My mission this weekend is to get back on track, to get caught up on my book reviews and make a small dent in my accounts of author events. These reviews are from the end of August when I had the luxury of some reading while we relaxed and explored New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. We had nightly family reading time as we wound down from days exploring, whale watching, hiking and visiting some tourist attractions. I will note that although I really enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables and L.M. Montgomery sites, the kids were not as enamoured!
Here are some quick reviews from my August reading:
61. People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks)
What a terrific story! I think I must be one of the few readers who has not already enjoyed this book. I am not sure why I waited so long.! It not only had engaging narrative but shared a dreadful history helping a reader understand the terrible legacy of the persecution of Jewish people throughout history.
The story was told through the viewpoint of young woman, a rare book expert, who worked to conserve a recently discovered Haggadah(a precious Hebrew manuscript) in Sarajevo. As she finds clues within the book, the books history is revealed and the reader is introduced to brave Jewish individuals and families who attempted to preserve their culture and religion despite horrible circumstances.
62. Educated (Tara Westover)
The only way that I can describe this book, is t compare it to a train wreck. It is disturbing to read the unbelievable tale of Westover’s childhood but you just can’t put the book down. Her story is unbelievable and shocking. It makes the reader angry to think of the neglect and abuse yet the reader can marvel at the the author’s irrepressible hopefulness, resilience and will to learn.
Westover was born into a Fundamentalist, Survivalist family that stocked up or the end of the world, storing away canned foods and supplies. Although undiagnosed, her father (and the rest of the family) was impacted symptoms that likely represented bipolar disease. The children were “homeschooled”, and I use that term loosely as they were often responsible for their own learning. The family never sought medical attention despite severe significant accidents including trauma, burns and even head injuries.
Escaping the family home, she was astonished to learn about how other families lived. She needed much counselling and support as she chose to embark on university education while losing the support of her family. Remarkably, despite incredible odds, 3 children of this family would earn PhD’s estranging themselves from their family.
Educated makes a fantastic book club discussion!
63. The Forgotten Road (Richard Paul Evans)
Readers may think of Christmas tales (like The Mistletoe Promise) when they see a book by Richard Paul Evans. He has written over 35 books and writes stories that impart life lessons through fiction.
The Forgotten Road began when a successful pitchman missed his flight. After a horrific plane crash, he was presumed dead. Instead of declaring this near miss, he embarked on a pilgrimage. He walked the famous Route 66, dealing with hardships like being robbed, working with migrant workers and learned lessons from the many interesting people that he met along the way.
Apparently, this is the second book of the trilogy which was an easy read. I am not sure that I will go back and read the other two but I will likely pick up one of his Christmas stories in December to get into the holiday spirit.
64. I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (David Chariandy)
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is a heartfelt and honest letter to the author’s 13 year old daughter. It shares challenges and highlights of his experience growing up in Ontario with his Black/south Asian heritage. He not only shares his experiences but imparts knowledge and a sense of identity for his daughter with hopes of her being proud of her heritage and confident as she grows into a young woman.
After meeting David Chariandy at a One Book One London event and reading both Brother and I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You , I have a greater understanding of the perspective and the challenges that youth experience. I hope that it will be easier for his daughter and the younger generations to live in the diverse communities of Ontario.
65. The Saturday Night Ghost Club (Craig Davidson)
This was a great coming of age story to read while we were camping in New Brunswick and PEI. Set in Niagara Falls, it tells the story of a neurosurgeon looking back on his childhood, summer days and his relationship with his quirky Uncle.
The cover was terrific – a retro style look reminiscent of books that I read in my teen years! Along with the cover, I loved all the eighties references which will have readers reflecting back on their own childhoods, having the independence to bike with their friends, shopping at Woolco and sporting pencil cases with photos from the Goonies!
The topic is very relevant in a time when so many are dealing with mental health challenges and it gives readers perspective of the challenges people face and how they are impacted.
This is my second book by Craig Davidson and it shows the diversity of his writing. Precious Cargo is a great memoir and I will eventually get to Cataract City which is sitting on my bookshelf!
66. The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)
The Alice Network is another great example of learning history through fiction. It describes the bravery and strength of women acting as spies during the war which might not be widely known.
The novel is set after WWII when a young woman is struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. Enroute to Switzerland to take care of her “little problem”, she escapes her mother’s judgemental guidance and sets out in London to find her beloved cousin who had not been in contact since WWII ended. She meets a couple of unlikely allies as she searches, discovers the fate of her cousin and and slowly learns the heartbreaking story of a female spy during WWI.
It is not only a quick read but a terrific story and the reader is treated to a synopsis of what is fiction and what is true history at the end of the book. It is a novel that makes one learn about the quiet bravery and small missions that make a difference during the war. A great book for YA girls too!
Watch for my September reviews coming soon!