I read so many books for kids and teens during the school year, so summer is my go to time to catch up on fiction for adults. Here are my most recent favorites:
What Alice Forgot is by Australian author Liane Moriarty and was a pick for my book club this Spring. We wanted something lighter after reading a book about suicide and depression. Many of us had seen HBO’s mini series Big Little Lies and wanted more from Moriarty so we went with this one. It is about a woman who is about to turn 40 and falls off her bike in spin class, hitting her head. She wakes up thinking that she is 29, happily married, and about to have her first child. In reality she is divorcing, has three kids, and looks a lot like the suburban moms that she vowed to never become.
It is a great premise and made me think about how much a person’s life changes in a decade. Not just your appearance but your attitude, friendships and desires. There is an feeling that it is a negative thing for a person to grow and change and what I liked about this book is that while it spent a lot of time being dismissive towards Alice’s growth, we get a satisfying part (for me at least) when you are able to explore how life changes over the course of 10 years. The book gives you a chance to see all of the sides of the story and you learn that there really is no “good guy” or “bad guy.” In normal life, that usually doesn’t happen, does it? No one sets out to be a monster, problems occur when you decide that the other person has become one. Sounds a bit heavy, but don’t worry, it is a great beach read!
I had Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi on my list to read for MONTHS but couldn’t get it at the library (too many holds) so I finally broke down and bought it on Amazon. I know! I never buy books, but this was worth it.
Homegoing is a beautiful debut book that follows a family though many generations, starting in the late 18th century in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). The first two chapters follow half sisters that have never met. Effia marries James Collins, a British governor at Cape Coast Castle, her sister Esi is captures and sold into slavery in America. The following chapters follow the children in the generations that follow.
I saw this book more as a collection of short stories, at the start of each chapter you find yourself dropped into a new world and just as you get your bearings the story stops and you move on to the next person. You don’t have time to mourn the end of one story because you are immediately wrapped up in the next experience. I found that I had to stop at two stories at a time. First because the book is so beautifully written that I didn’t want it to end. And second because it moves so fast that I needed to pause to take in what I was reading.
When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher bought me a copy of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. This was after I told her how much I liked the film version. She shook her head and said, as soon as you read the book you’ll hate the movie. A few days later there was a copy on my desk. That book was a life changer, so whenever I see a new book by Allende, I read it. Its never as good as House of the Spirits (and my teacher was right, I hate the movie now. I mean, for the whitewashing alone! You want to tell me that Jeremy Irons is the best person you could find to play Esteban Trueba???) but it is always enjoyable.
The Japanese Lover is the story of two women. Alma, a Polish Jewish girl, is sent to live with her distant relatives in San Francisco at the dawn of World War Two. She eventually falls in love with Ichimei, the son of her family’s Japanese gardener. The two are torn apart during the war, Ichimei and his family are sent to an internment camp in Utah. Throughout their lives, they reunite many times but can never stay together. Irina is a young Moldovan immigrant who works in the nursing home that Alma now resides. They form a close bond and with the help of Alma’s grandson, Seth, she starts to uncover Alma’s past, while trying to hide from her own.
There are a lot of twists in this book and unfolds slowly, bringing you to a very satisfying ending. What I love about Isabel Allende is how much she loves her characters, each person gets a deep dive so that you feel like you really know them. This holds true in Japanese Lover. I think this book got mixed reviews for having too much going on in the story (Japanese internment, the birth of Israel, human trafficking, AIDS) and because of this, the settings feel unbelievable and rushed. To me it shows were Allende’s loyalty lies, with the people. I ended up caring for them even if the world they live in feels a bit incomplete.