A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende 311 pages

Part family saga and part historical fiction, Isabel Allende’s latest work of fiction is the story of Victor Dalmau, his friends and his family.  The novel begins in 1938 in Catalonia, Spain.  Victor, although not yet a doctor, is working at an overcrowded understaffed hospital.   When Franco takes over the country, Victor must leave Spain for France where he meets up with Roser who is pregnant with his deceased brother’s child.  As the Germans take over France, Victor and Roser marry, so they can leave together on a boat to Chile.  Victor and Roser’s life of peril does not end in Chile.  They experience the cruel dictatorship of Pinochet, and escape to Venezuela.

I like interesting works of fiction where I learn something.  I know very little about South American politics, but I learned much about Chile’s fairly recent history from reading A Long Petal of the Sea.  I was disappointed in Allende’s last novel, In the Midst of Winter, but this one is a winner.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende 311 pages

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The novel opens with Lydia and her eight year old son, Luca, hiding in the shower stall of his grandmother’s home in Acapulco while sixteen members of their family are murdered by the local cartel.  From that moment until the final pages of American Dirt, the two are on the run from this cartel, hoping to reach el norte( The United States) safely.  Their journey is at times horrifying, often dangerous, but Lydia and Luca also meet some warm, caring people along the way.

American Dirt is a timely page turner.  Cummins has written on an important topic with sympathetic characters and a well-planned plot.  I can’t imagine anyone NOT finding American Dirt a worthwhile read.

 

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers 631 pages

Delia Daley and David Strom meet on Easter day 1939.  They are at the Washington Mall to hear Marion Anderson sing in front of The Lincoln Memorial.  David is a physicist and a professor at Columbia U.  He is Jewish, has recently escaped Nazi Germany and has heard nothing about the rest of his family.  Delia is black, a singer with a beautiful voice, and the daughter of a dedicated, very intelligent doctor.  They marry, naively believing they can navigate the troubles they will encounter.  They have three children-Jonah, Joseph and Ruth, and while music is important to all three children, that is where their similarities end.

If you appreciated The Overstory, you will want to read In the Time of Our Singing.  Written by Powers fifteen years before The Overstory, it is just as profound, long, difficult, inspiring and rewarding.

The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers 631 pages

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 305 pages

Alix Chamberlain has employed Emira Tucker to babysit  her two year old daughter three days a week.  Alix is thirty something, Caucasian,has started a successful company and just snagged a book deal with Harper Collins.  Emira is Black, a college graduate with no money who is not sure what she wants to do with her life.  When Emira is falsely accused by a security guard of kidnapping Alix’s daughter, she meets Kelley Copeland who tries to help her with this difficult situation.  Coincidentally, Kelley dated and broke up with Alix when they were in high school together.

Yes, when I began reading Such a Fun Age, I thought it was going to be a soap opera-like novel with obvious racial problems.  However, the more I read and thought about Kiley Reid’s debut novel, the more I realized it is a complex work with a number of timely issues.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 305 pages

Long Bright River by Liz Moore 496 pages

Mickey and Kacey Fitzgerald are sisters who grew up together but that is where the similarity ends.  Mickey is a policewoman in Philadelphia raising a young son; Kacey is an addict who has been living on the streets for years.  When Mickey discovers a woman murdered on her beat, she has the shocking feeling that her sister might be the next victim.  While Mickey searches the crime-ridden neighborhoods of Philadelphia for her younger sister to alert her,  her mind keeps going back to the past and how Kacey played a major role in it.

Long Bright River is a good read.  Moore vividly portrays the seamy areas of Philadelphia, and she creates a page turner where the reader wants to discover the killer and what happens to Kacey.  Long Bright River would be a fine choice to take on a long plane ride.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore 496 pages

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger 444 pages

It is the summer of 1932 and Odie O’Banion,  the novel’s narrator, is an orphan living at The Lincoln Indian Training School in Minnesota with his brother Albert.  The institution is a horrible place ruled by Thelma Brickman, the Black Witch.  When Odie commits a terrible crime, he is forced to leave the school, and for a variety of reasons, he takes with him his brother, a mute Native American named Mose, and Emmy, a precocious six year old.  As the four vagabonds travel down the Gilead River in a canoe, they experience danger, adventure and a look at how many Americans lived during The Great Depression.  This Tender Land is a tale about survival, freedom and what constitutes a family.

I enjoyed this novel and was eager to find out what happened to the four vagabonds.  This Tender Land is a good read but in the end, there is nothing to think about or discuss.

 

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger 444 pages

The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between by Stephanie Burnick, Liel Leibovitz and Mark Oppenheimer

Informative, laugh-out-loud funny with just the right amount of text and pictures, this is the perfect Hanukkah (that’s the way Butnickm Leibovitz and Oppenheimer spell it), gift.  Everything you want to know or ever thought about that relates to Judaism in anyway, shape or form is humorously, but factually, portrayed in this fabulous book.

The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between by Stephanie Burnick, Liel Leibovitz and Mark Oppenheimer