Category Archives: Reviewed by JoAnn

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Our Short History coverWhat would you do if you were told you had a terminal disease and were a mom of small children? How would you prepare them? What would you leave to them? Would you write them a memoir to remember you? Our Short History tells how Karen Neulander, a single mom, deals with this issue after she is diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and is not expected to live much longer. This is a sensitively written fictional memoir to her six year old son. It’s sad, but also funny. I would very much recommend it. Request a copy.

(This review was originally submitted by JoAnn on May 23, 2017)

This is How It Always Is by Laurel Frankel

Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin.  From a young age it is clear that their youngest son, Claude, is different from the other boys.  At three years old, he tells his parents he wants to be a girl when he grows up and wants to wear dresses and bows in his hair.
Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings.  He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy.  Conflicts and hostilities   from their community cause them to move.  When they relocate, they decide to keep Claude’s gender a secret, which eventually causes stress and grief to the entire family.

Although the story is about a transgender child, the bigger story is how parents will always move heaven and earth for their children.  Being a parent, I could totally relate.  Both my children have such different personalities, but I love them both so much equally in their uniqueness and struggles. That’s what being a parent is all about, navigating the unpredictable territory of raising children.  It is a strong reminder that we should judge less and embrace the differences in people.  A powerful read, especially in this time period.  Request a copy.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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Orphan Train is a book set in both the present day and in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The two main characters are Vivian and  Molly.

The present-day story focuses on Vivian and her relationship with Molly, a teenager who has been bounced around from foster home to foster home and is about to age out of the foster care system. The early years of the story concentrate on Vivian, as a young orphaned girl who traveled from NYC to Minnesota on one of the infamous “orphan trains” that were used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life.

The story is bleak at times, and captures the incredibly hard lives orphans were subjected to in the past, as well as the hard times for some of those in our system today who are tossed from place to place and used for labor and money.

This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me.  I really enjoyed the part of the book that dealt with the young Vivian and her life on the Orphan Train.  As a result of reading this fictional account of this piece of history, I have looked into reading some of the true accounts of some of these orphan’s lives on that Orphan Train.

 

 

 

 

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

memoirs-of-an-imaginary-friend

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I have never read a book like this before.  It was recommended to me by a friend, so I took it on vacation and finished it during the week I was away.  The narrator throughout is Budo, the imaginary friend of Max, an eight-year-old autistic boy who “imagined” Budo 5 years earlier.  Budo watches over Max, but being imaginary, cannot make his presence felt in the real world. This becomes a problem when Max is in real danger and Budo must find a way to help his friend.

The author has created a world of Imaginary Friends that is fascinating and well thought out, and his understanding of little boys like Max is also incredible.  Budo’s biggest fear is that he will fade away into nothingness as all imaginary friends eventually do when kids grow up and stop believing in them.  The bond between this special “imaginary” friend and the love he feels for the boy who created him makes this such a wonderful story.

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls

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This debut novel for Emma Cline is very true to the 1960s, with young girls looking to find themselves and ending up finding security in cults. The main character,  Evie, is lost — her parents just got divorced, her dad is living with a younger woman, her mom is trying to find a new husband, and Evie and her best friend have a falling out.  What she ends up finding is this clan of girls in the park.  That leads her to their ranch, where she gets drawn into their wild lifestyle of drugs, sex, and eventually horrible crime.  The story starts in Evie’s present time and keeps flashing back to tell this story.  I enjoyed this weird book, which concentrated not on the horribleness of this time, but more on the relationship between the girls.

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair

The Girl in the Garden

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This is the first book by this author.  I read it over a weekend.  The story begins as a letter from Rahkee (a young Indian woman) to her fiance as she is leaving him to return to her ancestral home in India to deal with her past.  The bulk of the novel settles on Rakhee’s summer spent in India before her 11th birthday with her mother’s (Amma) mysterious family and away from her father, Aba. Most of the story is told through the voice of young Rakhee, an innocent girl exposed to a brand new life in India as she discovers a secret garden that holds dark secrets of her family’s past that will change her life forever during that summer.  It’s a quick read that was beautiful but also sad.

 

 

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time

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Is reincarnation possible?  This wonderful new book explores what can possibly happen after we die and how far we would go to help our children and those we love.  This is a debut novel by  Sharon Guskin.

Janie Zimmerman became pregnant after a one-night stand.  Now her son Noah is four years old and highly intelligent.  He begins to experience bizarre behavior.  He becomes difficult, and is kicked out of school.  He is not crazy.  He does not like baths and is afraid of water.  He speaks of another mother whom he wants to go home to.  Dr. Jerome Anderson, a psychologist,  has been studying young children who seem to recall details from previous lives and is documenting this into a book.  Soon Noah, Janie, and Anderson  find themselves on a journey looking for answers — has Noah indeed been reincarnated?