I am proud to say that 2010 was truly a great year of reading for me. One of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to get back into the groove of reading and I really felt that I did that and found a fun new feature to incorporate into our site. It not only has offered an avenue for me to promote reading on MomAdvice, it also inspired me to start volunteering and sharing my love of reading with others.
This year I began reading to two children in my son’s elementary school and it has been one of my biggest blessings this year. Each week I get to select fun new reads for each of the children and come to read to them weekly and share my passion for reading with them. I have seen within them such growth a new appreciation for literature that I can not begin to tell you what a privilege it has been to have them in my life. Perhaps this year, you can find a new way to share reading with others. Start a book club, read to a child in your community, start a book club with your spouse or children, embrace a new series…the possibilities are just endless!
If you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!
Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of the month here. If you want to read more, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! My username is momadvice and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.
Today I wanted to share with you my top ten reads of 2010 that you could add to your book basket this year! I read sixty-four books (in total) for the year so it was very difficult to narrow it down to ten of the best. That being said, I decided to add a few honorable mentions that almost made the cut!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
This book was one of the most unbelievably beautiful, heart-wrenching, unexpectedly laugh-out-loud funny in portions, make me weep in others, and heartwarming books that I have read in my life. I had never read or heard of the book before, but am trying to tackle some literary classics this year and this book was the most beautiful coming-of-age story that I have ever read. I can’t believe that I am 32 years old and just now reading it and discovering what a beautiful book this is.
The book is about Mary Frances Nolan (also known as Francie) and shares the story of her life from the tender age of eleven until she turns sixteen. Growing up as a poor girl in Brooklyn, it shares the story of the survival that they must go through to keep food on the table and the difficulties of family life when ends just don’t meet. With a mother who is doing the best she can to keep their family afloat and an unreliable, but loving father who works as a singing waiter and takes to drinking at night to cope with the realities of his life, the family lives in a tiny flat in Brooklyn where they try to make the most on the very least.
Francie is forced to be older than she is from the very beginning of her life. Often saddled with the task of bartering at the grocery store, figuring out a way to get into a better school so she can get her education, and made to get jobs to help with the family finances or assist her mother on jobs, you can’t help but admire Francie’s resourcefulness throughout the book.
The Christmas scenes, the things that the children treasured the most,
the tin can filling with pennies of earnings that would later feed them, the diary entries carefully edited because of her mother who didn’t want Francie writing about her father’s alcoholism, the impractical gifts that the children gave to each other (and their mother let them) only to discover their mother was right, those feelings of first love- all beautifully captured in prose that held me and wouldn’t let me go.
While I can’t say that there is a definite plot to the story, the book is told almost in short story format sharing the daily trials and tribulations of growing up in a poor family, it really did not need a focused plot because the writing was so beautiful.
I would say that it mainly focused on the self-discovery that Francie makes about herself and about her parents as she becomes more aware of what is happening around her and as the responsibilities later shift to Francie’s shoulders when she struggles with wanting to be an adult and support the family, but also desires to get an education.
No words can describe what a treasure this book is to read. Despite being written so long ago, the themes are still so current- the need to keep up with one’s reputation, the importance of hard work and honesty in life, the discovery that money isn’t everything, but that it does make it easier when you don’t have to focus on it, and the importance of loyalty to your family.
If you haven’t read this one, add it to your pile today!
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
You know when you read a book and you have a strong desire to tell everyone that they must read it? Well, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is that book for me. The book is an endearing story about Henry Lee, a Chinese American living in Seattle, who has just lost his wife to cancer. After he hears that the belongings of Japanese immigrants were found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, the book begins a journey through his life currently and flashing back to his childhood where an unlikely friendship began with a Japanese girl named Keiko that has carried with him through his adulthood.
Henry Lee’s father desires for him to have the “American dream,” and he receives a scholarship to attend an all-white private school where he can get the education he needs to succeed in America. The other students taunt him mercilessly and his only reprieve from the taunting is when he is serving food in the cafeteria. While serving the food, he finds the only other student of minority, a beautiful girl named Keiko, and they develop a fast friendship. Unfortunately, Henry’s father wants nothing to do with the Japanese and his growing love for Keiko has to be kept a secret.
When Keiko is shuffled over to a camp, to protect the Japanese from the anti-Japanese sentiments during WWII, Henry knows that he must find a way to go to her and to be with her. Through the help of the lady on staff in the cafeteria, he scores a position working on Saturdays where he can see and be with Keiko. Their friendship and love grow through their letters and Saturdays together and Henry is forced to choose between his family or the girl that he loves.
There is so much color in this novel and the twists are beautifully written. I found myself cheering for Henry as he stands up to the bullies in his life and to his parents, and also feeling misty-eyed as this unexpected relationship takes place.
I don’t want to give away anymore of the plot than is necessary because this book is so worth reading and experiencing for yourself. While some may argue that it isn’t always historically accurate or that the switching back and forth between present and past is choppy, the story is so beautiful that it will have you overlooking those technicalities and rooting for Henry & Keiko the whole way through! Lisa See fans will love this one and I can’t wait to read another book by this author!
As an aside, we read this for my book club and when I tweeted that I was hosting a book club for this book, Jamie Ford tweeted back to me to give my book club his best. And that is when I became just a regular fan to a super fan. How awesome is that? Hurray for tweeting authors that seek feedback and share through Twitter.
The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
You know when a book sweeps you in and envelopes your day and won’t let you go until it is over? This book did that for me and I could not be more impressed with the author’s beautiful prose, the pacing of the book, or what a gift Maggie O’Farrell has for character development and the art of intertwining two beautiful stories into one.
The book opens with the stunning Lexie Sinclair, a rebellious young woman, and a chance meeting for her and a very sophisticated man named Innes Kent. It is in the post-WWII era, a time when such spirited youthfulness is frowned upon, but Lexie is ready to start a new life in London and she begins her new life with Innes. What begins between them starts a very unlikely love story that is vividly captured with O’Farrell’s words. Innes quickly takes her under his wing and not only loves her, but guides her into a journalism career that Lexie had never thought to explore.
In the next chapter, you are introduced to Elina and her boyfriend Ted and it is fifty years later. They have just brought home their baby boy, never realizing how different both of their lives will be. Elina, who suffered from a difficult delivery, is learning what a challenging role motherhood can be, while Ted grows more and more distant from Elina and the baby. Ted is suddenly having snippets of memories that he can’t recall and the baby forces to light a shadowed past that he did not know he possessed.
It is a book that builds and builds upon these stories and the chapters suddenly twist together and you find out how these stories are interwoven. It took me by surprise how they would weave together and throughout most of the book, you are trying to discover just what it is that brings these two stories together. I hate to say more than that, for fear of giving away the experience of discovery for yourself!
The book’s prose is so visual and almost cinematic in the way the story is told. In some scenes, it feels as though you are reading a script as the characters, setting, and mood are described in vivid detail. It is because of the writing style that I look forward to reading more of O’Farrell’s. This book was a fantastic and fast-paced read- add it to your reading list today!
One Day by David Nicholls
The concept for Nicholl’s book is a genius one that I loved from start to finish. It chronicles the lives of two friends, Dex & Em, over the course of twenty years and each chapter begins a new year on the same exact day. It begins with what seems like a romantic relationship in 1988 and then each year jumps into a new place of their friendship and what is happening that year with them.
You began the journey with Dex & Em when they are in college and each of them is dreaming big for what they have in store for their future. You then go along on the journey as Dex lives off of the wealth of his family, as Em is stuck in a dead end job, as Dex finds fame, as Dex loses fame, and as Em finally begins living her dream. To say more than this would give it all away, but know that as a reader of the book, you get to glimpse into the lives and evolution of how we change as people as we grow older.
The relationship with Dex & Em is at times endearing and at times exasperating. Em puts up with a lot as Dex falls down a slippery slope in the world of Hollywood. It is a, “When Harry Met Sally,” love story that I simply could not put down.
The ending was a shocking one, that may disappoint some readers, but it did not take away from the story for me. Because of the ending, try to avoid reading any reviews of the book until you have finished it so you can draw your own conclusion on this book!
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Fans of, “The Help,” will truly appreciate and enjoy this fantastic novel from Kathleen Grissom that documents a story of slavery told from two perspectives, with enough plot twists and turns to leave the reader on the edge of their seat until the final page.
Orphaned while aboard a ship from Ireland, a seven year-old Lavinia is taken in by the captain and placed in his kitchen to work among the servants. As a white girl, working in the kitchen and serving the master’s family is an unlikely place for her to be, but she is taken in and embraced by Belle, the captain’s illegitimate daughter. As unlikely as it seems, Lavinia is taken in as part of the family and finds that she truly is loved by all who know her. Despite being white, she is treated like the rest of the children with the same amount of love and discipline that their own children are shown.
Unfortunately, her white skin sets her apart and she finds herself grappling with difficult situations as she grows older and who she must side with when racial situations arise. At sixteen, under the guidance of the captain’s family, she is sent away to get a proper education and to be among her own race. Through an unlikely turn of events, she finds herself returning to the captain’s home, now in the unique role as the mistress of the home. Lavinia struggles with her new role and being in charge of instructing the staff (her own former adopted family) on the household maintenance and chores that must be done. Her life takes one sad turn after another, as Lavinia struggles to find her place in a world that is so divided.
Likewise, Belle’s life is filled with sadness as she loves a man that cannot belong to her and is victim of abuse. Being the illegitimate child of the captain comes with no extra perks, and she works the kitchen as the rest of the staff, struggling to decide if she wants her papers to be set free, especially when her freedom comes with the price of losing the love of her life.
his book is a very sad tale told through the eyes of Lavinia & Belle, both offering a unique perspective on what is happening in the home and around them It has so many plot twists and turns that you will be up all night reading this one and sheds light on the true issues that faced slaves and the difficulties of the politics that surrounded race in those days.
The Hunger Games Triology by Suzanne Collins
This story follows an unlikely heroine, named Katniss, who lives in District 12 with her mother and sister. It is not an easy life as Katniss is responsible for the hunting for her family just to make sure their family has food on the table, especially since the death of her father.
Even tougher for the family though is the annual reaping day where the government chooses two children from each district to compete in a battle to the death, leaving only one winner of their annual Hunger Games. When Katniss’ sister’s name is drawn, Katniss does the only thing she can think of…she volunteers to take her sister’s place to save her life. Paired with the baker’s son, Peeta, whom she has known since she was a child, she is thrown immediately into the ring to begin a battle to the death.
The battle is televised for everyone in the district and it is the stories of those in battle that the audience can find endearing or come to hate. Should they love who is competing, they can gather the proceeds in their district to offer their team’s district team gifts to help sustain them in battle. The coaches for the District 12 team realize that one way that they can make the audience members truly love Peeta & Katniss is by creating a love story between them. It is this story that they must continue to act out throughout the battle as alliances are made, broken, and lives are lost.
Lucky for Katniss, she is strong with a bow and arrow and it is her strength that will help carry her through the battle. The series is written for young adults and young girls will definitely find a lot of love for Katniss as a strong female who can measure up to the men in battle.
This series is fabulous and was devoured by both my husband and I. We actually fought over the books because we both were reading through them so quickly. I am so glad that we were able to read it together and I can’t wait until my children are old enough that they can enjoy it too.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-
I can admit that I was not exposed to a lot of classical literature. In my English classes, we were exposed to only excerpts of the classics, but not the full books. Maybe that is why, as an adult, I have an interest in exploring the classics for the first time. When I spotted an entire table of Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” at our local library, I grabbed a copy to attempt to read it!
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930’s in the Deep South where race and social standings are of great importance within the Maycomb community. When lawyer, Atticus Finch, is the assigned defense to an African American charged with raping a white woman, he compromises his social standing by defending his case before the court. The entire story is told through the eyes of Atticus’ children as they try to understand what it means to be white during a time of great racism.
The story opens with Jem & Scout, Atticus’ two children, spying on their neighbor who is a town recluse and never leaves his home. The story of Boo Radley is how the children keep themselves entertained during those long summer days and Boo’s story is interwoven through the book. They are simple children that just love to fight, to play in the dirt, and who love to play pretend games with their neighbor boy.
Their entire world changes when Atticus is assigned the defense of an African American man who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell. While the Ewell family are the lowest in the white class, they are still accepted and believed more than Tom Robinson who has always been an honest and kind family man.
Everyone is against Tom even when all of the evidence points somewhere else and Atticus has to defend the toughest case of his career to a jury of white men.
The court scenes were riveting, the twists in the plot added depth to the story and characters, and telling the entire story through a child’s eyes was priceless to the story. The characters in this novel are so rich and beautifully written that a piece of yourself can identify with so many of them. Admittedly, I had a hard time with some of the racist language and derogatory terms that were used towards African Americans during that time, but it shapes the story and makes you realize how horrible these times were.
I can’t rave enough about this book and wish I could share more in my review, but I don’t want to give away the beautiful plot, twists, and turns that you would experience as a reader if you haven’t read it!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This book came highly rated by so many of my friends and I have to say that this one did not disappoint.
The story is told through the unique perspective of Death, which adds a certain darkness to this book, as he shares the story of taking souls and the increase in unnecessary and cruel deaths during the terrifying reign of Hitler.
While so many books I have read have concentrated on all that the Jewish people had to endure, this book told their story, but also told the story of a poor German girl who is taken in by a foster family enduring poverty and the heartache of the loss of her family members.
Her moments of joy come when her adopted father teaches her how to read and she becomes engrossed in learning and reading the written word. In a time of great poverty and where books were scarce, the little girl becomes a “book thief” stealing books for these sweet moments of treasure during a time of aching heartbreak in her life.
When her adopted parents hide a Jewish young man, by the name of Max, in their basement, they form a fast friendship and this protection of this man becomes of great importance to their family.
The book takes you on so many twists and turns and I found myself weeping for all that this little girl has to go through. The book truly touched me and I believe it is one that will stick with me for many, many years!
As an aside, while the novel started out very slow for me, the second half really picked up and made it all worth the time invested to read the first part of this book. If you have a hard time getting through that first part, keep on reading…it will be so worth it! I promise you!
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
In 1974, Philippe Petit decided to pull a stunt that both shocked and thrilled New York when he walked a tightrope wire between the World Trade Towers. This true life story is the common thread that ties all of the chapters of Colum McCann’s beautiful fictional novel entitled “Let the Great World Spin,” together.
Each chapter is its own short story, yet each story seamlessly weaves into the other as the reader makes the surprising discovery that the characters are not only drawn together by this exciting stunt in some small way, but in many more ways than the read could ever anticipate.
The book opens with a kind-hearted priest who has decided to plant himself in the roughest New York neighborhood to act as an aid to the prostitutes that have set up shop. His small and sparse apartment becomes a place of refuge for the prostitutes in his community and he puts his own reputation on the line to care for them and many others in his community. From there the writer takes you on a journey as each chapter segues into the next as you learn about other elements of the story that somehow seem unrelated, but then are pulled together magically in this book. To share what each chapter is about would give away a beautiful plot that is worthy of any reader to discover on their own.
I will say it was a difficult read for me at times and a little labor intensive. The dialogue was also, at times, a struggle to read as the dialogue and writing mimic the speech of the characters that the chapter is being written about. Just like most books of short stories, some chapters were far more interesting in others, but it was one of the most unique novels I have read in a long time. It is a book that will stick with you long after the book is shut and will remind you how our own stories are so easily interwoven into others as the great world spins on.
Editor’s Note: There is graphic language in this book.
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier-
Remarkable Creatures is a beautiful historical fiction story based on the real life story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. These two women pioneered the uncovering of fossilized creatures and lead many of the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century.
Set in the city of Lyme, Mary is a girl who has been unusual her whole life. Her uniqueness begins after being struck by lightening as a baby and she continues to be considered different by her community because of her unusual habit of searching for fossils on the beach… a trait that has been passed down to her by her father.
Elizabeth, a middle-aged woman who has never been married, and her sisters move to the town and each take to their own hobbies. All of the sisters have the usual hobbies of gardening, keeping home, and baking… all of them except Elizabeth. Elizabeth soon finds her own hobby of fossil discovery, although she lacks the eye of training that Mary possesses.
An unlikely friendship between two women of very different social classes form because of their mutual interest in these fossils as they make rare scientific discoveries by gathering these bones.
When a man comes between the two women, neither can put their egos aside to apologize and they are left to their discoveries alone. When Mary discovers something that their community thinks cannot be made by God’s hands, the only person that can preserve her reputation is Elizabeth, because of her social standing.
Will Elizabeth put aside her feelings to defend her friend’s honor or will she allow nature to take its course and discredit Mary’s standings in the scientific community?
I found the book to be a fast read and a very interesting look at a time when talk of fossils challenged the very belief system of people and a time when women were never intended to pioneer anything other than the keeping of their homes. It was a great book and I look forward to reading more books from Chevalier!
Of course there were a few other books that just have to get an Honorable Mention this year! Here are just a few more that I would recommend adding to your reading pile!
Room by Emma Donoghue
“Room,” is a stunning book written by Emma Donoghue that will stick with readers long after they have read the final pages. Told through the eyes of a five-year-old little boy named Jack, Room & his Ma the only things he has ever known because he has been held, and was even born in Room, his entire existence. His only glimpses of the outside world are through a skylight above their room and the limited amount of television he has watched through his time there. Of course, he doesn’t believe that anything in the television is real because he has never had the chance to experience what lies outside of the room.
His Ma was kidnapped and held hostage for seven years. She was just a child herself when she was taken and she has done everything she can to make Jack’s life just as rich as can be without being able to leave Room. In fact, she put me to shame as a mother reading all that she was doing with her child. Ma has thought of everything from celebrating Jack on his birthdays, to art time, to gym time…she manages to make it work in this tiny room.
The book is written in the language of a child which I thought would be very annoying, but quickly found it to be both endearing and poignant. I am sure it was a true challenge as an author to write in this style and to not make it unbearable to read. Emma Donoghue captures the voice and innocence of Jack perfectly in this stunning book.
While I wish I could say more about the book, it would definitely take away from the plot and the beauty of enjoying this one through fresh eyes. As a reader though, know that your heart will ache and root triumphantly for this mother & child to see the outside world!
Still Alice by Lisa Genova-
My great-grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s so I was very familiar with the topic and the emotional toll that it can take on one’s family members when they suffer from this disease. What I did not know was that over a half million people in the United States alone suffer from early-onset Alzheimer’s and that it is possible to suffer from this disease at a much earlier stage in your life than I had ever imagined.
Alice Howland is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and is known for her great intellect. She is admired not only by the other faculty members, but by her students for her amazing ability to captivate an audience when speaking about what it is she is most passionate about. Her husband is a scientist, and together they have collaborated on book projects and have a mutual love for each other and the intelligent and scientific dialogue that they can have together.
When Alice starts becoming confused and begins losing her words, forgetting what she is supposed to teach on, and even forgetting where she lives when she goes for a run, she blames it on menopause and decides to contact her doctor about her memory loss.
After going through screening, it is determined that Alice, at the age of fifty, is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Alice’s quick spiral into memory loss is heartbreaking and her story is especially poignant because she is the chosen narrator of the story. At times, as the reader, you can even become confused along with Alice as scenes are repeated and her family member’s begin to lose their names, or she believes she is talking to strangers when they are well-known characters throughout the book.
The book sheds light on a very real disease in a way that can only be told through the narration of Alice. Although Alice is slipping, she is “still Alice,” even when her family feels her mind is very far away.
This book pulled at my heartstrings in a way that I can’t describe and has made me thankful for the beautiful memories that my mind can retain. It is a wonderful reminder how essential memory is in our daily lives and how important it is to love and respect those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Fragile by Lisa Unger
It has been a long time since I have read something so suspenseful that I could not put it down, but Fragile by Lisa Unger is the kind of book that sucks you in and won’t let you go. It is reminiscent of Jodi Picoult’s earlier work with just the right balance of suspense and mystery to keep a reader enchanted until the final page. I must say that I am smitten with Lisa Unger and can’t wait to read some of her older novels now that I have had a taste of her writing style.
In the town of The Hollows, a fictional small town just outside of New York City, a young girl goes missing after a fight with her parents. The disappearance reminds the people in this town of another similar disappearance of a girl named Sarah, who had suddenly disappeared in the eighties, and many of the main characters find themselves flashing back to that first disappearance.
While the main characters are revisiting the disappearance of Sarah, they are also desperately trying to find the current girl who has disappeared. Charlene is a bit of a rebel-child and born to a family from the wrong side of the tracks. She is the girlfriend of Ricky, who is the child of Jones ( a cop) and Maggie (a psychologist) on the other side of the tracks, yet Ricky has no idea where Charlene has gone even though he loves Charlene.
When Charlene posts a status update on her Facebook page that she has left for New York City, Ricky and his friends are suspicious that someone has logged into her account because the status update sounds nothing like something Charlene would write. They began to fear the worst as the clues are uncovered and there are a cast of suspects that could have taken Charlene.
With Charlene gone, the clock is ticking to find her and bring her back to her family. Unfortunately, there are many suspects, but few clues as to where she could have gone. The reader is taken along on the journey as they try to uncover what has happened to Charlene as it is told through the eyes of everyone from the cop on the case, the psychologist whose family is battling their own demons, through the eyes of a troubled child, and even an exterminator who happens to have witnessed a few clues of his own to help the case.
While there are many characters, the plot somehow flows seamlessly as each person shares their innermost secrets and does not create confusion for the reader. Through these characters, the reader can begin to piece together both disappearances for a surprising twist that will bring the two stories colliding together, reminding us how small the world is and how intertwined our stories can be.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a book that will stick with you for a long time after you have closed the pages. To me, the book encompassed my favorite scene in the movie Ratatouille when the food critic takes a bite of food and it sends him spiraling back in time. He is a child and his mother made him the dish and remembering the feeling of being young and what that dish symbolized to him. This book is a moment like that, but deeper and more magical as Aimee Bender captures this instance and takes it further into a more magical place.
It begins with Rose’s ninth birthday. Her mother has decided to make her favorite lemon cake to celebrate the occasion and Rose is so excited to eat it. As Rose eagerly dives into the cake, hot from the oven, and takes a bite, this bite changes her life forever. For within that bite, she is able to feel an aching sadness and sorrow in her mother that she never knew her mom possessed. It makes the cake taste horrible to her and forces her to realize that her mother is very unhappy.
The gift is not much of a gift for her as she struggles to eat foods that she normally liked that are filled with emotions that a nine year-old child is unaware that people experience. Relying heavily on prepackaged foods and one sad woman at her school cafeteria whose foods don’t taste bad to her, Rose has been forced to rethink everything about everyone.
Rose isn’t the only one with a secret though and as you read the book, you discover that each member in her family is living with their own complex secrets. To say more than that, would give the surprising plot away, but know that the secrets add much beauty and depth to the story.
Not a single word is wasted in this book. The story is beautifully told, magical, and unlike anything I have ever read. I can’t wait to read more from this author. This was definitely one of the best books of 2010!
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
All children mythologize their birth… Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.” So begins the beautiful debut novel of Diane Setterfield, a book that took me on an adventure that I did not want to end. It was a book that interweaves two stories together seamlessly with some of the most beautiful writing I have had the pleasure of reading.
Margaret Lea has led a quiet little life, working in her father’s bookshop, and being proud of a few small autobiography write ups that she has done. She has a difficult relationship with her own mother and harbors a secret of her birth that has caused her to not be able to be close to the people she loves and has always left her feeling incomplete in her life.
When a surprising letter comes from the world-famous and reclusive author, Vida Winter, she is shocked to discover that Vida has requested her presence at her home to write the untold story of her life. She is famed for the surprising volume of books she has written in her life and is well-known the world over for her beautiful prose. Her most famous includes the book of thirteen fairy tales, that only held twelve, a mystery that has never been solved.
Even more famous though is Vida’s gift for the storytelling she has weaved for other past reporters about her life story. She has never truly told the real story to anyone, but it is her dying wish to have Margaret write her life story for the first time. She promises to tell Margaret the real story, provided she allows her to tell it in her own way at her own pace. There will be no jumping ahead in this story, but it is a story that she promises will surprise Margaret and that she will tell as truthfully to her as possible.
The story is unlike anything ever told and Margaret becomes enchanted with the life of Vida and how, in many ways, it has reflected her own life story and who she is. The story is about her mother, a set of feral twins named Adeline & Emmeline, a beautiful topiary garden that holds deep secrets, and a tragic fire that changes her life forever.
To tell the story would take away the gift of reading it, but what I can tell you is that it is every bit of suspense with each shocking and creepy turn. It is written beautifully, has references to so much literature and loveliness, and is the perfect book for any true book lover. Enjoy this book with a big cup of tea on a rainy day and you will be transported on an incredible journey.
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
I feel like I have been on a journey after finishing this 410 page novel that manages to transcend the different decades of culture from the middle of the twentieth century and on through the wild and psychedelic sixties, following the story of Henry House. Built upon the fascinating true-life home economics programs that were offered in the thirties, Henry House is a test baby for a home economics house to teach women the basic life skills of running a house and caring for a child.
Henry House is an abandoned orphan who is taken in by the strict house mother, Martha, as a test baby who is cared for by six house mothers who alternate weeks and routines with him. Martha is of the firm believe to never pick up a child if the child is crying unless it follows her strict scheduled regime and requires that the mothers in the house follow suit. They all are immediately smitten with Harry and Harry lives a strange and enchanted existence where six women are at his beck and call while following the regime that Martha has ordained for all of them.
Martha develops an attachment to Harry unlike she has experienced ever before to any other test infant in the house, and decides to keep Harry instead of returning him to the orphanage. Martha soon finds that her ways of child rearing become challenged when she keeps Harry longer and has to deal with him as he grows older, something she has never experienced before. She begins to question if her ways are really right and if she really was as qualified in the role of a house mother when she has never had a real child of her own.
When Martha tells Harry that his mother died in a car accident instead of telling Harry the truth that his mother abandoned him because she had the baby out of wedlock, his relationship to Martha is forever altered from that point on and he vows he will pretend to be mute so he does not have to speak to her.
You then follow Harry’s life as he lives his life through a mute, as he discovers the healing powers of art, as he discovers his sexuality, as he finds that it really isn’t all about that, as he searches for love through a cast of unlikely characters, as he finds a career in animation, and then as he finds where he thinks he might finally belong.
If you are a fan of Forrest Gump, Mad Men, or even The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…this book is for you! While slow paced in some parts and a dissatisfying ending, it still was a fascinating premise of a book that I will long remember!
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