Say Say Say by Lila Savage 161 pages

Ella is a young woman living in Minneapolis who has delayed graduate school to become a caregiver.  Her most recent job involves helping  Jill, a woman in her 60’s who was in an accident that left her brain damaged.  Jill cannot take care of herself and although she can speak, what comes out of her mouth makes no sense.  Jill’s husband, Bryn, is wonderful-patient and loving, but he needs a break sometimes and that is why he hires Ella.  Say Say Say is Ella’s perception of her life with Jill and Bryn with many digressions into her own life and loves.

Say Say Say is the kind of book I will forgot I had read a year from now.  It’s not a bad novel, it just didn’t have enough depth or character development to grab me.

 

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Say Say Say by Lila Savage 161 pages

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 255 pages

Every summer I pick a classic to read, and this year it’s Madame Bovary.  Emma’s hand in marriage has been given to Charles Bovary, a doctor, a widower and a naive man who is madly in love with her.  For her, each year her marriage to Charles becomes more intolerable.  Two affairs and living way above her means doesn’t alleviate her unhappiness.

When Madame Bovary was published in France in 1857, it was scandalous and Emma Bovary was considered a fiend.  However, judging her today one might think about how awful it was for her to be forced into a marriage with a man she hardly knew.  Several times I have been disappointed in a well-known, much lauded classic.  Not this time-Madame Bovary is a good read with well defined characters and interesting topics to think about.

 

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 255 pages

Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram by Isha Sesay 400 pages

On April 14, 2014, 276 adolescent schoolgirls were abducted from their school in Nigeria.  After watching their school buildings burn to the ground, they were forced to walk or ride in airless convoys to a very remote area of Nigeria.  The kidnappers were a part of a militant Islamic group who called themselves Boko Haram.  One of the group’s tenets is a firm belief that women should not be educated, rather they should marry young, bear children and carry out household duties.  Some of the girls converted to Islam and married their captors hoping to receive better treatment.  The majority of the girls refused.  A few were able to escape and return to their families.  Here is their story with special attention given to four of the kidnapped girls.

Beneath the Tamarind Tree is a heart-breaking read.  Throughout one can see how the author identifies with these girls and finds their behavior heroic.

Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram by Isha Sesay 400 pages

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson 386 pages

Kate Atkinson is back with another Jackson Brodie book.  This time Jackson, one time policeman, now part-time private investigator, has semi-retired to small seaside village in England.  He is hired to follow a cheating husband by the man’s wife.  While working on the case and taking care of his adolescent son and his ex girlfriend’s dog, he comes across far nastier crimes than a case of infidelity.  In pursuit of justice, Brodie encounters a cast of quirky characters and gets involved in a plot that has many twists and turns.

I thoroughly enjoyed Case Histories, Atkinson’s first Jackson Brodie novel.  In Big Sky she once again writes a clever mystery with some endearing, humorous characters, and on top of the list is Brodie.  However, if you’re looking for a realistic, violent who-done-it with a shocking ending,  Big Sky is not for you

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson 386 pages

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo 544 pages

Claire Lombardo’s debut novel is a family saga centering on the Sorensons.    Marilyn and David marry in their early 20’s, and while David begins medical school at The University of Iowa, Marilyn gives birth to the first of their four daughters.  They are loving, doting parents, yet somehow each of the daughters experience their own set of problems.  Wendy, the oldest, lost a husband and an unborn daughter, and seeks comfort drinking and picking up younger men.  Violet strives to be the perfect mother and wife, and the reader eventually discovers why.  Liza discovers she is pregnant while living with a man who is clinically depressed and Grace lies to her family, feels terrible about it, but can’t bring herself to tell them the truth.

If The Most Fun We Ever Had sounds like a soap opera, it’s because it is.  However, for me it was the right book to begin the summer with-easy to get into, good character development, a fast moving plot, and a lot of Chicago streets and landmarks that I recognized.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo 544 pages

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 242 pages

This beautifully written book is difficult to describe.  The text is a letter that the main character, who we know only by his nickname, Little Dog, writes to his mother, Rose, who will never be able to read it.  Little Dog, his mother, and his grandmother Lan move from Viet Nam to Hartford, Connecticut.  In both locations they experience violence, evil and bigotry.  Through Little Dog’s retelling of his life in bits and pieces, we learn much about him and the people he cares about.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is not an easy read.  It goes back and forth in time often.  Some of the novel is written as stream of conscious, and some of the scenes Vuong describes are horrifically graphic.  However, there are many sentences throughout this debut novel that are “gorgeously” quotable and thought-provoking.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 242 pages

Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah 275 pages

Amber Scorah is a third generation Jehovah’s Witness.  For about thirty years she followed all of their strict rules, went door to door warning people about Armageddon, and even became an undercover missionary in China.  However, when she spoke to some acquaintances she met in Shanghai about other religions and communicating with people over the internet, she began to question the doctrines of her faith.  Scorah eventually left the church which resulted in her never seeing her husband or other family members again.

If you found Educated a fascinating memoir, you probably will enjoy Leaving the Witness.  Amber Scorah writes a good story, and I liked learning what Jehovah Witnesses are all about.

Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah 275 pages