A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet 224 pages

Evie, the narrator of A Children’s Bible, her younger brother, Jack, and her parents have rented a large house for the summer on the east coast along with a number of other families. The parents spend their days drinking, using drugs and having sex, so their children look upon them with disdain and learn to spend their time without parental supervision. When a huge storm hits their vacation home as well as much of the eastern United States, the children run away to what they hope is safety.

A Children’s Bible is a small book with a big wallop. It is tense, exciting, frightening, timely, full of symbolism with lots of ideas to discuss. Evie is a great main character-complex, caring and wise beyond her years. This is the first book by Lydia Millet that I have read, but it certainly won’t be the last.

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet 224 pages

Eleanor by David Michaelis 536 pages

Michaelis’s thorough, well-documented biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, follows one of the most lauded women in American history from her birth to her funeral. Although he touches on a few of her regrettable choices, most of Eleanore tells the history of a woman who had her share of sorrows, but still became a forceful, energetic voice for the voiceless. What I found most interesting was how Eleanore Roosevelt evolved from a sheltered upper class WASP into a champion for all minorities.

Eleanor by David Michaelis 536 pages

A Promised Land by Barack Obama 701 pages

Most of this hefty book is about Obama’s first three years as President and his campaign to get there. Approximately the first hundred pages sets the stage for Obama’s decision to run-his childhood, his marriage and his political career up to 2008, but the remainder of the memoir describes in detail how difficult and exhausting it is to run for and then actually be the President of The United States.

I am not a political animal, but I found A Promised Land fascinating. For instance, Obama’s description of what happens to get certain legislation passed-who is helpful, who is a hindrance, and the give and take that is involved helped me understand why certain acts take so long. Also, I admire Obama’s honesty about his flaws as well as many of the people he worked with.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama 701 pages

The Searcher by Tana French 451 pages

Cal Hooper is a retired Chicago policeman divorced with a daughter who lives in Seattle. He is looking forward to some peace and quiet when he buys a run down house in rural Ireland. He is content renovating his new home until a thirteen year old named Trey appears. Knowing that he was a cop, Trey Reddy asks for Cal’s help searching for an older brother who has not been seen for seven months. Searching for Brendan Reddy, Cal’s peaceful life suddenly becomes challenging and dangerous.

Tana French writes mysteries. However, The Searcher, did not feel like a mystery to me. It was a character study of Cal, his relation to Trey and the feel of life in an Irish village. The Searcher is an enjoyable read but not an engrossing page turner.

The Searcher by Tana French 451 pages

Memorial by Bryan Washington 302 pages

Benson and Mike are partners, but both are unsure of where their relationship is heading. Benson is Black, was born and raised in Houston and works at a day care center. Mike is from Japan, moved to Houston with his parents when he was a boy and works as a short order cook. At the same time that Mike’s mother travels from Tokyo to visit her son (she moved back to Japan after she and Mike’s father divorced), Mike leaves for Osaka to care for his dying father. Benson and Mike’s mother must learn how to live together while Mike is helping a father he never felt he really knew.

I was looking forward to reading Memorial but was disappointed when I finished it. There was a lot unspoken in its dialogue. I felt I had to work too hard trying to figure out what was unstated, and as I got further into the novel, I really didn’t care.

Memorial by Bryan Washington 302 pages

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste 424 pages

It is 1935 and Mussolini’s army is in Ethiopia ready to capture the country. Carlo Fucelli’s troops are fighting a battle they thought they would easily win. However, the natives, led by Kidane are giving their enemy a run for their money. Especially vigilant and brave are Aster, Kidane’s wife, and Hirut, Aster’s female servant. When Aster and Hirut are captured and thrown into an Italian prison, Ettore Navarro, Fucelli’s official photographer, finds he is drawn to Hirut and her suffering.

Short-listed this year for The Man Booker Prize, The Shadow King is an historical novel which describes a time and place I knew nothing about. Mengiste does a fine job of describing Ethiopia and its people, although it is a bit confusing at first and takes a while to become immersed in the war and the characters.

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste 424 pages

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante 322 pages

The author of My Brilliant Friend once again writes a novel mostly taking place in Naples with a young girl as narrator. Giovanna’s father has always told her she is beautiful. Yet, one day she overhears him tell her mother that she is ugly and reminds him of his much hated sister, Vittoria. This shocking disclosure changes Giovanna’s life. She becomes suspicious of everyone, especially her parents, does poorly in school, and is enamored with her aunt, Vittoria. Throughout the novel, she encounters people who are lying, especially adults, but sometimes even Giovanna herself.

Written in the same style as the Neapolitan quartet, Ferrante once again displays her knack for getting into the heart and mind of a young girl. Fans of Ferrante’s other works, will not be disappointed in The Lying Life of Adults.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante 322 pages

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart 430 pages

Stuart’s debut novel is short -listed for both The Booker Prize and The National Book Award, and rightly so. Throughout most of the story, Shuggie(nickname for Hugh) is a nine year old boy living in public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. His father has remarried and never visits Shuggie. His mother is an alcoholic. His older sister, desperate to leave their mercurial, conniving mother, marries and moves to South Africa. His older brother lives with Shuggie and their mom, but works all day, comes home, closes his bedroom door, and ignores his mother’s behavior. Shuggie is an outsider at school and in the neighborhood. He only has his unreliable, selfish, vain mother to comfort him.

Yes, Shuggie Bain is heart breaking, but much like A Little Life it is wonderfully written with a realistically drawn tragic main character.

P.S. Don’t be put off by the Scottish dialect, it becomes easy to understand after a few chapters and adds to the writing.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart 430 pages

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter 352 pages

The Dolan brothers, Gig and Ry (Gregory and Ryan), have reunited in Spokane, Washington. Gig is a part-time hobo, riding freight cars and picking up odd jobs whenever he can. Ry is sixteen, took care of his mother until her death, and then went in search for Gig, his only family member still alive. In Spokane the brothers become involved with a colorful cast of characters including, Ursula the Great, a vaudeville actress who performs with a cougar, Reston Early, a man with many names and faces, Lem Brand who pretty much runs Spokane, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a nineteen year old pregnant girl who crosses the country demanding free speech and other rights to union workers.

The Cold Millions is one of the best works of fiction I have read in awhile. It combines historical fiction with vivid, interesting, empathetic characters and a plot with several twists and turns. However, if you are the type of reader who needs to get involved in a novel from page one, The Cold Millions probably isn’t for you. It took a few chapters for The Cold Millions to grab me. For me it was well worth the wait.

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter 352 pages

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam 241 pages

Amanda and Clay are looking forward to leaving Brooklyn for a weeks vacation with their two children. They have rented a lovely home in rural New York. Imagine their surprise when owners Ruth and GH Washington show up from Manhattan asking if they can spend the night because there has been a huge power outage in the city. Clay and Amanda are skeptical and suspicious of these two until they experience a noise that is louder and eerier than anything they have ever heard.

Leave the World Behind is the buzz book of the month. It is a well-organized page turner that leaves its readers with much to think about, especially now during the pandemic.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam 241 pages