My favorite Susanna Kearsley book. I'm a sucker for a historical road trip romance, what can I say?
I can say more, though. Namely, that this is very mMy favorite Susanna Kearsley book. I'm a sucker for a historical road trip romance, what can I say?
I can say more, though. Namely, that this is very much a Susanna Kearsley book: if you generally think her pacing is too slow, or if there's too much romance (or not enough), or if the more tepid contemporary sides of her stories don't make the more exciting historical sides worth it, or if you've heard enough about the Jacobites already, then this book might not be for you. Also, there are no paranormal elements in this book, which may or may not be a selling point.
The concept of this book (modern day: an amateur codebreaker translates an 18th century diary written in a difficult cipher; historical: the full story of the diarist and her headlong fall into a great adventure) gave Kearsley a lot of room to play around with the nature of storytelling and of narratives, of authorship and control over one's own life and one's fate, of trusting other people's word/narrative, and I think this is what made it a five-star book for me--in addition to just how much I loved Mary, the diarist, and just how wonderful Mary's ending was. There was so much thematic stuff, and the writing in the very ending made me think that Kearsley levelled up as an author with this book.
And if you need "Does the dog die??" spoilers: (view spoiler)[Frisque is alive and happy and with Mary at the end of the story. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I loved the mix of wit and seriousness. I loved all the internalizations and all the thinking the protagonists do in this one--it's definitely not menI loved the mix of wit and seriousness. I loved all the internalizations and all the thinking the protagonists do in this one--it's definitely not mental lusting but a fairly thorough account of how the characters change how they see themselves, how they relate to others. I loved how aggressive they are with their kindnesses (and it was kind of ridiculous at times, just how much they engaged in that).
I read this after Julie Anne Long's article about fallen women at Heroes and Heartbreakers, so I was surprised to find that Emma wasn't a fallen woman in the sense I'm familiar with (the SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE OMG sense). I thought her own redemption, as well as John's, was very deftly and movingly portrayed....more
I read this because of Niall Harrison's Strange Horizons review, especially for the comparison to Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox re: meta-narrative experimenI read this because of Niall Harrison's Strange Horizons review, especially for the comparison to Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox re: meta-narrative experimentationesqueness. And I wasn't disappointed, because there's a lot to think about in Elysium's treatment of love and grief and death and memory, about stories, and the narrative was gorgeous: splintered and poky, raw and open to layering hurts upon hurts but still retaining a hopeful heart.
It soared. Sometimes it crashed. And it lived.
For readers unsure about wanting to be spoiled beforehand (and this is a book that doesn't reveal its entire hand until later in its pages): I enjoyed this book even though I was spoiled for its basic concept (I did read the first two sections of that SH review before reading the book but didn't read the third). I liked having that background knowledge and handful of spoilers to help me through the instability of the early parts of the book, and it didn't ruin the book. There were enjoyable revelations all throughout the text just from reading attentively....more
The more I sketch out my thoughts about Wittgenstein Jr, the more I love it. This a bright campus novel centered around a re-imagining of Ludwig WittgThe more I sketch out my thoughts about Wittgenstein Jr, the more I love it. This a bright campus novel centered around a re-imagining of Ludwig Wittgenstein as a philosophy professor at contemporary Cambridge. I'd probably have not read it if it hadn't made the Tournament of Books shortlist, mostly because of the lack of women and my lack of desire to give a fuck about the pains of denizens of elite British universities. If I hadn't read it, I'd have missed out on this funny, bittersweet, satirical book full of the sorts of desires and yearnings that deserve attention, analysis, ribbing, fantasizing, and at least a little of my time.
You can't teach love--that's what Wittgenstein said yesterday. That's the condition of philosophy: fierce and fiery love. Philosophy is the love of wisdom, he said. A love for what you do not possess. A love for what, nevertheless, has left its trace in you.
Philosophical pretensions, fantasies of what it means to be a philosopher, romantic notions of what it means to be a thinker, are all examined here, and rather sweetly so, with great patience for the pretenses of it all. But Iyer also examines the wallowing depths of philosophy, too, with a lot of empathy. This iteration of Wittgenstein has lost one brother to suicide, to a fruitless search for truth and logic, and Wittgenstein is following his brother but determined to make it to the other side, to a place of after philosophy. The passages detailing Wittgenstein's brother's depression were really moving, in a sparse, calm way, and featured some of the book's best writing:
He knows what philosophy is, Wittgenstein says. He has seen the face of philosophy. He has seen the face of logic.
The look of torment on his brother's face. The look of calamity on his brother's face. The look of despair on his brother's face. He has seen these things.
The look of relief on his brother's face, when they cut down his body. The look of peace on his brother's face, when they closed his eyes. Of achieved peace, as at the end of a late Beethoven quartet. Yes, he has seen these things, he says.
Meanwhile, Wittgenstein's students struggle to follow him, hungover in class and lost in their own ambitions and their own adolescent lostness. I have to admit I was charmed by the passages of the students' exploits outside of class, the astoundingly awful alcohol & drug binges and the dramatic performances of the deaths of famous philosophers and, in particular, the dance-off. A+ use of a dance-off. The satire is most scathing when it comes to the university dons and the modern consumerist aspect of higher education, and I enjoyed that all, too.
I loved the style of this book, the repetitions and the rhythm of the prose, the scene-setting fragments, the dialogue set as a philosophical dialogue (even when it was not concerned with philosophy). The book is narrated by one student in particular, scholarship student Peters, but he spends the majority of the first part of the book cloaked by his use of first-person plural. I thought that was an engaging stylistic choice, especially as the story developed and Peters did become more of a character, more of a singular voice and a singular force within the story, not just part of a Greek chorus of drunken philosophy students.
I thought often of Muriel Spark's writing while reading this, with the minimalist prose and the satire and the doomed sense of inevitability & fate and the spiral of madness laced through the book. While Spark would have written more women into the story, and there'd definitely have been more terrible sex-related decisions, deaths, and conversions to Catholicism, I was still struck by how the book was preoccupied with some of her major preoccupations, and addressed them in similar ways:
Thought, and the derangement of thought, he says. How to distinguish between them?
A breakdown, a breakthrough: how to distinguish between them?
There is a cost to thought, he says. He'll pay with himself. He'll sacrifice himself.
I don't think you necessary have to know a lot about the real Wittgenstein to enjoy this novel--in one wry passage, Peters and Ede attempt to read the real Wittgenstein and give up, instead opting to order a copy of Wittgenstein in 90 Minutes, and then, after finding even Wittgenstein's Wikipedia page too much for them, just Google photographs of him to see what they can learn and apply to trying to help their own beloved professor--but I do think you have to at least be sympathetic to the pursuit of philosophy to enjoy it....more
Sequel to My Brilliant Friend; I would think it doesn't stand alone unless you're a very forgiving and adventurous reader.
What I love most about theseSequel to My Brilliant Friend; I would think it doesn't stand alone unless you're a very forgiving and adventurous reader.
What I love most about these books is their emotional density. There are layers of motivation, layers of internal turmoil, layers of perception and acceptance, and just a lot of emotional pathology of the characters' history. I'm kind of obsessed with the style of these books right now, because I'm finding them so immersive that it's strange to look up from reading and realizing I'm not actually in Naples in the 1960s.
The ongoing story is one of an intense friendship between two very smart girls, now young women, who are acutely aware of their powerlessness in the systems of poverty and patriarchy that keep their lives tense, and they struggle to deal with their vulnerability (to the outer world, to their feelings, to their own pull over each other). As much of the plot is driven by the relationships that Lila and Elena have with men, I really wouldn't recommend these books to a reader who doesn't care for reading about dramatic relationships and who loves who and who thinks they're in love with someone and who's sleeping with who and who gets hurt as a result of all these things. Because, yeah, there's so much social drama (and I love it)....more
Agile and absorbing, a vividly captured, still-in-progress coming-of-age novel, circling around an intense, loving friendship. Kind of nervous to giveAgile and absorbing, a vividly captured, still-in-progress coming-of-age novel, circling around an intense, loving friendship. Kind of nervous to give this one five stars, when I've heard the next two books are amazing, but I loved this one a lot....more
I love that Cecilia Grant continues to write difficult, nuanced characters, and that their romantic arcs involve acceptance of their difficult, nuanceI love that Cecilia Grant continues to write difficult, nuanced characters, and that their romantic arcs involve acceptance of their difficult, nuanced selves. That she doesn't try to charm readers with her characters demonstrates a level of respect (for readers) that's not found often in the romance genre, and it's a breath of fresh air.
Also, I love Christmas stories that are about forgiveness and good neighborliness, and this manages to incorporate all of the above beautifully into a road trip romance. There is a lot of uncomfortableness in this story, and there's something that borders on dubious consent (and that I hadn't seen in a romance before) that some readers might want to avoid: (view spoiler)[while the two are attempting to chastely share a bed overnight, a sleeping Andrew initiates some, um, sleep frottage--there's probably an actual term for it but I don't know it--and Lucy does manage to wake him up and prevent it from escalating; the incident is treated with seriousness and maturity by the characters, and seriously-but-without-turning-it-into-angst by the narrative. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>...more
I had things to do today, but I started reading this and couldn't stop. Jane Casey outdid herself with this installment of the Maeve Kerrigan series.I had things to do today, but I started reading this and couldn't stop. Jane Casey outdid herself with this installment of the Maeve Kerrigan series. Again, this series hits something I really like seeing depicted--how Maeve has to negotiate sexism in the workplace in ways that means she's damned if she does something, damned if she doesn't, and that it comes across as draining and as confusing as it is in real life--and it's so strong with the emotional stuff (I'll get to that in a separate paragraph), but I can also see the major flaws in this series. So much of the plots are just "There's a psychopathic serial killer among us. Hmmph." And even though The Kill does hit that again, it also explodes a subplot that's been brewing since the second and third books (view spoiler)[Godley being in Skinner's pocket, and Maeve uncovering this precisely because she's underestimated (hide spoiler)], and I basically couldn't guess where any character or plot was going to end up.
But the emotional stuff. OMG. If unidealized teams and achingly brutal partnerships and bitter-tasting mentorships and complicated relationships are what you like from procedural mysteries, THIS SERIES. OMG. OMG. Ignore how the plots are sometimes banal and the POV stuff that Casey does sometimes doesn't work and ALL OF THAT STUFF, just focus on Maeve and Josh and Godley and everyone else. Maeve can't separate who she is from her job and from the people who've made her into the detective she is, and IT JUST GETS REALLY COMPLICATED EMOTIONALLY.
Also. This book needs content warning for sexual assault & rape, and I'm going to discuss that content under the spoiler tag. It goes beyond the normal heapings of misogyny the book depicts, and beyond the other ways that sexual violence and sexual terrorism have been portrayed in the series so far. (view spoiler)[The quick summary is that Maeve is sexually assaulted by a group of teenage boys while investigating a case. She saves herself, and she tells no one, unwilling to draw attention to herself when there's, y'know, the mass execution of five police officers needing to be solved. Later, her boyfriend Rob's gone into deep grief and hysteria, as one of his coworkers is killed under his watch, and Maeve is flailing at trying to comfort him, trying not to lose him, trying to be supportive of him. She wakes in the middle of the night to find him initiating sex, roughly so, and while she does resist a little, she tries to accommodate him because she wants to comfort him, wants to be there him for whatever he needs, but she's clearly experiencing flashbacks to her recent assault, he ignores when she says wait, even though she--being Maeve--is doing her best to be self-sacrificing because she doesn't want to lose Rob in any sense, and it's only when she says stop a couple of times that he does. They break apart. He's angry. He leaves.
Casey handled this scene really well. It was really fucking harrowing to see two beloved characters in that situation. And the scene where Maeve actually processes what happens, realizes how it wasn't her fault, that's also harrowing to read--of course, it's harrowing at least partially because it's Josh who knows that's something wrong and who can get Maeve to confess to him, and Josh who points out how fucked up it is that Maeve thinks Rob is doing a favor being with her, loving her, and that she's never been worthy.
Maeve and Rob don't interact directly for the rest of the book, and the book ends with them taking time away from each other. GOOD. (hide spoiler)]
So. Yeah. This book is dark, and nobody's a hero or an angel, and everything's awful, and Maeve's biggest supporter is still the biggest misogynistic asshole, and I can't believe I like it as much as I do.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book. This book. There's some really intense empathy happening here, and it's all without turning empathy into something sweet or necessarily natThis book. This book. There's some really intense empathy happening here, and it's all without turning empathy into something sweet or necessarily natural. (I think that's a good thing, that empathy is something that can be practiced even if it's not an automatic impulse.) At any rate, this book rocked me, kept me turning the pages with my heart caught in my throat: hence, the five stars.
I was skeptical of a novel combining death row and magical realism, but I was willing to give it a chance after learning that the author herself is a death penalty investigator, that she's covered a lot of tough topics as a journalist, and that she has experience with the foster care system. There were times I questioned some of the underlying narrative and considered how some elements were problematic, but overall, I thought the novel demonstrated great sensitivity and a shrewd understanding of systems and institutions. I thought often of Andrea D. Lyons's memoir, Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer, while reading this, which is where I first encountered the concept of the work of "an archaeologist of social despair." I was impressed by the clarity with which Denfeld demonstrated that this emotional/psychological archaeology--it's what occurs when trying to understand the why and the how behind someone convicted of unspeakable horrors--doesn't ever excuse, but it provides an opportunity for us to know, to recognize, to name the systemic failures that hurt--that molded--that person. For all of us to consider our collective accountability to one another.
The book's language initially struck me as overwrought, but I soon found the voice perfect: the unsteadiness of the POV (kinda omniscient first-person manifesting into third-person, there's magical realism involved okay), the sentences that plunge deeply or that continue and wrap around you, demanding your attention to witness what humanity looks like, in all forms but especially the shameful forms. The use of magical realism--of understanding/cloaking/uncovering/ALL OF THE ABOVE of the awful facts of death row in the poetry and the mechanics of fantasy--was used to great effect. It didn't romanticize. It drew attention to the lenses we use, the narratives we grasp on to, when trying to understand the worst of us (the worst in us).
But for all that, it's not that complicated of a book. It feels deceptively contained, even: the story itself is something most of us have heard before, even if not in this form. There is no question that the American prison system is a subject that needs to be addressed, examined, and questioned from all angles in our national literature, and I found The Enchanted a strong voice in that conversation....more
Nothing that lived and breathed was truly objective--even in a vacuum, even if all that possessed the brain was a self-immolating desire for the truth
Nothing that lived and breathed was truly objective--even in a vacuum, even if all that possessed the brain was a self-immolating desire for the truth.
For years, teams of volunteer researchers, of scientists and explorers, venture into Area X, a mysterious, dangerous, wild, horrific place abandoned by human life. The survival rate of these researchers is dismal, and if any progress is being made into understanding the nature of Area X, it's not public knowledge. On this, the twelfth expedition, an unnamed biologist narrates the fate of her team and maybe comes closer to knowing some truth behind this terror. Things are strange from the start, when arriving at their base camp they are surprised by the sight of an elaborate entrance to a tunnel--or perhaps an inverted tower--unmarked on their maps.
I didn't think I'd be an ideal reader for this book. I'm not really one for Weird--though having been devoured by Welcome to Night Vale last summer (I think that's the way it went, not the other way around), my appreciation for it has at least increased. Additionally, I'm not typically drawn toward Horror, because fear and dread aren't emotions I'm really interested in being manipulatively whipped up within me, and gawking at fictional inhumanity isn't my bag. In this book, however, I really liked the tone used in regard to all the weird horrors encountered: straight-forward and blunt without being sensationalistic. It helped that the story belongs to a fairly unemotional narrator: she's not devoid of emotions, but she's distant and she knows it. She's introverted, she's used to holding herself apart from other people, and she's long found safety in her role as an observer. And yet with all this knowing distance and all the increasing shakiness of what the narrator observes and relates, I thought the emotional story underneath it all--the biologist once had a husband, and they both were clear-eyed about the differences between them even if they couldn't bridge the gap with love completely--remained the engine of the narrative thrust, from the first page to the last.
Okay, so I really liked the narrator and the depth and nuance brought to her, that she was brutal and self-contained and a mix of untrustworthy/trustworthy and, at one time, loved. If the book does not finish with any answers, the biologist's arc ends triumphantly and beautifully. (Readers who want answers and want definitive status updates on characters might not be so satisfied, however. Most mysteries remain mysteries throughout this book, and IDK if the future books will explain/reveal everything.)
I also enjoyed the ways this was a survival story, a story of exploration, and a first contact story. Well, a first contact story that knows it's not FIRST, not really, but still doesn't know the half of what they're to come up against. The biologist may not be an everyman representative of an average human being, but her humanity, and what she loses and what she gains in that inhumane landscape, is unquestionably human. And that's what I want from my science fiction, even when set in an inhuman world.
The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it could not be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.
6. Only those who can read, write, and love can move back or forward through time.
This book did it for me. Granted, I'm a nerd for stories
6. Only those who can read, write, and love can move back or forward through time.
This book did it for me. Granted, I'm a nerd for stories that look deeply at identity and stories that thoughtfully use time travel--and this book COMBINES them--but I didn't expect this story. I was thrown and have been processing it ever since. Like, a complete run-and-fetch-my-journal-so-I-can-meditate-and-respond-to-it sort of reaction. It put into words, into stories, into action so many issues and questions I've wrestled with in my own life. I'm trying to resist the impulse to say that it skewers the idea that our society can be "post" anything, let alone post-racial, because "skewers" is too violent for what I mean. The analytical work going on in this book isn't violent, just immensely, relentlessly precise. Shalaya Crump herself would like it for being so straight on, and for being kind to (while still expecting the best out of) the people within its pages.
Probably best of all, this book feels like an open door. There's a dotdotdot before it, and a dotdotdot after it, and I'm sure it too is a dotdotdot of its own. All things considered, that's awesome.
9. Past, present, and future exist within you and you change them by changing the way you live your life.
I've struggled to get into some of Florand's other books, but this romance was a winner, and its elements pushed my buttons: survivors of abuse and asI've struggled to get into some of Florand's other books, but this romance was a winner, and its elements pushed my buttons: survivors of abuse and assault determined to preserve, and use, their own strengths; an amusingly sulky but sweet hero; an understanding and respect of boundaries; a heroine both practical and idealistic; food and eating and healing as love; and one of the ultimate rare unicorn sightings in Romancelandia...protagonists in therapy!...more
Spark casts ambitious nuns and bumbling Jesuits in her excruciatingly clever send-up of the Watergate scandal. Politics are politics, no matter the stSpark casts ambitious nuns and bumbling Jesuits in her excruciatingly clever send-up of the Watergate scandal. Politics are politics, no matter the stakes, and with her typical attention to colliding world-views and people convinced of their own destiny, Spark successfully created an amusingly cynical little political drama that kept my brain buzzing and that might beat out The Girls of Slender Means as my favorite book of hers.
One of my favorite aspects was the pairing of the eternal rhythms of abbey life with the relentless churn of cruel & terrible politics. The political strategy sessions of these seemingly sleepless nuns were persistently interrupted by the Divine Office, building up a sense of mild frenzy, and the use of third-person present-tense, while it confounded me at first, was perfect for portraying the constant surveillance that this very, very bugged abbey was under....more
An astonishing account of front line activism when abortion was illegal. From 1969 to 1973, a small network of women in Chicago, known collectively asAn astonishing account of front line activism when abortion was illegal. From 1969 to 1973, a small network of women in Chicago, known collectively as Jane, first counseled and connected women to doctors who could perform safe and affordable abortions and then later performed abortions themselves. They served over 11,000 women before disbanding upon the advent of Roe v. Wade.
I was gripped from the very start, and even though the text got repetitive and the accounts of infighting were sometimes difficult to read (mostly because I'm worn out from infighting in my own life), I was moved, engaged, and enraged by this book at times. It's a very vivid account of an activist movement, of burnout, of the struggle of defining and living up to one's ideals. To start, I was skeptical and a bit appalled that they performed abortions without medical training, but as I read and followed the evolution of the group, of its tactics, of its mission, I went through the same thought trajectory that these women went through, and I could certainly understand why they chose to perform abortions themselves, and I could respect that decision and their work.
This is a feminist text concerned with feminist activism, and while it places Jane's work in its political context (Jane was considered a band-aid solution, not radical enough, by some feminist activists; it was considered too radical and too dangerous by others), it makes perfectly clear that to most of its members, what they wanted to do was the work of stepping in to help themselves and others being systematically oppressed for being women. "We in Jane were fortunate that we were able to create a project that met an immediate, critical need and, at the same time, put into practice our vision of how the world should be," the author, a member of Jane, writes. Another member of Jane notes that, "Politics doesn't matter. What matters is action and service. That's how to build a movement."
Race doesn't get paid too much attention in this book; a clear-eyed acknowledgement of class and race is woven through the book's analysis, and a small handful of the members of the collective were women of color, but given the GIGANTIC issues surrounding race and reproductive rights, lobbing out a statement like "As white women performing abortions for poor black women, they were vulnerable to accusations of genocide and racism," without unpacking it, just felt like dodging something very, very important. At the same time, it's clear that the members of Jane didn't patronize the women they helped, and they structured their counseling and their services to foster a sense of co-responsibility and equality. This was, and still is, pretty revolutionary for a health service. One example:
Women coming for abortions came "through" the service, not to it -- a process, not a place. They were never referred to as patients or clients. If they were called anything it was counselees. Jenny thought that "patient" was a medical term implying subject and object: "We didn't think of the women coming through the service as objects we were going to work on. We always thought of them as partners in a political activity -- partners in crime, to be exact."
Financially, Jane did their best to not turn away women, regardless of ability to pay, but they were not naive about financial matters, either. The money was a way of creating a sense of investment in these health services:
Everyone in the service agreed that each woman should pay something. It cost money to perform abortions. Paying was one way women owned what they were doing and participated in it, and participation, they discovered, was as much a key to a successful abortion as anything they did medically. Abortion wasn't a charity for helpless women: it was an act of responsibility.
The book is not all analysis; the stories of individual women hit me hard as well. While the police raid of Jane, in which seven members were arrested, is one of the most memorable stories (those women? BADASS! chained in a police van, they tear up and swallow documents with identifying information of the women they served! stuck away in an office at the police station, they sneakily use the phone to call everyone they could think of to alert them! they flush down the toilet the thousands of dollars they had on them, determined not to let the police get it!), the small, individual heartbreaks and moments of grace throughout the book will stick me for a long time to come....more
Set in an alternate-universe fascist Britain in 1949, this is a cross-genre thriller featuring a genderflipped performance of Hamlet in which the leadSet in an alternate-universe fascist Britain in 1949, this is a cross-genre thriller featuring a genderflipped performance of Hamlet in which the lead actress (Viola Lark, who comes from an infamous Mitford-like family) is a reluctant conspirator in a plot to kill Hitler during their opening night performance.
Honestly, the book had me enthralled at simply the prospect of genderflipped Hamlet (and it delves into the acting implications and all the theatre-side stuff wonderfully!), but the continuation of the world set up in Farthing is also breathlessly and twistedly done. The ever-tightening fist of fascism is relentless, and the depiction of Inspector Carmichael as a reluctant agent of this system is rendered with very patient delicacy.
As problematic as they can be, settling-the-west stories are a guilty pleasure of mine. Chalk it up to being obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a cAs problematic as they can be, settling-the-west stories are a guilty pleasure of mine. Chalk it up to being obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child as well as my own "East Coast? Where's that? Is that the mythical place where radio and television station names start with W instead of K?" perspective on the United States, but stories of homesteads and schools on the prairies, plains, and deserts tend to attract me.
The Whistling Season is twelve-year-old Paul Milliron's story of the year his widowed father answers a newspaper ad of a housekeeper ("can't cook, but doesn't bite") looking for work in Montana. Plenty of changes abound when upbeat housekeeper Rose and an unexpected plus-one, Rose's dandy intellectual of a brother, Morrie, arrive in Marias Coulee, but the story becomes even more interesting when the town's sour teacher elopes with a traveling preacher and one-of-a-kind Morrie is reluctantly prevailed upon to take her place in the one-room schoolhouse.
Paul is a wise and fantastic narrator, believable as a seventh-grader and as the school inspector he grows up to be, and he's both funny and sharp in turn. The book made me laugh a few times, kept me glued to the pages in anxious fear at other times, and made my eyes tear up once or twice. There's a beautiful sense of time's passage in this book, as well as a nostalgia that's rendered in an appealingly pragmatic way. The nostalgia isn't a fetishization of innocence or childhood, but a somewhat wistful respect for the connection between the past, the present, and the future, and a recognition of the bond and legacy of generations. Not to get all "We're all in this together!" on you, but the spirit of acknowledging how people connect, how pain and joy both get passed between us as a side effect of human communities, pervades the story, and made it a rich read. It's a straight-forward read, no interesting narrative tricks or surprisingly skillful displays of plot or character, but it's a satisfying story that doesn't overreach.
I waffled a bit on my star rating. I found the narrative device of narrating from the 1950s sometimes confusing (the character used the term "now" to orient the story in both time periods, which grated my literal and consistency-loving soul) and, only in the last pages of the story did that set-up pay off in anything emotionally thoughtful. The ending (and big plot reveals), while I thought it gripping, was also a bit jarring and rushed, and it felt markedly different from the rest of the book. However, I felt the emotional and intellectual net of this book to have noteworthy width and depth while still being immensely accessible and filtered through a likeable POV, and because I immediately started rereading favorite parts of the book as soon as I finished, I'm pretty sure this'll be a favorite book of mine for a long while to come....more