March by Geraldine Brooks

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Geraldine Brooks masterfully weaves a tale of life away from home for Mr. March after he leaves his “Little Women” to fend for themselves.  As the local young men are gathered together before leaving to join the fight to save the Union, Mr. March is asked to say a few words. As he speaks, he repeatedly uses the word “we.”  Looking up, he catches Marmee’s eye, and they both realize that he will be joining the boys.

In the course of the book, Mr. March returns to an area that he used to tour while selling goods door to door.  He serves as chaplain and then, after an indiscretion, he is reassigned to Oak Landing, an area where liberated slaves are supposed to be protected and offered wages as they toil to bring in the cotton crop.

This is an intriguing story that brings the reader fact to face with war, slavery, incest, and adultery.  What does Mr. March carry with him to remind him of his Little Women, who wait at home?  When he returns home, battered and ill, will Marmee still feel the same about him?  Will his LIttle Women?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Have you ever had a neighbor who always seemed so cranky that you avoided getting to know him/her?  It has probably happened to all of us at some time.  Well, Ove is that kind of neighbor: very rigid, grumpy and set in his ways.  It took an unexpected encounter between Ove and new neighbors to change his character, and in fact the entire neighborhood.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference this incident made for all those concerned.  It may even change the way you approach a similar situation in the future.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

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This was my end of summer book to read.  It didn’t take long at all to get through.  You would find it in the YA section of the library but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek it out as an adult reader.  It deals with a serious subject matter with great humor.  I felt that the three main characters — Greg, Earl, and Rachel — were appropriately portrayed as teenaged.  They were not as unrealistic as the characters in The Fault In Our Stars.  I also felt that the author dealt with the relationship the kids had with their parents in a very mature and realistic manner.  I also appreciated that the demise of Rachel was not a long, drawn out affair.  For anyone who might not want to read the book, there is a movie that was made.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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My summer pick for a classic I’ve never read was Wide Sargasso Sea.  I’m surprised I hadn’t read it, as it’s the story of the woman that marries Mr. Rochester, yes, that Rochester from Jane Eyre.  The book tells the story of Antoinette, born in Jamaica to ex-slave owners.  Eventually her father drinks himself to death and her mother exhibits signs of insanity.  Antoinette is cared for by the nuns at her convent school and occasionally by her Aunt Cora.  Mr. Rochester, while never directly named in the book, arrives on the island and marries Antoinette without really knowing much about her past.  This book was a richly detailed story full of secrets and superstitions as well as deep-seated resentments, especially of the ex-slaves toward the white aristocracy.  So glad I picked this to read this summer.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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This was a beautifully written and poignant book written by a brilliant and sensitive man.  He was also a man faced with a terrible diagnosis in the prime of his life yet the way he chose to live his days was a testament to his will to live his life on his terms. It brought me to tears, but also showed me that the power to live and love and be loved is so strong.  That is the legacy that Paul Kalanithi left behind.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

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Liane Moriarty is one of my favorite authors.  I love the way she writes, with a mixture of a good story and strong characters.  I was very much looking forward to reading this book when I heard of its release, and I was not disappointed.

Much of the story revolves around an afternoon neighborhood barbecue and the events that occurred there. The timeline switches between the day of the barbecue and several weeks afterward.  In the process, we see the points of view of Vid and Tiffany and their daughter Dakota, who are the owners of the home where the barbecue was held; Erica and Oliver, their neighbors; and Clementine and Sam (and their two young daughters), who are friends with Erica and Oliver.

What I enjoyed beyond the mystery of what happened that afternoon is the development of the characters.  Moriarty writes in such a way that you really get to know all of them, which leads to a better overall understanding of not only the events that happened that day, but the motivations of the characters.  It took me a few chapters to really get into the book, but once I did, I was hooked.  I look forward to reading Moriarty’s next novel.