Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shriver
Published: July 2006
Summary: This is the story told from the perspective of Eva as she explores motherhood and marriage all set against the landscape of her son’s horrific role in a school massacre.
Why I Am Recommending: I was terrified to read this book, which I did due to a graduate class assignment. Although I found this to be a dark novel, it was an interesting dive into the deepest and darkest parts of a person’s psyche. It felt like you were inside of Eva’s head just as if you were in your own with no filter for what is right or wrong. Eva’s doubts and relationship challenges are ones that any person can understand. It is also an interesting study on the way a person who commits a mass murder may have developed. I don’t know that I spent much time considering the childhood and life of a person before they commit the heinous act, but it was fascinating. This book is not for the feint of heart, so proceed with caution, but know that it is an exceptionally well-written and developed story.
The Age of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Published: June 2012
Summary: Julia is an 11-year-old navigating adolescence in suburban California. What makes Julia’s story unique, is that she is coming of age in a time when it is discovered that the world’s spinning has slowed. This novel follows Julia as she negotiates growing up and the ever-changing world in which she is living.
Why I Am Recommending: I love a child’s voice in a novel. I like to see the world through their eyes. That perspective is made even more interesting as Julia experiences the impact of the slowing earth in addition to her take on other, more traditional rights of passage. Julia is a very likable character with whom I could easily connect with my younger self. I also found the slowing of the earth to be very realistic and therefore scary. I still don’t feel quite right about extra hot days or warm days in the winter because of this book. I thought this was a very thoughtful book and I loved the way the book ended.
Title: The House on Mango Street
Author: Sandra Cisneros
Summary: This is a coming-of-age story about Esperanza Cordero who is a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago trying to make sense of the world around her. Told in short vignettes, the short chapters capture the child-like innocence in a heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking way.
Why I Am Recommending: Ugh, this book is so beautiful. I have read it multiple times and am in awe of Cisneros’s story telling and beautiful writing every time. I want to read every word of every chapter out loud to whoever is in the room with me because I want someone else to experience her story telling and beautiful words. Esperanza is such a great character and she is figuring out all of things she sees around her, but does so without filter and with the pureness of childhood. It is so spot on to a child’s voice you will forget this is a book and get fully immersed in Esperanza’s life. If you have not read this book, it is a must! P.S. It is a very, very short book!
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: April 2011
Summary: Lincoln’s new job is to monitor the emails of the company’s employees to look for any threats. In the process, he finds himself more than monitoring, but rather reading the correspondence between two employees. He becomes invested in their lives, and develops feelings for one of them.
Why I Am Recommending: The concept of this story is admittedly creepy, but Lincoln becomes so endeared to you that you bypass his stalking tendencies and start rooting for him. Rainbow Rowell is so good at writing sweet love stories full of substantive emotions and authentic portrayals. The format of the book is unique and although it took me a while to remember which storyline went with which sender, I came to find it a quick and effective way to propel the story forward. Although selecting a favorite Rainbow Rowell is like choosing a favorite child, I would say this one is definitely a contender. Enjoy!
Title: The House at Riverton
Author: Kate Morton
Published: June 2007
Summary: This story is told in flashbacks as Grace explains her life as a servant in an aristocratic home to a movie director who wants to make a movie about Grace’s life. Grace worked as a servant for the Hartford’s since she was a kid. Having grown up with the family her life naturally becomes entwined in their life, but when a young poet shoots himself at one of their parties, Grace is pulled deeper and deeper into that family’s secrets.
Why I Am Recommending: If you mourn the loss of Downton Abbey, this may help serve as salve to your wound. Although this book is a commitment (nearly 500 pages), it never felt long to me as I was enjoying the twists and turns of the story. Partially a mystery, it will keep you hanging on to the very end. Morton writes beautifully and I have added her other novels to my TBR list. This is a slam dunk for any Downton fans.