The story begins in 1939 when Vianne is in her late 20s and Isabelle is 18. Their mother died young and their father turned into a bitter, distant man after fighting in WWI. Isabelle feels hurt by Vianne not being there for her. Instead, Vianne is devoted to her husband and daughter.
But when war breaks out, Vianne's husband leaves to fight the Germans. She does everything to protect her daughter, including tolerating the German officer who billets in her home. Feisty Isabelle, on the other hand, witnesses Nazi horrors early on and joins a secret resistance.
Dang, these women are strong. What they endure makes problems in my cushy life seem so petty. The characterization is top notch. The sisters have such distinct personalities, and even though their styles clash, you can feel the love between them. In their own way, they help countless downed pilots and Jewish orphans.
Their relationship with their father is so complicated and real that it made me cry.
When elderly Vianne's son discovers his mother had a history he never knew about, he says:
"I know there's something you want to tell me and whatever it is, it's hard for you. Just start at the beginning."
I can't help smiling at that. He is such an American, this son of mine. He thinks one's life can be distilled to a narrative that has a beginning and end. He knows nothing about the kind of sacrifice that, once made, can never be either fully forgotten or fully borne. And how could he? I have protected him from all of that.
As an American, I believe I can never know what it was like to live through such horrors, such fight for survival. But Ms. Hannah has indeed created a narrative of sacrifice and love with a beautiful beginning and a bittersweet end....more
At age 27, law firm receptionist Trish is tired of the dating scene. She'd turned down a marriage proposal from her boyfHooked on Nicki Elson's Books!
At age 27, law firm receptionist Trish is tired of the dating scene. She'd turned down a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Kurt, but when she thinks he'll ask again, this time she plans to say yes.
When Kurt instead dumps her, Trish comes up with a new idea: she'll only go on three dates with any guy. After three dates is where the heartache starts. What could possibly go wrong?
Cliff is a college friend who's also an attorney at her law firm. (I happen to love Cliff and can't wait for his story, coming next.) Trish mistakenly thinks Cliff is gay and tries to set him up with a guy. The gay guy is suspicious about Trish matching up with a lesbian on their double-date.
"You've got 'I love dick' written all over you. You might as well wear a T-shirt proclaiming it."
Trish's mouth opened wide in a silent gasp.
"See?" James pointed at her lips, his finger rotating. "The perfect shape and size. You know what you want in there."
Cliff has the hots for Trish, but she's more intrigued by stylish businessman Adam, a client at the firm. Adam overhears Trish's three date max plan and their flirtation begins.
When Adam takes her on a dreamboat third date, including a surprise candlelit dinner on a yacht on the Chicago River, she's definitely impressed.
"Does this look like a good spot to drop anchor?"
"Perfect. You seriously should get a job planning dates for The Bachelor."
Trish and Adam develop feelings for each other that transcend the three-date limit. She wants to make an exception for him, but he may be unable to veer off their careful plan due to his secret past.
I definitely enjoyed this contemporary romance, and can't wait for the next book in the series....more
...and what a glorious meeting it is. I attribute my adoration for this 1960s Southern story to its spunky, neveThe Help Meets The Secret Life of Bees
...and what a glorious meeting it is. I attribute my adoration for this 1960s Southern story to its spunky, never-quit narrator Starla.
Starla is nine years old and can't seem to stay out of trouble with her grandmother Mamie, who takes care of Starla because her momma left to pursue a music career in Nashvegas and her daddy works on an oil rig.
Naturally Starla is fascinated by her departed momma, and I was furious with Mamie for hiding packages that Starla's momma sent to her. Mamie's fear of Starla turning out like her no-good momma makes her a controlling caregiver. Starla believes Mamie hates her.
Feeling stifled and afraid of being sent off to reform school, Starla forges out on her own, determined to find her "famous" momma. On the way she meets Eula, a young black woman who has appeared to kidnap a white baby. Ruh roh! Starla and Eula experience all kinds of harrowing adventures on the journey.
These two characters are absolute stars in the foggy night sky of racism and fear in Mississippi. Starla tries to deal with her "red rage" no-filter fight-for-justice episodes, but there's no reining in such an irrepressible spirit. Eula has been through absolute hell but won't let anything stop her outpouring of sweet, inspiring, maternal love. Together they're a force for good in evil times.
One of my favorite parts of the book is Starla's evolution in racial beliefs. Mamie has taught her that black people are inferior. But Starla's experiences completely contradict that lesson. Eula saves her life and inspires her to create a life worth living. Miss Cyrena offers Starla help when no one else will. We all get told certain "truths" in our upbringing that we then discover to be quite false, and this was a poignant example.
"Here's the thing 'bout gif's." Eula stopped buttering her toast and looked straight at me. "A body don't know how many the good Lord tucked inside them until the time is right. I reckon a person could go a whole life and not know. That why you gotta try lots of things, many as you can...experiment."
I love Starla's daddy. And Mamie is so complex that I'm not sure how to feel about her. But Starla and Eula definitely steal the show.
Highly recommended! Thank you to Janelle for choosing this gem for book club....more