August, a science teacher on break for the summer, is making a pilgrimage to Yellowstone to honor his 19-year-old son Phillip who was killed in an auto accident. The excursion had originally been planned as a father/son “trip of a lifetime.” When the RV breaks down and the repair promises to be costly, August resigns himself to the fact that he won’t have enough money to reach his destination or scatter Phillip’s ashes in the park.
In The Book That Matters Most, Ava, a French professor at the local university, is blindsided when her husband announces he’s rekindled the flame with a lover of long ago. Yes, his job often dominated their free time, and, yes, their daughter had created stress by following a rocky path of drugs and unhealthy relationships, but Ava felt these obstacles were surmountable. She had been content in her marriage.
The shock and subsequent embarrassment of the betrayal prompts Ava to sequester herself. For years, her close friend Cate had unsuccessfully tried to recruit her to join the library’s book club. When another opening becomes available, Ava views the club as a quiet avenue to venture back into the world.
True confession: I loved the television shows Thirtysomething and Parenthood, and I’d classify The New Neighbor, by Leah Stewart, as a book similarly driven by well-developed characters. So, if your cup of tea is action-packed novels over touchy-feely, spill-your-guts literature, then I’d strongly advise you to move on to another blog post!
Jennifer Young has recently moved with her young son into the house next to Margaret Riley. Although the two abodes are separated by a pond, each woman can see the other from her own back porch. At the age of ninety, Margaret is not as spry as she once was, and, over the years, her prickly personality has alienated any number of potential friends. But she’s lonely and finds herself insatiably curious about her new neighbor.
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If you like history and listening to it, here are a few highly recommended audiobooks set in World War II:
All Clear by Connie Willis
After three Oxford historians travel back in time to the year 1940, historical records indicate that at least one of them affected the past and changed the outcome of World War II. (catalog summary)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris and is blind by age six. Her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, so she can memorize it and navigate the real streets. When the Germans occupy Paris, they flee to Saint-Malo on the coast. In Germany, Werner grows up enchanted by a crude radio he finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, which wins him a place with the Hitler Youth. Werner travels throughout Europe, and finally to Saint-Malo, where his meets Marie Laure. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. (catalog summary)
Atonement by Ian McEwan
In the summer of 1935, 13-year-old Briony Tallis wildly misinterprets the relationship between her sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, childhood friends home from Cambridge. So when her young cousin is assaulted, Briony gives in to her hyperactive imagination and blames the atrocity on Robbie. It is a terrible decision that alters lives and fills Briony with an everlasting sense of guilt. (catalog summary)
I’ve got a severe case of wanderlust. Often I can get a healthy fix as an armchair traveler—exploring the world by reading books of others’ exotic expeditions. But NOTHING compares to globetrotting in person to locales both near and far.
A chance encounter with the legendary Sherlock Holmes alters the life trajectory of fifteen-year-old Mary Russell. In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King, Mary literally bumps into Holmes while roaming the hills near her cottage. After the initial awkward run-in, the two are immediately drawn to each other’s insatiable curiosity and superior intellect. As both of Mary’s parents died in a horrific accident, her friendship with Holmes is a welcome respite from her days with a cold, disapproving aunt.
Since moving to Fredericksburg, I’ve discovered the joys of NPR, and, in particular, Fresh Air, with Terry Gross. The combination of driving the area’s picturesque roads and listening to a variety of scintillating interviews never fails to brighten my day. Whether it’s mushroom hunters searching for the holy grail of fungi, a discussion about the after-death experience, or a conversation with today’s in-vogue actor, singer or writer, I’m hooked.
Recently on my way to work at the Headquarters branch, I tuned in to hear Terry interviewing Vendela Vida about her latest fiction work, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty. The book’s unusual premise immediately grabbed me. And I was equally intrigued to learn that Vida is married to Dave Eggers, a prolific author of many titles, including A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
Christine has amnesia. Every day she wakes up not knowing where she is or who’s sleeping next to her. As the day unfolds, she learns that she was involved in a horrific car accident. And, although she has no recollection of him, the man in her bed turns out to be her husband Ben, who has patiently stuck with her throughout her lengthy ordeal. Thus begins Before I Go to Sleep, the debut novel by S. J. Watson.