February Reads

Lucky Boy, by Shanthi Sekaran. It’s hard to offer a plot summary without giving too much away. In the broadest terms, the story is about two mothers and less about the (lucky) boy they both fiercely love. Soli, an undocumented teenage girl from Mexico, gives birth after she is in the United States. Kavya wants desperately to be a mother but has been unable to get pregnant. When Soli is detained by immigration officials, her son, Ignacio, is placed in foster care with Kavya and her husband. The story is incredibly timely, and it is heartbreaking. The characters are so well-developed, and I would guess that whatever ideas you might have about the situation hypothetically, you would be hard-pressed to choose a “right” side. The story–all too real–was such a good one. Highly recommended.

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. This would easily make my (as-yet-still-hypothetical) top 5 books of all time list (I really will give it some thought and come up with an actual list). The story begins with half sisters in Ghana (who don’t know each other) in the eighteenth century. One sister is married to a white British general and lives in the “castle.” The other sister is brutally held in the dungeon of the same castle before being sold into slavery in America. The novel then proceeds to alternate between Ghana and the United States, with one chapter telling the story of each subsequent generation (seven generations, fourteen stories in all). Each chapter was as rich as a full novel. Some of the stories are devastating (I have never cried so hard reading a book as I did over one of the chapters), and all of them left me with a strange mix of wanting to know more but also eager to see what story the next generation would hold. Beautifully written, this debut (!) novel took my breath away.

The Seven Good Years, by Etgar Keret. I kept this one on my list though I couldn’t remember why. In the end I’m glad I did. It made me think, made me laugh out loud in a couple of places, and made me curious to seek out more of Keret’s writing. I don’t know that I would press this book into your hands as a must-read, but it is a solid and enjoyable memoir.

The Wangs vs. the World, by Jade Chang. Yeah, I should probably count this as DNF. If I do say I read it, I’m using the word “read” very generously–even “skimmed” might be pushing it. I could probably fake my way through a class discussion but not an essay test on the book. This wasn’t the book for me. Not my humor, didn’t like any of the characters, was bored by most of the storylines.

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield. I read this for book club and had such mixed feelings about it. On the one hand there were some parts where the subject matter probably would have been a deal breaker for me and another section where the far-fetched-ness of the story would have been another exit point. On the other hand, though, there were times I was so caught up in the story that I didn’t want to put it down and was glad that I pushed through after all. Overall, I would say I liked it, didn’t love it. I won’t rave about it, but I also won’t rant about it. How’s that? We haven’t met for book club yet, and I’ll be interested to hear what the others thought of it.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese (narrated by Sunil Malhotra). So good. So, so good. This novel has all the epic sweep and complicated family relationships that I love without being over the top. The medical descriptions were often vivid (and I’m guessing they will stick with me a long time). I listened to this as an audio book, and there were a couple times I was driving and almost had to pull over because I was squirming so much. I would recommend this one without reservation for the storyline, but if you’re squeamish, you might want to pick up the paper copy so you can skim. Ha.

This month I abandoned several books. I can think of three, but it seems like there were more. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, I had to return to the library because I ran out of time, and there were holds on it. I might return to it. I read the first chapter of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West, and then texted a friend who had just finished it to see if the whole book was more of the same. I think I’ll pass–it’s one of those it’s-not-you-it’s-me situations. I could probably make it through, but with literally sixty books on my current to-read list, I just wasn’t that into it. And same with Mosquitoland, by David Arnold. I listened to the audiobook version for a chapter or so and then checked out some reviews to feel out if I wanted to continue. When several reviews said, “Good if you like John Green,” I decided to be done.