My to-be-read pile is getting alarmingly big, so I need to pick it up in the reading department. Here’s seven more making the transition from pile to bookcase:
- The Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin: A fictionalized version of the fabulous society ladies of 1950s New York and their new pet, Truman Capote. The swans see him first as a curiosity and then as a favorite gossiping buddy. Unfortunately for them, they never see him as the writer he is, pulling stories, anecdotes and—most of all—scandals from the people around him.
2. The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer: It’s on the way to Finland where her husband will receive the prestigious Helsinki prize that Joan Castleman realizes she wants a divorce. Reflecting back on her marriage—from its inauspicious beginning, through the struggle years and then on to the perks and pressures of literary fame—she considers the various ways they have supported each other, or not, and what will now make her happy. Wolitzer writes quiet novels with loud sentences. There’s not much plot to keep you busy, but I’m still considering some of the questions she raised over the course of this short book.
3. Find Her, by Lisa Garner: A woman escapes a vicious sexual assault by killing her would-be attacker. When the police arrive, they realize the woman is Flora Dane, infamous kidnapping victim who survived 427 days in captivity. What are the odds of one person being kidnapped twice? How did a gagged, handcuffed woman kill a man twice her size? And what hasn’t Flora shared about her time in captivity?
4. To End a War, by Richard Holbrooke: In another life I was going to spend my career in the foreign service, traveling to interesting places and having an actual reason to subscribe to The Economist. Obviously that’s not how things worked out (I studied abroad in Strasbourg and minored in Political Science then made it through exactly one introductory Peace Corps meeting) but I still like reading about what might have been. The late Richard Holbrooke was pretty much a rock star to political science nerds and this account of his attempts to mediate the war in the Balkans is damn interesting.
5. The Cresswell Plot: by Eliza Wass*: I really enjoyed this book about an extreme fundamentalist family on the fringes of a small town. Social services has insisted that the family’s six teenagers attend school, and so Castella walks the halls of her high school in her homemade dress, waist-length hair pinned tight, barred from speaking to anyone but her siblings. She badly wants to be a normal teenager, just for one night—and one night may be all she has, as her father’s messages from god grow increasingly fatalistic.
6. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman: After A Man Called Ove, I knew I’d be reading anything else Backman had on offer. This time, a precocious not-quite-seven-year-old named Elsa may not fit in at school, but at least she has her grandmother. Grandmother is almost impossible to deal with (when faced with the assertion that she could have an argument with an empty room, Grandmother responds: “But what if the room started it?”), which is exactly what Elsa loves about her—she makes different special. But when her grandmother dies and leaves Elsa a series of apologies to make on her behalf, Elsa learns things that greatly change her view on who her grandmother was. And eventually, Elsa wonders if one of those apologies will be for her.
And the best thing I read this month…
7. Kill the Boy Band, by Goldy Moldavsky*: I have to cheat and use the forward here because it’s just so good:
“Just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That’s why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying.
We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him—his room key, his cell phone and his secrets.
We were not planning on what happened next.
*Debut author – please support!