Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
(Scribner, 2017, 309 pages)
Mrs. Fletcher can kind of quickly be described as a novel about discovery. Eve Fletcher is about to find herself an empty-nester as she sends her son, Brendan, off to college. She has plans to take a class at the local community college and find other ways to entertain herself but then a text from an unknown number calling her a “MILF” opens the door to a world previously foreign to her. At the same time, Brendan is having a hard time adjusting to his new college life. While his mother is trying to learn a little more about herself and her sexuality, Brendan finds himself at odds with how to properly interact with the opposite sex.
There’s a lot more going on here than this summary can address. What I will say is that I think this would be a good book club selection because of the many issues brought up. I’ll end with the last section of the Goodreads summary:
“Sharp, witty, and provocative, Mrs. Fletcher is a timeless examination of sexuality, identity, parenthood, and the big clarifying mistakes people can make when they’re no longer sure of who they are or where they belong.”
I’m not sure about the word “timeless” in there, but I did think this was an entertaining read. 🙂
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
(Little, Brown & Company, 1945, 214 pages)
I’m still not sure what the main point of the book was about! It was so different and it seemed like it was a running commentary by the main character. I need to read some reviews. Maybe after I do that I will appreciate it more! I’m am glad I read it, though. I always wondered what it was like.
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez; translated by Megan McDowell
(Hogarth Press, 2017, 208 pages)
This was one of our Between the Covers book club titles and it was dark. This isn’t my typical read and it was hard for me to get through. Whenever I picked it up I wanted to keep reading but since my most of my reading time happens right before bed I had to keep setting this aside so I wouldn’t go to bed with too many dark thoughts floating around.
Even though the stories are disturbing this was a beautifully written book. In spite of the subject matter I still wanted to keep reading to see where Enríquez was going to take me. The story that freaked me out the most was “The Neighbor’s Courtyard.” I had a hard time going to sleep after that. I don’t really know what else to say, this was a great collection of short stories from an author I’m glad I got to experience. Whether or not short stories are your thing, if you appreciate dark and haunting tales this hits those notes repeatedly. Now I need a good romance novel… 😉
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
(Dutton Books, 2017, 234 pages)
This is a book one of our ESL classes is reading and I get to help out with classroom discussions. I was familiar with this title but didn’t know anything about it until I actually started reading. The novel revolves around a college freshman named Marin. She was born and raised on the west coast but she’s living an isolated life at a college in New York. We know something traumatic has happened but we don’t have much insight into what. Only that whatever it was has left her essentially stripped of her identity.
The novel is told in flashbacks between the end of her senior year and the present (December). We learn about Marin’s unique relationship with her grandfather who she has been living with since her mother died when Marin was just a toddler. We learn about Marin’s best friend, Mabel, and how their friendship flourished… But we also learn that Marin and Mabel are no longer talking and it’s because Marin has effectively cut ties with her former life.
We Are Okay is a novel about grief and about trying to find your way back to yourself when you’re not even sure who that is anymore. I definitely see the appeal of this quiet coming of age story.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
(Amistad, 2016, 175 pages)
Woodson is a poet and that comes across in this book. Her way with language is amazing. This is a slim book and Woodson has a way of conveying so much so concisely that you just sit back and appreciate her way with words. This book transports you to Brooklyn in the 70s. We’re introduced to a friendship made up of four girls: August, Gigi, Sylvia, and Angela. We see the power of friendship but we also see that childhood is fleeting and the real world has a way of coming in and changing your life whether you’re ready for it or not.
This is a poignant and powerful novel.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
(Harcourt, 1994, 311 pages)
This classic text stands up each time I read it and I feel like I get something new out of it every time. I had to re-read Flowers for Algernon for a class that is discussing the text and while I wasn’t necessarily eager to read it again I quickly found myself sucked back in to the story.
Originally published as a short story this book follows Charlie, a man in his early 30s who is mentally disabled. He has always been motivated to try and learn so he can “be like other people” and it was because of this motivation that his teacher suggested him as a good candidate for an experiment at a local college aimed at increasing intelligence. After the surgery we see the changes in Charlie through the text of progress reports he submits to the professors in charge of the experiment.
There are more changes in Charlie than just what we see on the intellectual front. He is also tapping into his past and how his family affected him and led him to where he came to be in the present day. The book tackles a lot issues with an emphasis on humanity and respect. It’s a heart-breaking book and while there are dated aspects to it (and a few things that led me to raise my eyebrows) I think it’s a valuable text that prompts good reflection and discussion.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
(Balzer + Bray, 2017, 444 pages)
The Hate U Give was this semester’s first selection for our Between the Covers Book Club and the timing of it was… well, we’ll just say that it was a timely read. You might be familiar with the title because it has gotten a lot of praise and publicity. It’s a young adult novel that follows a young woman named Starr whose best friend was the victim of a police shooting. And she was the only witness.
The reader experiences what Starr is going through as she copes with the loss of her friend and tries to deal with the fact that it’s her word against forces so much larger than herself: the officer involved and the media seeking to spin the narrative. This was a book that forces you to reflect back on the many police shootings we’ve seen covered over the years. I found myself writing in the margins when a detail reminded me of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown… it was unsettling but powerful.
This book lends itself to good discussions about hard topics a lot of people tend to shy away from. I’m still reflecting on the book and what an amazing job Thomas did with it. A great read, and don’t let the YA label keep you from picking it up.