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Another month has passed which means I have six more book to recommend! My book reviews for May 2021 were all penned by women authors. I didn’t plan this, not consciously anyway. Sometimes neat-o things happen. Especially where books are concerned.
Of Women and Salt
by: Gabriela Garcia
In one of the most anticipated debut novels of 2021, Gabriela Garcia links the stories of two families who are neighbors in Florida. Jeanette and her mother, Carmen, are from Cuba. Ana, and her mother, Gloria, are from Ecuador. Although the two families have never interacted, when Gloria is taken by ICE to a detention center, Jeanette takes young Ana in and tries to help her.
Of Women and Salt alternates between the two families, spanning 1866 to present day. The author (daughter of emigrant parents from Cuba and Mexico) takes on major social and political issues as she reveals the challenges these families face (the women in particular) as they try to hold everything together.
Written with empathy and insight. A must read for those trying to better understand the plight of emigrants.
Favorite quote: It’s all lottery, Ana, all chance. It’s the flick of a coin, and we are born.
The Arsonists’ City
by: Hala Alyan
This multi-generational family story is told over decades as it unfolds across the globe—Lebanon, America (Texas and New York), and Syria. There are secrets, great loss, infidelities, lies, and love.
The story alternates between past and present, centering on the Nasr family. After the grandfather dies and Idris (now the family patriarch) decides to sell the family’s ancestral home in Beirut, the adult children return home to change his mind. The personalities and struggles of each sibling and the parents are slowly revealed. The vivid settings, particularly the war-torn Middle East, provides a rich backdrop.
With expert storytelling, Palestinian-American author Alyan brings us an old-fashioned saga (reminiscent of the television mini-series of the 1970s), unhurried yet not tedious, with compelling prose and well-developed characters. Oh, the age-old theme of home. It’s a powerful one. This is a book to sink your teeth into.
Favorite quote: I think people deserve to have their secrets.
by: Anne Lamott
I snagged Rosie at Dickson Street Used Books—I scored two Anne Lamott books in fact. I love her non-fiction, but this was my first foray into her fiction.
Rosie was written in the 1980s, and in that way, it felt nostalgic to me.
Elizabeth, the main character (and Rosie’s mom), is an alcoholic widow who has never had a real job, cooks fabulous meals, and mostly whines about finding her true life purpose. Her precocious child, Rosie, is basically raising herself. Smartly written with sharp dialog, this quick read provides lots of emotion including both unhappiness and joy. There were a few ugly and uncomfortable things that happened in the story, things I could have done without. Even so, a book written by Anne Lamott is one I will pick up every single time.
Favorite Quote: There’s something great and useful I could be doing, and that I don’t know what it is hangs over me like some major errand I know I’m meant to do.
The Lying Life of Adults
by: Elena Ferrante
When Giovanna overhears her father (her hero) say she is growing ugly, comparing her looks to his much-hated sister, Vittoria, Giovanna sets out to meet her aunt and to find out the reason behind the shocking comparison. This sets off a chain of events that unravels several families. Truth has been hidden, ignored, and dressed up for years; the things most despised begin to manifest in everyone.
The Lying Life of Adults is an expertly written (if not a bit indulgent) literary look at familial dysfunction and social dynamics. The young, angst-filled protagonist, Giovanna, is both annoying and endearing in this coming-of-age story. I listened to the Audible version which was read by Marisa Tomei—she was the perfect narrator for this work!
I don’t imagine Elena Ferrante’s brooding style is for everyone, but her writing definitely got under my skin. The Lying Life of Adults is soon to be a Netflix original series! Read it before you watch it. The book is always better, you know.
Favorite Quote: Lies, lies, adults forbid them and yet they tell so many.
Where the Lost Wander
by: Amy Harmon
Where the Lost Wander takes the reader back to 1853, to a fascinating time in American history when families traveled west on the Oregon Trail. This fictional story is based on the author’s family history—John Lowry (half-white, half Pawnee) leads the expedition, and 20-year-old Naomi May (recently widowed) helps her parents and young siblings during the arduous, 2,000-mile journey.
A romance develops between John and Naomi, providing hope during incredible hardship.
I was spellbound by the author’s handling of life on the Oregon Trail, her well-crafted storytelling, information about wagon trains and managing the mules and horses, conflicts with Native Americans, authentic handling of disease and loss. A captivating story for fans of early American historical fiction, tales of journey, and unlikely love.
Favorite Quote: I laugh at her pretty words so that I don’t feel them.
by: Sadeqa Johnson
(African-American Historical Fiction)
Pheby Delores Brown, a young mulatto woman, is promised freedom when she turns eighteen. Instead, when Master Jacob (her father) is away on business, his despicable wife sends her to Devil’s Half-Acre where slaves are detained, tortured, and sold. Pheby, favored for her light skin and beauty, is “rescued” by the owner of the jail. Thus begins her life as mistress of Devil’s Half-Acre.
No matter how many historically-based accounts I read set in the South during the time of slavery, I can’t fathom how people could be so cruel and heartless to one another.
This masterpiece was inspired by a real-life person, Mary Lumpkin, who became the paramour of the owner of the Lumpkin jail in Virginia. While the story is suspenseful and compelling and tragic, it is also rich in love of family and fearlessness. Possibly my favorite read so far in 2021!
Favorite Quote: They call this place the Devil’s Half Acre. Now I knew the devil.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Book Reviews for May. Each was a journey. Each represented a world so different from my own.
Summer reading is almost upon us. What will you add to your to-read pile?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
Also appreciate adding new titles to the reading list!
Lisa Hickman says
Thank you for the recommendations. Of Women and Salt is on my hold list at the library. I should be getting it in the next couple of days and I’m looking forward to that. I am hosting a party for my parents’ 60th Wedding Anniversary this weekend so I have been spending A LOT of time in the yard and cleaning the house. I like to listed to audiobooks while I do mindless work, and I have listened to six books in six days. My favorite was The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, but I also liked The Keeper of Lost Things. Greenlights was compelling in a freaky sort of way.
Lisa Hickman says
*listen. I should wear my glasses when I type.