Monday, May 4, 2020

Mother's Day in the Time of Quarantine

It may not be the merriest month of May, but there are still great books to be read and mothers to be celebrated.  Let’s get to it and look at books in a variety of genres that you will want to purchase for your mother, aunt, grandmother, helpful neighbor, or even for yourself for Mother’s Day.  In alphabetical order by the title they are:

All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg offers a wry glimpse of a family with big secrets and is not a book to give to a “Hallmark card” grandmother. This 2019 winner may not be about a perfect mother but it’s some story. Father Victor is on his deathbed in a New Orleans hospital and daughter Alex, a lawyer in Chicago, hopes to get her mother to tell who Victor really is. She knows he’s a bad man who physically and mentally abused them while making money nefariously. “If I know why they are the way they are, then maybe I can learn why I am the way I am,” she says. Her mother Barbra, a woman obsessed with her own beauty, loves her father and ignores the rest of the family. It’s dysfunction junction with heat and lush writing. I agree with Kirkus that Attenberg is “the poet laureate of difficult families.” I want a sequel. G/S, BC

Answer Creek by Ashley Sweeney won’t be out until May 19, but you can preorder it and let your historical fiction-loving mother know that it’s on its way. Answer Creek follows the Donner party across the desert and mountains in 1846. Strong on research and the real story, it focuses on Ada, a fictional heroine who survives despite the lack of food, water, and boots. Imagine spending 124 days in a remote cabin in the winter without heat and subsisting on shoe leather. Ada persists and her grit and intellect offer insight and wisdom. Sweeney’s landscape portraits equal that in her stellar debut Eliza Waite. I’ll publish a complete review on the publication date. GPR/SN, BC

The Child by Fiona Barton is the second of Barton’s stellar thrillers told from the point of view of a detective, a reporter, and a person of interest in the crime. If your mother hasn’t read her first thriller, The Widow, and she loves twisty, psychological suspense, you might want to give her both The Child and The Widow. The Child is a compelling story about the discovery of the skeleton of a baby at a building site and of a grieving mother who wants to know what happened to her child. It might not be a typical Mother’s Day read, but once you’re hooked on Barton, you’ll want to read all three of her novels featuring newspaper reporter Kate Waters. GPR, BC

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano shares the story of twelve-year-old Edward, the only survivor of a cross-country flight that killed 183 including his parents and older brother. Moving between the hours of the flight before, during, and after the crash and Edward’s recovery and life in the years after the crash, the novel compassionately illustrates how we become whole and care for one another. It might have seemed like an unlikely read for a pandemic, but it offers both hope and escape. Edward is one great character. GPR/SF, BC

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country by Pam Houston is nonfiction for the fiction lover. It shows how living on a remote, 120-acre homestead in the Colorado Rockies healed Houston. Written as an almanac of her life, it’s filled with observation and introspection. This is a woman who loves the earth and shows the reader how that love became possible. Her parents were such drunks that she’d been in sixteen totaled cars before her sixteenth birthday. Her father had abused her and she needed to find a way to restore her soul. She found it in nature and beautifully shares her discovery. Her words are keeping me somewhat sane as I shelter in place. She’s an exquisite chronicler of our world. G/SF/SN, BC

Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews comes out tomorrow and it’s what the beach-read-with-a-mysterious-twist reader will want. Andrews, the Queen of the Beach Read, delivers a fast-paced novel about Conley who left her Florida beach-town home where her family published a small newspaper for the lights of Atlanta and journalistic success. Ten years later when her new position in New York falls through, Conley heads home to visit her grandmother and falls into investigating the death of a congressman under shady circumstances. She clashes with her sister who’s trying to keep the family paper afloat by appeasing the community so she can sell ads. Quirky characters, a touch of romance, and attempted murder will keep Mom flipping the pages. D

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende begins in 1938 during the Spanish Civil War where Victor, an army doctor saves lives as his own brother dies leaving his unknowing pregnant widow Roser escaping into the Pyrenees. When Victor finds Roser, they enter a marriage of convenience so they can escape on a ship chartered by poet Pablo Neruda that’s taking refugees to Chile. The two build a life with their “son” and the novel expertly shares their story along with the changes in the coming decades in Chile under Pinochet. Beautiful characters share love, hope, history, and exile. GPR/PP, BC

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha is much more than simply a great psychological, suspense-filled thriller, it also affords a look at our divided, unequal society. Based on the real life killing of fifteen-year-old Latasha Harlins in 1992 by a Korean woman who was convicted of manslaughter but never sentenced to serve a day in prison, Cha takes the anger, fear, grief, and guilt of the families involved and transforms them into a masterpiece of a novel about human nature. Shawn, the cousin of the murdered girl, is a 40-year-old black man who served time and now lives a life of hard work and devotion to family. Grace Park, the daughter of the woman who killed his cousin as he watched 24 years previously, is a pharmacist in her parents’ store who didn’t know about her mother’s crime. Seeing things through both their eyes is brilliant, unsettling, and informative. G/GPR/SF, BC

Image credit:  Available as a print or teeshirt.


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