LABOR DAY by Joyce Maynard
I read this after watching the movie, which is generally the wrong order in which to do things. But although the movie is surprisingly close to the book, the novel kept my attention as a work of art in its own right. The ending was even better than it was in the film. Frank, the felon who’s escaped from prison and taken captive Adele and her son Henry, has lines so alive I wrote them down in a notebook as I read; I especially loved the following:
“Then again, he said, it’s an open question, which person is the captor here, which is the captive.
“He bent his head close to her ear and brushed her hair away, as if to speak directly into her brain. Maybe he thought I wouldn’t hear, or maybe he was just beyond caring.
“I am your prisoner, Adele, was what he said to her.”
On a related note, it’s impossible to read this book and not want to bake, or at least eat, a peach pie.
THE SNOW GOOSE by Paul Gallico
After reading one of my grandmother’s favorite books recently (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), it seemed only fair to read one of my grandfather’s. Published in 1940, the story is about a lonely man, a young girl, isolation, winter, and sacrifice. My copy has this line marked: “His body was warped, but his heart was filled with love for wild and hunted things. He was ugly to look upon, but he created great beauty.” The style reminds me “Gift of the Magi,” another story that is impossible not to love.
THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jojo Moyes
I love this title, and I love just about everything Moyes writes. The novel is set in France during the German occupation of World War I, when Sophie, the wife of an artist whose husband is at battle, is forced to take in German soldiers. The captain soon becomes obsessed with a painting of Sophie. In the present day, the painting is at the center of a legal fight. This book was slow moving, I will admit, but I’m glad I read it. Moyes does a particularly impressive job of creating sympathy for the unlikable (to say the least) German captain; additionally, the linking of past and present felt natural.
GOODNIGHT NOBODY by Jennifer Weiner
This was a reread in between trips to the library. The book is a funny, almost campy take on housewives and murder in the suburbs, from the perspective of Kate, who has always felt like an outsider. Kate becomes fixated on solving the murder of her neighbor. Beyond the plot, the novel really shines in its use of humor: Kate gets mugged for her expensive stroller, which even the robber can’t get to open and close properly; her children beg for “Kenfucky [sic] fried chicken”; when a man breaks Kate’s heart, her best friend tries to have him deported. I’ve read maybe two thirds of Weiner’s novels, and this one, FLY AWAY HOME, and THEN CAME YOU are probably my favorites.
MY BOYFRIEND BARFED IN MY HANDBAG AND OTHER THINGS YOU CAN’T ASK MARTHA by Jolie Kerr
Okay, very different than my usual reading, but very helpful! Jolie Kerr is super witty, even while talking about cleaning. My house now sparkles thanks to her wisdom.