I’d like to share some selections from my bookshelf—books I’ve greatly enjoyed.
The Sons and Daughters of Toussaint
An engaging, well- researched book about Haiti’s history, coupled with the fictional story of a modern day revolution to fulfill the dream of Toussaint. The author uses dynamic, compelling dialogue to drive the narrative, along with realistic characters. I found myself cheering for Isaac (a descendant of Toussaint) and his love Marie-Noelle. It’s obvious this carefully-crafted story was written by someone with a tender heart for Haiti, and he made me open my own heart to the needs of that country.
Sandstorm gave me all the feels! Author Joyce Yarrow took me on a perfectly-paced journey, one with ups, downs, twists, along with page after page of unexpected surprises. I immediately bonded with protagonist Sandie–her mother dead, her father useless, and her aunt failing to understand how to give her troubled niece attention and love. The story took me to dark corners of life that I’d never actually visit. But with Yarrow’s expert ability to create imaginable settings, I felt like I was there.
In Yarrow’s steady hands, Sandie is courageous and fearful, generous and a thief, confident and unsure. One obstacle after another is stacked in her path, yet she manages to find a way forward. And when her life takes another turn for the worse, I’m there, holding my breath to see if Sandie’s life will get better.
The other characters in Sandstorm are equally well-developed, including Frank, Tiffany, Russell, and Griffin. They are all multi-faceted people both flawed and capable. I wanted the best for all of them, but was disappointed by some of their choices, even while understanding their internal and external limitations.
Born of Love: A novel
This coming of age story focuses on Tova, a young Polish woman who makes a new start. While Tova is unquestionably strong, it takes her a long time to see herself in that light despite her bravery. After her parents die when she is still a teen, she makes a long, hellish journey to the United States on a cargo ship, where she is assaulted by the captain. At Ellis Island, she fears being sent back to Europe, so she jumps in the sea.
With the help of newfound friends and their families, she finds work, but problems continue. She faces unwanted advances from her boss and deals with grief, even while starting to build her own business. In the end, the most difficult challenge Tova faces is her own self-identity, largely based on a secret her parents shared with her when she was thirteen.
I intended to read this book slowly, one chapter at a time. But Born of Love drew me into the lives of the characters, and into the backdrop of World War I. Each chapter held a new story and new surprises so I kept reading. I finished the book in just a few days, wishing there were more pages.
This book is about a strong woman, but it’s also about secrets, relationships, love lost and love found. It’s about struggles of women in the workplace. It’s about building a community—both family and friends. And ultimately, Born of Love is about triumph.
I’ll admit—I’m a sucker for books about strong women! In Queenie’s Place I found more than expected, with dual main characters from vastly different backgrounds and life opportunities, who are alike in their strength. Author Toni Morgan’s expertly-crafted, descriptive, sensory passages brought me right into the setting—I could feel the oppressive humidity, hear the rollicking piano, and taste the barbeque. We meet our first strong woman, Doreen in 1971 at an anti-war demonstration in California, where her sign gets maximum attention: “Marine Corps Wife for Peace.” Likely as a result of her vocal public opinions, her husband Tom is moved from the West Coast to Camp Puller, North Carolina, where Doreen is not a fit with the woman on the base, nor the people in the local town. That changes when she unexpectantly meets Queenie, the second strong woman who headlines the story. This book is about the strength of female relationships, the importance of teaching our children about equality, and the value of doing what’s right—no matter how unpopular. Throughout, Morgan uses humor to lighten the storyline, while never shying away from the harsh truths of life.
Someday Everything Will All Make Sense
Carol LaHines has created a unique and realistic character, and I hope this book becomes a film so I can see Luther van der Loon on screen! Luther is a lovably neurotic medieval music professor whose mother dies eating takeout from their favorite Chinese restaurant when a rubbery won-ton becomes trapped in her throat. There were many surprises, and I found myself suddenly laughing loudly along the way as I turned the pages, wondering what would become of Luther without his dear mother. Luther is not unlike those of us who have lost loved ones, but he is unlike anyone I know in his obsessive observations as he moves through his grief–very slowly. If you love quirky characters and humor, this book will not disappoint. In addition to Luther, there are sub-characters who contribute to the dark humor. Piccolo Fabrizzi, a visiting music professor, deserves his own book–plenty of rich character for another novel!
Quite simply—this was a beautifully-written, engaging story. I finished Telling Sonny in record time, trying (and failing) to slow down so the story would last. This novel transported me to the whimsical world of the vaudeville show circuit. During this journey of the young Faby Gauthier and her new husband Louis, author Elizabeth Gauffreau artfully unveils the personality of each, and the relationship between the two. Gauffreau takes the readers on a well-paced journey, delivering emotive language to revel towns small and large, which Faby captures with her Brownie camera; and the acts of the “small time”, which Faby reviews in her journal with the care and thoughtfulness of a professional. I found myself caring deeply for Faby, constantly craving more than reality provided. Equally, I started each chapter hoping Louis would give his young, naive wife the love she craved. The last chapter left me surprised and more emotional than I expected. Gauffreau’s first novel shows a deep level of story and character development, and I look forward to her next book.