Ugly Things both sit on my shelf waiting for me. Can’t wait to get to them both, but no idea when that might be. I read Patchett’s Patron Saint of Liars years (probably decades) ago and really loved it. Which makes it all the stranger that I’ve only picked up Bel Canto. Maybe Commonwealth will be my next foray into her work. Thanks for these minis and happy holidays to you and your gang!

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