Great New Books https://www.greatnewbooks.org Sharing our favorite books one week at a time. Wed, 09 Aug 2017 17:00:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 https://i0.wp.com/www.greatnewbooks.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/cropped-gnb-logo.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Great New Books https://www.greatnewbooks.org 32 32 43601484 Final GreatNewBooks Post https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/08/09/final-greatnewbooks-post/ https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/08/09/final-greatnewbooks-post/#comments Wed, 09 Aug 2017 17:00:43 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6572 The six on our GNB team have worked hard to pick the best book we've read in 2013. Between the six of us, we've read over 200 books this year. After long deliberation, our favorites ...

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In August 2012, a group of reading friends created a team and a space on the internet focused on finding and sharing great new books — GreatNewBooks (GNB). The idea was to act on a problem many of us experience in finding new books — an unbiased approach to book recommendations. We decided to only recommended books we discover on our own and authentically love.

Over the past 5 years, the GNB team has shared more than 250 books here on the GreatNewBooks.org site. In the process, we have reached thousands of readers each week and helped spread the love of literature and reading. It has been a wonderful experience and endeavor for us all!

But just as life changes, our time and availability has evolved, as well. After careful consideration and group discussion, we have decided as a team to let GreatNewBooks sunset as an active site. This is our final post here at GNB. We are grateful for all of you who have connected with our recommendations, read books we loved, and shared with us here, too.

Deep gratitude goes to all on the GNB team, who engaged with their passion for great new books, read countless stacks in search of a perfect book to share, and taken time to vocalize how and why they loved each book. We look forward to continuing to share our love for books on our individual sites, below.

Thank you, all!

Nina Badzin:

Nina Badzin

Nina Badzin

 

Nina Badzin is a writer who lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and a contributing writer at Kveller.com. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, and elsewhere. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines and she’s a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. Find her on Twitter @NinaBadzin, or at http://ninabadzin.com. Some favorite books “of all time” include East of Eden, The Age of Innocence, Love in the Time of Cholera, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Recent favorites include Gone Girl, The Age of Miracles, and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Nina loves to read. Period. She keeps track of her weekly reads and let’s you know what she thought of them here.

Jessica Vealitzek:

Jessica Vealitzek

Jessica Vealitzek is a writer near Chicago, and is the author of The Rooms Are Filled. Some of her favorite books are To Kill A Mockingbird, anything by Steinbeck, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, and The Killer Angels. Recent favorites include If Jack’s in Love, Train Dreams, and Up from the Blue. She can be found online at her web site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Jacquelin Cangro:

Jackie Cangro

Jackie Cangro

Jackie is a freelance writer and editor living in NYC. She teaches creative writing with The Loft Literary Center and through her new online classroom. Her work has appeared most recently in Valparaiso Fiction Review and The Cortland Review, and her story “Secrets of a Seamstress” was named a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest. Her favorite books include Pride and Prejudice, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, Station Eleven, and just about anything written by Bill Bryson and David Sedaris. She is a sucker for books about books. She can be found at www.jacquelincangro.com and on Twitter @jackiecangro.

Stacey Loscalzo:

Stacey Loscalzo

Stacey Loscalzo

Stacey Loscalzo is a reader and writer living outside of New York City with her husband and their two daughters. She writes for various local parenting publications and blogs at www.staceyloscalzo.com and www.betwixtgirls.com. Stacey loves to read anything at all from adult novels and memoirs to picture books. Her list of favorite books changes with each new book she reads but for now she would include Me Before You, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, The Fault in our Stars, The Giver and The Book Thief. Stacey can be also be found on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (all @staceyloscalzo).

 

Katie Noah Gibson:

Katie Noah Gibson

Katie Noah Gibson

Katie Noah Gibson is a writer, editor, knitter and compulsive tea-drinker living in the Boston area with her husband. Born in Texas, she’s a lifelong Anglophile with a particular love for Oxford, but she loves to travel just about anywhere. Her favorite books include Love Walked In, the Anne of Green Gables series, I Capture the Castle, the Harry Potter series, To Kill a Mockingbird and the poetry of Billy Collins. You can find her at her blog, Cakes, Tea and Dreams, reviewing books at Shelf Awareness, or on Twitter at @katiengibson.

 

Jessica Flaxman:

Jessica Flaxman

Jessica Flaxman

Jessica Flaxman lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two children. She is Director of Studies at Charlotte Country Day School and a life-long English teacher. As a free-lance journalist, she has written editorials, book reviews, and the “Prized Possession” column for The Charlotte Observer. She regularly shares her observations and research on 21st century education and the humanities on her blog What I Learned Today In School and on Twitter (@msflaxman). Her favorite books include Mrs. Dalloway, Speak, Memory, Invisible Man, 1Q84, and Hilary Mantel’s stunning Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She’s also a sucker for any good dystopian novel, no matter how grim.

Pamela Hunt Cloyd:

Pamela Hunt Cloyd

Pamela Hunt Cloyd

Pamela Hunt Cloyd writes, teaches yoga, and designs jewelry in Kailua, Hawaii, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Pamela’s essays have appeared in Runner’s World, the San Diego Reader, and various other publications (although most of her writing appears on corporate web sites and in annual reports). Her favorite books include In the Skin of the Lion, Wild, A Home at the End of the World and everything by Ann Patchett, Curtis Sittenfeld, Dani Shapiro, and Katrina Kenison. Pamela also has a stack of reliable “comfort food” books which include Hamlet, the Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike books, and anything by Jennifer Weiner. Find her on Twitter @walkingonhands and on her blog.

Jennifer Lyn King:

Jennifer Lyn King

Jennifer Lyn King

Jennifer leads GNB, and is marketing professional by day, a writer and author who loves to read and share great books with others. She lived for four recent years in Prague, Czech Republic, as an expat. She enjoys photography, oil painting, yoga, and traveling with her family. Her essays have been published at Salon, and she’s currently at work on nonfiction. Her favorite book is the recent All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and other favorites include Amor Towles, Ann Patchett, Kate Morton, Barbara Kingsolver, The Language of Flowers, Georgia, We Are Called to Rise, The Shell Seekers, and Jane Eyre. For more about Jennifer, visit her website and blog at http://jenniferlynking.com. She can also be found on Twitter @JenniferLynKing.

And a thank you to past GNB team:
Lindsey Mead: http://www.adesignsovast.com/
Julia Munroe Martin: http://juliamunroemartin.com/
Cathleen Holst: https://twitter.com/cathleenholst
Hallie Sawyer: http://www.halliesawyer.com/
And guests …

Happy reading!
Sincerely, the GreatNewBooks team

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The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/07/26/childrens-crusade-ann-packer/ https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/07/26/childrens-crusade-ann-packer/#comments Wed, 26 Jul 2017 12:00:45 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6551 The Children’s Crusade I met Ann Packer the way most of us did – through A Dive From Clausen’s Pier, which I loved so much I reread it immediately after I finished it. And then I met Ann Packer for real in a yoga class in Palo Alto. To be honest, “met,” is a generous […]

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The Children’s Crusade The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

I met Ann Packer the way most of us did – through A Dive From Clausen’s Pier, which I loved so much I reread it immediately after I finished it.

And then I met Ann Packer for real in a yoga class in Palo Alto. To be honest, “met,” is a generous word, because in reality, I probably accosted her. I began by gushing that I had read her book three times, and that I was also a writer and wow, wasn’t it amazing that we were in the same yoga class? What I remember now is the look of fear in her eyes as she rolled up her mat and hoofed it out of there.

I was so embarrassed I never went back to that class again. But I have been reading her books throughout the years. And while reviewers never love her new work as much as her first book, I do.

Like many of her novels, which lack an aggressive plot, The Children’s Crusade is propelled forward by the fate of a house that was inherited by four siblings. The house was built in the 1950s, by Bill Blair, a Navy doctor who fought in the Korean War.  He found respite near a California live oak, which he visited often and used as the subject of his painting. Eventually, he bought the property surrounding the tree in what would later become Silicon Valley.

Bill then married a woman named Penny. Together, they had four children before Penny realized she didn’t really like being a mother. Bill becomes a wonderful father and trusted pediatrician, while Penny becomes an artist who spends more time in a shed slash studio down the hill than with her family.

While the book seems quite pedestrian, I couldn’t put it down. The subtle tensions between the siblings and the push and pull between the generous father and selfish mother were compelling juxtapositions.

Penny is the evil villain of the story in many ways – the title “Children’s Crusade” comes from an idea the children had to lure their mother away from her artist’s studio and back into their family. And yet, she is also the hero for many of us, because of her absolute belief in what she deserves during a time when women weren’t allowed to want very much.

The children were fully drawn characters, and at times, I was in awe of the level of detail and personality that Packer infused into them. It is still hard for me to believe that somewhere, out in Silicon Valley, the Blair children don’t really exist.

The oldest Blair children have names that begin with “R,” which were drawn into the concrete of the house’s foundation. James, is the fourth child, and considered to be a mistake by Penny, even though he is the one most like her.

The central action of the story revolves around the rule that for the heirs to sell their house and cash in on the inflated property values of Silicon Valley, James has to speak to his mother. This is difficult as the two haven’t had a relationship in years because of something that happened when James was a child.

To read “The Children’s Crusade” is to become invested. You will have a favorite. You will take a side. And then you will change your mind as you hear another side of the story. But by that time it won’t matter. Because the Blair house will be your house, and you will be part of the family.

 

Pamela Hunt Cloyd writes, teaches yoga, and designs jewelry in San Diego, CA, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Pamela’s essays have appeared in Runner’s World, the San Diego Reader, and various other publications. Find her on Twitter @pamelahuntcloyd and on her blog.

Have you read The Children’s Crusade? We’d love to hear what you think  — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Want to buy The Children’s Crusade? Visit our bricks-and-mortar friends at your local independent bookstore or by clicking the link here to Indiebound!

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Final Girls by Riley Sager https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/07/19/final-girls-riley-sager/ https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/07/19/final-girls-riley-sager/#comments Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:00:38 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6516 Final Girls by Riley Sager Riley Sager’s FINAL GIRLS is a heart-thumping thriller from the first to the last page. Quincy Carpenter is a final girl, by description anyway. She doesn’t want the label, which, by definition, is the last girl alive in a horror film. And a label the media puts on women who […]

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Final Girls by Riley Sager Final Girls by Riley Sager

Riley Sager’s FINAL GIRLS is a heart-thumping thriller from the first to the last page.

Quincy Carpenter is a final girl, by description anyway. She doesn’t want the label, which, by definition, is the last girl alive in a horror film. And a label the media puts on women who survive these attacks in real life. Like Quincy, who was the only survivor of a brutal massacre in the woods. She and her friends were on a birthday getaway at Pine Cottage and everyone was murdered except for her. She tried to help her friends, but she couldn’t. The only person she could save was herself. She was stabbed by a man she only refers to as HIM, but somehow escaped, literally running into the arms of a police officer named Coop who showed up just in time to save her life. And that’s all she remembers. Since it happened, she can’t recall a huge chunk of the night. And some people, even her mother, seem convinced she’s simply choosing not to reveal what really happened.

The media groups Quincy with two other women who also survived brutal attacks. Lisa was the only one to make it out of a sorority house alive while nine girls were killed. And Sam broke free of the Sack Man who murdered several people at a hotel where she was working. And for many years, she is hounded for interviews. Everyone wanting to know what it feels like to be a lone survivor.

Quincy is finally at a good place in her life when Coop calls. She’s medicated, engaged and has managed to separate herself from the incident that has chased her for years. Coop tell her that the original final girl, Lisa, is dead. And while Quincy is reeling from that news, Sam shows up on her doorstep.

I was turning the pages with an intensity I hadn’t felt for a book in a long time. I had so many questions—why was Lisa dead? Could Sam be trusted? What really happened the night of the Pine Wood murders that Quincy survived?  Was Quincy a reliable narrator? I didn’t see any of the twists coming—and there are several!

Sager’s descriptions are so vivid, that I could see the scenes in my mind and often felt like I was watching a movie. FINAL GIRLS definitely stands out from the pack of the hugely popular psychological thriller genre.

 

All of us at GreatNewBooks are delighted to have a reading friend and guest this week:

Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton are the authors of the forthcoming suspense novel, The Good Widow,  published by Lake Union. Liz and Lisa have been best friends for 30 years. They have also published three women’s fiction novels with Simon & Schuster/Atria Books. Your Perfect Life is a hilarious and heartwarming story of two childhood best friends who switch bodies at their twenty-year high school reunion. The Status of All Things, is a cautionary tale of a woman who realizes she can change the course of her entire life by what she writes in her Facebook status. And The Year We Turned Forty follows three women who get the chance to relive the year they turned forty, a year they each made decisions that altered the course of their lives.

Have you read Final Girls? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Want to buy Final Girls? Visit our bricks-and-mortar friends at your local independent bookstore or by clicking the link here to Indiebound!

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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/07/12/born-crime-trevor-noah/ https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/07/12/born-crime-trevor-noah/#comments Wed, 12 Jul 2017 12:00:57 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6346 Born a Crime by Trevor Noah Before reading Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, I knew Trevor Noah only through some of the insightful and humorous Daily Show clips that make the rounds on social media. I also knew very little about apartheid South Africa, unfortunately, let alone what it was like […]

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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Before reading Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, I knew Trevor Noah only through some of the insightful and humorous Daily Show clips that make the rounds on social media. I also knew very little about apartheid South Africa, unfortunately, let alone what it was like to live under it as a mixed-race child, the very existence of whom was a crime.

This—the not knowing—is the best reason to read a book, right? And Noah comes through. He easily, clearly, and with wit provides insight into what it was like to grow up poor in 1980s and 90s South Africa, the product of a white Swiss father and a black South African mother.

It is his bond with his fierce, religious mother that dominates these stories—she is his companion, his teammate, his advocate, and she loves him with the kind of love that gives him a name with no African meaning—Trevor—so he’ll have no pre-determined destiny boxing him in, teaches him English so he’ll have a leg up in the world, and throws him from a moving car to prevent him from being kidnapped.

Stepping into another’s shoes for a deeper understanding is something we could all do more of these days. I highly recommend this book.

 

Jessica Null Vealitzek is a writer near Chicago. Her debut novel, The Rooms Are Filled, was published by She Writes Press in April 2014. She can be found online at her web site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

 

Have you read Born a Crime? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Link to buy Born a Crime at your local independent bookstore (we love them!) or at Indiebound by clicking here.

 

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The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/06/28/widow-wall-street-randy-susan-meyers/ https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/06/28/widow-wall-street-randy-susan-meyers/#comments Wed, 28 Jun 2017 12:00:38 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6338 The Widow of Wall Street In her novel The Widow of Wall Street, Randy Susan Meyers creates the fictional version of one couple’s rise to elite society and their fall into public shame. The plot generally follows the true story of a Bernie Madoff type Ponzi scheme, including the ambition and narcissism that got him, […]

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The Widow of Wall Street The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers

In her novel The Widow of Wall Street, Randy Susan Meyers creates the fictional version of one couple’s rise to elite society and their fall into public shame. The plot generally follows the true story of a Bernie Madoff type Ponzi scheme, including the ambition and narcissism that got him, in this case “Jake” so deep into a massive financial crime. In an article Meyers wrote for Read it Forward on the research she did in preparation to write The Widow of Wall Street, she says, “During the ten years I worked with criminals, the stories they told to excuse themselves fascinated and repelled me. And I learned how every person on this earth has a story they tell to explain away bad behavior—even if only to themselves.”

Also central to the story, however, is Jake’s wife, Phoebe, who can be counted among the victims of Jake’s destructive lies. Or was she an accomplice? The question of whether Phoebe knew the truth about Jake’s “genius” investment strategy is one the reader will wonder from the start, but as Phoebe’s story unfolds, we quickly know the answer is no and we move on to more interesting emotional mysteries.

How can a wife be that much in the dark about her husband? What motivates a spouse to stay in the marriage after such an unimaginable betrayal? How can a family survive after a crisis like this, especially one that is so public? Do you stand by your husband or your grown children? And as it pertains to Jake, what makes someone so desperate to succeed that he’s willing to ruin so many lives? Meyers alternates the storytelling between Phoebe’s and Jake’s viewpoints as the reader works through these implied questions.

To quote my mother who read a copy I bought her for Mother’s Day, “The whole story made me so tense even though I knew how it would end.” I agree. If you know the Madoff story, you know the ending of The Widow of Wall Street. Even if you’re less familiar with that scandal, Meyers begins the novel with Phoebe visiting Jake in jail so the mystery of the novel is not whether Jake is guilty. Rather, it is why and how he committed the crime and how Phoebe and her children deal with the truth.

The Widow of Wall Street is a book full of conflict. There is no outright violence, but the story still has elements of a thriller as the reader waits for the entire scheme to crash.

 

Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and a contributing writer at Kveller.com. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, and elsewhere. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines and she’s a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. Nina lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

Have you read The Widow of Wall Street? We’d love to hear what you think  — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Want to buy The Widow of Wall Street? Visit our bricks-and-mortar friends at your local independent bookstore or by clicking the link here to Indiebound!

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/06/14/hate-u-give-angie-thomas/ https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/06/14/hate-u-give-angie-thomas/#comments Wed, 14 Jun 2017 12:00:31 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6306 The beating heart of Fallen Beauty is the dance between Laura and Millay. This book is both fun to read and thought-provoking: the best kind! I highly recommend Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck.

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The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomase

I am lucky enough to be a part of a book club at our local independent bookstore. The lucky part is that this is not a regular bookclub. We are a group of adults who drink wine and eat Cheetos and only read children’s books. In the year that this group has existed we have read some amazing titles like Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk and The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz. But hands down the best book we have read is Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give.

Yes, The Hate U Give is a young adult book but if you are over the age of fifteen and living in America today (or anywhere for that matter), you should read Thomas’ work. The Hate U Give is the story of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter and the days that follow after she witnesses the death of her friend at the hand of a police officer.

I’m sure by now most of us have read news articles and watched television clips about police brutality. We have cried for innocent lives lost and wondered what can be done about this disturbing situation. As a white woman living in suburbia though, I assumed I would never be able to understand the feelings that accompany a loss like the one Starr experiences. While I will still never truly understand, I feel like I have gotten a step closer after reading The Hate U Give. I read the book in only a few sittings because while I was reading, I felt like I had crept into Starr’s life. I was feeling her sadness and her fear. I was feeling her love and her hate. And these are really important feelings to have.

While The Hate U Give is not your traditional summer reading, I recommend that everyone clear a space on their to be read list to include this book. You will be glad you did.

Stacey Loscalzo is a reader and writer living outside of New York City with her husband and their two daughters.

She writes for various local parenting publications and blogs at www.staceyloscalzo.com and www.betwixtgirls.com. Stacey loves to read anything at all from adult novels and memoirs to picture books. Stacey can be also be found on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (all @staceyloscalzo).

Have you read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Link to buy The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas at your local independent bookstore (we love them!) or at Indiebound by clicking here.

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Summer Reads with Great New Books https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/06/07/summertime-great-new-books/ Wed, 07 Jun 2017 12:00:43 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6300 Hi Everyone! It’s Jennifer here. This week’s post for Great New Books is different than our other posts, but it is to announce a few things — Great New Books is turning 5 this summer! To celebrate, commemorate, and enjoy, we are paring back our postings for our first lighter summer reading schedule. Summer Reads […]

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Hi Everyone! It’s Jennifer here.

This week’s post for Great New Books is different than our other posts, but it is to announce a few things — Great New Books is turning 5 this summer! To celebrate, commemorate, and enjoy, we are paring back our postings for our first lighter summer reading schedule.

Summer Reads with Great New Books

This summer 2017, look for Great New Book recommendations every other week throughout June, July, and August. In September, we will start back up with a new favorite book every week.

All of us love to read, especially books throughout the summer. Whether it’s on the beach, beside the pool, or books on audio on roadtrips, summertime reading is a favorite.

Recent vacation reading for me

Recent vacation reading for me, The Vacationers by Emma Straub, recommended here at GNB last summer

A few takeaways for you:

  • Do you have a reading friend or a book group or club who would enjoy GNB recommendations? Please share our social media links with your reading friends:
  • Want our recommendations to come directly to your email inbox? Click here to sign up!
  • Looking for a great book to read? Search our recommendations — we have over 200 recommendations broken down by genre from our home page. Give our recommendations a whirl and find your new favorite book!
  • Have a great book to recommend for this summer? We would love to hear your favorite books here in the comments!

 

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Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/05/31/birds-art-life-kyo-maclear/ Wed, 31 May 2017 12:00:49 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6277 Birds Art Life “I found myself with a broken part,” Kyo Maclear writes in the introduction to her luminous memoir, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation. During a year of dealing with her father’s illness and other challenges, Maclear found herself unmoored. “I had lost the beat,” she writes. Struggling with her responsibilities to […]

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Birds Art Life Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear

“I found myself with a broken part,” Kyo Maclear writes in the introduction to her luminous memoir, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation. During a year of dealing with her father’s illness and other challenges, Maclear found herself unmoored. “I had lost the beat,” she writes. Struggling with her responsibilities to her father, husband and sons, she found herself with no words: a troubling state of affairs for a writer. Searching for a way to relocate herself in the everyday, Maclear met a musician whose passion was urban birdwatching. Birds Art Life chronicles the year they spent watching birds in and around her home city of Toronto.

I picked up Birds Art Life at Idlewild Books in New York City’s West Village: it’s a travel bookstore, but this isn’t a typical travel memoir. Maclear muses on the “near-unwatchable intimacy” of the faces of strangers, then goes off into a delightful digression about eyebrows (complete with thumbnail sketches of Audrey Hepburn and others). She writes about her father, a retired war correspondent, and her mother, whose fears both clash with and mirror her own. She writes about her “roomy marriage,” at once grateful for the space she and her husband have allowed one another and worried that they have “bred lonesome children.” But ultimately, Maclear is able to celebrate the contradictions of her marriage and family life: “the fight, the humor, the mess, the faith.”

During her year of urban birdwatching, Maclear learns to name many species: some familiar (chickadees, cardinals, ducks, geese, wrens, pigeons), some new to her (dunlins, whimbrels, red-necked grebes). She learned to slow down, to enter time as an observer rather than as someone trying to shape the future. “The birds tell me not to worry,” she writes in the book’s epilogue. “They tell me it’s all right to be belittled by the bigness of the world. There are some belittlements and diminishments that make you stronger, kinder.”

Melancholy and beautiful, Maclear’s book is about birds, yes, but it also brims with insights on bravery, noticing the small things, and creating a world where birds (and humans) can thrive.

 

Katie Noah Gibson is a writer, editor, knitter and compulsive tea-drinker living in the Boston area with her husband. Born in Texas, she’s a lifelong Anglophile with a particular love for Oxford, but she loves to travel just about anywhere. You can find her at her blog, Cakes, Tea and Dreams, reviewing books at Shelf Awareness, or on Twitter at @katiengibson.

 

Have you read Birds Art Life? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Link to buy Birds Art Life at your local independent bookstore (we love them!) or at Indiebound by clicking here.

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Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/05/24/saints-all-occasions-j-courtney-sullivan/ Wed, 24 May 2017 12:00:58 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6253 Saints for All Occasions Saints for All Occasions is a beautiful book about family, love, and home.  It is about where we came from shapes who we are, no matter how far we go and what happens to us.  We meet Nora, who is the book’s beating heart and maternal figure, on the first page, […]

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Saints for All Occasions Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Saints for All Occasions is a beautiful book about family, love, and home.  It is about where we came from shapes who we are, no matter how far we go and what happens to us.  We meet Nora, who is the book’s beating heart and maternal figure, on the first page, set in 2009.

Quickly the book spools back in time, to Nora’s girlhood in Ireland.  We learn of her arduous trip to the United States with her younger sister Theresa, of her marriage to Charlie, a boy from her home town, of the family of four children they raise together.

Nora is a mother, writ large.  Her own mother died when she was seven, and rapidly Nora became the maternal figure in her family.  She mothered her brother and father before she left Ireland and continues to mother Theresa after they arrive in America.   When an unmarried, teenage Theresa finds herself pregnant, Nora steps in and becomes a mother to that child, too.

As Nora settles into adulthood and has more children, Theresa takes a different path and becomes a nun.  We get to know Nora’s four adult children, Patrick, John, Bridget and Brian.  We learn about a deeply buried and incompletely understood secret that festers, unresolved, between Patrick and another man from their old neighborhood in Dorchester (one of the book’s many, many gorgeous images that haven’t left me is of John’s fancy new SUV with an OFD – originally from Dorchester – bumper sticker on the back). Patrick, John, Bridget, and Brian each have their own storyline, and each speak to the many ways that families can be made, to all the ways that love and loyalty limn our lives.

We can’t run away from where we came from, is the lesson of that bumper sticker and of Saints for All Occasions in general.  Nora and Theresa’s relationship has been estranged for years, but a sudden death in the family brings her back to Boston, to look Nora, surrounded by her own children, in the eye.

“One of life’s contradictions: how human beings were at once entirely resilient and impossibly fragile. One decision could stay with you forever, and yet you could live through almost anything.”

In Saints for All Occasions’ lambent, lovely last scene, through its literal open door, we see forgiveness and redemption, even though we understand that life’s choices are sometimes forever.

 

Lindsey Mead is a mother, writer, and financial services professional who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and son. Her work has been published and anthologized in a variety of print and online sources. She writes daily at A Design So Vast and can be found on Twitter (@lemead) and at Facebook.

 

Have you read Saints for All Occasions? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Want to buy Saints for All Occasions? Visit our friends at your local bricks-and-mortar independent bookstore or buy via Indiebound by clicking the link here!

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The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/05/17/the-rules-do-not-apply-by-ariel-levy/ https://www.greatnewbooks.org/2017/05/17/the-rules-do-not-apply-by-ariel-levy/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 12:00:52 +0000 https://www.greatnewbooks.org/?p=6228 The Rules Do Not Apply “Do you ever talk to yourself?” Ariel Levy asks on page one of her mesmerizing new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply. “I do it all the time,” she continues.  “We do it, I should say, because that’s how it sounds in my head. We’re going to turn right on Vicolo del Leopardo, […]

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The Rules Do Not Apply The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

“Do you ever talk to yourself?” Ariel Levy asks on page one of her mesmerizing new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply.

“I do it all the time,” she continues.  “We do it, I should say, because that’s how it sounds in my head. We’re going to turn right on Vicolo del Leopardo, go past the bar with the mosaic tiles, and then we know where we are. My competent self is doing the talking; my bewildered self is being addressed. We’re going to go over to the phone now and call for help with one hand and hold the baby with the other.”

Levy’s self-talk is likely a big part of how she has gotten through different life experiences including the tragedy she suffered while on assignment in Mongolia, where she miscarried in her hotel room and nearly bled to death. After her placenta erupted, she told herself, “This can’t be good.” It wasn’t.

Levy first wrote about the harrowing experience of losing her son in an award-winning New Yorker essay entitled “Thanksgiving in Mongolia.” Readers were stunned by her brave description of birthing her son, taking a picture of him with her phone, and then being saved by Mongolian EMTs and a doctor from South Africa stationed in Ulaanbaatar.

Before this story catapulted her to fame, Levy was writing essays about unconventional women for whom the rules do not appear to apply, women like South African runner Caster Semenya and Edith Windsor, the 84 year-old plaintiff who helped to legalize same-sex marriage. Levy contextualizes this story in her memoir and invites readers to understand it as a chapter in a life lived bravely in the face of rules and conventions.

Levy’s interest in people who don’t follow the beaten path in life comes from an authentic place. An only child, she grew up with her mother, her father, and a frequent houseguest she later learned was her mother’s lover. Levy herself got “gay married” in 2005, living for many years with her spouse before deciding to have a child with help from a wealthy man whose identity she has kept confidential.

The Rules do Not Apply is a meditation on 21st century women’s lives, on the rules we are and are not bound by, and the importance of listening to that inner voice that tells us where we are, what we need to do, and how to survive. Levy’s story reveals that whether we like it or not, different rules apply to all of us at different times, and the work of our lives is to discern, accept, or resist those rules.

 

Jessica Flaxman lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two children. She is Director of Studies at Charlotte Country Day School and a life-long English teacher. As a free-lance journalist, she has written editorials, book reviews, and the “Prized Possession” column for The Charlotte Observer. She regularly shares her observations and research on 21st century education and the humanities on her blog What I Learned Today In School and on Twitter (@msflaxman).

 

Have you read The Rules Do Not Apply? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Link to buy The Rules Do Not Apply at your local independent bookstore (we love them!) or at Indiebound by clicking here.

 

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