The Girl on the Train is a terrific Hitchcockian (as many others have aptly noted) thriller narrated by three women who are all unreliable in their owThe Girl on the Train is a terrific Hitchcockian (as many others have aptly noted) thriller narrated by three women who are all unreliable in their own and different ways. One of the women disappears and another--a misguided voyeur--becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened to the woman who disappeared. It's a creepy, absorbing ride!...more
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a very, very good read, and a very, very sad one. It is a sobering reminder that education is not a totalThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a very, very good read, and a very, very sad one. It is a sobering reminder that education is not a total panacea for poverty, and of our society's failure to allow those with identities in disparate worlds to be fully authentic in any of them--the enormous stress and cost of this failure. It is also a moving eulogy for a friend, and tribute to a mother....more
Heartwarming, readable history of three generations of the author's family, many of whose members love to cook, spanning the better part of the 20th cHeartwarming, readable history of three generations of the author's family, many of whose members love to cook, spanning the better part of the 20th century. Really lovely!...more
Station Eleven is set in a time after a flu has wiped out most of the world's population which sounds like a grim premise. But what a shimming, luminoStation Eleven is set in a time after a flu has wiped out most of the world's population which sounds like a grim premise. But what a shimming, luminous book! The narrative moves back and forth in time and follows an actor, Arthur, and various people connected to him, some of whom do not survive, and some of whom do. Among those who survive are a prophet--perfectly, spookily rendered--a troupe of performers, The Traveling Symphony, and the curator of the Museum of Civilization. The characters do not always realize their connections, but the reader is able to watch those connections emerge and it's terrific fun. This post-apocalyptic world is fantastically imagined and brings into sharp relief the beauty and wonder of what was lost. Flight! The Internet! Air conditioning! Soap! To say nothing of mothers, sons, sisters, friends, neighbors, all kinds of people the loss of their presence, perhaps only seemingly small in retrospect. But it is also a meditation of what remains: humans' enormous capacities for cruelty, but also kindness and connection, creativity and wonder, and to seek new worlds....more
Solid storytelling with a plot that zips right along and likable characters. The Perfume Collector opens on our heroine, Londoner Grace Monroe, when sSolid storytelling with a plot that zips right along and likable characters. The Perfume Collector opens on our heroine, Londoner Grace Monroe, when she receives an inheritance in the spring of 1955 from a woman she does not know, Eva. The story moves back and forth in time between Grace and Eva's stories, and the reader comes to know how the two women are connected. Most readers may figure it out before Grace, but it's entertaining to watch everything unfold all the same. Grace is, of course, a woman who could use an inheritance, and the reader's sympathy for her is bolstered by the author's choice to suggest that her husband might be a cad. So it's fun to root for her as she reaches for a life that's hers....more
The Home Place is a well-written first novel about a woman, Alma, a high-powered attorney working in Seattle, who returns home to Montana when her youThe Home Place is a well-written first novel about a woman, Alma, a high-powered attorney working in Seattle, who returns home to Montana when her younger sister, Vicky, is found dead, apparently from exposure. It quickly becomes clear that Vicky may have been murdered. So the novel is a whodunit. But there's a lot going on in The Home Place. Besides Vicky's murder and Alma's homecoming, there's also the question of what will become of Vicky's adolescent daughter, Brittany; a rekindled romance; and the tensions surrounding a corporation's campaign designed to scare the locals into signing away their mineral rights. All that action, oddly, sometimes made the pace flag. But overall, The Home Place succeeds. I thought it did so especially as a depiction of Alma's search for own metaphorical home place as she reckons with the guilt she's felt since turning and fleeing from her family's literal home place and the choices she made there, as well as what her sister's death will mean for her future....more
Small Blessings is a rarity in that it is one of those stories that is serious without being heavy, sweet without being insipid. It is a warm and hopeSmall Blessings is a rarity in that it is one of those stories that is serious without being heavy, sweet without being insipid. It is a warm and hopeful story, that is indeed charming, as many other reviewers have noted. It takes place on a college campus and concerns a professor, Tom, who lives with his fragile, largely shut-in wife and shrewd but tender mother-in-law; the newly arrived campus bookstore employee, Rose; and Henry, the son Tom never knew whose arrival in town follows Rose's and really sets in motion the events of the novel. There are other characters in the orbits of these four, also tying to lead decent lives in spite of their imperfections. Some of what happens seems more improbable than not, but not outlandishly so. (In this way, the plot reminded me a bit of one in an Ann Tyler novel.). Besides, the characters are all so endearingly flawed, but well-meant, and the writing so insightful and fluid--some really, really lovely writing--that it is easy to forgive a plot that asks the reader to believe in what could be true, however unlikely....more
I came to Wild with low expectations, and it exceeded them, which is to say that I liked this book more than I thought I would. Still, at the time theI came to Wild with low expectations, and it exceeded them, which is to say that I liked this book more than I thought I would. Still, at the time the author hiked the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), she was young, and an inexperienced hiker, and her lack of perspective and ineptitude in the early going makes her a tedious narrator, even if you can appreciate her honesty. The author lost her mother, the only parent she ever really knew, young and this loss unglued her. She hikes the Pacific Coast Trail to try to gather herself together, to heal, though she realizes this purpose only over time. Initially, it seems like she simply doesn't know what to do with herself, and hiking the PCT seems like a better choice than some others. She is at her best when she shares the moments when she gained perspective regarding this loss, and those in which she realizes that her mother was a person, separate from her role as the author's mother. Although the author strained my patience, I appreciated her honesty, and was moved by what she shared of the healing she realized on the PCT.
Passages to remember:
"I felt fierce and humbled and gathered up inside, like I was safe in this world too."
"This was once Mazama, I kept reminding myself. This was once a mountain that stood nearly 12,000 feet tall and then had its heart removed. This was once a wasteland of lava and pumice and ash. This was ponce an empty bowl that took hundreds of years to fill. But hard as I tried, I couldn't see them in my mind's eye. Not the mountain or the wasteland of the empty bowl. They simply were not there anymore. There was only the stillness and silence of that water: what a mountain and a wasteland and an empty bowl turned into after the healing began."
"It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn't have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I'd done was true. . . .To believe that I didn't need to reach with my bare hands many more. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything . It was my life--like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was to let it be."...more