Review of ‘Anxious People’, by Fredrik Backman—Must Read
This book was beautiful in many ways. The first is the way the story is told—it weaves in and out but always centered around the main plot. It ebbs and flows, wrapping the reader in so much information but at the same time, exactly what we need to gain insight into the plot, the characters, and, most important, insight into the collective well-being—or lack thereof—of humanity as a whole. The most brilliant thing about this book is how it sets you up to judge, disregard, and even hate some of the characters, but you end up loving each one of them and wishing the well by the last page. The complexity of humankind is on full display not just for one or two main characters, but for the full cast of hostage taker, hostages, and the two main police officers involved. In a world where we are set against each other to keep us from achieving our collective power through unity, putting one another down has become the norm; books such as these remind us that even when someone rubs us the wrong way, they are probably quite good people and deserve our best.
Review of ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, by Gail Honeyman—Must Read
There are a lot of people who are labelled as weirdos and oftentimes just brushed off and ignored. At the beginning, it seems that Eleanor is just that—a weirdo, someone just different that isn’t worth anyone’s time, except to mock. Through brilliant prose that reflects how different Eleanor is, we discover a world very different from what we are used to, despite it being the same world that we inhabit. And through some great plot work, Honeyman slowly unravels Eleanor’s story, allowing readers to discover her many facets through her burgeoning friendship with Raymond and the elderly gentleman they save. Clues emerge steadily, although sometimes a little stealthily, about a troubled past, making it clear that however much she wants everyone—including herself—to believe, Eleanor is nothing but “fine”. An empathy-building read that could help transform the gaze of those considered as “normal” to consider that perhaps that “weirdo” is just in deep, wrenching pain, and could do with a friend.
Review of ‘Amelia Unabridged’, by Ashley Schumacher
Losing a sister is never easy. While Jenna wasn’t her sister through blood, she was in so many other ways. Jenna’s parents stepped into the role of involved aunt and uncle to Amelia, whose mother never recovered from a very personal loss of her own. We are taught to avoid grief, just like so many other negative emotions, and yet, as this book demonstrated, walking through the fire of these difficult experiences can bring us, ultimately, so much joy. In Amelia’s case, it helps her meet the enigmatic youth genius author of a world-renown book series, as well as fall in love with him. But more importantly, it helps remove the burden of a dead girl’s plans for Amelia’s future. After all, Amelia isn’t who she was when Jenna was alive. While following Jenna’s plans for her seem like the right way of honouring her, Amelia begins to understand that perhaps the first step to accepting her Jenna-less life is to retrace her path forward.
Review of ‘Dear Emmie Blue’, by Lia Louis
There were many beautiful learnings swirling on the pages of this book. It was a little hard to read at times—I found it very hard to learn about the way Emmie’s mother treated her. And while the ending was predictable pretty early on in the book, what mattered really was the journey that Emmie went through, a journey many of us can relate to even if it begins with something quite improbable—girl launches balloon, boy finds balloon, girl and boy become good friends. The power of relationships, the importance of opening up to new friends despite terrible experiences in the past, and the resilience of the human spirit are the most important themes and let’s just say that in 2020, we need all of the above to make it through what has easily been a pretty terrible year. Dear Emmie Blue will leave you uplifted and hopeful that things will get better, however terrible they may be at the moment.
Review of ‘Maggie Finds Her Muse’, by Dee Ernst
I gravitated towards this title because the main character is a writer who goes to Paris to work on the third book in her super popular series. I don’t have a super popular series, but I do have a series. I only have one publishing deal, and a small one at that, but I still have a deal. As of the time of the writing of this review, I am working on the third book of my series (albeit not the last, mine has a projected 8 books). And I would LOVE to go to Paris for 6 weeks, all expenses paid, in a gorgeous apartment, be waited on hand and foot, to write. Although instead of falling in love like Maggie, I would take the one I love with me. Maggie is a lovely character and I would love to meet her, if she existed. She is smart and sassy, a creative writer who knows how to say yes to help when it is given to her, and deals with questions about her romantic life in a way I find both charming and mature. While you can tell exactly how it is going to end, the story is a delight to read and the end came way too fast. If you need to escape the current crazy reality we are in, this is a good book to help you do just that.