Sunday, June 5, 2016

Books Read in May

After You by JoJo Moyes.
The story: This is the sequel to the popular soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture Me Before You— the story of a woman who falls in love with a quadriplegic. Louisa trudges on with her life, which is interrupted with all kinds of surprises and twists.
Me: I can't really say much about it, as I don't want to spoil Me Before You for those who haven't read it. This was a decent sequel, and I'd definitely recommend it for those who read the first one. If you haven't read the first one, this will make no sense.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.
The story: This novel is geared toward early young-adult readers, but I think anyone would appreciate it. Ada is 10-year-old and has never left her hellish home. She has a clubfoot, which her abusive, slovenly mother considers to be the mark of the devil. The mother tells people—and Ada— that Ada is an idiot. Ada's only touch with the outside world is through her younger brother, Jamie. When WWII looms and London is certain to be bombed, Ada and Jamie evacuate, against their mother's wishes, to the countryside with the other children. They are introduced to a completely foreign world with Susan, their foster mother, and Ada learns that she is a person of tremendous value.
Me: I loved this novel. I'm a big fan of WWII era novels and redemption stories and happy endings. This one has all three and is told simply and beautifully. I loved reading Jamie's and Ada's discoveries about themselves and the world. Susan was also a wonderful character, and readers can't help but root for her as she learns how to love again. Highly recommended for all ages.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts by Ian Morgan Cron.
The story: Ian's home life is a wreck. His parents, once beautiful people who hobnobbed with Hollywood, have fallen into the pit of despair because of his father's alcoholism. From a mansion to a tiny apartment, the family, of which Ian is the youngest and last at home, disintegrates. Ian actively despises his father, who just looks like a pathetic drunk to him. At 16, Ian discovers that his father is actually a CIA agent—one who was once actually brilliant at his job. This discovery in some ways reshapes his image of his father, but Ian never gets what he really needs: a father who acknowledges and loves him as a son. Inevitably, Ian also turns to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, insisting that he is not like his father. This is Ian's story of struggle and ultimately triumph—although I'm sure the story continues today.
Me: I am a big fan of a well-written memoir. Cron is a fabulous writer. He's poetic and honest, although a bit disjointed at times. I can accept that, though, because his life was so disjointed. Highly recommended if you like memoirs.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. 
The story: During the summer when Frank Drum is 13 years old, there are 5 deaths in his  small hometown in Minnesota. Looking back as a middle-aged man on that summer, Frank remembers all the vivid details and tells the story as part mystery but mostly as a coming-of-age, loss-of-innocence story. This has somewhat of a To Kill a Mockingbird feel to it, a little bit of Stand By Me and even Our Town, sorta. Krueger is a wonderful storyteller, and I was immediately immersed in the novel.
Me: I absolutely loved this book. I read it in an evening and a day, putting aside all the other things I was supposed to get done on that particular day. I really loved everything about it: the characters, the story, the setting, the narrator's voice, Krueger's prose, the mystery, the sadness, the joy. It was truly a wonderfully written story of loss and forgiveness and healing. Highly recommended!