Book – Sixty-year-old Rebecca Winter is a well-known photographer whose life has become stale. She hasn’t had any new ideas for her art, her income has dried up and her adult son has moved out of their plush New York apartment. Rebecca impulsively decides to rent a more affordable cottage, sight unseen, out in the country. She discovers the cottage and village are much more primitive and isolated than she anticipated. However, as she adjusts to the new, slower pace of her days, she begins to discover who she is as an artist and as a woman. She reminisces about her marriage and divorce, past lovers, motherhood, friendship and art. I enjoyed Rebecca’s journey, discoveries and insights as she embarked on a new stage in her life. Author Anna Quindlen illuminates the subtleties of everyday life. If you enjoy Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler, you may enjoy one of Quindlen’s novels.
Book – This Fallback Plan creatively depicts the relatable growing pains and ennui of a recent Northwestern graduate living with her parents during a hot summer month in Lombard, Illinois. This novel, published in 2012, possesses the current voice of youth that is reminiscent of the writing in the television series Girls. The main character is struggling after a difficult final semester at school, yet her tone is light and her glib descriptions of her daily undertakings are fresh and amusing. Because the setting of the book is mainly within Lombard, I found the character’s humorous viewpoint on local area events and establishments to be especially enjoyable. The text contains discerning descriptions of the rituals of family life from the perspective of a twenty year old. More than that, the novel addresses the challenges impacting new as well as established families. Stein realistically captures the trials an individual faces with each identity adopted during the stages of life. I first became aware of this book upon viewing a telecast of a reading by the author at the College of DuPage. Here is a link to a video of Leigh Stein reading selections from her work at the college.
Book – When Paul and his wife Claire meet another couple for dinner at a fine restaurant in Amersterdam, tensions run high. As the meal and conversation progress, the reader is pulled into an undercurrent of old wounds and treacherous secrets about the couples and their children. The dark comedy that unfolds through the voice of the narrator contrasts sharply with the posh setting of the dinner. Social conventions, the justice system and family dynamics are probed during the courses and the discussion forces the reader to ask “How would I react in this situation?” Fans of Gone Girl and Defending Jacob may enjoy this disturbing tale. This book is translated from the Dutch.
Book - Elizabeth Berg’s latest release is a quick, heartwarming read that is full of honest introspection on life, death, and friendship, which fans of Berg have come to expect. After the death of a close friend, Cecilia Ross allows herself to be guided by a Tarot card reading, and makes a dramatic change by selling her home and moving into a charming old house in St. Paul where she bonds with three female roommates of differing ages. Witty dialogue enriches the story as these restless women decide to take a road trip together, each with a particular destiny they wish to fulfill on the road. Cecilia is looking for Dennis Halsinger, the man she never got over, who recently sent her a postcard out of the blue. I alternated between reading the print copy of this title, and listening to the sound recording. The recording is narrated by Barbara Caruso who possesses a mature voice that emphasizes the retrospective segments of this novel in which Cecilia looks back on her life and the relationships that shaped her. For another amusing read on the topic of traveling women, try Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures: Funny Women Write From the Road. Contributors to these humorous tales include Ellen Degeneres, edited by Jennifer Leo.