Books Read in January

“The Obituary Writer” a novel by Ann Hood

First sentence: If Claire had to look back and decide why she had the affair in the first place, she would point to the missing boy.

Claire is a pregnant 1960’s wife and mother who is feeling stuck in her marriage and her life. Vivian is an obituary writer in 1918 searching for the lover she lost in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. This lovely novel that reads as part love story, part mystery, alternates between the two women’s lives. Each narrative is compelling on its own, but they also weave together in a surprising and satisfying way.

Sentence(s) I wish I wrote: The grief-stricken want to hear the names of those they’ve lost. To not say the name out loud denies that person’s existence.

What I learned: How the structure of a novel can be yet another layer that reveals character and plot.

“The Round House” a novel by Louise Erdrich

Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation.

Thirteen-year-old Joe’s life is irrevocably changed the day his mother is viciously attacked. The very foundation of his entire family shifts. Joe’s father is a tribal judge and immerses himself in getting justice for his wife through official channels. Joe, having no faith in the official channels sets out with his friends on their own investigation that leads them to the Round House, a sacred place of worship in their community. With his mother slipping away from the family day by day, and his father desperately trying to help in any way he can, Joe finds himself hovering outside the bounds of his family, becoming involved in situations way beyond his years.

What I learned: Interesting impact of not using quotation marks throughout the novel. It made it seem more in Joe’s head, his retelling of the story rather than being immersed in the scenes as the story happened.

“Cartwheel” a novel by Jennifer duBois

Andrew’s plane landed at EZE, as promised, at seven a.m. local time.

Inspired by the events of Amanda Knox, this novel explores the life of Lily Hayes, who, while studying in Buenos Aires for a semester abroad, becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her roommate, Katy Keller. The novel rotates POV between Lily; her father Andrew; Edaurdo, the smart and determined prosecutor with a conscience and Sebastian, Lily’s next-door neighbor and boyfriend who is her main alibi for the night in question. Each person including her mother and sister, host family and the media have their own perceptions of who Lily Hayes really is. This story explores the complex relationships we have with our family, friends and ourselves and leaves the reader wondering how well do we really know anybody, including ourselves.

What I learned: How POV is really a prism through which to see the story. The prism was so much more evident here since each character saw the story and Lily differently.

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