Yes, you read that right: I’m gearing up for summer. You might wonder why, since there is a fresh blanket of snow covering everything every couple of days. That’s because that blanket melts pretty fast and the smell of spring remains in the air.
And I refuse to believe that summer is that far away.
A Window Opens: A Novel, by Elisabeth Egan
From the beloved books editor at Glamour magazine comes a heartfelt and painfully funny debut about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.
In A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor, and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker, or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers—an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life—seems suddenly within reach.
Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up, and her work takes an unexpected turn. Fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It, Where’d You Go Bernadette, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she—Alice Pearse—really want?
A simple, straightforward read written in an engaging voice, Alice is a protagonist readers will root for. After all, we are living in a world where we are expected to have it all, but even as we struggle with our own balancing act, lost sometimes in a confusing haze, other people’s problems seem crystal clear to us; shedding light on their struggles helps us with our own. Perhaps that is the most powerful aspect of this book, along with its ability to make readers laugh, smile, wince, and cheer as Alice figures things out in a way hopefully we will be able to as well.
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The Friends We Keep, by Susan Mallery
In this insightful and compelling story from book club favorite Susan Mallery, three close friends test the boundaries of how much a woman can give before she has nothing left.
After five years as a stay-at-home mom, Gabby Schaefer can’t wait to return to work. Oh, to use the bathroom in peace! No twins clamoring at the door, no husband barging in, no stepdaughter throwing a tantrum. But when her plans are derailed by some shocking news and her husband’s crushing expectations, Gabby must fight for the right to have a life of her own.
Getting pregnant is easy for Hayley Batchelor. Staying pregnant is the hard part. Her husband is worried about the expensive fertility treatments and frantic about the threat to her health. But to Hayley, a woman who was born to be a mom should risk everything to fulfill her destiny—no matter how high the cost.
Nicole Lord is still shell-shocked by a divorce that wasn’t as painful as it should’ve been. Other than the son they share, her ex-husband left barely a ripple in her life. A great new guy tempts her to believe maybe the second time’s the charm… but how can she trust herself to recognize true love?
As their bonds of friendship deepen against the beautiful backdrop of Mischief Bay, Gabby, Hayley and Nicole will rely on good food, good wine and especially each other to navigate life’s toughest changes.
Finally. Finally a book about relationships between good men and good women who are imperfect but not stupid. What a breath of fresh air, guys. No one is demonized in this book; rather they are all just treated as the flawed yet inherently good people that we all are. There is nothing cliché about these women and their relationships, be it romantic or with each other; each of them come to life in a unique way, leaping off the pages and seemingly taking a life of their own. Susan Mallery has two gifts that work very well together. One is that she is able to write in an engaging tone that captures the attention from the get-go and doesn’t let go until the end of the book. The other is to have a perspective on life that is both realistic but intriguing enough to make for a fascinating and inspiring story. You will definitely miss your best friends after reading this one!
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Someone Else’s Love Letter, by Deborah Blumenthal
Fixing your wardrobe is a dream job. Fixing your life is a work of art.
Sage Parker has the perfect occupation for a Manhattanite—she helps the rich and powerful keep their wardrobes current and suitable for every need. Her sense of fashion is impeccable, her connections are unsurpassed, and her eye misses not a single well-made stitch.
So when she discovers a love note left in the back of a cab, Sage admires the card stock and the ink, but also the heartfelt words. She sets out on a mission to find out who the love note was intended for—and who wrote it.
What Sage discovers will broaden her horizons and change her life, introducing her to an extraordinary woman who is revamping her entire world midway through life, a dashing Brit with a hive of secrets, and a free-spirited painter, whose brush captures the light in everything he paints, including Sage.
Fans of Isabel Wolff and Kathleen Tessaro will be hopelessly enchanted with Sage Parker and this mesmerizing, heartfelt novel of bold fashion and bolder choices.
There is a lot of potential in this book, but for me it felt a little flat. There was no depth to Sage’s love story, depth that the author is clearly capable of. The sections she wrote on the relationship between outer looks and inner feelings for example veer into gorgeous reflections. I could tell that there was some depth to the relationship brought by these reflections, but not enough. However, the light of that part of the book shone so bright that it is still well worth reading. In an age where clothes are unfortunately seen mostly as a way to portray status, it is refreshing to hear of a deeper meaning to the efforts we make into dressing our bodies. I feel like some of these sections could potentially even change the way readers perceive the very act of dressing their body, elevating it into something much more than it is.
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Hidden, by Catherine McKenzie
When a married man suffers a sudden fatal accident, two women are shattered — his wife and his mistress — and past secrets, desires, and regrets are brought to light.
While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son as well as contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother, who was her ex-boyfriend. Tish volunteers to attend the funeral on her company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life.
Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.
This is a thrilling read although it is anything but a thriller. It doesn’t go anywhere near what one would assume Catherine McKenzie will go. It is not a drama-rama, typical romance book; it is actually about love in the broader sense of the word. One finds out not just about the love between a husband and a wife or the one between a man and his mistress, but also the love of a mother for a child, the love of a family for its members as well as for its entity as a family—and ultimately, the power of love to overcome selfish desires and to let go of opening a potentially fatal Pandora’s box. And kudos to Catherine for a certain twist which I will say nothing more about (but would love to hear other readers’ reactions to!)
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I Almost Forgot About You, by Terry McMillan
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting To Exhale is back with the inspiring story of a woman who shakes things up in her life to find greater meaning.
This book was challenging to read. On the one hand, it is very well-written, engaging, and the characters are very lovable, especially the main protagonist. On the other hand, I couldn’t connect with Georgia’s issues. I think it’s mostly because so much of the book seems to be focused on sex. While sex is an important part of any relationship, it isn’t its core, and similarly, when we have relationship issues, sex is only a part of it. I felt that everything always came back to a crude version of sex—which long term readers of my reviews know is a particular pet peeve of mine. Skipping these sections though didn’t ruin the book and actually helped delve into some really interesting questions about relationships, be they romantic or other. How does one go about finding love again after one has been through so many painful relationships? Should one be content with having had a full life culminating in healthy children and grandchildren, a career, a beautiful home, and financial security? Or should one be willing and ready to take a step into building a life that also includes other elements that are lacking, whatever one’s age may be?
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Sophie’s Throughway, by Jules Smith
A unique novel that explores the effect Asperger’s has, not only on the individual, but on the family unit as a whole.
Sophie needs to find a way to balance the chaotic route she has been forced to walk down… a son she cannot control – diagnosed with Asperger’s and PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance), coinciding with the onset of raging hormones; a daughter she has to ensure gets attention so she doesn’t feel left out; and an ex-husband who comes and goes as he pleases.
At the same time, Sophie struggles to hold down her job as an interiors writer for a magazine. Her rambling house is in desperate need of upkeep – her garden is full of overgrowing plants; there’s no end of laundry, cleaning and cooking and there’s not nearly enough money.
Only wine, chocolate and good friends keep Sophie from tipping over the edge. That, and the mysterious voice of her cyber love. Could he be the saviour she’s been waiting for? Or has he been in front of her the whole time?
Told from the perspective of a mother who has to battle through life on a daily basis – fighting hard to keep her son in school, dealing with her marriage breaking up, giving her daughter her attention, maintaining her job and exploring her future love life.
Sophie’s Throughway is a heartwarming read, written to inspire empathy and compassion within the reader, as well as increasing understanding for a condition that does not have enough public recognition.
Oh, this was a tough book to read (do you even know what a mother of a child with Asperger’s and PDA can go through?!?!?) but such an important one in my opinion. These are the books that demonstrate how fiction can both be an entertaining escape and a portal into new dimensions of understanding. Sophie’s challenge, on top of normal challenges a woman with two teenage children has, is such a tough one that I can’t even imagine getting through one week with her son, let alone a day. And as clearly demonstrated in the book (as well as on various news stories about similar issues), there is a huge lack in understanding at very important levels of what it entails to have a son with Asperger’s and PDA. Reading books such as this one can really help open our minds and ready them for conversations on how, as community members, we can support a family in such a situation. Because in this case especially, it will take a village to raise that child.
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2 thoughts on “Book Review Round-Up: Six Books to Gear Up for Summer”
Great reviews! I’ll have to add some of these to my summer reading list 🙂
Glad I could help! Please let me know when you do read them–I’d love to hear your thoughts!