Thursday, February 9, 2023

Love is in the Air

As Valentine’s Day approaches, my thoughts turn to books celebrating, exploring, and envisioning love. We who live in northern regions also celebrate Valentine’s Day as a time when spring’s promise seems close yet the reality of cold days beckons us to stay inside with a cup of tea and a book. Treat yourself or someone you love to one of these books this February.

+500 Miles from You by Jenny Colgan begins as Lissa, a nurse, visits patients in a distressed London neighborhood and witnesses a hit and run, the seemingly deliberate running down of a teen she knows. When she experiences PTSD, her supervisor asks her to swap jobs with a nurse in an isolated town in the Scottish Highlands for three months thinking it will be healing. Cormac, the nurse/paramedic she switches with, isn’t keen on the bustle of London but is ready for a change. The two email daily reporting on their patients and soon make a connection. I wanted an additional 100 pages so their meeting could have been fleshed out to have the depth and impact of the rest of the book, but I still loved it. I don’t cry often, but the hit and run and aftermath were so expertly written, they captured me and I shed many tears. A lovely escape with the bonus of the sensitive handling of depression and of organ transplants. Everyone needs a true romance for Valentine's Day. D/GPR/SBP/SF, BC (2020)

+The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

portrays the dying state of Florida as frequent hurricanes and rising water levels threaten. As the latest storm approaches, Kirby’s boys disappear. While he searches for them, his wife Frida gives birth to baby Wanda alone. The novel follows Wanda through decades of losses that mirror her abandoned town and state. The four parts: power, water, light, and time offer an enlightening, yet bleak, view of climate change and the future while exploring engaging, multi-dimensional characters filled with hope along with a touch of magic realism. The book shows how difficult it can be to trust enough to love after suffering so much loss. Yet, love always wins. GPR/SN, BC (2022)

+Love & Saffron by Kim Fay was on my 2022 list but must be revisited for this holiday. Set in the 1960s, this charmingly poignant, delightful epistolary novel blends friendship, food, and life. When Joan sends Imogen a fan letter regarding her “Letter from the Island” column along with a packet of saffron from a trip to the “Far East,” a correspondence blossoms with shared recipes, advice, and kindness that will melt even the hardest heart. Taking risks in friendship and love makes for one fine escape of a novel you’ll devour in a day. One sentence seems meant for today: “The less we cement ourselves to our certainties, the fuller our lives can be.” Taking a chance on love is just what readers need in February. D/GPR/PP, BC (2022)

+Maureen by Rachel Joyce

Maureen is the third book in the Harold Fry series following the phenomenal The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and the poignant The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey. Originally titled Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North in Britain, this 192-page novel completes the saga with Maureen’s journey to Queenie’s garden where she learns that there’s a tribute to her son. She’s not sure about visiting but feels she must. Along the way, she encounters difficulties and unexpected help and compassion. This is a solid reflection on forgiveness and love. It starts slowly until Maureen and the story find their way and love begins to overpower grief. GPR/SBP/SF, BC (2023)

+The Measure by Nikki Erlick, One morning, every adult on earth receives an indestructible wooden box inscribed “The measure of your life lies within.” The boxes each contain a string indicating the amount of time the recipient has left to live. Almost immediately, the world changes, with short stringers experiencing discrimination and eight main characters each taking a different approach to the strings they’ve been dealt. The premise is unique and the novel forms a parable filled with love and grieving that offers hope and insight. This one is certain to be a book club hit. GPR/S/SF, BC (2022)

+The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

Alice lives alone on land that was home to her family's apple orchard. She works for the county and anticipates a promotion, but when it doesn’t come, she quits her job to concentrate on raising bees and fighting a conglomerate moving to the area with chemicals that will kill her bees and destroy her community. After she almost runs over Jake, a teen in a wheelchair, on a deserted road, she takes him home and observes his father’s cruelty and offers the boy a temporary place to live in her home. He has an affinity for the bees and wants to work with them, but she needs someone able to do more than his disability allows. When 24-year-old Harry, recently out of prison, arrives to stay with his grandfather, his skills complement Jake’s so he moves into the barn and the unique trio supports each other. This debut celebrates familial love, healing, and growth. The gentle novel cleverly teaches the reader about beekeeping and bees while exploring the theme of community in hives and in life. GPR/SN, BC (2022)

*Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, It’s 1985 and 15-year-old Theo Wilf is driving the car because his older sister Sarah has been drinking. They crash in front of their home and Misty Zimmerman, their passenger, dies. Sarah claims that she was the driver and no one checks her for alcohol as her father, a doctor, runs out and tries to save Misty but may inadvertently contribute to her death. An omniscient narrator takes the reader ahead in time as the secrets of that day affect the family. Later, on the New Year’s Eve before 2000, Dr. Wilf again leaves his house to deliver and save the life of the premature baby being born to new neighbors across the street. He forms a relationship with Waldo, the child, who shows the doctor an app that charts constellations and forms a significant part of Waldo’s life. The app highlights the interconnectedness theme as it details “stars. . . signal fires in the dark, mysterious fellow travelers lighting a path.” That interconnectedness,  outstanding character development, and Shapiro’s incredible word pictures lead to a beautiful climax celebrating love and life. This is a brilliant novel. G (2022)

+A Winter Grave by Peter May

is a stand-alone mystery from the award-winning author of one of my favorites, the Lewis trilogy of mysteries. It’s 2051, and much of the earth is too hot to inhabit while the melting Gulf Stream has hit Scotland with rare snow and ice storms. In the northern Highlands, Addie, a meteorologist, discovers the body of a missing investigative reporter encased in ice at a weather station, she’s monitoring. Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective just diagnosed with a terminal disease, volunteers to investigate hoping to reconnect with his estranged daughter who lives in the village. He and a pathologist encounter evidence of murder as a storm cuts them off from the rest of the world and they can’t trust anyone in the village. When people start dying and there seems to be no safe route out, Brode must come up with a way to outsmart the bad guys. What’s love got to do with it? Everything! Love keeps a father from revealing facts that could hurt and love enables the good guys to do more than seems possible to save the world. (2023)