The Mothers by Brit Bennett
(Riverhead Books, 2016, 278 pages)
I decided to listen to the audio of this book and I am so glad I did. The talented narrator was able to use different voices to portray the different characters. She really brought the story to life. When I first started listening I was worried that it would be a story that would not hold my attention, but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it drew me in.
This novel touches on aspects of life that I think many people can relate; the longing for close friendships, a parents’ love, trying to find a place in this world, and even sometimes having to make decisions that could possibly have a lifelong effect on you and/or your loved ones. Bennett writes this story beautifully. She is a great new voice with a compelling debut novel. Definitely an author to keep an eye on.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
(Hachette Books, 2016, 260 pages)
Fierce feminist views. Rally call!
Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey
(Ecco, 2017, 64 pages)
I don’t remember what poem jumped out to me initially as I flipped through, but there was something about the language in this book that compelled me to check it out rather than allow it to be re-shelved. Sealey is the Executive Directer at the Cave Canem Foundation and I always try to stay on top of the poetry they spotlight and the prizes they award. A collection by the Executive Director was surely going to find a place in my hands.
Her work in Ordinary Beast was accessible, thoughtful, and creative. There were more than a few poems that I had to stop and reflect on. Not to mention Sealey’s poetry had me going out of my way to look things up so I could better understand various references and what she was trying to spotlight in some of her poems. When a poet can inspire you to delve deeper, you know you’re in good hands.
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
(Scribner, 2017, 309 pages)
I wasn’t blown away but it was an entertaining read.
Here’s the blurb from Amazon:
Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.
Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
(Penguin Classics, 2011, 880 pages)
After multiple attempts and months of stopping and starting I have finally finished Middlemarch. I’m sure that doesn’t make it sound appealing but truthfully I loved every minute of it and it really speaks more to my flaws than to the novel’s appeal. After finishing Middlemarch I read a New Yorker article “Middlemarch And Me What George Eliot teaches us” by Rebecca Mead and decided that instead of giving a plot summary I would just include a quote from the article that I think speaks to what I found most interesting; the novel is sometimes biting and satirical but never at the total expense of the characters:
But Eliot’s satire, unlike Austen’s, stops short of cruelty. She is inveterately magnanimous, even when it comes to her most flawed characters; her default authorial position is one of pity. Rosamond Vincy is foolish and intractable—her husband refers to her in his later years as his basil plant, because it was “a plant that had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains.” But the sequence of chapters in which self-involved, trivial Rosamond realizes that Will Ladislaw is in love with Dorothea, not her—she is “taken hold of by an emotion stronger than her own, hurried along in a new movement which gave all things some new, awful, undefined aspect”—is a masterpiece of sympathetic imagination. A reader marvels at Jane Austen’s cleverness, but is astonished by George Eliot’s intelligence.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
(Random House, 2017, 207 pages)
I was introduced to Ariel Levy through the Longform podcast. That led me to her 2013 essay in The New Yorker, “Thanksgiving in Mongolia.” It’s powerful and devastating. When I started hearing the buzz about The Rules Do Not Apply I immediately added it to my to-read list.
The Rules Do Not Apply is a memoir about Levy’s journey to becoming the woman she is today. In the midst of losing her child, her marriage, and the life she’d previously believed was waiting for her in the future she learns (the hard way) that no one ever really has control over their life. No one knows what might be in store for them. She has to reclaim her sense of self and she takes the reader along with her. You grieve with her for the loss of her marriage and the loss of her child and you end the book wanting to know more about Levy’s life and how things are going for her.
The book ends on a hopeful note, leaving the reader with the notion that her life could have any number of outcomes – who is she to say she knows which one will come to pass?
The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
(Doubleday, 2017, 352 pages)
The Rooster Bar by John Grisham is the story of three friends, Mark, Todd, and Zola, who are about to start their final semester at a low-rated, for-profit law school. The friends realize that they have enormous school loan debts and little prospects for high paying careers after law school. The friends decide that are going to quietly drop out of law school, assume new identities to try to avoid their student loans, and earn some money in sometimes, unethical, illegal ways.
In this novel, Grisham highlights the problem with for-profit law schools and school loans from banks with shady practices. He also deals with immigration issues and suicide. Grisham credits the idea for this story to an article by Paul Campos entitled The Law School Scam that was published in 2014 in the journal, The Atlantic.
The Rooster Bar is an interesting story. At the beginning, I did not find the characters very likeable. As the novel progressed, I did find myself hoping that things would work out for them. The Rooster Bar was a worthwhile read.