That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

Alam, Rumaan 2018.02This book was not what I thought it was going to be at all. It started almost as a superficial take on motherhood (it’s hard y’all!), but turns into this beautiful dissertation  on the happenstance of life, family, and race relations in America.

What I like about this book is that the characters are flawed in very real ways, weaknesses that we can see in ourselves if we really look closely. Rebecca, the protagonist, is an optimist, which sometimes prevents her from seeing the truth; she acts selfishly at times, yet she does so out of love; she tries not to see herself as a “White hero”, but she takes secret pride and shame from her role as one. It also speaks a lot of truth about race relations in America: some scenes were uncomfortable, yet were so real they took me back to moments when I realized a person of color was being treated differently that I was, a white female.

This is not a plot-driven novel, but I enjoyed every moment reading it as the characters were so well developed I kept reading to see if they came out okay. Alam does a brilliant job of writing about women, I don’t think I could describe breast-feeding as accurately as he writes, and I have actually breast-fed! I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in motherhood, family, adoption, and American race relations.

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

Publication date: May 8, 2018

I read this as: Edelweiss ARC

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Lippman, Laura 2018.04
Cover image provided with permission from HarperCollins

Polly and Adam are drawn toward each other like magnets, despite each of them knowing it’s a very bad idea. Polly has abandoned her family and is running away from (or  perhaps towards?) something, what it is isn’t exactly clear. Adam has secrets too, his boss has sent him to investigate Polly, but why, exactly? The story progresses in a search to answer questions that only seem to lead to more questions, the suspense slowly building to one inevitable outcome.

Set in 1995 Delaware, this book has a noir appeal to it, Polly’s aesthetic is vintage and the restaurant that both Polly and Adam begin working in has a 1950s nostalgia flair. The writing style is also very sparse, reminding me of The Maltese Falcon and other compelling mysteries of that era. The story has many layers to it that must be slowly peeled back until the truth is discovered, the secrets of the past complicating the future, or as one character puts it:

Some people are like rabbit holes, and you can fall a long, long way if you go too far.

Sunburn is spellbinding story that kept me coming back to solve the riddles of Polly’s past and to see what violent ends awaited the people around her. It was clear that the book wasn’t going to end well for someone, the question is who that person is and by what means. Lippman is masterful in building the plot and slowly leaking the details, by the end everything is clear and the story has a resolution, even if it’s not exactly what you were hoping for. I would recommend this for lovers of a femme-fatale noir mysteries, or someone who enjoys a good suspense novel that keeps you guessing until the very last moment.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Published on: February 20, 2018

I read this as: A library book

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

EleanorOliphant
Cover image provided with permission from Penguin Random House Canada

From the outside Eleanor appears to be okay, maybe even completely fine. Sure, she is socially awkward, has no verbal filter, is unable to be anything but completely literal, and her closest friend is a plant, but none of this seems to really bother Eleanor, as she puts it:

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

Once we start digging through the layers of Eleanor, we begin to see that she is far from fine. However, as the shroud of her heartbreaking past and the mystery around it begins to fall, Eleanor learns about herself and develops meaningful relationships. She meets Raymond, her office IT guy, and through her friendship with him she saves Sammy, an older man who falls in the street. Even though Raymond and Sammy are a little confused by Eleanor initially, they see the kindness in her and open their friendship and families to her, giving Eleanor a chance to experience loving relationships, perhaps for the first time.

This book is about trauma, but even with everything stacked against her, Eleanor is a true heroine; she is brave, kind, someone you simply cannot stop rooting for. Despite the sad parts, Eleanor is unwittingly hilarious, I loved the depictions of her experiencing something for the first time, such as dancing in public:

“I found myself not thinking about anything, sort of like how the vodka worked, but different, because I was with people and I was singing. YMCA! YMCA! Arms in the air, mimicking the letters – what a marvelous idea! Who knew dancing could be so logical?

During the next free-form jigging section, I started to wonder why the band was singing about, presumably, the Young Men’s Christian Association, but then, from my very limited exposure to popular music, people did seem to sing about umbrellas and fire-starting and Emily Brontë novels, so, I supposed, why not a gender and faith-based youth organization?”

I DIED.

This novel was so endearing, funny, and sweet, I loved it from start to finish. Learning about Eleanor opens us up to understanding people who are different, even if they are off-putting and strange, and in this way the book reminded me a lot of A Man Called Ove. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys quirky and like-able characters, character-driven story-lines, or someone who enjoys cheering for the under-dog.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Published: May 9, 2017

I read this as: A library book

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