Book Reviews August 2022
Good morning to all you fabulous readers out there. Today is already the 7th of September, and I’m just now posting my book reviews for August. Anyhoo, I read most of these books during the first half of the month when I was recouping from surgery. Then during the last half of the month I did very little reading as I was buried beneath final Bernice Runs Away tweaks. (A great way to be buried though!)
My book reviews here are a bit mixed (as are the genres). Two were library books, one was an Audible book, and three were loaned/referred to me by friends/family. What is your favorite book format? I ponder this quite a bit as I prepare to send Bernice into the world…
On to my August book reviews…
Ellie and the Harp Maker
by: Hazel Prior
Publication Date: 2019
Ellie is a 39-year-old housewife married to a boorish man named Clive. Ellie’s life is in a rut, until one day she takes a different path during her morning walk through the English countryside. (Yes—this moment is a literal fork in the road for her.) She happens upon a barn in the woods and meets Dan the harp maker. Dan is kind and sensitive and on the spectrum. Immediately taken by Ellie—he especially likes her cherry-colored socks—he gives her one of his beautiful, handmade wooden harps.
Clive is suspicious of such an extravagant gift and demands she return it. “The guy’s a nutter! Or else he fancies the pants off you. Either way, it would be wrong to keep the thing.” Ellie returns it alright, and then continuously visits the Harp Barn, secretively taking harp lessons while her oaf-husband is at work.
Oh the harp. It becomes a symbol for all that’s missing in Ellie’s life, and all the music yet to come.
This enchanting debut novel by Hazel Prior certainly plucks at the heartstrings. It’s beautifully written with a lyrical hand, simple and sweet, with characters (human and non-human) that I’m still thinking about nearly a month later. My only criticism—so many times I wanted Ellie to stand up for herself and stop being a doormat! But then, in all likelihood, the story would have been completely different. Prior has two other books I can’t wait to get my hands on. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Favorite Quote: Housewife does not mean you are married to a house. It means you are a woman who is married to a husband and your husband goes off to work every day and you don’t go off to work at all but embark on house-dusting, house-hoovering and various ironing and washing duties and other things that happen in a house, and in fact you aren’t really expected to go out of the house at all except to get yourself to a supermarket and then you go up and down the aisles with a trolley and a list, looking sad. What a lot of things are embedded in that housewife word.
These Precious Days: Essays
by: Ann Patchett
Publication Date: 2022
This was the ideal book for me to read post surgery because Patchett’s short essays fit my short attention span. I could relate to her worry over unfinished novels and death. “If I die, who will finish my book?” (In my case, my husband.) I especially enjoyed the essays that provided glimpses of her early career and marriage. As with most collections, some spoke to me more than others; my favorites were No Children Here and Three Fathers.
What an interesting life Patchett has enjoyed! If you enjoy essays, particularly about writing, give this one a try.🌟🌟🌟🌟
Favorite Quote: As every reader knows, the social contract between you and a book you love is not complete until you can hand that book to someone else and say, Here, you’re going to love this.
by: Ashley Audrain
Publication Date: 2021
Warning: SPOILER REVIEW.
Blythe is a young mother who has never bonded with her daughter, Violet. Because Blythe’s childhood was terrible, her own mother ill-equip to motherhood, she worries her parenting skills aren’t up to par. Maybe the problem is that Blythe was never ‘taught’ how to parent?
Blythe’s husband, Fox (seriously, what a name!), thinks Blythe is overreacting. Postpartum depression? Maybe. Maybe not. And certainly not after several years.
Violet sure knows how to manipulate her daddy.
Initially, I was sucked right into the maelstrom of this story, thoroughly enjoying the emotional ride. But I kept telling myself There’s no way this book will end the way the author wants me to think it will end.
I’m old enough to remember The Bad Seed by William March. My friends and I read it in junior high while huddled together in the gym during lunch break. We took turns reading quietly from one dog-eared paperback, practically whispering as though we’d found a package of Pall Malls or an obscene love note passed during study hall. And yes, I can appreciate a remake, an updated version of a favorite. After all, there are no new stories, only new ways to tell them. But the last sentence of The Push? It was a cheap shot that ruined this book for me.🌟🌟💫
Favorite Quote: A mother’s heart breaks a million ways in her lifetime.
This memoir is told in sections and essays. I enjoyed those about Glennon’s life best—her childhood, her struggles with eating disorders, her marriage, divorce, and subsequent marriage to her now wife. She seems to have lived several lives already, the first one during her growing up years as she hid from herself, having no idea who she was or what she was about. Then, in her twenties, she became the person society thought she should be—wife, mother, Christian, caretaker of everything, successful author. But it was all a farce. Her husband had multiple affairs, and she wasn’t being true to herself.
Then, when she met the love of her life—a woman—for a little while the world stopped spinning. That’s when her real life began.
I can’t imagine what it must have taken to shake up her world in such a way.
The stories are good, but the self-help part felt repetitive to me. Regardless, Glennon Doyle is a force to be admired. Bravo to her for all the good she is doing in this world. She is an activist trying to make a difference. She found her voice and her true self and I applaud her fearlessness. 🌟🌟🌟
Favorite Quote: The braver I am, the luckier I get.
Publication Date: 2021
Nora is a young litigation attorney juggling family and career in Austin, Texas. Often she feels she falls short on both sides. (Who can relate?) She’s married to Hayden, and they have a four-year-old daughter, Liv, with a baby on the way. When Nora takes a possible arson case tied to Dynasty Ranch, she becomes entangled both personally and professionally. On the one hand, Dynasty Ranch might be the perfect place for her growing family to move. Plus, all the families have been extremely welcoming. On the other hand, something seems odd about the place and the couples.
(People, you know this—your gut is always right.)
The Husbands by Chandler Baker is an interesting and updated twist on the Stepford Wives theme. In Dynasty Ranch, every wife is a high-powered and successful career woman, and the husbands are the ones to give all in support of family.
For the most part, I enjoyed this book, the references to Austin, and the theme of balancing family and career. But, at times Nora seemed extremely whiney to me, and the disparate roles between men and women were practically drilled all the way down to the bone marrow. Actually, Hayden was my favorite character. (I worried he might up and leave Nora if she didn’t tone it down a tad.)
A quick read when you need to disappear for a while. 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Favorite quote: And this is the problem with being stretched so thin. She’s constantly on the verge of disaster.
The Woman in the Purple Skirt
by Natsuko Imamura, Lucy North (Translator)
(Women’s Fiction / Japanese Fiction)
Publication Date: 2021
This quirky little book follows our narrator (known as The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan) as she basically observes and obsesses over The Woman in the Purple Skirt. I didn’t hate it or love it; it left me thinking Well that was odd and a little bit interesting.
Author Natsuko Imamura is a celebrated author in Japan. This book—very short at barely over 200 pages, and almost small enough to fit in your pocket—is touted as psychological and dark. Its darkness slips up on the reader in the way nightfall comes earlier during fall.
At first, I couldn’t imagine why Yellow Cardigan was so enamored and obsessed with Purple Skirt. Purple Skirt is an average person going about her business, working temporary jobs, enjoying her lunch in the park, keeping to a predictable schedule. When Yellow Cardigan secretively arranges a job for Purple Skirt at the same place she works (so she can better keep tabs on her), I realized the darkness resides within Yellow Cardigan.
In Japan where a bazillion people live in one square mile of space, loneliness has become an epidemic. And this is a story about loneliness. Loneliness that turns to quiet obsession.
This book certainly won’t be for everyone, but I was engaged through the end and that’s saying something.🌟🌟🌟💫
Favorite Quote: At night I see the lights go on in her place, and the dial on her gas meter appears to be steadily ticking over.
I hope your summer reading was successful this year with lots of travels to captivating times and compelling places. And I hope you have enjoyed my book reviews for August.
Have you read any of these books? Thoughts on them?
Happy September reading!
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.