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When I look back over the books I read in August, I know each of these stories enriched my life in some way. In fact, as a group, this may be my favorite collection of five books I’ve read in a row. And that’s saying something.
The Girl With The Louding Voice is a debut novel with a brave young protagonist. This was my “mystery date with a book” selection chosen at Barnes & Noble Fayetteville. (If you don’t remember this fun experience, read about it HERE.)
Two of the books I read in August are older ones—The Poisonwood Bible (published in 1998) and The Paris Wife (published in 2012). Can you believe I just got around to reading The Poisonwood Bible? I know I’m not the very last person on earth to read it because a slew of people NEVER read anything longer than a tweet. BUT, I may be the last of my reader friends to read it. The great takeaway here is that there are a bazillion fabulous books out there still waiting for me. Also, just because a book is a new release or on the best seller list, doesn’t necessarily make it half as good as some of those found on the shelves of a used bookstore. With respect to The Paris Wife , it has been on my list for some time. The day I found it in a neighborhood Little Free Library was a lucky day for me!
Klara and The Sun? Oh my… It was such a different read for me, one that got me thinking, for sure.
Salt to the Sea is classified as young reader. As C. S. Lewis said—No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally—and often far more—worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond. I absolutely agree!
Alright, here we go to my reviews…
The Girl with the Louding Voice
by: Abi Daré
(Cultural Literary Fiction)
It took me a minute to get into The Girl with the Louding Voice because the syntax and grammar is rough, the narration told in very broken English. I soon realized this added authenticity to the story. How else would a poorly educated girl living in rural Nigeria speak?
Fourteen-year-old Adunni is sold into marriage to a much older man who already has two wives. After an incident, she runs away and begins working as a housekeeper in a wealthy household. Despite all of Adunni’s hardships (and there are many), she maintains a positive attitude and clings to her dream of obtaining an education. She is fearless and unstoppable, a brave female protagonist.
Adunni’s greatest desire is to find her “louding voice” so that she can speak not only for herself, but also for those with no voice.
Shouldn’t we all strive for this?
I highly recommend this coming-of-age debut.
Favorite Quote: …you must do good for other peoples, even if you are not well, even if the whole world around you is not well.
Salt to the Sea
by: Ruta Sepetys
(Young Adult Historical Fiction)
In 1945, German citizens are fleeing Russian attacks, evacuating to a nearby port city desperate to sail to safety in another land. Shortly after boarding the Wilhelm Gustloff, the ship is attacked by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea. The resulting maritime disaster is history’s greatest, worse than the Titanic or Lusitania. Yet most of us (including me) have never heard of it. The ship, with a capacity for 1,800 passengers was loaded with more than 10,500.
This heartbreaking (yet heartwarming) story is written with very short chapters and told from the POVs of four young characters, each with a distinctive voice, each bringing something different to the tale. While the characters are fictional, the events are based on history. Salt to the Sea is a story everyone should know.
Favorite Quote: Your daughter, your sister. She is salt to the sea.
The Poisonwood Bible
by: Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible has been on my to-read list for at least a decade. I’m not sure why I waited so long to read it other than sometimes I think having something compelling to read, and putting it off, feels good. Now that I’ve read it, it holds a spot on my Most-Loved Books Ever List.
For those still waiting to read The Poisonwood Bible, a quick summary…
In the 1950s, an evangelical Baptist missionary takes his four daughters to the Congo to spread Christianity to the unsaved. Nothing is as they expected. The seeds they took for a garden won’t germinate, the cakes they try to bake won’t rise, the living conditions are primitive, the people wholly unreceptive. In such disagreeable circumstances, their family ties begin to slowly unravel.
Oh, to write like Barbara Kingsolver. She paints a vibrant picture of culture clash between the American missionaries and Congolese natives; the setting is so spellbinding I could smell the monsoon rains. Told from the POV of family members (and occasionally certain people of the Congo), Kingsolver’s distinctive characters are obvious from word choice and unique personality. A fantastic work depicting the consequence of American ideology imposed on another culture.
I wonder how many other masterpieces are sitting in plain view on my bookshelves?
Favorite Quote: Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place.
Klara and the Sun
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Klara and the Sun is an intriguing read with an highly unusual narrator and a fresh setup. And, it may be one of the oddest books I’ve read in some time.
Klara is an AF (Artificial Friend) with keen observational abilities. She waits day after day in the AF department store hoping to be selected and purchased by a customer. Eventually she is claimed by a young girl named Josie and taken to live in the real world. (Okay, at first the premise reminded me of that 1987 movie Mannequin where Andrew McCarthy falls in love with a department store Mannequin, played by Kim Cattrall. Anyone remember that???)
BUT Klara is no mannequin. In some ways, she is more human than the humans.
With themes of love and family, friendship, life and death, and genetic manipulation, there is much to unwrap in Klara and the Sun. I enjoyed it, yet I have oh so many questions. Whether author Ishiguro purposefully left certain things vague, I have no idea. I can’t wait to discuss this one in book club.
Favorite Quote: It’s not faith you need. Only rationality.
The Paris Wife
by: Paula McLain
Most of what I know about Ernest Hemingway, I learned while spending time at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center in Piggott, Arkansas. There, the focus is on not only Hemingway, but his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. In The Paris Wife, I enjoyed viewing things from his first wife, Hadley’s, perspective. While The Paris Wife is historical fiction, I imagine the author’s research and the events and conversations included in this novel provided an authentic and realistic telling of Ernest and Hadley’s marriage.
The author captured the time period expertly, especially the extravagant lifestyle (often spent on someone else’s dime) and the tortured personality of Ernest Hemingway. And McClain’s prose? She wrote in such a way that made Hadley sound like Hemingway’s spouse, almost mimicking his sparse style.
Did I enjoy The Paris Wife more because of the education I’ve received on Hemingway? I doubt it. I believe my expectations were higher because of this. And I was thoroughly engaged.
Favorite Quote: I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my August Book Reviews. I suppose now that September is here, the season of summer reading is officially coming to a close. Maybe you can still get one more good book in at the lake or the beach? I hope so!
What was the best book you read this summer?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.