Before reading The Book That Matters Most and seeing the list its book club picked, think about the book that matters most to you. I asked several friends and the members of my book group. The books they came up with were also Ann Hood’s choices.
At the beginning of the novel, Ava is lonely and angry. Her do-gooder husband has left her for a yarn bomber, for goodness sakes! She makes huge yarn objects to make political and social statements. Her children, Will and Maggie, are living abroad. Her daughter is a lost soul and trying to find herself in Paris.
Both the parents and children are having a summer of love and discovery in Modern Lovers. It is a recipe for drama and comedy when parents are going through midlife crises while adolescents are pushing boundaries with teenaged angst. With Brooklyn as the setting, Emma Straub captures time’s passing for her characters as they move from adolescence to adulthood and question what it really means to grow up.
There should be a shelf in the library with yellow caution tape labeled WARNING, UNHAPPY ENDINGS and UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER. Reach for a book from that shelf, and you’ll need your Puffs Plus tissues. Authors have the power of the pen, so why end on an unhappy note with disaster, calamity, catastrophe, cataclysm, misfortune, mishap, blow, trial, tribulation, affliction, adversity, and death?
What teenage girl has not sighed over the plight of Jane Eyre and the love story in Wuthering Heights? The novels contain “the collective imagination” poured into them by millions of teenage girls. In The Madwoman Upstairs, narrator Samantha Whipple is the last Brontë heir. She is related to three of the most famous women writers, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, but she has a contentious relationship with them. Gothic and imaginative, The Madwoman Upstairs is a tribute to the Brontës.
Small Southern towns have their share of eccentric characters, but they have nothing on Quinn, Montana. Quinn produces “devils and angels, queens and boy princesses, gritty souls that could survive anything.” The Flood Girls are a team of misfit softball players with their manager, Laverna Flood, the owner of the local bar, leading the pack. Living in Quinn and playing ball with The Flood Girls is never boring; it is a comedy of errors.
I started listing adjectives to describe My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante: visceral; violent; passionate. This is the first in a series of four Neapolitan Novels by an elusive Italian author who writes under a pseudonym. Elena and Lila’s friendship is full of envy and love as they claw their way out childhood into adolescence in a poverty-stricken quarter of Naples in the 1950s.
There’s the car, the landscape, the people in the car, and the baggage, both real and psychological. Americans love a road trip, but this time of year, even if gas is cheap, the weather may hinder a real road trip, so grab one of these books and travel from your couch.
I have a challenge for readers of Speak, by Louisa Hall. Read the first chapter and stop. Ask yourself, is the narrator human?
You will find wisdom and comfort in this sweet, funny, and smart story. Counselor Maggie Brennan specializes in helping her patients in a special type of loss: the anguish of the loss of a four-legged friend. Her insight into the loss of this special bond moves her grieving patients who are often embarrassed and confused about the emotional turmoil caused by the loss of their pets: loss is loss and love is love. Her patients are not “Dog Crazy” but “Dog Normal.”