Horse by Geraldine Brooks 393 pages

Brooks’s newest work of historical fiction centers on the racing horse, Lexington, and several famous paintings of him. She divides Horse into three eras. Kentucky and New Orleans in the 1850’s occupy the largest portion of the novel and describes Lexington, his trainer, Jarret, Thomas Scott, the artist who painted him, and the races and hardships the horse endured. The second era, the shortest of the three, takes place in 1954 and revolves around a New York art dealer and Scott’s painting. The final section is present day and involves an art student who finds the painting on a neighbor’s curb in Washington DC.

Once again Geraldine Brooks has written a multi-layered book of historical fiction. While not her best, Horse is still a good read, especially if you are a horse lover.

Horse by Geraldine Brooks 393 pages

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz 474 pages

Harrison, Lewyn and Sally Oppenheimer are triplets who are a result of in vitro fertilization. They have little in common with the exception of their parents and the same last name, and they are not very fond of each other. When they are about to leave home for college, their mother becomes frightened at the thought of being an empty nester. She decides, without the support of her husband, to take the leftover embryo that has been frozen for seventeen years, find a surrogate mother, and have a fourth child.

This is a perfect summer read. The Latecomer is a great family saga with relatable characters and a plot that urges one to keep on reading.

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz 474 pages

Trust by Hernan Diaz 402 pages

There are four chapters in Trust, each with a different point of view about what occurs in New York before, during an after the crash of 1929. The first chapter is a novel by Harold Vanner. The second section are notes for Andrew Bevel’s memoir. Bevel is an aloof, almost anti-social millionaire. The third is his secretary’s descriptions of her relationship with Bevel and her father. And finally, the diary Mildred, Bevel’s wife, kept while she was dying.

For readers who feel it is important to become involved with a novel right away, do not read Trust. It is confusing up until chapter three. Also, there are a number paragraphs describing the way Bevel made money during the stock market crash that either I didn’t understand or found boring. It is cleverly constructed but that is about all I found entertaining about Trust.

Trust by Hernan Diaz 402 pages

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris 358 pages

Just after the end of The Civil War, ex slaves and brothers Landry and Prentiss are trying to survive in the woods near the Walker’s home. George and Isabelle Walker( who are white) hire them to help start a crop of peanuts, much to the dismay of most of the white residents living in Old Ox, Georgia. When Landry, who cannot or does not speak, observes an illegal act between two white men, the consequences for the brothers and the Walkers are violent and harrowing.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Sweetness of Water for several reasons. Harris is an excellent writer; many of his descriptions are vivid and sensual. George, Isabelle and Prentiss are well-drawn characters as are some of the lesser characters. The plot is well-paced and unpredictable. Also, it was nice to read a book written by a Black man where all the Southerners were not portrayed as evil racists.

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris 358 pages

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt 353 pages

There are three main characters in Van Pelt’s debut novel. Tova Sullivan works the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium. She is about 70 years old, widowed and lost her only child to what she believes is a boating accident. Cameron Cassmore is a 30 year old ne’er do well who comes to Sowell Bay searching for a father he never knew. Marcellus is a four year old octopus at the aquarium who know his days are numbered. How these three characters relate, understand and ultimately love and appreciate each other is the crux of Remarkably Bright Creatures.

This is a nice feel good novel that’s also an easy read. It’s a bit too sweet and predictable for me, but for some it may be the perfect summer read.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt 353 pages

Bad Blood: Secrets and lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyou 299 pages

John Carreyou, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, describes in Bad Blood the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos. After dropping out of Stanford, she convinced a number of bright, wealthy, influential men to invest millions of dollars in her company. She professed that Theranos would be able to run all sorts of laboratory tests on a patient with just a finger prick of blood. However, what Holmes told her investors and the world, was far from true.

I saw the miniseries The Dropout and became fascinated yet appalled by Holmes. How did she think she could get away with all the lies she told? Did she believe her lies? How could she feel no remorse about what she was doing to her investors and the patients who believed the erroneous test results Theranos gave them? While Bad Blood didn’t give me a clear understanding of Elizabeth Holmes’s psychological make up, it is an intriguing story illustrating how fame, wealth and greed can go haywire.

Bad Blood: Secrets and lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyou 299 pages

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott 525 pages

Elliott’s reporting covers eight years in the life of Dasani, the oldest of eight children living with her mother, Chanel, her step-father, Supreme and her seven siblings. We first meet the family when Dasani is eleven. They are all living in a run-down homeless shelter in Brooklyn. Chanel and Supreme are plagued with addiction, poverty and homelessness. However, Dasani is bright, athletic and charismatic and has several opportunities to better herself and her living conditions. Yet in order to do this she must sever the strong ties she has with her family.

Invisible Child is a remarkable piece of nonfiction. Andrea Elliott has presented her readers with an extraordinary but ordinary family who cannot break the cycle of poverty, partly because of their own flaws and partly because of a flawed system.

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott 525 pages

The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin 273 pages

An oldie but goodie by Colm Toibin. The Blackwater Lightship takes place in Ireland in the 1990’s. Helen, her mother, Lily, and her grandmother, Dora, are in Dora’s home nursing Helen’s brother, Declan who is dying from AIDS. They have just learned of his situation from his friends Larry and Paul who have been helping Declan since the onset of his illness. As the six characters live together in Dora’s tiny house we learn about their histories and personalities.

Yes, The Blackwater Lightship is depressing and yes, only a few things are resolved at the end the novel, but Toibin is such a fine writer, that, for me, they don’t matter. This rather short work touches on many issues in such a creative, complex and compassionate way.

The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin 273 pages

Violeta by Isabel Allende 317 pages

Violeta, the Chilean narrator, is a hundred years old. She is relating her life to Camilo, her grandson, at the end of her life. Violeta’s life spans two pandemics. She has lovers, husbands, two children and a loyal extended family. Her history parallels the history of the world-wars, politics and natural disasters. Violeta is the tale of an independent, strong-willed woman who refuses to let traumas and crisis stop her from living a very full life.

Isabel Allende’s books are always entertaining, but Violeta is not one of her best. I found the main character unbelievable and the structure of the novel (Violeta telling her life story) sometimes awkward and stilted.

Violeta by Isabel Allende 317 pages

Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard 344 pages

Colleen Hubbard’s debut novel is the story of Del, a young woman from a small town in New England who thought her past was no longer a part of her life. However, when she learns that her greedy cousins want to put a housing development of the land her deceased parents had left her, she decides to disassemble her childhood home piece by piece. In three months, almost single-handedly during a harsh winter, she moves every inch of the house to a new location.

This description of Housebreaking sounds tedious, but trust me, it’s not. The novel has tension-will Del meet the deadline her cousins have set and will she receive the money the cousins promised her. It also has well-drawn characters with Del, a quirky, defiant, strong-willed young woman in every scene.

Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard 344 pages