Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
(The Dial Press, 2012, 368 pages)
June absolutely loves her uncle Finn. He takes June to these amazing places around New York City, understands her obsession with the Middle Ages, and makes her feel special. So she was devastated when he passed away from AIDS and feels like no one understands her grief. During Finn’s funeral, June learns from her sister Greta about Toby, Finn’s “special friend.” Her family believes that Toby killed Finn because he started a relationship with Finn knowing that he already had AIDS and that is why Toby was kept a secret from June for so many years. June is curious about Finn’s “special friend” and when Toby begins to reach out to her, she reluctantly agrees to meet with him and they start a beautiful but fragile friendship.
Brunt does an amazing job at building relationships between June and the other characters. Sometimes they’re not great relationships, like with her relationship with Greta which is filled with spite and jealousy. I really didn’t want this read to end because you knew from the beginning what would end up happening since both Finn and Toby have AIDS. My only complaint is that it took me awhile to catch on that the story was set in the 80’s and that’s why everyone was so uneducated about AIDS. There might have been something said in the beginning addressing the time frame and somehow I missed it. Great read overall!
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
(Knopf, 1983, 179 pages)
Heartburn is a fictionalized autobiographical tale of Ephron’s experiences during her marriage and subsequent divorce. In the book we are introduced to the main character, Rachel, and her husband, Mark. They live in Washington D.C. with their young son, Sam. Rachel is seven months pregnant with her second child when her husband reveals he’s in love with someone else. The story is Rachel reflecting back on her experiences and talking about how she dealt with things. There is definitely humor in the story, and I could certainly see it all playing out as a film while I was reading (which I just learned it was made into – added to my Netflix queue!). Rachel is a cookbook author and food plays a role in the story. Interspersed are recipes that tie in with Rachel’s thoughts/feelings at the time.
This was a quick and entertaining read.
Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women by Nora Ephron
(Modern Library, 2000, 217 pages)
I love Nora Ephron’s movies but I’d never read any of her work. This collection of essays from the early 70s highlights Nora’s perceptions of the time period and what was going on in American society. She covers everything from women’s bodies and the Pillsbury bake-off to the role of women’s groups and various “women in power.” Ephron’s writing style was very engaging and I thought this was a good way to introduce myself to her writing since she started out doing articles (that’s basically what the collection is, articles from when she used to have a column in Esquire). I just started on Heartburn and reading Crazy Salad put me in the mood to watch some classic Ephron films.
Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock
(Mira, 2005, 288 pages)
This book was assigned for a book club I’m in and I was one of the few who just wasn’t a fan. 8-year-old Carrie lives in the small town of Toast, North Carolina with her mother, stepfather, and younger sister, Emma. Carrie and Emma hate their stepfather – he’s abusive to them and their mother so they do what they can to stay out of his way. He came into their lives shortly after their father was shot – Emma was the only one to witness it. Emma is 2 years younger than Carrie and they are complete opposites. Carrie has a dark complexion, isn’t popular at school, and is hesitant to take the lead on things. Emma has a light/summery complexion, she’s popular, and has a take-charge attitude.
Carrie and Emma finally decide that they’ve had enough of their stepfather and make plans to run away – there’s only so much brightness they can attempt to bring in to their otherwise dark lives. The question is will they succeed? Can they escape this man who has taken over their family and treats them as less than human?
This book has a twist that comes at the end – though I figured it out pretty early on. There were just too many elements I found unrealistic (one of my biggest issues was the ages of Carrie and Emma in relation to how they acted, what they dealt with in school, how they talked…), not to mention the fact that this book is pretty depressing – I’m not one to pick up books where child and domestic abuse are central elements. That being said, this title got favorable reviews and the sequel was named by Oprah’s O Magazine as one of “Ten Titles To Pick Up Now” in the Sept. 2012 issue. It just wasn’t a “Julia” book.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
(Broadway, 2007, 254 pages)
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
(Broadway, 2010, 368 pages)
I liked Flynn’s new novel, Gone Girl, so much I decided to read her first two novels back to back. Sharp Objects was her debut novel and like Gone Girl it is set in a small town in Missouri. Camille is a reporter working in Chicago when her boss sends her back to her home town to cover the disappearance of a girl, which may be tied to the murder a girl a year earlier. Possible serial killer?
Camille has a complicated relationship with her mother which she is forced to face when she returns home. This small town has lots of secrets and her family is often at the center since they are the most prominent residents (owners of an industrial pig farm). The best word to describe this book is creepy but addictive. To give you an idea of the tone, Stephen King writes a blurb for the book jacket. I really liked this book but it is a little obvious it is first novel. There are tons of plot problems once you really start to think about it, but, you don’t think about it while you are reading it because the story sucks you in.
I didn’t like her second novel, Dark Places, nearly as much. It was good but almost too disturbing in places; it made me want to skim over sections. This story takes place mostly in Kansas and goes back in forth in time examining what really happened on January 2nd 1985, the night of “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” Libby (age 7) is the only survivor from the night her brother Ben murdered her mother and two sisters. Twenty-five years later Libby starts to investigate what really might have happened that night. We also get to view the action from Ben and Patty’s (the mother) point of view. It sounds interesting from the description, but Libby is so unlikable (actually there is no likable character) that I really didn’t care by the end. Out of her three books, this is the one to skip.