Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Best “Sometimes You Need to Escape” Fiction of 2018

It’s the day after Christmas and you may be cleaning up after a big meal, trying to find the pieces to put together a toy, missing a loved one, wishing you didn’t have to work  when everyone else seems to be enjoying leisure time, feeling concerned because you don’t have a job or are on furlough with the government shutdown, figuring out how to pay for gifts you bought or necessities that made you unable to buy certain gifts, or feeling out of sorts because the holidays aren’t the “hap, hap, happiest time of the year” for you. You need to escape and the following novels are your passport to getting away from real life if only for a short while.

The Best “Sometimes You Need to Escape” Novel of 2018:

How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson
In this stand-alone sequel to Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It,” protagonist Kate is approaching fifty with surly teenagers, parents facing health issues, and a husband having a midlife crisis that leaves the entire family vulnerable. Pearson turns the turmoil into a hilarious, yet poignant and insightful tale of what it means to be the one who has to hold everything together when she just wants to take a nap. Everyone I know has adored this book.

The Rest of the Best “Sometimes You Need to Escape" Novels I Read in 2018:

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig is a 2017 debut delight. Thirteen-year-old Ginny is autistic. Life with her foster family should be settling down, but Ginny keeps testing the limits in her quest to find her “Baby Doll” left behind four years previously when Ginny was taken from her abusive, drug addict mother. Ginny’s certain that “Baby Doll” is in a suitcase and if she can just find her mother things will be okay so she tracks her mother on Facebook, steals a classmate’s cell phone, and runs away. This heart-warming, humorous adventure has a fantastic ending. Having a bad day, read this original novel. The author is the foster parent of an autistic teen and he writes with amazing insight.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center is pure escape with a dollop of wit and a message. A book about a young woman left unable to walk by an accident her fiancé caused on the night of their engagement wouldn’t seem like a chocolate covered meringue of a read, but it is. Lovers of literary fiction may not enjoy it, but anyone looking for a light romantic read that is impossible to put down will find it between these pages. Brené Brown loved it.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, published in 2017, is magnetic. Anthony Peardew, (yes, as in the French word “perdu” meaning lost), an aging author, has a room of lost things that help him cope with his continuing grief from his fiancée’s death many years previously. He hires Laura who’s also lost after her divorce and she begins stewardship of his “lost and found” items. Blended with the tale of another unlikely couple, the book offers many twists and turns, delightful bon mots, and sufficient humor to make it a pleasing escape with enough meaning that it’s a book club favorite.

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain, published in 2013, is a philosophical romp by the author of the brilliant The Red Notebook. Focusing on the changes four people possessing French President Francois Mitterand’s black homburg make to better themselves, it’s a primer on optimism and metamorphosis. It’s a grown-up “Wizard of Oz” type fable.

The Story of Arthur Truluv and its sequel Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg are sure hits:

The Story of Arthur Truluv, out in 2017, introduces readers to Arthur Morse who’s spent the six months since his wife’s death riding the bus daily to the cemetery to eat lunch at her gravesite. One day he meets 18-year-old Maddy who visits the cemetery to escape the kids at her school. Maddy nicknames Arthur “Truluv” and they soon help each other navigate their lives. Adding Arthur’s neighbor Lucille to their circle, they create an endearing ensemble sure to delight readers.

Night of Miracles is a stand-alone novel featuring characters from The Story of Arthur Truluv. While you could read it without reading Arthur, please don’t as you’ll miss so much. Lucille, a baker extraordinaire, hires new resident Iris to help her with her baking classes and more town relationships develop.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin came out in 2017 and differs from her hit The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in that it’s lighter and more humorous than the philosophical A. J. Fikry. Told from the points of view of Aviva Grossman, her mother, and a delightful young girl, the novel shows what being a mother means and what being true to self requires. Aviva, a college intern, has a steamy affair with her congressman boss and is slut-shamed. If reading details of such an affair bothers you, this might not be your cup of tea. The characters will make you laugh out loud especially if you listen to the audio; they will also force you to reexamine some of your ideas.

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