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book review

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

    Sad but also enlightening Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is dramatic narrative of one girls life following the sudden death of her older sister. Here is my book review Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach.

    It’s a parents nightmare, to lose a child. But it’s also a nightmare for a sibling. This is a story told in a unique voice, about the coping mechanisms, the grief, the guilt, and the hope of the people who loved Kathy.

    Kathy’s sister Sally survives the car accident that takes Kathy’s life. But the reality is it takes Sally’s life too…as the world will never be the same. Espach writes this novel in Sally’s voice, as she talks to her sister beyond the grave about everything and everyone and how Kathy’s death affects each one. Especially what it does to Sally’s parents, and the young man Billy who was driving the car.

    Sometimes funny, a bit quirky in the writing style, but believable and heartfelt. A tragedy that changes a sister, a family and a community forever.

    ****Four stars for Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach. Thank you for reading my book review Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach.

    See last week’s book review Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

    I loved this book. Super fun, inspirational and engaging. Even though I totally think they blew it on the cover…it looks like a YA novel. Don’t let the cover fool you. It is a wonderful grown up novel. Here is my book review Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

    Elizabeth Zott is an incredible chemist. She is smarter than everyone she works with. She is brilliant and could change the world. Except for the fact it is early 1960’s and she is a woman. Relegated to sexual harassment, stereotyping and zero opportunities. There are so few women in science.

    All the men Elizabeth works with ignore her or abuse her until she meets Calvin…a noble prize nominated, brilliant chemist who falls in love with her for her mind.

    They have a brief and amazing affair, but fate intervenes. Calvin’s sudden death will change the trajectory of Elizabeth’s life in hundreds of ways, most importantly through the birth of a daughter.

    The real story begins here…when Elizabeth finds both friend and foe due to her illegitimate daughter. Her career takes a sharp right hand turn, she becomes a famous TV celebrity and begins to unravel the complicated history of Calvin. And all of this as so many wonderfully developed and flawed characters in this novel come in and out of her life…including one amazing dog named 6:30.

    This was an amusing, entertaining and gratifying read. Easy and enjoyable. A must read. Thank you for reading my book review Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

    *****Five Stars for Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

    See last week’s book review This is Happiness by Niall Williams

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review This is Happiness by Niall Williams

    Sweet, heartfelt and identifiable. This is a story about that one great love. This is a story about life. It will make you smile, cry and remember your first love and past regrets. Here is my book review This is Happiness by Niall Williams.

    Electricity is coming in the 1950’s to the small Irish village of Faha…a tiny hamlet where nothing ever changes. But change is in the air; electricity is being brought to the village, the rain has inexplicitly stopped, and a young boy is becoming a man.

    This beautifully written novel is told through the eyes of young Noel Crowe. Noel has been raised by his grandparents after the death of his mother. Noel is no longer a boy, but not quit a man in this funny little town full of interesting characters with a wild array of idiosyncrasies.

    When sixty-something year old Christy arrives to assist with the new electricity coming to the village, Noel’s life will change, and the entire town will change…in a place that has stayed the same for centuries.

    Young Noel and Christy will embark on some adventures, while Christy tries to make amends with the love of his life, who he left at the alter nearly fifty years before. Noel will mitigate this for Christy while also finding his own way through love, regret and religious questioning.

    This beautiful coming of age story will captivate you through the charming writing of Williams and the sentimental, tough and compassionate community of Faha.

    ****Four Stars for This is Happiness by Niall Williams

    Thank you for reading my book review This is Happiness by Niall Williams.

    See last week’s review The Girl With the Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

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    See this week’s top performing book review pin here Remarkably Bright Creatures

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee

    I have read a few books about the frightening authoritarian regime of North Korea. I particularly loved this true story of one young girls decision to escape and the harrowing details her escape entailed. Here is my book review The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee.

    Described as ruthless and secretive, the dictatorship of North Korea tries to make both the outside world and it’s own citizens believe it is a powerful utopian society. But it is far from it. The brutal regime creates a world where it’s citizens starve or work themselves to death. A life where illegal activity is a norm just to feed your family. A secretive and terrifying life where citizens just disappear never to be seen again.

    At age seventeen Hyeonseo decides to leave her mother and brother and cross the river to China. Her first thought is she would go just for a few days and then cross back. But it will be twelve years before she sees her family again.

    Through it all she lives a secretive life trying to avoid extradition and starvation. Eventually she meets a man who she is initially afraid to be honest with. But he is encouraging to her and she finally decides to leave China and make her way to South Korea and claim asylum.

    Eventually she will undertake a harrowing journey to save her mother and brother. It is all a miracle really, and something few people would attempt.

    Well written and easy to read, I enjoyed this story of this brave girl. I think you will too. Thank you for reading my book review The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee.

    ****Four stars for The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee

    See last week book review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

    Like the author, I am often intrigued to learn the backstory and family history of people who kill. Why do they kill and what skeletons in their closet could possibly cause such violence. Fowler creates a remarkable novel of both facts and fiction about the family of the infamous John Wilkes Booth. Here is my book review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

    The Booth Family

    You are half way through this novel before John Wilkes Booth is even born. Though he will be a character in this book, the real story is much, much broader. Fowler looks at the instability of patriarch Junious Brutus Booth, the sad and sorrowful life of Mary his wife and their ten children.

    The story, though told from the view point of most of the individual family members, is notably narrated by eldest sister of Wilkes, Rosemary or Rose. Surprisingly, Fowler has the least amount of information to draw from in history about Rose. So most of the details about her invalid and spinster life is fictional. But as the eldest sister, she makes a perfect guide to chronicle her unique and tragic family.

    Family Ties

    If John Wilkes Booth was crazy, he came by it through his mercurial father. The siblings often in competition, both feared and loved their father, who was absent for long periods due to his life as a Shakespearean actor. Three of the brothers; Junius, Edwin and John would all become actors with Edwin being considered one of the premier actors of the era.

    The trials and tribulations of this family make a great story, long before anyone shoots Lincoln. Extreme poverty to wealth and prosperity are combined with unfathomable loss of of children and property, alcoholism and rivalry, illegitimate accusations, polygamy, egos and family love and regret. It’s all there to taunt the remaining family after Wilkes pulls the trigger.

    This is a fantastic novel about characters lost in history due to the vitriol that surrounds the most famous of them. Thank you for reading my book review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

    *****Five stars for Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

    Read last week’s book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Horse by Geraldine Brooks

    Yes this book is about a horse. In fact a real historical horse. But it is about so very much more. At the heart of this book, it is a story about racism in America past and present. I really loved it. Here is my book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks.

    Personally I am not a horse person, and the horse portrayed in this book called Lexington is not an animal I was familiar with. But if you are a horse person you might be aware of the historical lineage of Lexington. That in itself was a fascinating part of this book, but not the most fascinating to me.

    This beautiful novel follows three different storylines all connected to the Horse. First we meet Jarret in 1850 Kentucky. A Negro slave who becomes the groom to a bay foal. This relationship will form the base of the novel and follow Lexington and Jarrett and their owners through record-setting races, unimaginable profits and into the US Civil War.

    Next we meet Martha Jackson a New York City art gallery owner whose mother was an accomplished equestrian but died after a mishap on a horse. Martha becomes enamored with a painting that seems so familiar and yet how could it be?

    Finally, Washington DC 2019. Pre-pandemic and we meet Nigerian born Theo an art historian and Jess an Australian born scientist at the Smithsonian. Jess and Theo are unexpectedly thrown together when Theo finds a piece of artwork in a rubbish pile.

    I really enjoyed Brooks’ ability to connect multiple story lines to Horse – Lexington – both through amazing historical research as well as brilliant fictional development to build the plot. Throughout the book you will find both real life historical figures entwined with fictional ones, both human and equine.

    Using a thoroughbred horse to teach us lessons in racism is a brilliant play by Geraldine Brooks. I loved it. And learned a lot. Thank you for reading my book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks.

    *****Five stars for Horse by Geraldine Brooks

    Read last week’s book review Bewilderment by Richard Powers here https://myfabfiftieslife.com/book-review-bewilderment-by-richard-powers/

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Bewilderment by Richard Powers

    My first time reading Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Powers. His latest novel was definitely bewildering. Here is my book review Bewilderment by Richard Powers.

    Astrobiologist Theo is raising his unusual son Robin alone, after the somewhat mysterious death of his activist and biologist wife. The near future world they inhabit is a complex planet suffering from devastating climate change, ecological demise, and a tyrannical and egotistical President. Hmmm. Where have we heard this before?

    Robin is a troubled but talented boy, trying to understand the death of his mother, while worrying incessantly about the expiring planet. Theo decides to enroll Robin in an experimental treatment to help the angry child. The treatment is neurofeedback using corded memory patterns from his dead mother.

    The treatment turns Robin around, and in fact brings out his artistic and intellectual genius. Until the spiraling world means budget cuts and Robin no longer can receive the treatment. The boy begins to slip.

    This story has multiple themes of love and commitment, both to family and the planet and how choices and ignorance can kill not just the earth, but families, futures and everything we take for granted.

    It was truly bewildering. Thanks for reading my book review Bewilderment by Richard Powers.

    See last week’s book review French Braid by Anne Tyler.

    ****Four stars for Bewilderment.

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