Tag Archive for: book review

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Thank You, Mr. Nixon by Gish Jen

Thank You, Mr. Nixon by Gish Jen

thank-you-mr-nixon-gish-jen-book-review-jeanne-blasbergReally enjoyed this collection of interconnected stories which span 50 years of Chinese / American relations. Characters show up in multiple stories at different stages in life. The writing is humorous, biting and concise and the stories raise interesting issues around identity and migration, the push and pull inherent in the relationship of super-powers but all at the human level. It was an enjoyable, easy read, but one I am very much discussing with others. Gish Jen does a masterful job of distilling political issues to what is inherently human.

 

About Thank You, Mr. Nixon

Beginning with a cheery, kindly letter penned by a Chinese girl in heaven to “poor Mr. Nixon” in hell, Gish Jen embarks on an eleven-story journey through U.S.-Chinese relations, capturing not only the excitement of a world on the brink of tectonic change, but the all-too-human encounters that ensue as East meets West.

Opal Chen reunites with her sisters in China after a hiatus of almost forty years; American Arnie Hsu clashes with his Chinese girlfriend Lulu Koo, who wonders why Americans “like to walk around in the woods with the mosquitoes”; Tina and Johnson Koo take wholly surprising measures to reestablish contact when their “number one daughter,” Bobby, stops answering her phone in New York; and Betty Koo, brought up on “no politics, just make money,” finds she must square her mother’s philosophy with the repression in Hong Kong.

With their profound compassion, equally profound humor, and unexpected connections, these masterful stories reflect history’s shifting shadow over our boldest decisions and most intimate moments. Gradually accruing the power of a novel as it proceeds, Thank You, Mr. Nixon furnishes yet more proof of Gish Jen’s enduring place among the most eminent of American storytellers.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads or StoryGraph, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

 

Disclosure: If you purchase a book through one of these links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you, which I will donate to literary organizations in Boston and across the country. Thanks!

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Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

vladimir-julia-may-jonas-book-review-jeanne-blasbergI enjoyed the protagonist’s perspective so much. In Vladimir, a fifty-eight year old female English professor married to the former head of the department in a small college in upstate New York. Her husband has been relieved of his duties after 8 former students write letters accusing him of sexual impropriety. She and her husband have an open marriage seemingly born from her bad body image. Despite her own affairs and permitting her husband’s relations with other women, we catch the unnamed protagonist at a moment when she is coming unhinged, ultimately hatching a plan to kidnap and seduce an attractive new professor. Jonas writes with excellent nuance about all the modern day attitudes around sex and power dynamics. The first two thirds of the book were excellent, if I have any criticism it is the pacing of the last third. I would have preferred a slow but deep conclusion. I have been thinking about this novel for days now and this couple in particular, the detritus they left in their wake, while leading externally admirable lives. Also the cover is not a good portrayal of the literary gem inside – I almost passed because of the cover!!

 

About Vladimir:

A provocative, razor-sharp, and timely debut novel about a beloved English professor facing a slew of accusations against her professor husband by former students—a situation that becomes more complicated when she herself develops an obsession of her own…

“When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.”

And so we are introduced to our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose charismatic husband at the same small liberal arts college is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. The couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extra-marital pursuits, but with these new allegations, life has become far less comfortable for them both. And when our narrator becomes increasingly infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their tinder box world comes dangerously close to exploding.

With this bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured debut, author Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the boundaries of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Vladimir perfectly captures the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the nuances and the grey area between power and desire. 

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads or StoryGraph, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

 

Disclosure: If you purchase a book through one of these links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you, which I will donate to literary organizations in Boston and across the country. Thanks!

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I Came All This Way to Meet You by Jami Attenberg

I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home by Jami Attenberg

i-came-all-this-way-to-weet-you-jami-attenberg-book-review-jeanne-blasbergThis an especially good read for a writer. It is an inspiring story of perseverance from an author I admire. The opportunity to glimpse into her life and professional ups and downs was a treat. I have participated in Jami’s #1000wordsofsummer so it was no surprise to learn that her writing life is one where she doesn’t make excuses, she just writes. It is a testament that one doesn’t have to have a huge trauma or dramatic event in their life in order to warrant a memoir. This compilation of essays is beautiful with Jami transforming from one who led a nomadic life, crashing on people’s couches and in their guest rooms, to a home owning woman in New Orleans who is able to host friends overnight and feed them. One measure of success.

 

 

About I Came All This Way to Meet You:

From New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg comes a dazzling memoir about unlocking and embracing her creativity—and how it saved her life.

In this brilliant, fierce, and funny memoir of transformation, Jami Attenberg—described as a “master of modern fiction” (Entertainment Weekly) and the “poet laureate of difficult families” (Kirkus Reviews)—reveals the defining moments that pushed her to create a life, and voice, she could claim for herself. What does it take to devote oneself to art? What does it mean to own one’s ideas? What does the world look like for a woman moving solo through it?

As the daughter of a traveling salesman in the Midwest, Attenberg was drawn to a life on the road. Frustrated by quotidian jobs and hungry for inspiration and fresh experiences, her wanderlust led her across the country and eventually on travels around the globe. Through it all she grapples with questions of mortality, otherworldliness, and what we leave behind.

It is during these adventures that she begins to reflect on the experiences of her youth—the trauma, the challenges, the risks she has taken. Driving across America on self-funded book tours, sometimes crashing on couches when she was broke, she keeps writing: in researching articles for magazines, jotting down ideas for novels, and refining her craft, she grows as an artist and increasingly learns to trust her gut and, ultimately, herself.

Exploring themes of friendship, independence, class, and drive, I Came All This Way to Meet You is an inspiring story of finding one’s way home—emotionally, artistically, and physically—and an examination of art and individuality that will resonate with anyone determined to listen to their own creative calling.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads or StoryGraph, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

 

Disclosure: If you purchase a book through one of these links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you, which I will donate to literary organizations in Boston and across the country. Thanks!

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Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

crossroads-jonathan-franzen-book-review-jeanne-blasbergCrossroads, the first book in the Key to All Mythologies trilogy, is everything I love about Franzen – a big, American, family story. The author commands the luxury of time going deep into the psyches of each member of the Hildebrandt family, all terribly flawed, all trying to do good. The novel tackles themes of morality, religion, and GOD, to name a few of the big topics, while obviously including all we come to expect from domestic drama—misunderstanding, unrequited love, disappointment. The setting is 1971, small town Illinois with the Viet Nam war raging as a back-drop. The themes are set up to continue on in the trilogy, presumably propelling us toward the current day in the future installments of the trilogy. I listened to 25 hours of this audiobook eagerly, the narration offering so much to my enjoyment of it.

 

About Crossroads: 

A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless–unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire with moral absolutism, having taken an action that will shatter his father. Clem’s sister, Becky, long the social queen of her high-school class, has sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh graders, has resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.

Jonathan Franzen’s novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and for their keen-eyed take on contemporary America. Now, in Crossroads, Franzen ventures back into the past and explores the history of two generations. With characteristic humor and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that resonates powerfully with our own.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads or StoryGraph, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

 

Disclosure: If you purchase a book through one of these links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you, which I will donate to literary organizations in Boston. Thanks!

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Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

five-tuesdays-in-winter-lily-king-book-review-jeanne-blasbergSuch a great story collection. The range of characters and situations was striking and highlights King’s gift of insight and observance. It seams like many novelists are publishing story collections recently and so I actually wasn’t anticipating this collection to be as great as it was. My favorite being a story about a young man coached along in love and life by two college students hired to housesit and look after him sort of as an afterthought by his parents. Brava, I am an even bigger fan of King’s now.

 

About Five Tuesdays in Winter:

Lily King, one of the most “brilliant” (New York Times Book Review), “wildly talented” (Chicago Tribune), and treasured authors of contemporary fiction, returns after her recent bestselling novels with Five Tuesdays in Winter, her first book of short fiction.

Told in the intimate voices of complex, endearing characters, Five Tuesdays in Winter intriguingly subverts expectations as it explores desire, loss, jolting violence, and the inexorable tug toward love at all costs. A reclusive bookseller begins to feel the discomfort of love again. Two college roommates have a devastating middle-aged reunion. A proud old man rages powerlessly in his granddaughter’s hospital room. A writer receives a visit from all the men who have tried to suppress her voice.

Romantic, hopeful, brutally raw, and unsparingly honest, this wide-ranging collection of ten selected stories by one of our most accomplished chroniclers of the human heart is an exciting addition to Lily King’s oeuvre of acclaimed fiction.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

 

Disclosure: If you purchase a book through one of these links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you, which I will donate to literary organizations in Boston. Thanks!

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Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia · NYJB Review

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

This review was originally posted on the New York Journal of Books.

of-women-and-salt-gabriela-garcia-book-review-jeanne-blasbergOf Women and Salt is a tale of family legacy that juxtaposes the story of four generations of matrilineal descendants in a Cuban family spanning 150 years with the experiences of a lone Salvadoran mother and daughter caught up in the bureaucracy and dehumanization of modern-day US deportation. From a 19th century Cuban cigar factory to present day Miami on the one hand, to a border detention center and an arbitrary landing place in Mexico on the other, the novel’s chapters read like a series of interrelated short stories told from a variety of female perspectives.

Jeanette’s life is the most common thread throughout the book. She lives in a Miami neighborhood where everyone minds their own business. A recovering addict, Jeannette is doing temp work from home when Ana, the daughter of a single mother living next door, is dropped off by the babysitter to an empty home. A moment of connection follows as the young girl knocks on Jeannette’s door: “The girl scans her surroundings, and her eyes stop at Jeanette’s kitchen window. They stare at each other.”

This book is an achievement, with short-story-like chapters that nevertheless follow a satisfying arc.

Earlier in the day, Jeanette had seen ICE agents raid the home and take the little girl’s mother away. Still, Jeanette’s decision to open her door is not easy. After eventually letting the girl in, she feeds her and puts her to bed, then closes the door to her bedroom and Googles “What happens to children if their parents are deported?”

The next day, Jeanette is visited by her mother Carmen, a woman Jeanette describes as “Pearls, slacks, wrinkle cream, a box of blank thank-you notes. Always put together. Always carrying a whiff of her own success and composure like a cardigan at the shoulders. You look at her and just know: here is a woman with answers. So often Jeanette has wondered how she came from such a woman.”

When Carmen discovers her daughter’s desire to take care of Ana, she is incensed, saying, “Jeanette. This is not a game. You’re on probation. You really want to mess everything up again?” The irony is that Carmen, a Cuban immigrant herself, has no compassion for the little girl’s plight. Jeanette asks her, “You’re an immigrant. . . . Do you ever think about how Cubans get all this special treatment . . . Don’t you think it’s your responsibility to give a shit about other people?”

Of Woman and Salt proves that no matter how much one wishes to disassociate with the past, our lives are inextricably wound up with the actions of those who came before us.

And so, the intrigue begins, why did Carmen leave Cuba so many years ago if it wasn’t for political reasons? After hosting Thanksgiving dinner, Carmen shares her perspective on her homeland in relation to her new country: “Cuba this, Cuba that. Cuba Cuba Cuba. Why anyone left a place only to reminisce, to carry its streets into every conversation, to see every moment through the eyes of some imagined loss, was beyond her. Miami existed as such a hollow receptacle of memory, a shadow city, full of people who needed a place to put their past into perspective. Not her. She lived in the present.”

Or she tries to. Of Woman and Salt proves that no matter how much one wishes to disassociate with the past, our lives are inextricably wound up with the actions of those who came before us.

Carmen’s line goes back to Maria Isabel in Camagüey, Cuba, in the year 1866 rolling cigars while her future husband reads aloud from Victor Hugo. Violence abounds for the family and much is kept secret. When Jeanette travels to Cuba in search of answers about her mother, her past, even something of herself, she is hosted by Maydelis, a cousin of her own generation.

Here, the novel offers back-to-back chapters from both women’s points of view, a terrific contrast of worldview. Maydelis’ first reaction to this cousin from America is that she is nothing more than a tourist, blind to her family’s struggle. Maydelis observes, “Jeanette offers to pay but she’s carrying only divisa, not moneda nacional. Constantly she complains about the unfairness of the double-currency system, about how mad she feels paying a commission to exchange dollars into CUCs. There seem so many other easy injustices to point to; I’m frequently amused by what catches her fancy.”

Meanwhile, Jeanette notes of Maydelis, “All she wants to talk about is the United States, what it’s like over there . . . she lists kinds of people that exist in Cuba—freakies, emos, Mickeys, repas. She lists what they wear and what music they listen to and where they hang out and I realize every country is different but the same. Every country has its own lunch tables.”

Of Women and Salt is a beautifully written novel that turns like a kaleidoscope in the light, illuminating the blurry delineation of who is an insider and who an outsider.

And then there is the plight of Gloria and Ana, mother and daughter torn apart by an ICE raid and reunited in a border detention center for families many months after Jeanette discovers Ana at her front door. In a chapter told from Gloria’s point of view, she shares a memory of a Christian missionary who told her as a child, “Despite having so little. . . you are so happy. You could teach the children in my country so much about what’s really important in life.”

Gloria explains that she had never thought of herself as having little. She says of the missionary, “I wondered what she had expected: sad poor people being sad and poor at every sad, poor moment of their lives? She mistook happiness for what it was—how we survive and build lives out of the strings that we hold.” The women in Of Woman and Salt do just that—they build lives out of the strings they hold.

Gloria’s assessment of an outsider judging what she couldn’t possibly understand underscores a recurring theme in this book, aided by the narrative technique of multiple points of view. Examples of racism and the stratification to which human beings are subject fill Gabriela Garcia’s novel. When Jeanette is in Cuba she observes her grandmother’s blatant racism toward a neighbor who is Black, but she notes, “it isn’t as though Black Cubans fare better in Miami, where racism is polite, quiet. This is the fact: In Miami, Cuban is synonymous with white. In Miami, Cubans will scoff when you call them Latino. ‘I’m not Latino, I’m Cuban,’ they will say. By which I mean, I am white, another kind of white you don’t know about, outsider.”

Of Women and Salt is a beautifully written novel that turns like a kaleidoscope in the light, illuminating the blurry delineation of who is an insider and who an outsider. The chapters build upon each other, offering the reader cumulative insight and a sense of dramatic irony. But even while the reader understands much more than any given character ever does, the author also allows precious white space where the reader can come to her own conclusions. This book is an achievement, with short-story-like chapters that nevertheless follow a satisfying arc. Even better, they culminate in a redeeming and emotional ending.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins · NYJB Review

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins

This review was originally published by the New York Journal of Books.

caul-baby-morgan-jerkins-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewCaul Baby is an ambitious and unique novel set in a Harlem neighborhood where a powerful Creole family, the Melancons, conduct a secretive trade from their bodega storefront. They are caul-bearers, born with the birth membrane still intact. A phenomenon that occurs in about 1 in 80,000 births, caul-bearing has long been considered auspicious in many cultures.

The author evokes literary tradition and sets the mysterious tone around cauls in the opening epigraph with a quote from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, “I was born with a caul, which was advertised for sale. . . . The caul was won, I recollect, by an old lady with a hand-basket. . . . It is a fact which will be long remembered as remarkable down there, that she was never drowned, but died triumphantly in bed, at ninety-two.”

The Melancons sell pieces of caul as protective amulets to well-off white families. Women from outside the neighborhood are desperate for magical healing and not as disdainful of the family as their neighbors in Harlem. The Melancons, bearing a name that connotes the French for melancholy, are shrouded in rumors of magic and healing.

The price for this independence, however, is that they’ve turned their bodies, and the bodies of their offspring, into commodities.

The matriarch is Maman who brought their tradition from Louisiana to Harlem after their practices came under scrutiny there. Maman is careful to maintain isolation in Harlem and business thrives, allowing this family of women economic autonomy. The price for this independence, however, is that they’ve turned their bodies, and the bodies of their offspring, into commodities. The novel questions how far one might go to maintain self-sufficiency, to avoid the patriarchy, to bypass an altogether unwelcoming capitalist system.

The plot begins with pregnant Harlem native Laila. After having suffered multiple miscarriages, Laila seeks help from Josephine Melancon to keep her most recent pregnancy viable. But when the deal with the Melancon’s falls through, Laila’s child is stillborn. Around the same time, Laila’s college-aged niece, Amara, becomes pregnant. Amara decides to place her newborn daughter, Hallow, in a private adoption, arranged by a Wall Street trader who also moonlights as the Melancons’ agent. Unbeknownst to Amara, her daughter is born a caul-bearer and placed with the Melancons. She is raised as Josephine Melancon’s own in hopes of her carrying on the family tradition.

Mother-child relationships form an important thematic thread in this novel, from Laila’s awful loss to Hallow’s search for her mother. Each mother-child relationship portrayed in the novel suffers from fissures and misunderstanding. Josephine Melancon accuses Maman of showing Hallow off “like a pet monkey.” Maman often burns the girl’s hand in public so spectators can watch her body quickly heal itself, all in the name of marketing.

Maman reminds her daughter, “We help people. Never forget that. Everything here was maintained by us. By our bodies, so that we don’t have to answer to anyone or anything.” She explains further, “[Children] weren’t just born just to be born but to continue a lineage. We have been given a gift, Josephine, can’t you see it? The reason we’ve been able to stay here is not because there’s ample opportunity for Black women to get ahead in traditional jobs, nor is it because of a benevolent landlord, but because of this . . .” Maman says this while running her fingers along the caul of Josephine’s leg.

Caul Baby explores the female body’s various roles, what is taken from a woman, and what she chooses to give away.

Ultimately the plot leads to a point in which Amara has graduated from college and earned a law degree. She has done “everything she is supposed to get ahead.” Positioning herself for a run at District Attorney, she pursues an indictment of the Melancon family for “organ trafficking. And if the caul is traveling across state lines, that could be federal racketeering.” She is seeking justice for what happened to Laila long before and hoping for a legal win that will put her in the media spotlight. Despite doing her research, she doesn’t realize the daughter she surrendered for adoption is part of the Melancon clan.

Caul Baby explores the female body’s various roles, what is taken from a woman, and what she chooses to give away. This is most obvious with a caul, a membrane of skin, but depicted through childbirth as well. Beyond the Melancon inner circle, the novel includes practicing doulas who reveal anecdotes of difficult pregnancies and infertility in the neighborhood, adding an additional backdrop of neglect. Josephine’s sister, Iris Melancon, has a body no longer valued by the family. She is therefore relegated to the basement where she is visited by spirits. She lives “between worlds as old folks say,” inhabiting the gap between myth and reality, much like the story as a whole straddles both surrealism with its allusions to black magic and the reality of systemic racism around prenatal care that puts Black women at higher risk for miscarriage and death during childbirth.

Jerkins adeptly delivers a timely message as well as a novel replete with symbolism and metaphor. The Melancon brownstone is a character in and of itself. With jazz crooning in the background, cannabis smoke often in the air, and Iris and her spirit companions living in the basement, it is a home that moans with history and sadness.

Through Maman’s character, the novel holds a light to the trope of the Black mother…

Cracks in the walls and ceiling grow and expand over time in a ghostly scrawl. The house ultimately falls down around the women and burns to the ground. Standing in a neighborhood increasingly threatened by gentrification, the home becomes a prison to Hallow. She is sheltered and homeschooled her entire life in order to protect the caul. She needs to be on hand so that her skin may be harvested whenever customers arrive. Her innocence, confusion and despair during this most unusual girlhood presents a heartbreaking element to the story. She wonders “what [can] be called hers in this precious brownstone.” Just as her mother, Josephine, will later lament, “without Landon or Hallow or the persistent bullying from Maman. . . . she didn’t feel like a caulbearer or an ordinary. She felt incorporeal, and perhaps this dissolution was the ultimate sacrifice to this brownstone.”

Through Maman’s character, the novel holds a light to the trope of the Black mother and all she is meant to be, a church-going woman holding her family and community together. Maman is none of those things and all of those things. She is larger than life, an embodiment of contradictions alternately playing the roles of heroine, family savior, and villain. Her character is refreshing in its honesty and frankness, if not maddening in its reticence to comfort and coddle.

Caul Baby is like nothing I’ve read before. It has historical references but is overwhelmingly a book of our time. It delivers a story that weaves the nuance of Black womanhood with intergenerational struggles and triumphs and the heartache of contemporary racial injustice.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

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Mt. Moriah’s Wake by Melissa Norton Carro

Mt. Moriah’s Wake by Melissa Norton Carro

listening-path-mt-moriahs-wake-melissa-carro-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewMelissa Carro has written a stunning debut about trauma and loss and persevering love. She has created a compelling protagonist in JoAnna Wilson, haunted by ghosts of her past, terribly flawed, yet ever so sympathetic. The story of Mt Moriah’s Wake unfolds masterfully, alternating timelines in a way that had me eagerly reading on to the final, most satisfying plot twist. I love the way Carro rendered heartache, misunderstanding, love, and the all-around messiness of human relationships. This is a beautiful novel about returning home and the power of place to both repel and attract. It offered an inspiring message of hope and healing that I won’t soon forget.

 

This official blurb was provided at the request of the author.

 

Check out the other books Jeannie has blurbed.

 

About Mt Moriah’s Wake

Orphaned at age eight, JoAnna Wilson was raised by her eccentric aunt in the bucolic southern community of Mt. Moriah. Now a twenty-six-year old would-be writer, JoAnna faces several crossroads: in her marriage, in her career, and in her faith. She left home for Chicago in 1997 immediately following the murder of her best friend, Grace. Now she comes back to Mt. Moriah for the first time in four years to attend her aunt’s funeral―and realizes that she must confront both the profound sorrow she feels over Grace’s death and the mysterious guilt she carries. She must finally grieve.

A hauntingly sweet story of love and loss that alternates between JoAnna’s childhood in Mt. Moriah, her life in Chicago and her present encounters upon returning home, Mt. Moriah’s Wake ponders deep questions: When we experience unspeakable tragedy, do we see ourselves as victim or survivor? Is it possible to regain happiness in the face of such? And how do we find our faith again, once it is lost?

As her past and present worlds collide, JoAnna grapples with these questions―and her journey moves toward an unexpected conclusion.

Mt Moriah’s Wake hits shelves July 27, 2021. Add it on Goodreads and preorder through Bookshop to support your local independent bookstore.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

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Leaving Coy’s Hill by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

Leaving Coy’s Hill by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

leaving-coy's-hill-kathy-sherbrooke-book-review-jeanne-blasbergWith incredible elegance and insight, Leaving Coy’s Hill strikes a perfect balance between historical setting and a rendering of the inner woman. I delighted in Lucy’s character, her quirks, ambition, loves, as well as her friendships and connectedness to important figures of the time.  While the novel illuminates the timeless female struggle for equality, tight roping career and motherhood, and achieving financial independence, its crowning achievement is an authentic, poetic voice. Sherbrooke’s language set the clocks back a hundred and fifty years with its soothing, measured cadence. Clear your calendar for this one, it’s an impossible-to-put-down, must read. 

 

This official blurb was provided at the request of the author.

 

About Leaving Coy’s Hill:

Based on true events, Leaving Coy’s Hill is a timeless story of women’s quest for personal and professional fulfillment within society’s stubborn constraints.

Born on a farm in 1818, Lucy Stone dreamt of extraordinary things for a girl of her time, like continuing her education beyond the eighth grade and working for the abolitionist cause, and of ordinary things, such as raising a family of her own. But when she learns that the Constitution affords no rights to married women, she declares that she will never marry and dedicates her life to fighting for change.

At a time when it is considered promiscuous for women to speak in public, Lucy risks everything for the anti-slavery movement, her powerful oratory mesmerizing even her most ardent detractors as she rapidly becomes a household name. And when she begins to lecture on the “woman question,” she inspires a young Susan B. Anthony to join the movement. But life as a crusader is a lonely one.

When Henry Blackwell, a dashing and forward-thinking man, proposes a marriage of equals, Lucy must reconcile her desire for love and children with her public persona and the legal perils of marriage she has long railed against. And when a wrenching controversy pits Stone and Anthony against each other, Lucy makes a decision that will impact her legacy forever.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books. For more TBR inspiration, check out Jeannie’s curated book lists at Bookshop.org

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Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

plain_bad_heroines_emily_danforth_book_review_jeanne_blasbergPlain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Okay, so a haunted girls boarding school set in Little Compton, Rhode Island… Plain Bad Heroines had me at hello. Emily Danforth has such a punchy and quick-witted use of language that there were always several layers of entertainment going on for me, and I was taken by her unabashedly addressing the reader throughout.

This novel has been described as Gothic, but it harkened to early Nineteenth century novelists such as Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, and George Eliot in its third person omniscient voice. The story braids two time frames, 1902 at the Brookhants boarding school with contemporary Hollywood, and features a mostly all-female cast of characters. Both time periods include triads of young women who fall in love and suffer jealousies within their respective triangles. The initial love at Brookhants between Flo and Clara and curious Eleanor (on the outside) was inspired by the work of Mary MacLane, a shocking memoirist who in the late 1800’s scandalized readers with her bisexuality. I mention this only because it was the first of many literary and cultural references that made my experience of this book expansive, ie. a second layer of entertainment value.

As for the story itself, it was not so much a haunted tale as it was a parody of haunted tales past and present, and I am not lying reader, when I say a portion of my home was infested with yellow jackets while I was listening to the audio (you must read the book to get this.) I hear the printed version is 600+ pages, but still I would suggest picking it up if you like smart writing and courageous technique.

 

Note that I listened to the audio version courtesy of Libro.fm and the narrator was outstanding!

 

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