The kind of emotion and nuance that blogger Brosh can create with basic, stick-figure-like drawings, is remarkable. She illustrates stories from her childhood, her severe bout with depression, her troublesome dogs (the “simple” one and the “helper” one) and more, imbuing all with the insightful humor and sensitivity that has become her trademark. This book is a genuine joy to read, though those looking only for an emotional pick-me-up should beware: it delves into dark (but important, I would argue) territory toward the end.
It’s impossible to sum up this magical saga in just a few sentences. Set in a mission hospital in 1950’s Ethiopia, this is a true epic, spanning decades and continents, complete with family drama, political revolution, and mysterious (miraculous?) situations. While the book does run too long, the writing is exquisite. This is one to buy, if you can, so that you can highlight and remember all the beautiful passages!
When my friend Jeanne recommended Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel to me, she almost apologized. After all, Gilbert wrote the memoir Eat Pray Love, a book neither of us had approved of. Jeanne promised The Signature of All Things (2013) was much better, though–and impressively well-researched–and she thought I would enjoy it.
My friend was right on all counts. Gilbert weaves rich, vivid details about the history of science and scientific exploration into the life story of a 19th-century woman from Philadelphia who has a passion for botany. Don’t let the word “botany” stop you; this novel excels at moving the plot forward, so it’s a page-turner. It also takes care not to impose 21st-century sensibilities onto its 19th-century characters, a care that will pay off when you reach the book’s emotional core. In many ways, this is the perfect book for break, a way to travel through time and, eventually, across the world while you’re curled up on the couch on a chilly fall day.
Wally Lamb has pretty much mastered the “person/family in crisis” sub-genre; We Are Water explores the inner minds of multiple characters, shifting perspectives from chapter to chapter to enable the reader to view the novel’s events through different lenses. 40-something mother and artist Annie Oh has left her marriage – and three grown children – to pursue a relationship with Viveca, an art dealer whose professional interest has led to Annie’s success. Members of her family are reacting to her upcoming remarriage with emotions ranging from betrayal to understanding, and from ideological objection to open acceptance. Meanwhile, dramatic and traumatic events from Annie’s past are resurfacing, causing her to question the validity of all her relationships. Lamb is an author who doesn’t always leave much to the imagination, but his ability to expertly weave his characters’ perspectives and actions together while also creating a strong narrative is remarkable. Though its subject matter is often quite serious, We Are Water is nevertheless a compelling and engaging read.
This book will haunt me for a while. High Court judge Fiona Maye finds her personal and professional lives crumbling as her marriage implodes and she is asked to rule in the case of a 17 year old boy who is refusing a blood transfusion on religious grounds. As you read, you get to see the thought processes behind the decision that is made and how dry facts can never be completely severed from the emotions and baggage we ourselves bring to everyday decisions. While the author leaves much of the book to your imagination, it is masterfully done. You can’t help but ask yourself, how might I have handled this situation at this or that age?
All images come from Goodreads. Reviews are written by librarians at the Augustana Tredway Library.