Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is a heartbreaker. Forgiveness, love, mental health and martial relations are all themes in this novel about two families forever bound by tragedy. Two rookie police officers, Francis and Brian, met on the the job. They share ties to Ireland. Francis, an immigrant and Brian born in the US and grew up in Ireland. Coincidentally, they both with their families move to the gentile suburb of Gillam and find themselves next-door neighbors. They have children of the same age, Brian and Anne have a son, Peter and Francis and Lena have a daughter, Kate. Their children form a strong friendship. When they are fourteen, a terrible accident happens that tears the families apart.
"And then there's Anne, living with mental illness: In a jittery and terrifying scene that weds the mundane to the mad, we enter into Anne's mind on New Year's Eve 1990, when she makes a trip to the local supermarket deli counter, takes her number, waits, and, then, with mounting rage, comes to believe that everyone else in the supermarket is in cahoots to prevent her from buying her cold cuts."
Read more in the NPR review by Maureen Corrigan, Ask Again, Yes is a Profound yet Unpretentious Family Drama.
This book shines a spotlight on mental illness and love that lives throughout adversity.
Do you want a remarkable family saga you can settle in with for some time? Deep River written by Karl Marlantes and its 724 pages will keep you captivated from the beginning to the end.
The story begins in early 1900's in Finland under Russia occupation. Members of the Koski family, brothers- Ilmari and Matti and their sister, Aino are forced to leave Finland. They head to the United States and settle in southern Washington state near the Columbia River. The brothers work in the logging industry and Aino takes on the challenge of organizing the workers to fight against the poor and dangerous conditions in the industry. Aino emerges as a strong female character based on the Finnish mythical "Kalevala" and on Marlantes' grandmother and aunts. "My grandmother didn’t actually get thrown in jail [in “Deep River” Aino is imprisoned by Finland’s Russian occupiers, then tortured and raped, then jailed again in America], but she was a communist. The Daily Worker was on the kitchen table. Most Finns brought socialism over from Finland — they came from an oppressed country."
Read more about the novel in the review from the Seattle Times, Deep River is an Epic Tale of the Wobblies and the Will to Survive.
Here I go again reading a book about an airplane crash when flying. Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano is an amazing book about a 12 year old boy, Eddie who is the only survivor of an airplane crash. He is now the "Miracle Boy." The story is told in chapters alternating between the time during the flight and after the devastating crash. The characters are vivid and honest. The novel grapples with the heartbreak and healing and the human spirit. I highly recommend this incredible read.
Favorite quote: The air between us is not empty space.
From NPR review written by Helen McAlpin
Dear Edward is in part a tale of survivor guilt, which is fueled by the weight of oppressive, often bizarre expectations on the miracle boy, especially from the families of victims who want him to fulfill their loved ones' dreams and plans. "Stop expecting me to have hidden powers, okay? I'm not a freaking wizard," he explodes at one point. It takes Edward years to learn to live with the aftershocks of the tragedy and absorb the liberating fact that, far from being chosen for a special purpose, his survival was just "dumb luck."
Wow! Certainly an interesting stack of books. A quick review starting from top to bottom.
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
Catherine Steadman is a British actress and may be best known in the U.S. for her role in Downton Abbey. Something in the Water is a thriller from the first page with a woman digging a grave for her husband of one year and ends the first chapter with, "I'm not a bad person. Or maybe I am. Maybe you should decide?" Well, I am still undecided, she is definitely a woman with a mind of her own and made a lot of bad decisions. It's a fast-paced beach book.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers
This book is for all you aspiring chefs and anyone who like to read about food. Most have heard of Marcus Samuelsson, he won Top Chef Masters and can be seen on the food networks. His story is about hard work, desire and dedication to being the best chef. He was born in Ethiopia, adopted by Swedish parents and moves to New York City to fulfill his destiny. I loved this book.
The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel Jose Older
The story is about Marisol, a young woman who vanished during the Cuban Revolution. She is a supernatural spirit who wants to remember her life story. She wants her story known to her family. Her spirit visits and inhabits her nephew Ramon, who is currently living in New Jersey.. She disrupts his dreams and pushes him to travel back to Cuban to discover her story. This novel was really interesting. It is told in English and Spanish. It took me some time to understand what was happening and that maybe spirits do come back to visit us humans.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Old Florida is glorified in this novel. I was all in from the start of this book up to my knees in the alligator pit. Thirteen year old Ava is part of the Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty who own Swamplandia!, an alligator - wrestling theme park. The star of the show is Ava's mother who swims with the alligators. She dies of cancer and the family falls apart. Ava is determined to put things back together. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend.
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
Another quirky book, Bowlaway begins with a woman who seems to fall from the sky and lands in a cemetery with a small suitcase filled with bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold. Her goal is to open a candlepin bowling alley. Needless to say, the story's absurdities continue throughout the book. It is funny! A breath of fresh air.
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
A story about Vogue model, photographer Lee Miller and her relationship with artist Man Ray. We read this novel for March book club. Excellent book, I'd highly recommend. You can read more here.
Fellow bookie, Sue has put together a list of diversions while we Live in a Time of Coronavirus isolation.
We often share books, but she thought we could also share our favorite NetFlix shows. Also, if you are reading something new that you love, please share at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Netflix / Prime
Better Call Saul
Call the Midwife
Bonfire of Destiny
A Friend Series
The 2 Popes
Marvelous Mrs. Mavel
The Overstory- Richard Powers
The House Girl - Tara Conklin
Imperfect Union - Steve Inskeep
Mr. Campion's Fox - Mike Ripley
The Murmur of Bees - Sofia Segovia
Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me - Adrienne Brodeur
Braiding Sweetgrass - Robin Wall Kimmerer
Carnegie's Maid - Marie Benedict
Pachinko - Min Jin Lee
Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield
I'm an expert amateur or maybe an amateur expert.