The structure of this mystery/thriller is very intriguing. Hannah is writing a novel about 4 strangers who meet in a reading room in the Boston Public Library, and then hear a scream from a woman is later found murdered. One of the characters is writing about these events, so this is a book about someone writing a book about the same mystery. Is one of the 4 the murderer? A delicious plot with a slow reveal of information – very impressive.
Imagine a dystopian America dominated by the Preserving American Culture and Traditions (PACT) act. Particular negative attention is directed at persons of Asian origin so Bird’s Chinese American mother disappears to protect her son. Now 3 years later, he receives a cryptic message and embarks on a quest to find her in a world of surveillance and suspicion. What is remarkable in this topical story is the importance of words and stories, and libraries and librarians. Highly recommended.
Twenty essays about motherhood by (obviously) women authors: struggles with work-life balance, feeling fraudulent as both mother and writer, and creative compulsion – powerful themes with insightful thoughts. Essays cover both biological and adoptive parenting, new mothers, and relationships with the essayist’s mother. Heather O’Neill writes “being a single mother working on a novel is like asking a clairvoyant to book a ticket on the Titanic – it’s a bad idea”! Highly recommended.
A very imaginative story: five classic fairy tale characters are imagined as modern New York city women in a trauma support group. For example, Gretel has been abducted and held captive; Ruby has had a traumatic encounter with a wolf. The women shift from being unengaged and judgemental in the group setting to a shared consciousness. A dark, edgy but also wickedly funny story with a great ending.
Sam and Sadie first meet at ages 11/12 over a shared love of video games. Ten years later, they are creating video games. This is an insightful relationship book: a profound friendship is often complicated by human frailties. Sadie describes herself as “a dervish of selfishness, resentment and insecurity”, clearly significant barriers to having successful relationships. Creative ambitions, disability, success, and failure are all themes.
Like the companion novel The Break, this book begins with a Trigger Warning. The Strangers are a multi-generational Metis family living in Winnipeg: the story focusses on grandmother Margaret, daughter Elsie and children Phoenix and Cedar. Powerful emotions characterize these women: anger, shame in addictions, feeling invisible. Reflecting on sad stories, Margaret concludes (page 316) that “only Indians, Metis … had sorrow built into their bones, who exchanged despair as exclusively as recipes, who had devastation after devastation after dismissal after denial woven into their skin”. Compelling sentiments in the setting of important and necessary stories – a must read for all Canadians.
In Victorian England, the circus featured “human curiosities”, aka the freak show. The “performers” are exploited and objectified but also experience fame as someone no longer relegated to the shadows. There is also an interesting back-story of the Crimean War. A richly detailed historical novel, an enthralling slice of Victoriana.
There is much to admire in this first novel. First, it is a female relationship book that deals with gritty subjects: teenage pregnancy, suicide, and medically assisted death. And second, the setting is Newfoundland. Some core values: friendship and forgiveness, the decision to love and be loved.
This is a fascinating fictionalized story of a real woman, Belle da Costa Greene, who in 1906 became the personal librarian to J. P. Morgan as he built the Pierpoint Morgan Library in New York city. Her expanding role in acquiring rare books, manuscripts and artwork is astonishing. But her prowess came at a deep personal cost; as a light-skinned African American woman, she had to masquerade as a white woman for her entire life. An insightful look at identity and legacy in America.