Some of My Favorite Books

Monday, March 25, 2013

Astray by Emma Donoghue

When I first started reading Astray by Emma Donoghue, I wasn't sure about it. In fact, I read the first short story, set it aside and read another book. Then I picked it up again and I'm glad I did.

Emma Donoghue took true stories, sometimes just a line she read, and embellished with characters and details weaving a fiction story out of a thread. The main theme that made the stories cohesive was that at least one character in each was straying in one way or another. They were all astray.

I really liked a couple of the short stories the best. "Counting the Days" alternated between a wife and mother, Jane, crossing the Atlantic from Ireland to Canada to meet her husband who had gone ahead the year before. Then it's her husband Henry's turn to tell his side of things. On the day he is to meet their ship, his plight is serious. He wants to meet the ship, but you'll have to read it to see what happens. Donoghue never let the two get the messages because of the long distance and time it took for mail to reach another country. She used passages from the couple's letters verbatim and they appear in italics in the story.

"The Body Swap" was interesting to me because it dealt with stealing the body of President Lincoln from his tomb in Springfield, Illinois. 

And "The Gift" was another short story that never let the characters speak directly. A poor woman gave up her daughter because she couldn't feed her then tried to get her daughter back when her situation improved. But her daughter had been sent on an Orphan Train from New York to Iowa. The adoptive father wanted no involvement by the natural mother. These two people who loved one child communicated in letters, each writing to the Children's Aid Society pleading their case.

These are just a few of the many stories that Donoghue includes. I loved reading the facts of the tidbit of truth where she gathered her inspiration that she at the end of each story.

Book Read:  Astray
Author:  Emma Donoghue

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

I have been feeling crummy the past week. Just a nasty cold that won't go away. I think I'm getting better, but last night I decided to save the last 20 pages of The Road from Coorain and read them this morning. I love to do that with really good books--read them when I'm more alert, not ready to nod off.

The Road from Coorain is a memoir about a woman growing up in Australia. It's been around since 1989, so maybe you've read it. I'm glad I finally did. Loved it!

Jill Ker was born in Hillston, New South Wales, in 1934. New South Wales is the province where Sydney, Australia is located. Hillston, a blip on the map, is where her family lived; it is the Australian outback. They operated a sheep farm and had little contact with the outside world. Jill and her two brothers helped with farm duties, riding horses with their father to repair fences and herd sheep. 

When Jill was 11, her father was killed and her life changed. In many ways. Her brothers were already living away from home at boarding school. She moved with her mother to a suburb of Sydney after the farm became too much to handle without her husband for Jill's mother.

This book is a fascinating read of a super smart woman who thrived in spite of many barriers that surely stopped other women. The Road from Coorain stops when Jill leaves to attend graduate school at Harvard. She went on to graduate from Harvard with her Ph.D. and was President of Smith College for 10 years. 
I can't wait to read True North, the memoir that continues her story.

Book Read: The Road from Coorain
Author:  Jill Ker Conway

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Home Front is the second novel by Kristin Hannah that I've read. She seems to pick timely topics that are highly emotionally charged. This one featured a woman Jolene Zarkades who is a wife and mother who also flies helicopters in the National Guard. This job is part time, only a few days a week and some weekends, until her group is called to go to Afghanistan for a year

This is not a Pollyanna story. Shit happens. I think this book would be a great resource for anyone dealing with someone going off to war. It doesn't sugar coat the effects, which I really appreciated.

Have you read Home Front? What did you think?

Book Read: Home Front
Author:  Kristin Hannah

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Watchmaker's Daughter: A Memoir by Sonia Taitz

I finished reading The Watchmaker's Daughter:  A Memoir by Sonia Taitz last night. What a wonderful book. 

Taitz is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, Simon and Gita, Jews from Lithuania, who met in New York at a Survivors Ball after the war. They married and had two children, Emanuel (Manny) and Sonia. 

Simon stayed alive at Dachua by repairing watches for the Nazis, "who loved punctuality." Gita was about to debut as a concert pianist before the war started.

Read my Squidoo article to find out more about  this fascinating tale and the book that is worth reading.

Book Read: The Watchmaker's Daughter:  A Memoir
Author: Sonia Taitz

Friday, March 1, 2013

Good Harbor by Anita Diamant

I finished reading Good Harbor last night and felt like this book could have kept going indefinitely. It was sad to close the book.

Kathleen and Joyce meet in the spring in an island town where Joyce and her husband have just bought a vacation home. They become friends and rely on each other throughout the summer, in different ways. Kathleen has breast cancer and Joyce feels like her family (her husband and daughter) are moving out of her life. 

Kathleen has a secret she finally reveals to Joyce and decides she has to talk about with her husband and sons. The author presents these characters with flaws in tact and they feel like real people you'd want to know.

Book Read: Good Harbor

Author: Anita Diamant


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