Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 - My Favorite Novels that will Stick with You and that You’ll Beg Your Friends to Read - Grandma's Pot Roast Category

Sometimes you want a novel that will grab you and stay with you – one like The Weird Sisters, my favorite in this category this year.  These are the other savory selections in the Grandma’s Pot Roast category: 

Anthill: a novel by E. O. Wilson – Wilson, a Pulitzer winning naturalist, penned this novel that’s similar to Jim, the Boy in its charming depiction of male adolescence. Part IV, The Anthill Chronicles, tells the story of three ant colonies in something I can only dub “narrative biology.” It feels like a sportscaster is giving the play-by-play of a baseball game but he’s describing tournaments between ants. It’s an adult novel but I think it could make any teenage boy or girl want to know about ecology and biology. Wow! 

Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West - if you loved the movie Hoosiers you’ll adore this story of a high school basketball team. The characters are delightful. It’s a bit overdrawn but it’ll make you laugh, cheer, cry and you’ll think it was too short even at 560 pages. Buy it for your sons and husbands. Read the full review here.

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See - After Joy’s father’s suicide, she leaves college and flies to China.  Joy’s mother, who’d left China 20 years previously, chases after her.  It’s 1957, so Mao rules the country completely and both are caught in the famine and the Great Leap Forward. This is fine historical fiction that allows the characters and story to make history real. Read the full review here.

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry features an enchanting young woman whose parents have just died unexpectedly and who copes with her grief by cooking. Her sister tries to manage her and her “condition” by defining what’s normal.  This is a joy-filled book that shows the many dimensions of the Asperger spectrum.  The food descriptions are delectable as are the characters.  There’s a touch of believable magical realism as well in a book you’ll long remember. 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh makes you think about what happens to foster children when they turn 18 by showing the life of Victoria who would be lost if she hadn’t learned about flowers and their special language.  Her ability to sense what others need when she creates a floral arrangement is uncanny.  This novel will take you down a path you never knew you wanted and needed to tread.  It’ll make you call a friend to talk about why we have to love and nurture all children.  It will also make you ponder what maternal love should and can be. It’d be perfect for book clubs.

Next to Love by Ellen Feldman is the story of three wives who remain in a small town while their husbands serve in World War II and of their lives after the war when everything changes. The writing is wonderful especially the first chapter. Babe works for Western Union so she’s the first to learn when one of “our boys” is lost or has died. If you loved The Postmistress you’ll really like this.  Feldman paints such a true picture of each character that I see them in my mind’s eye and have already cast them for the movie I hope to see.

Safe from the Sea, by Peter Geye - Noah returns to the remote lake region north of Duluth when Olaf, his ill father, summons him. The novel also tells of Olaf’s survival of one of the most deadly Lake Superior shipwrecks. Lyrical prose highlights this tale of forgiveness, love and honoring the past.  This is a book that men and women will both embrace.

The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy takes place on the Isle of Guernsey during World War II. It’s primarily a love story and a tale of the way war affects and changes all the lives it touches. Vivienne is a mother and a fighter. This novel evokes the food, the land, and the way they really lived. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was everyone’s favorite book a few years ago and this is a worthy, yet entirely different, view of the island and its struggles during the war.

South of Superior by Ellen Airgood - Madeline leaves Chicago to live with two elderly sisters in a tiny town on the shores of Lake Superior. Great characters and community sing in this novel that’s similar to those of Richard Russo in the way it captures small town characters without making them caricatures.  Read the full review here.

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