An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi—If you like young adult drama sprinkled with the hardships of growing up Muslim in post 911 New York City, then you may find this novel an interesting read. Shadi is 16. Her name means joy but she is anything but. Her brother is dead, her mother is falling apart, her father is dying, her best friend has deserted her and she seems to be in love…with the wrong boy. Politically Mafi paints a stark picture of a family trying to struggle through the prejudices of life in 2002 and 2003 and the fact that Shadi wears a hijab makes it worse. But this is not a story of a girl trapped in a religious life. She actually likes her life, when she isn’t bemoaning all her problems. I have a lot of questions about this book and I’m not sure of the ending, but it is an interesting take on being Muslim from a young girl’s perspective.
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Adams. If you are looking for an uplifting read or just something to make your life a little calmer, then listening to these two men discussing happiness will certainly help you get through your day. It’s not that I haven’t heard all of this before but learning about their lives and the connection between them, was fascinating and inspiring. I urge you to listen rather than read!
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz—When is a plot of the story your own and when is it stolen. There is a fine line. In this part literary novel and part thriller and very much plot twister, Jake Bonner is an author, 3 books under his belt and no prospects for the future. At a writer’s program, he meets Evan Parker, a young man with a “sure thing” for a novel. When he tells Jake the plot, Jake unhappily waits for this amazing novel to be published, but it never is. He does some research and finds out that Parker has died. With such a great plot just hanging there, Jake takes it and writes the best seller that he felt he always had in him. His life becomes what he had envisioned, until he receives an email from someone who seems to know this was not his own plot and threatens to expose him. Jake is determined to find and expose the emailer. From then on the plot twists and turns and twists again.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty—67-year-old Joy Delaney, wife, and mother of 4 grown children is missing. After what appeared to be a serious argument with her husband and some incriminating evidence found, police are called in and the family is interrogated. But what are they holding back? We learn the history of this very interesting family whose lives seem to revolve around tennis. Yes, it is a mystery, but it is also the story of a family, both functional and dysfunctional, of sibling rivalry and of a very strange young woman who somehow insinuates herself into their lives. Who is responsible for Joy’s disappearance? Pay attention because everything you read in this 480-page book is a clue. It may seem long, but it is worth it. Stick with it.
Have you ever read any novels by Elizabeth Berg? One of my resolutions after I retired was to read authors that I have never read before and because I’ve heard such good things about this author, I read 2/3 of a trilogy, backward and I must say I loved it. The trilogy takes place in Mason Missouri, a small town where everyone knows everyone else, both for the good and bad. Each of these novels can be read on their own, but reading all together enriches them. In The Confession Club, the 3rd part of the trilogy several women of different ages get together monthly and instead of talking about books, they confess something that’s been on their minds, whether it’s embarrassing, humiliating or just annoying. Iris is a middle-aged divorcee who meets a homeless man and takes him into her life. Will her friends approve? Will he stick around long enough for them to build a life together? And Maddy, who returns to Mason after moving to NY, tries to find the answer to her problems with her husband…or is the problem with her husband or with herself? Whatever the confession, these women will figure it out, and all the readers will want to move to Mason and become a part of this caring and loving community. I loved it.
The 2nd part of the Mason trilogy is Night of Miracles which focuses on Lucille, an elderly curmudgeon who teaches baking but decides to hire an assistant which turns out to be Iris, newly arrived in Mason and trying to flee her unhappy marriage. Lucille’s next-door neighbors are a family that needs help and Lucille becomes involved in their lives. It is a bittersweet story that affirms the meaning of friendship. If you are looking for life-affirming inspirational reading without any religious connotations, then Elizabeth Berg is for you.
I’ve recently discovered William Kent Krueger, a Minnesota based author who often writes historical fiction. This Tender Land is an odyssey which takes place during the Great Depression. Odie and brother Albert, along with their best friend Moses and little Emmy, break free of a Dickensian run Indian school to find their relative in St. Louis by way of the Mississippi River. To say their travels are fraught with peril is an understatement. They are kidnapped and escape, they join a faith healing troupe, and they are continually hunted by the evil Mrs. Brickman, superintendent of the Indian school. Moses, the only real Indian in this crew discovers his roots, Odie falls in love, Albert is bitten by a poisonous snake, and Ellie becomes a soothsayer. This is a fascinating journey, a combination of Tom Sawyer, the Odyssey and The Grapes of Wrath.