Review: The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

My Thoughts:

I love that every time I pick up a Louise Penny book, I feel like I’m returning to my favorite place. Penny eloquently captures the look and feel of such a small town, and highlights its charms and its drawbacks. Three Pines is very much its own character in this series which adds to the warmth and heart of these books. Frankly, every returning character feels like running into an old friend.

The Brutal Telling stands out from the previous stories in that the prime suspect is one we’ve all grown to love! Olivier is a wonderful character, and I especially enjoy reading his interactions with his partner, Gabri, and the descriptions of the wonderful food he makes. I was shocked that Olivier fell under suspicion and that the plot ultimately unfolds the way it does. I trust that Penny has a larger plan for the following novels and that everything will ultimately work out.

I also appreciated that Penny featured Indigenous persons in this book. While I admit to not knowing much about Canadian history, I do know that Canada treated Indigenous tribes and persons horrifically. And the characters in The Brutal Telling do not shy away from these facts. Reading this book has inspired me to learn more about Indigenous communities and how both Canada and the US got so much wrong. I’m specifically looking to read from the Indigenous perspective and from #OwnVoices authors. If you have any recommendations, leave a comment below!

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! The Brutal Telling has some shocking plot developments that really shake up Three Pines. It’s no surprise here that I’m a big fan of Louise Penny. If you’re looking for a great mystery series, I’d highly recommend this one. While you can read this mystery series in any order, I do suggest you begin with the first novel, Still Life . You can also read my reviews of the first three Penny novels here.

This book is…

cozy

shocking

beautifully written

full of new and beloved characters

educational

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 386

ISBN: 1250161665

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read The Brutal Telling? What cozy mystery novel would you recommend?

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Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

January 1946: Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

My Thoughts:

This is a book for anyone who loves words, reading, and books. I loved that the entire story is told through letters. Epistolary novels are not done very often, and are even less often successful, but this one hits the nail on the head. This style choice allowed readers to hear lots of different viewpoints, and the authors were always very clear as to whom was writing to whom. I also think the use of letters feeds into the love of stories so prominently featured here. Everyone in the literary society loves stories and books and this is made abundantly clear through their excellent letter writing abilities. And while I would never dream of spoiling the plot, the Society’s origin story is a great one!

I’m always a fan of stories set in England during and after WWII, and this book is no exception. I enjoyed hearing about how Guernsey survived the German occupation and its townspeople speak of resisting in their own quiet ways. A few characters do make difficult choices and face serious consequences, all while knowing they did what they thought was right. This book does not shy away from these choices and their consequences, but also asks the reader to ponder what they might do in this situation.

Every character in this story is well crafted. Guernsey, which is a character in this book in addition to a setting, and the people who are inhabit it are cozy, lovely, and unique. Each character imparts their own quirks through the letters they write and the heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking, stories they share of their past. I adored that we were even given a couple of villains to shake things up from time to time.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I’ve had my eye on this book for a long time now, but finally gave it a go because it’s been made into a movie on Netflix. I really loved this book. I think it’s a great choice for anyone who loves reading and great heartwarming stories. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an enjoyable and easy read, especially for fans of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

This book is…

charming

sweet

funny

emotional

well written

Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback

Genre: historical fiction

Page Count: 290

ISBN: 0385341008

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? What WWII novel would you recommend?

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Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

My Thoughts:

I’m not usually one to go for a sci-fi read. But although this book’s plot centers around a virus outbreak that leads to the end of civilization, it is also about humanity and our connections to the world and one another. Emily St. John Mandel frequently comments on the magical nature of instantaneous communication the world enjoyed before the collapse and how much it was taken for granted. And I think this is an excellent point. Even though older generations may mock the use of social media, it really does keep us all connected in all of life’s moments, be they good, bad, or mundane. And St. John Mandel connects this more broadly to what it means to be human, or even to exist.

“No more internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

I also loved how St. John Mandel connected the characters in really interesting ways. At the beginning of Station Eleven, we are quickly introduced to five characters and then the story takes off from there. It’s difficult to explain how their lives intersect without ruining the story, and so I’ll refrain from going into more detail. But through these intersections, St. John Mandel interjects hope for the future. Yes, it will take some time, but old friends and family will find one another again. We can rebuild the old world together.

Each character in Station Eleven is unique and rings true to real life, which is impressive for a science fiction novel. I especially liked Kristen and Miranda, and reading about their lives before and after the world fell. Kristen’s story is particularly interesting because she was a child when civilization collapsed and she only half remembers things and is often unsure if she dreamed a facet of life before or if it really happened. This includes airplanes, light switches, and the internet. This book features all sorts of characters, making this book a unique read from start to finish. You’ll love lots of characters and want lots of them to go away forever, too.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I’ve put off reading it for years because it didn’t sound like my cup of tea, but wow was I mistaken. The story is just so incredibly well written, I found myself actually gasping aloud as a I read. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

This book is…

beautifully written

interwoven

full of interesting characters

eloquent

haunting

Publisher: Vintage

Genre: science-fiction

Page Count: 333

ISBN: 0804172447

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Station Eleven? What dystopian novel would you recommend?

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Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In the new novel from the bestselling author of Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied follows a young woman as she returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

My Thoughts:

The story in Last Time is exciting. I enjoyed Emma’s return to Camp Nightingale as she simultaneously tries to learn what happened to her cabin mates and also move through that traumatic event. The mystery surrounding the girls’ disappearances was well done, and it took me until the end of the book to put it all together. As someone who reads a lot of mysteries, I’m always pleased when a mystery or thriller catches me off guard and is able to keep me guessing. That being said, if you’re paying enough attention, you might be able to figure out the ending sooner. But, like any good thriller writer, Sager includes the right amount of twists, turns, and red herrings to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

I really liked the detail of Emma’s artist career. The descriptions of her paintings were so vivid I felt like I could see the paintings right in front of me! Emma’s artwork is eerie, sensual, and shocking, which makes sense given what happened in her past. Riley Sager made a spot on career choice for Emma, though, and it adds considerable depth to her character. I also thought it was interesting that almost every single character in Last Time is unlikeable, which even includes Emma, our protagonist. I’m not bothered by this choice as I do love rooting for unlikeable characters, especially heroines, but it’s also tough when the reader feels at a distance to everyone involved. I think it’s helpful, even in thrillers, for the reader to like at least one main character.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I really enjoyed Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, and was nervous that Last Time wouldn’t live up to the hype. But I think I enjoyed Last Time even more than Final Girls! This is a fun, engaging, and quick summer read. It would be an excellent choice for a vacation read! I highly recommend this book, especially to fans of A.J. Finn and Ruth Ware.

This book is…

unputdownable

shocking

engaging

entertaining

spooky

Publisher: Dutton Books

Genre: thriller

Page Count: 384

ISBN: 1524743070

Available here from IndieBound.

Will you read The Last Time I Lied? What thriller would you recommend?

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Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?

Abducted by handsome highwayman?

Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

My Thoughts:

The storyline in Romancing the Duke felt fresh. It was great to read about Izzy fighting for her inheritance and learn how to reclaim what is rightfully hers. I think Tessa Dare does a great job of putting her own twists on some stock romance plots. This book resolves quite nicely in the end and I hope Tessa Dare revisits these characters in a later novel. In addition to the inheritance storyline, Romancing the Duke also focuses on fandoms, their usefulness, and their innate desire to hope. Many parts of this book felt like an ode to fans and to those who love to fully embody a story they love.

I loved Izzy as a heroine. I was impressed by her determination, courage, and, most of all, her imagination. It’s her imagination that makes a twenty-six-year-old woman fear the dark. It’s what made her accept the fantastic stories of knights and devilish rogues. And it’s what made Izzy visit a strange decrepit castle only to discover she’s know the owner, not Duke Ransom. Also, there are some details about Ransom that I won’t get into here because it would spoil a pretty major plot point! The foils between Izzy and Ransom are fantastic and I loved reading their witty banter. I especially loved that they both grew up throughout the course of the story. This is not a one-sided development. Rather, Izzy and Ransom ultimately learn to work together and to help one another.

Additionally, the side characters in Romancing the Duke were very fun! Ransom’s valet, Duncan, was delightfully devoted, competent, and desperate for some real work. The vicar’s daughter, Miss Pelham, is romantic, determined, and easily excited. There is also a local troupe who enjoys re-enacting scenes from their favorite stories. All in all, these side characters liven up the page and attempt to steal the show. Tessa Dare clearly writes great characters across the board, and does not relegate side characters to mere plot devices.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! Romancing the Duke broke me out of my reading rut. I flew through this story and loved every minute of the ride. There were a few plot twists that I definitely did not see coming. Tessa Dare is quickly becoming one of my favorite romance writers! I also loved one of her more recent books, The Duchess Deal, and you can read my review here. I would highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Julia Quinn.

This book is…

laugh out loud funny

charming

surprising

steamy

a quick read

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 370

ISBN: 0062240196

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Romancing the Duke? What historical romance would you recommend?

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Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

My Thoughts:

One of the things I love about Little Women is that the story follows the March family through many years of their lives. Over time, we see the March family experience all sorts of different situations as they grow up together. Their trials run the gamut from sisterly quarrels, standing up for oneself, disagreeing with a husband, and learning to love. I find Little Women to be such a comforting book, for Alcott crafted the March family with considerable care and love.

Each and every character in Little Women is well rounded, charming, and fun to read. I always love reading Jo’s struggle to overcome her quick temper. As I myself suffer from the same fiery tongue and easily provoked emotions. I think many people would benefit from taking Mareme’s advice to heart, and think before speaking. Jo is often the favorite of the March sisters, but I’m also a big fan of Meg. She is bright, well mannered, and kind. But more importantly, I love Meg for her faults and how she tries to overcome them. The March family is poor and Meg, despite her overflowing love for her family, is tired of being poor. She wants to have nice things and not have to worry about paying for them. I really appreciate reading Meg’s struggles with this as I think that it’s a common feeling for most people. We all want the luxury to buy nice things when we want without breaking the bank. Meg works hard to be more patient and considerate when it comes to making purchases.

At times this book can feel a bit preachy with some of its religious overtones. But the lessons learned in this book are always well intended, helpful, and more about having a bigger heart, loving one another, and honoring one’s family. I enjoy these lessons, even as an adult. I think many of the lessons preached in this book could be beneficial to many people and there’s always something to learn from Little Women.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! This was my second time reading Little Women and I loved it even more the second time around. I think this book is a classic for good reason and is definitely a book that everyone should read. This story would also make an excellent read aloud!

This book is…

heartwarming

lovely

enlightening

touching

endearing

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: classics

Page Count: 504

ISBN: 0143106651

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Little Women? What classics would you recommend?

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Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the plot of The Death of Mrs. Westaway. While there were some elements that I didn’t fully understand as they were revealed, Ware did a great job of tying everything together in the end and explaining all. I also loved that the reader was piecing the story together along with Hal, who makes for a great protagonist. Hal is determined, realistic, and likeable. I liked Ware’s take on the unlikeable hero as the reader knows what Hal is doing is wrong, but still wants her to succeed anyway.

The pacing in this book is interesting. At first, the story moves along slowly. The pace does pick up a bit and become more engrossing towards the middle and definitely keeps the reader engaged in the end. But for me the beginning lagged a bit. Additionally, this is one of the few stories I’ve read in which I wished for an epilogue. I wanted to know more about Hal’s next steps and what would happen with the Westaway family. This is left up to the reader’s imagination. Usually I prefer when an author doesn’t spell everything out for the reader but I do think this book needed it.

I loved that this mystery really revolves around the women in the Westaway family. Ultimately, this story is about choices. Sometimes we make good choices and sometimes they’re bad. But The Death of Mrs. Westaway is about making choices and living with the consequences. I believe that every character in this story is suffering under the weight of the consequences of their actions. I found it fascinating to read how decisions can play out within one family and several generations.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! The Death of Mrs. Westaway felt different than Ware’s previous novels. There’s no active murder investigation and much of the action revolves around conversations. In a lot of ways, this book actually reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel. I love Agatha Christie, so the slower pace was not a problem for me. But it might be something to keep in mind if you need more of an action driven plot. I would highly recommend this book, especially for fans of more traditional mysteries and Old Hollywood Movies.

This book is…

surprising

clever

well-written

engaging

old-school

Publisher: Scout Press

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 384

ISBN: 1501156217

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read any of Ruth Ware’s books? Are you excited to read The Death of Mrs. Westaway?

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Review: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

My Thoughts:

This story will give you all the feels. Yejide and Akin experience such a rollercoaster of emotions and situations, and Adebayo brings you right along for the ride. While many couples struggle with infertility, Stay With Me tells the story of a couple willing to do whatever it takes to conceive. And in Nigeria, “whatever it takes” has a whole new meaning. Both Yejide and Akin make sacrifices for one another’s happiness, and these sacrifices brought their own challenges. This story is told so beautifully that the reader cannot help but empathize with this young couple and want nothing more than their happiness. This plot has quite a few surprises along the way, which just made the novel more impactful and interwoven.

I really enjoyed learning so much about Nigeria. Adebayo is Nigerian, and she writes so beautifully about the culture and lifestyle in Nigeria in the 90s. I always love reading a book by an #OwnVoices author, which means that a writer is writing about a community and way of life of which they’re a part. I learned a lot about the political climate during this time, as well as customs and traditions that are meaningful to this community.

I loved the title of this book, Stay With Me. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what every single character wanted and, ultimately, I think that’s what everyone wants. No one wants to be alone. And in this story, ‘stay with me’ was said by husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers, and friends. ‘Stay with me’ is also the name of a character in this story, which really drives this theme home. Connection can disappear in so many ways, and sometimes, ‘stay with me’ is a plea, a command, and a wish all in one.

Wrap Up:

Clearly, I loved this book. I was astonished at how quickly I became engrossed in the story and felt all of the feelings for these characters. I love reading stories about the inner workings of a family, and this book absolutely delivers. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially if you’re looking for a story that really zeros in on one particular family.

This book is…

heartbreaking

beautifully written

powerful

a quick read

illuminating

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 260

ISBN: 0451494601

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Stay With Me?

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Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most.

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

My Thoughts:

At its heart, The Mothers is a coming of age story for three teens. But it’s about growing up when you’re not sure of yourself, your choices, or what could have happened. This novel does some interesting things with choices and regrets. Decisions that one person makes can have serious ramifications for others, and Bennett does not shy away from exploring these painful moments. Every character in this book is still processing events in their past and learning to live with the reality of their pain.

“Oh girl, we have known littlebit love. That littlebit of honey left in an open jar that traps the sweetness in your mouth long enough to mask your hunger. We have run tongues over teeth to savor that last littlebit as long as we could, and in all our living, nothing has starved us more.”

I found the characters in this book to be very compelling. Through the omnipotent Mothers, we learn so much about almost every character, and I really enjoyed this use of dramatic irony. Bennett does a great job of exploring the ramifications of decisions and its interesting to watch it all play out. It was these moments that felt incredibly real to me. As human beings, we can never truly predict all possible outcomes of our decisions, and sometimes we must learn to live with our actions. And that’s what the characters in The Mothers do. I also enjoyed the changing relationship dynamic between Nadia and Aubrey. Their lives remain parallel for a long time before finally overlapping and it was interesting to see how their friendship changed because of that.

“We see the span of her life unspooling is colorful threads and we chase it, wrapping it around our hands as more tumbles out. She’s her mother’s age now. Double her age. Our age. You’re our mother. We’re climbing inside of you.”

I found Bennett’s use of the Mothers compelling. Throughout this book, there is a group of elderly women from the church who are referred to as the Mothers. And they function as an almost all-knowing Greek chorus. But the title of this book also refers to Nadia, Aubrey, and their own mothers. Through this book’s title, Bennett is establishing a rhythm of life and a comfortable track for these women to follow, which also lends weight to the book’s central themes of decisions and regret.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book. I flew through it and found myself frequently pausing to appreciate the language better. This book is lyrical at times, and I found the central themes to be relevant to my life, and I’m sure many others. I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy quiet stories about the dynamics and relationships between a set group of people.

This book is…

heartbreaking

mature

poignant

character driven

accessible

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 288

ISBN: 0399184511

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read The Mothers? Do you think the “what if” can be more powerful than real life?

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Review: This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today—perfect for fans of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.

Morgan Jerkins is only in her twenties, but she has already established herself as an insightful, brutally honest writer who isn’t afraid of tackling tough, controversial subjects. In This Will Be My Undoing, she takes on perhaps one of the most provocative contemporary topics: What does it mean to “be”—to live as, to exist as—a black woman today? This is a book about black women, but it’s necessary reading for all Americans.

Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalized with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle, that are rarely acknowledged in our country’s larger discussion about inequality. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.

My Thoughts:

This is a powerful read. It is a memoir but told as a collection of essays, discussing racism, sexism, prejudice, Michelle Obama, education, and more. This book is about sharing experiences, both good and bad. This is a story about connection and is simultaneously a cry to be heard and a beacon of hope for how to do better. You must read this book.

“You should’ve known I was coming.”

I highly recommend taking your time with this book. Jerkins clearly took the time to craft each story brilliantly and so each one deserves to be savored. These essays can also be difficult to read at times. They are uncomfortable because Jerkins is allowing us inside her life as a voyeur, and as such, her story is not everyone’s story. These essays can also be uncomfortable because anyone who is not a black woman will likely find themselves challenged to do better, to think more constructively, and to work to eliminate prejudices. For me, this book felt like a call to action just as much as it felt like an intimate portrait of one woman’s life. I think my favorite essay was “Who Will Write Us?” The themes of this essay are issues that I often consider myself. While the mainstream media is doing a better job of showing diversity and allowing for more representation, they could always do better. And I think this essay does a great job of allowing for conflicting emotions regarding seeing representation and wanting it to be better.

“My black womanhood does not cancel out my humanity.”

I think this book is an important reminder that intersectionality is essential. It is impossible to separate Jerkins from her womanhood, her blackness, or the fact that she exists as a black woman. She cannot choose to live one day as black and the next as woman. Our identities are all coexisting at all times and we need to remember that these various identities both enrich our lives and open us up to more prejudices. Jerkins does a fantastic job of allowing us to witness her navigating these identities as they play out in her day to day life.

“Why can’t we be wild? Because we are already wild. Why can’t we enjoy sex? Because we are already sexed without clothes ever having been peeled away from our bodies. Why can’t we be free? Because we were never free.”

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book. This was challenging to read at times because Jerkins’s lived experiences were and are vastly different from mine, but that just makes this book that much more important to read. I think reading the perspectives of someone who doesn’t look like you or live like you is extremely important, especially when we are living in such volatile times. I cannot recommend this book enough. I also do suggest buying a hard copy if you can, as you’ll likely want to flag poignant lines and want to refer back to this text in the future. I know I will.

This book is…

eloquent

intelligent

emotional

powerful

necessary reading

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Genre: memoir

Page Count: 258

ISBN: 9780062666154

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read This Will Be My Undoing? What memoir have you read recently?

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