The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

 

Dear Fellow Reader:

Okay, I have a book for you to read. The main problem is that I don’t know how to describe the book to you.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us  will lead you down one path only to find that your basic assumptions about the plot are all wrong.  Anything I say will give away too much of the plot. I know that sounds crazy, but this book is one twist after another. On one level it is the story of Vanessa and Richard Thompson and their marriage. But wait, it is also about Nellie and Richard. But then there is Emma. And who is who?

Perhaps the best description comes from Amazon.

 

“When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.

You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.

You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.

You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.

Assume nothing.”

So, I can’t describe the book, but I can tell you to read it. It is absorbing and you will try to figure out what is going on but then you’ll be amazed by the plot. This book is well done. It would have been hard for one person to plot out this book but to think that two people worked together on it is amazing to me. My only criticism of the book would be that I would leave off the last chapter. It “tidies” up the plot too much.

Just read it and let me know what you think. Really, I would love to know your thoughts on the plot.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah

Dear Fellow Reader,

If you follow this blog, you know that when I go on vacation, I read a lot. I am back from a week away and I am happy to tell you that I finished several books (okay, 6). There were several that I felt were very good. I had been on a streak of books that were okay but nothing great. I am so glad that streak is broken. So, let’s get started.

I liked The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah. I will tell you a secret. I know that Ms. Hannah’s The Nightingale was a huge favorite. I never finished it. I did not engage for some reason. I know everyone loved it but that happens. BUT I did enjoy The Great Alone. I will also say that this book has not been the hit The Nightingale was, but I liked it much better.

The Great Alone tells the story of the Allbright family. The story is told from the perspective of the daughter Leni, who is 13 when the story begins. Leni has been in and out of several schools and never seems to fit in. She longs to have a friend. Leni’s father was a POW in Vietnam and suffers from alcoholism, anger issues, and PTSD. He can’t hold a job, so they move frequently. At the beginning of the book, Ernt, Leni’s father, receives a letter telling him that he inherited a house and some land in Homer, Alaska. Ernt feels that moving to Alaska will be his salvation. That it will be better for him where there are fewer people. Leni doesn’t want to move. She urges her parents to let her finish the school year, but her father is all fired up so off they go.

The first person they meet in Homer is Large Marge. Large Marge has been in Alaska for a long time. She warns them that they need to prepare for winter. She and some other women in the community come to the house to help put together chicken coops, goat pens, and garden beds. Their help was a big step in getting the Allbrights to start preparing for the winter ahead.

When Leni gets to school in Homer, she meets Matthew Walker, the only other child her age. The immediately become friends. Leni is happy because she now has a friend, but her father is drinking more and there is less daylight every day.

Will Ernt do better with the wide-open spaces of Alaska or will the long winter nights cause him to have more problems? Will the family discover the value of friendship and community in this cold, dark land?

I felt that the story pulled me in quickly. It is not an upbeat story, but Leni is so likable that you want it all to work out for her. I thought this was one of the best books I have read lately. With that said, it seems that the message from my book group was that depending upon what drew you to the book made a difference in how you felt about the book. If you are drawn in by the descriptions of Alaska and life there, you probably will like the book. If you don’t like stories that are about dysfunctional families, alcoholism, and abuse, this is not the book for you.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

woman in hammock

Dear Fellow Reader,

I don’t really like the term self-help books. There is something about that term that makes me want to steer clear of them. It isn’t fair. There are lots of good and helpful books that fall under the self-help category but I always start with a bit of wariness. So, had that doubt in my mind when I took Girl, Wash Your Face out of the library. I knew that it was on the best-seller lists, and  I wanted to see what the brouhaha was about it.

girl

 

I had no idea who Rachel Hollis is. I am not familiar with her blog/empire. She is the founder of TheChicSite.com and CEO of Chic Media. A quick look at her site shows that she is very much the center of her empire but there seem to be several interesting sounding blog posts to check out. She is the author of Girl, Wash Your Face. The subtitle of her book is “Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be”

 

In the introduction to the book, in fact on the first page of the book, she states the following:

“The truth? You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are. That’s the takeaway.”

Okay, she hooked me right there. And I think that sets the tone for the book. Each of the twenty chapters in the book deals with a lie that she told herself and how she turned that concept around. Then at the end of the chapter, she provides a section “Things That Helped Me” where she provides ideas of how to make changes. She is very open in sharing the “messiness” of her life. She talks about weight, adoption, sex, dating, motherhood, parenting, and work among other things. While she has done very well for herself, she has not had an easy life and has worked hard. Some of the stories about her life are incredibly sad or scary.

“I am successful because I refused to take no for an answer. I am successful because I have never once believed my dreams were someone else’s to manage. Thats the incredible part about your dreams: nobody gets to tell you how big they can be.

When it comes to your dreams, no is not an answer. The word “no” is not a reason to stop. Instead, think of it as a detour or a yield sign. No means merge with caution. No reminds you to slow down- to re-evaluate where you are and to judge how the new position you’re in can better prepare you for your destination.

“You don’t see things as they are; you see things through the lens of what you think and feel and believe. Perception is reality and I’m here to tell you that your reality is colored much more by your past experiences than by what is actually happening to you. If your past tells you that nothing ever works out, that life is against you, and that you’ll never succeed than how likely are you to keep fighting for something you want? “

In reflecting on the book, several things stand out. One of my favorites was about exercise. If you are constantly saying that you are going to start doing something, but you never do or you only start for a little while, then you are not being a very good friend to yourself. You would not put up with constant disappointment from a friend, so why are you doing it with yourself?

The book is very easy to read and is funny and sad and light and hard. If you are looking at your life and attitudes, I suggest that this book provides an interesting starting point. Not every bit of it might apply to your situation but I think that you will find words of wisdom in this book.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

 

Dear Fellow Reader,

When my book club pick for October was Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford, I had never heard of it. Then I read the cover and discovered that Jamie Ford’s other book was Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I had read that book and while I don’t remember that much about it, I knew that I enjoyed it.

Okay, let me tell you that Love and Other Consolation Prizes is dark. There is no way around it. The main character starts in abject poverty in China. He finds out later in life that the smell he associates with his mother is the smell of someone starving to death. He leaves China at the age of five with an “uncle” – not a real uncle – a man his mother sold him to in an attempt to save him. His mother gave him her only possession.

“She merely placed a filigreed hairpin in his hand and folded his tiny fingers around the tarnished copper and jade phoenix that represented the last of their worldly possessions”

After telling the story of how Ernest got to the United States in 1902, the book moves back and forth between 1909 and 1962 – the two times that the World’s Fair was in Seattle. Ernest has not had an easy life. He was not supposed to survive the trip to Seattle but he did. Ernest is a survivor although when he is young he often doesn’t even understand what Is going on. When the book shifts to 1962, we learn that Ernest is married and has two daughters. Ernest’s wife is sick – she is living with his daughter because she doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t want to be with him. Ernest is living in a drab hotel by himself.

Going back and forth through time tells the story on Ernest and his two loves, Maisie and Fahn and what happened to each of them in 1909 and where they are in 1962.

There is no way to get around the darkness of this story. It is the seamy side of the story of Ernest’s survival. From the opening scene where his mother is killing his newborn sister to the most positive way the story could end, there are terrible things that happen to and around Ernest.

BUT it is beautifully written. When I describe the story, it loses any of its texture because I’m not using Jamie Ford’s words.

“He drew a deep breath. Memories are narcotic, he thought. Like the array of pill bottles that sit cluttered on my nightstand. Each does, carefully administered, use as directed. Too much and they become dangerous. Too much and they’ll stop your heart.”

I think you should read this book but be prepared. It is not light; it is not happy. I thought that the very beginning was a bit slow but that is where a lot (but not all) of the horrible things happen. I don’t feel like I am selling this book but I did like it.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

Dear Fellow Reader,

Immigration is a huge issue in this country. There are those who have firm ideas on the issue and those who just might not understand the issue that well. (I feel that if those two groups were in a Venn diagram that there would be a large overlapping part. But that is not what we are here to discuss.)

When he was 12, Jose Antonio Vargas was sent by his mother to live in the United States with his grandparents. He had extended family living in the United States and he moved to join them. He missed his mother but adjusted to living in California. When he was 16, he decided to go to the DMV and apply for his driver’s license. At the DMV, the woman behind the counter informed him that his green card was fake and that he should not come back again. He was stunned. He had no idea. He went home and confronted his grandfather who told him it was true. It was then that he learned that his family’s hope was that he would marry into citizenship.

To say this was a turning point in his life is to put it lightly. He had a secret now. He didn’t feel he could tell anyone his secret because bad things would happen. And then he discovered that for his situation, there was no road to citizenship. Fortunately for him, he had people who helped him. He received a scholarship to college, and then received internships and was able to get through until the day he had to fill out an application form that required him to check a box.

“I attest, under penalty of perjury that I am

                                A citizen or national of the United States

                                A lawful permanent resident (Alien #)

                                An alien authorized to work until (Alien # or                                                                                        Admission #) “

He was none of these.

Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen tells of his struggles and his eventual full public disclosure of his status. He talks about how he is stuck and there is not a cure for his problem as of right now. He does not look for sympathy. He is more explaining his situation and the situation for undocumented people in this country.

It is not a long book and it reads very quickly. I strongly suggest that you read this book. I think that it offers a different perspective on the issue and information that you may not have heard before.

Thanks for reading!

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