November Book Reviews:
Confession: This time of year, all I want to do is read. Here’s what I read in November…
Allie and Bea
by: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Since Bea’s husband died, she’s barely scraped by. When she falls for a phone scam, she’s left with nothing but an old van, half a tank of gas, and her beloved cat. She and kitty hit the road with no plan other than to survive until her next social security check comes in.
Teenage Allie finds herself in an unimaginable situation when her parents are arrested and jailed for tax evasion. Allie is temporarily put in a group home but runs away a few days later. Soon, she finds herself on the street where her path crosses with crusty old Bea.
Fifteen-year-old Allie and seventy-year-old Bea are the most unlikely of travel companions. As they drive along the Pacific Coast highway determined to reach Canada (just to say they did), these endearing characters learn lessons in friendship and trust. Allie and Bea is a heartwarming read perfect for the holidays or your next trip to the beach.
(Version: Audio via Hoopla)
Favorite line: I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.
This book made me excited to read more by this author.
The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity,
and My Fight Against the Islamic State
by: Nadia Murad
In 2014, Islamic militants took control of the small, peaceful village of Kocho in northern Iraq where Nadia lived with her parents and siblings. In a matter of hours, men and older women who refused to convert from Yazidi faith to Islam were exterminated by ISIS. Yazidi boys were taken away and trained to be militants. 21-year-old Nadia, along with other Yazidi girls, was forced into ISIS slave trade.
As I sit here in the comfort of my home, it’s difficult for me to imagine such horror. Nadia’s dreams of becoming a teacher or opening a beauty salon were instantly destroyed. Her close-knit, loving family was torn apart. ISIS killed six of Nadia’s brothers and her mother burying them with other Kocho residents in mass graves.
After being held captive and subjected to rape and beatings, Nadia narrowly escaped and found temporary safety with a Sunni Muslim family. She hoped that by telling her story of survival, she might help end this terror and be “the last girl” with such a horrific experience. Yet other girls are still being held in captivity.
The Last Girl, recently won the Nobel Peace Prize. As world citizens, the least we can do is read it and educate ourselves about what’s going on beyond our immediate concerns.
Favorite line: My heart beat so hard in my chest that I worried the people I passed would hear it and know what I was.
This book made me: so thankful for my life and wonder what can be done…
Sunshine in the Delta
by: Erica M. Sandifer
I bought this novella from Lorelei Books in Vicksburg, and I was very much drawn in by the cover. The story is set in the 1960s in Money, Mississippi. Neeyla Jane drops out of school to care for her younger siblings and later gets a job in town working for a white woman who becomes a friend. The story is narrated in a stream of consciousness-style, stripped down like cotton fields after a second picking. I enjoyed the voice and dialect, the no-nonsense protagonist felt familiar to me. My only criticism: I wish it had been loooooonger because I didn’t want it to end…
Favorite line: Jabo was the only black man I knew who was married to three women—all at the same time.
This book made me: think about home.
Pine Island Paradox:
Making Connections in a
by: Kathleen Dean Moore
I love when I find a new-to-me writer who instantly earns a spot on my favorite author list and in my heart.
Moore, a naturalist and philosopher, returns each year to a remote island in Alaska. As she reflects on the this place she loves, she blends the lines between nature and humanity. I could write a similar account (although not nearly as eloquently) about the Mississippi River Delta or Lake Norfork, my happy place.
This book will connect you back to the natural world and remind you of your continued ecological citizenship. At least, it did for me.
Favorite lines: I believe the most loving thing you can say to a person is “Look.” And the most loving stance is not a close embrace, but two people standing side by side, looking out together at the world. When people learn to look, they begin to see, really see. When they begin to see, they begin to care. And caring is the portal into the mortal world.
This book made me: want to write nature essays. I’ll be putting this author’s other books on my Christmas list.
The Metamorphosis and Other Stories
by: Franz Kafka
This is my first foray into Kafka. What a fascinating group of stories. Each is an analogy about the struggle of human existence. In The Metamorphosis, Gregor, a hard-working traveling salesman, wakes one morning to discover he’s become a giant beetle. The story is about his family’s reaction to him, his confinement, his mental deterioration.
The beauty of Kafka in my very limited experience? He takes something surreal and makes the absurd appear “normal” in the daylight.
(Version: Paperback | Barnes & Noble Classic Edition)
Favorite line: Was he a beast if music could move him so?
This book made me want to take a semester on Kafka at the University of Arkansas. His brilliant writing is worthy of dissection. I know there’s more on the page than translated words.
The Stranger in the Woods:
The Extraordinary Story of
the Last True Hermit
by: Michael Finkel
For me, this book was unputdownable. In 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight left his home, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the dense woods. (Lest you are confused right off, this is not about the Christopher Knight who starred as Peter Brady…) This Knight abandoned his vehicle (which the woods apparently swallowed whole), and camped for the next 27 years within shouting distance of a small town. Other than saying “hi” to a hiker who happened by one day, he didn’t speak to another human. He survived by stealing food and supplies from weekend and summer cabins nearby, taking just enough to live.
During what would become his last break-in, Knight was discovered, arrested, and jailed.
Journalist / author Michael Finkel heard about the story and became somewhat obsessed. Finkel practically stalked the hermit until he wrested enough information for this book. We never really find out why Knight did what he did—a hermit by the very definition of the word, doesn’t want to share those thoughts.
Although the hermit wanted to shun civilization and a mainstream lifestyle, his very existence—food, blankets, propane—depended upon others who participated in society. Hypocritical much?
Fascinating for sure.
Favorite line: Mostly, he just wished for quiet—”all the quiet I can take, consume, eat, dine upon, savor, relish, feast.”
This book riveted me to the couch until I finished it.
I Found You
by: Lisa Jewel
If you’re looking for a suspenseful tale to add to your winter reading, here you go. When Alice Lake notices a man on the beach in front of her home, she invites him inside. He can’t remember anything. Meanwhile in London, Lily Monrose’s husband has gone missing. They’ve only been married three weeks. I Found You alternates between three plot lines—present day Alice, present day Lily, and a family vacation in 1993.
Yes, three plot lines will keep you on your toes. But the tale is well-paced and gradually unravels to reveal the truths behind these two mysterious men.
I bet you’re thinking the idea of amnesia sounds a soap opera-ish? Well, this book isn’t. The author spins a believable yarn filled with unexpected twists. She also created such a likable and incredibly flawed character in Alice Lake that by the end, she felt like a good friend.
(Version: Audio via Audible)
Favorite lines: How long have you been sitting out here? — I got here yesterday.— Where did you come from?— I have no idea.
This book took me on a ride.
I hope my November book reviews help you find your next favorite read!
And as a reminder, books make great Christmas gifts…
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.