Ben Aitken's non-fiction account, Marmalade Diaries, begins when 34 year old Ben rents a room from an 85 year old widow, Winnie Carter, in London, England. Ten days later England enters lockdown from Covid and Ben and Winnie are together far more than either planned.
The Lowering Days by Gregory Brown takes on past conflicts with a contemporary narrative. After a paper mill is burned to the ground in the Penobscot Valley, the original land of the Penobscot tribe, a debate within the town ensues to resolve the mystery after a local reporter receives a letter with no name admitting to the crime. The mill had two meanings for two different types of people which Brown encaptures within the characters.
The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts is a quintessential underdog story and my feel-good pick of 2022. In 1954, Maine farmer Annie Wilkins, along with her little dog, and her horse, embarked on a cross-country journey to see the Pacific Ocean. She had no money. She had lost her farm. She had never been outside of the state of Maine. A doctor had given her two years to live. She was sixty-three years old.
What a story! What a writer! Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is a 116-page gem. The setting is a small town in Ireland in 1985. As Christmas approaches, Bill Furlong, the local coal merchant, delivers coal to a local convent. What he sees there makes him confront his past and propels him into an action that will alter forever how he and his family live.
The writing in this little novel is beautiful. Not a word is wasted or unnecessary. It is flawless-- a pleasure to read--and unforgettable.
Sally Cabot Gunning has done it again. Set on Martha’s Vineyard in 1898, Painting the Light presents a strong, resilient heroine learning to make her own way --wrapped in a love letter to simple pleasures and small-town life.
Jacob Stevenson had the tallest Mohawk in the history of Hood River High School. So begins the delightful and funny debut novel, The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin. Alice, a widow, hates her job and loves her bees. Jacob, a paraplegic teenager, has all sorts of issues and a horrible father, and Harry, after a life so far of poor decisions, is heading nowhere. Thrown together through need, the trio mends and heals through caring for Alice's bees.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead was one of my favorite books I read in 2019, and the perfect book for this moment. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize this year, there probably isn't much I can add to all of the accolades except to say that they are all deserved. This book is simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful. The tension between injustice and resistance grabs the attention of the reader and demands the reader keep turning pages. This book is wrenching but it is near-perfect in its execution. Colson Whitehead is a virtuoso writer who is ridiculously talented.
The Dutch House is another fine novel from Ann Patchett. It has it all - a beautiful mansion, a distant, secretive father, siblings abandoned by their mother, a wicked stepmother and her two daughters, reversal of fortune and cruel twists of fate..."A darkfairy tale" as one reviewer wrote. And like a fairy tale the house itself is part of the whole tale, an elegant, lovely, ghostly presence.This novel has a wonderful cast of characters that are believable, compelling and all very human. The portrait of a family is well drawn with their courage, rage, love, loyalty and finally grace.
This wonderful book is the story of Antonia Vega, a recently retired professor of English, her three adult sisters, one of whom has gone missing, and a pregnant Mexican teen miigrant in rural Vermont. It moves quietly with compassion and candor as Antonia struggles with these present day issues in her life. Julia Alvarez's writing is beautiful. The parts that involve Antonia and her siblings are especially so. The story is at times sad, but there is humor as well.