I really enjoy reading. Unfortunately, with that comes a confession of a really bad habit I have. Once I start a book, if it’s a good one, I can’t put it down. I read to the exclusion of everything else, everything! My sweetie is always telling me “You know you can put it down and come back to it later”. But I can’t, especially once I get really into the book and things start happening in the story. (I’ve been known to read until the wee hours of the morning…until 3 or 4, and then have to drag myself up in the morning at 6 to get going.) I just HAVE to find out what’s going to happen next. Obsessive, I know.
These are a few of my favorite books from the past year.
The Shack: by William Paul Young (Photo and Summary from Google)
Mackenzie Allen Phillips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, “The Shack” wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.
Even though this book addresses unimaginable pain, losing a child in an especially violent manner, the story itself is a good one. It is well told, thought provoking, and doesn’t “beat around the bush”. I enjoyed the imagery of heaven, different from my point of view, but beautiful none-the-less.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: by David Wroblewski (Photo and Summary from Google)
Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar’s paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles’ once peaceful home. When Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm-and into Edgar’s mother’s affections. Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father’s death, but his plan backfires-spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father’s murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward. David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes-the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain-create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.
This book took me a bit to get into, and it is a hefty one. Once I got hooked on where the story was going I couldn’t put it down. I am an animal lover, and have always felt a special bond with the dogs that have come into my life over the years. I am always putting my thoughts into my dog’s expressions, and this book made me feel like I might not be too far off…only slightly crazy.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Brown (Photo and Summary from Google)
It’s January, 1946, and London is emerging from the shadow of World War II. Author Juliet Ashton is having a terrible time finding inspiration for her next book when she gets a letter from Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, a British island that had been occupied by the Nazis. He finds her address in a used Charles Lamb volume and wonders if she might be able to help him learn more about the author. As Juliet and Dawsey exchange letters, she learns about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed on the spur-of-the-moment, as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans. Captivated, Juliet sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her life forever.
I am fascinated by history, and by small town life. This book had both. After the expansive cast of characters was fully introduced I felt like I knew each of them. It was a charming story.
The Middle Place: by Kelly Corrigan (Photo and Summary from Google)
The thing you need to know about me is that I am George Corrigan’s daughter, his only daughter. So begins this beautifully written memoir, in which Kelly Corrigan intertwines her own story with that of her larger-than-life, Irish-American, born-salesman father’s, and illustrates both an unbelievably powerful and healing father/daughter relationship and the unbreakable bonds of family. Writing with candor and a surprising amount of graceful humor, Kelly alternates the tale of growing up Corrigan with her life and her father’s today, as they each successfully, for now battle cancer. Throughout, she explores the framework of illness and what it means when the one person who has been your source of strength is in need of some himself. Uplifting without shying away from the realities of life with cancer, this highly personal story ultimately examines the universal theme of family, both those we create and those that created us. The Middle Place is about the bittersweet moment between childhood and adulthood when you’re a devoted wife and mother, but you’ll always be daddy’s girl. In fresh, insightful prose, Kelly explores and ultimately embraces that middle place, bringing to light the wonderful opportunity of coming to know who you are and where you truly belong.
I loved this story. You wouldn’t think a story with cancer as the tie through could be so endearing, but it was. It was poignant, and funny at the same time. I think I felt every emotion while reading this one: joy, anger, sadness, even jealousy.
The Art of Racing in the Rain: by Garth Stein (Photo and Summary from Google)
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny’s wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man. A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.
This one was another dog story. When I first learned that this book was about racing I was skeptical, but it ended up being so much more. I want Enzo. He is everything you want a dog to be and more. I love him. This book really reminded me about fortitude, and that the easy road is not usually the best one.
A Year on Ladybug Farm: by Donna Ball (Photo and Summary from Google)
Their husbands were gone, their families were grown, and the future stretched out before them like an unfulfilled promise… Tired of always dreaming and never doing, Cici, Lindsay, and Bridget make a life-altering decision. Uprooting themselves from their comfortable lives in the suburbs, the three friends buy a run-down mansion, nestled in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley. They christen their new home “Ladybug Farm,” hoping that the name will bring them luck. As the friends take on a home improvement challenge of epic proportions, they encounter disaster after disaster, from renegade sheep and garden thieves to a seemingly ghostly inhabitant. Over the course of a year, overwhelming obstacles make the three women question their decision, but they ultimately learn that sometimes the best things can happen when everything goes wrong…
This was a sweet story and a super quick read. I lived in Virginia from the 6th – 12th grade so I could really visualize this beautiful (and dilapidated) farm. Being a do-it-yourselfer, I could identify with their home improvement projects, even the ones gone awry. This book made me think about following your bliss, something we should all do.
The Help: by Kathryn Stockett (Photo and Summary from Google)
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.
This book was fab-U-lous. I love, love, loved it. It is a heartwarming story full of identifiable characters and moments every southerner can relate to. I’m not going to tell you too much about my thoughts, because I want you to find out for yourself on this one.
Do you have any books that I shouldn’t miss out on? Any bad habits when it comes to getting engrossed in a story?