This isn’t really a book club, but I thought I’d share a few things I’ve enjoyed reading lately and what I’m currently reading. Are you reading anything good? Let me know in the comments – or in person next time I see you!
Set not too far from here – near Cashiers, NC, this is a heartbreaking and, at times, violent story of a young man coming of age in a community where he’s destined to fall into the unhealthy cycles of his family before him. The story involves drugs, violence, love and hope. It’s beautifully written and will knock you on your butt multiple times as you read it. It was also David Joy’s first novel, which I think you’ll find hard to believe – I know I did.
Rungs once painted white were chipped and rusted and slumped in the middle from years of being climbed by wide-eyed kids looking to paint their names on the town. Those things that seemed as if they’d last forever never did. I didn’t even make it out of tenth grade, and maybe that’s why I hadn’t felt the need to scale that tower with britches weighed down by spray-paint cans. There was no need to cement my name. A name like Jacob McNeely raised eyebrows and questions. In a town this small, all eyes were prying eyes. I couldn’t show my face, didn’t want the problems and rumors that being down there would bring, but I had to see her leave.
It’s fiction, but it’s a story that is probably more true that we’d like to believe. I couldn’t help wanting to rescue Jacob McNeely myself.
John Hart was recommended to me by an old friend from Middle School. Actually, I think she posted something on Instagram about a book she was reading and I asked about it. She swore by Hart’s work and told me where to start.
This is Hart’s first novel and it’s a mystery-packed adventure. I flew through it. It has murder, old love, a stale marriage and an overarching theme of how little people can know about each other even when they are extremely close.
It’s also set in North Carolina, so bonus points for that.
Honestly, if no one is working on making this into a movie yet, they should be.
For some time, I’d been bathed in that jailhouse perfume, sitting knee-to-knee with a client who’d just gotten life without parole. The trial had damned him, as I’d told him it would. The state’s evidence was overwhelming, and the jury had zero sympathy for a three-time loser who had shot his brother during an argument about who’d get control of the remote. Twelve of his supposed peers, and not one cared that he’d been drinking, that he was cracked to the gills, or that he didn’t mean to do it. No one cared that his brother was an ass and a felon in his own right, not the jury and least of all me. All I wanted was to explain his appeal rights, answer any legal questions, and get the hell out. My fee application to the state of North Carolina would wait until the morning.
I’m actually kicking myself for not having read Celeste Ng’s second novel [Little Fires Everywhere] yet. Everything I Never Told You is very well done.
Set in the 70s, this book follows a Chinese-American family as it navigates the untimely death of one of the middle daughter.
I really appreciated how Ng explored the cultural and generational differences in the ways people deal with grief, particularly sudden and wildly unexpected grief.
Marilyn closes her eyes. Maybe, when she opens them, Lydia will be there, covers pulled over her head as usual, wisps of hair trailing from beneath. A grumpy lump bundled under the bedspread that she’d somehow missed before. I was in the bathroom, Mom. I went downstairs for some water. I was lying right here all the time. Of course, when she looks, nothing has changed. The closed curtains glow like a blank television screen.
I think I might’ve been the last woman my age to read an Ann Patchett novel. She’s been recommended to me over and over through the years. This book did not disappoint. It’s centered around a family that is broken apart and patched back together through divorce and remarriage – but the real story is in the siblings and how they navigate their relationships with and loyalty to each other.
The story spans five decades, following them through childhood and adulthood and many of the most natural and familiar tragedies in life.
As a sibling in a hybrid family, I really appreciated Patchett’s exploration of those relationships.
The children were seated across the aisle from one another, the boys on the left and the girls on the right, and each was given a set of junior airman wings, which only Cal refused to wear. They were glad to be on the plane, glad to be free of direct supervision for six hours. As much as they hated to leave their mother—they were unquestionably loyal to their mother—the four Cousins children thought of themselves as Virginians, even the youngest two, who had been born after the family’s move west. All of the Cousins children hated California.
What I’m reading:
I’m an absolute sucker for historical nonfiction. I picked this book up at the library after hearing about it on NPR. It piqued my interest, because the conversation surrounding inequality endures today and I feel a responsibility to continue studying the roots of why we are the way we are.
It’s written by three journalists from the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant. They wrote the book after doing a story that opened their eyes to a side of slavery they never really knew existed – the role their home in the north played in keeping the institution alive and the overall dependency the entire country’s economy had on unpaid labor.
I’ve only read the prologue, introduction and a few dozen pages so far, but it’s turned my understanding of the slavery operation upside down. This book is proof that we should never let ourselves stop learning.
Slavery has long been identified in the national consciousness as a Southern institution. The time to bury that myth is overdue. Slavery is a story about America, all of America. The nation’s wealth, from the very beginning, depended on the exploitation of black people on three continents. Together, over the lives of millions of enslaved men and women, Northerners and Southerners shook hands and made a country.