My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

My Life on the RoadMy Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
Published by Random House

From the publisher:

Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

I probably would have read this book at some point on my own, but what propelled me into reading it sooner than later was Emma Watson choosing it for the first pick of her Goodreads book club. I haven’t kept up with Watson’s book club, but I am happy that the idea of such a thing inspired me to read My Life on the Road because I really loved reading this book and getting to know Steinem on a personal level.

Steinem shares a lot with the reader about how and why she became the woman she did. She delves deep into her past, discussing how both of her parents’ personalities and life choices shaped Steinem’s own personality and life choices. She then gets into details about her own travels as an activist and feminist writer and organizer, and how each new place she visited inspired and changed her ways of thinking and being in the world. Honestly, I just enjoyed going on this journey with her. I loved learning more about her as a person, getting to understand how the individuals that crossed her path over the years influenced her in various ways, and learning more about the activism that was so central to her life.

Something that I particularly loved was getting to know some of the specific women Steinem worked with and spent time with throughout her life. Many of them were people I was ashamed to have never heard of, and I was inspired to do some research on a few of them. She talks quite a bit about race and the civil rights movement, and how feminism and women’s rights are – or at least, should be – tied into civil rights. This is one aspect of feminism that particularly interests me, something I want to keep reading more about, so I was pleased to see how much it is important to Steinem, too. More of this in feminist books, please.

My Life on the Road was a fantastic journey that I loved taking with Gloria Steinem. Highly recommended.

A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White

A Soft Place to LandA Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White
Published by Touchstone

From the publisher:

For more than ten years, Naomi and Phil Harrison enjoyed a marriage of heady romance, tempered only by the needs of their children. But on a vacation alone, the couple perishes in a flight over the Grand Canyon. After the funeral, their daughters, Ruthie and Julia, are shocked by the provisions in their will…not the least of which is that they are to be separated.

Spanning nearly two decades, the sisters’ journeys take them from their familiar home in Atlanta to sophisticated bohemian San Francisco, a mountain town in Virginia, the campus of Berkeley, and lofts in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As they heal from loss, search for love, and begin careers, their sisterhood, once an oasis, becomes complicated by resentment, anger, and jealousy. It seems as though the echoes of their parents’ deaths will never stop reverberating—until another shocking accident changes everything once again.

I’ve had this book on my TBR since falling in love with Susan Rebecca White’s gorgeous novel, A Place at the Table. When you love a book as much as I loved that one, it’s hard not to set exceedingly high expectations for the rest of the author’s work, which is kind of what happened here. I liked A Soft Place to Land. It was good. It was fine. It was sweet. It had emotions. It had pretty good characters. But the book didn’t come anywhere close to what I was hoping it would be.

I think the book started out problematic for me because I couldn’t buy the central premise. Basically, Naomi and Phil’s daughters are separated and raised by two different families after their parents die. The reason for this is complicated – Julia (the older daughter) has a biological father who is not Phil, so even though Naomi has full custody of her, upon her death, her will states that Julia is to live with her biological father and stepmother. And in the will, Ruthie is to live with she and Julia’s aunt and uncle. I get that Julia has to live with her biological parent, but would loving parents really put in a will that if they were to both die, their daughters – who now only have one another – be split up and have to live across the country from each other? And would the people charged with raising them after such a catastrophic event REALLY want to go along with this plan and allow the girls to be raised separately? I get it, but I don’t. There’s a point where the option to be raised together is presented, but various adults decide to be selfish and not do this, and I just couldn’t. Adults should want the best for children – this was NOT the best, and so outside the realm of what I thought was believable that I think it colored the entire book for me.

Besides all of that nonsense, I did like the book. Julia and Ruthie were believable – they each acted out in sometimes horrible ways, as grieving people do. Not only did they grieve for their parents, but their entire lives were turned upside-down because of the whole moving to different states, living with different families thing. Julia didn’t get along with her stepmother, Ruthie didn’t understand or identify with Julia’s rebellious ways, it was just a lot of these girls growing up and figuring things out, without parents and mostly without each other. I definitely feel that Susan Rebecca White can do complicated family dynamics really, REALLY well. And that she understands characters who act terrible and do awful things because of not knowing how else to react to a terrible situation.

I think the moral of the story of this review is that I liked A Soft Place to Land but had issues with it, and if I were going to recommend a book to you, I’d encourage you to pick up A Place at the Table first, as I felt that to be a far stronger novel. But I do plan to read more of the author’s books, because I really enjoy her writing and the way she develops her characters.

The Sunday Salon and #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Update

47289-sundaysalonI knew it had been a long time since I’ve checked in via The Sunday Salon but holy crap … I looked at my archives and it’s been more than a year?! Wow. I really need to get back to this.

So what has happened recently? Well, I may or may not have shared that we moved in early December. I think I’d mentioned here before that we were having a house built, well it’s done, it’s everything we wanted and we are absolutely loving living in it. We’re still doing odds and ends kind of projects around the house, but mostly everything is how we dreamed it would be. Work has been … work … if you read my Day in the Life post, you were able to see how long my days are sometimes – but mostly I love it, exhausting that it can be at times. My husband changed jobs and he’s loving his new career so far, about a month in. Better growth opportunity within a company plus better pay = an offer he couldn’t possibly refuse, and I’m glad it’s working out so well for him.

Coming up for me is a family vacation starting this Thursday – my mom, aunt and cousin are coming in from Chicago and we’ll spend a few days at Ana Maria Island and a few days just hanging out here at the house. A trip to The Wine Room is definitely on the agenda, as well as perhaps spending a day at one of the Disney parks. Not sure yet, but we’ll have a great time no matter what.

I have been doing phenomenally well on #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks. Of the 25 books I read in the first quarter of the year, TWELVE of them were from my TBR shelves. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to some people but I’m pretty sure that’s way more than I read all of last year from my own shelves. Only six of the books were from the library, one was a book I bought (for book club, still counts but I couldn’t get it any other way), and one was a review copy. The rest were a combination of audio, re-read, and comics, three categories I’m not counting towards my personal challenge. What’s most exciting about this is that I’m finding books I really like – and getting rid of ones I don’t. Additionally, I’ve read two books that were over 500 pages (and about to start a third), and three nonfiction books from my shelves – well on my way to my goal of six of each. While my first book finished in April was a review copy, and I do have some library stuff in the queue, I feel confident that I’ll continue this trend for the next few months. Check back in with me at the end of June for a second quarter update!

That’s all for today. It’s my husband’s birthday and all he wants to do is relax and lay low for the day, something I’m more than happy to indulge in myself. I plan to make these French Dip Sandwiches for dinner – one of his favorites – so I better get started on getting that together and in the slow-cooker.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What have you been up to lately? Anything exciting going on in your world?

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

I'll Meet You ThereI’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Published by Henry Holt and Co.

From the publisher:

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

I would not have heard of this book if it weren’t for the fantastic taste in books – especially YA – of Rhapsody Jill. And I LOVED this book so much. I’ve been feeling blah about YA in general for a while now, and this book reminded me that there is blah YA and then there is great YA, and I’ll Meet You There is GREAT.

There are so many things I loved about this novel. Skylar is intelligent, ambitious, a loyal friend, a loving daughter, an independent thinker, the type of teenager I pray that my nieces will become when they get a little older. She is not perfect, though, in that she is relentlessly judgmental about all the people in her town and fiercely determined not to become like them – something that her best friend, who is a seventeen-year-old mother who plans to raise her children in the very town Skylar despises, actually confronts her about toward the end of the book. That scene really showed that despite what a great person Skylar is, she has plenty of room for growth, and she’s open to becoming an even better person as she continues to grow up and develop herself.

The setting of this book absolutely oozes off the page and I feel like truly, Creek View is a real place and I have been there and stayed at the Paradise motel. This is a little thing but something that I felt Demetrios just did so darn well that I had to mention it.

Another thing Demetrios handled fantastically was the romance between Skylar and Josh and, specifically, the sex scenes. They felt realistic, sexy, but not over the top and not underdone (often an issue in YA for me) either. Teens have sex, and for it to be portrayed realistically in teen fiction is something that doesn’t happen a lot and did happen here.

And oh man, the PTSD stuff. The way that Demetrios portrayed Josh’s PTSD and how it manifested itself in every single one of his relationships, how his mind relentlessly tore at him, his memories driving him crazy with their nagging pain, it was really incredible. I’m not sure that I’ve read anything else, fiction at least, that so accurately portrayed PTSD. It was incredibly good.

I just loved I’ll Meet You There so, so much. I haven’t even looked to see if this author has other novels out but you bet I’ll be getting to them if she does. Highly recommended.

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams

Tiny Little ThingTiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

From the publisher:

In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple: intelligent, rich, and impossibly attractive. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November.

But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life: her volatile sister Pepper, an envelope containing incriminating photograph, and the intimidating figure of Frank’s cousin Vietnam-war hero Caspian, who knows more about Tiny’s rich inner life than anyone else. As she struggles to maintain the glossy façade on which the Hardcastle family’s ambitions are built, Tiny begins to suspect that Frank is hiding a reckless entanglement of his own…one that may unravel both her own ordered life and her husband’s promising career.

Beatriz Williams hasn’t disappointed me yet, and I can say that even though I didn’t love this novel as much as I did her previous ones. I’ve come to expect a kind of formula with her books that includes dual storylines – one “present” and one “past”, with two different main characters. Tiny Little Thing sort of has two storylines, but they are only set two years apart, and they both feature the same main character – Tiny. That being said, I liked Tiny a lot, so while I missed the historical element that most of her other books had, I didn’t mind as much because I enjoyed reading about Tiny throughout the entire book.

As always, Williams does a great job with her characters and the relationships between them. There are some really great scenes between Tiny and someone who must not be named for fear of a spoiler, some hilarious scenes between Tiny and her sister Pepper, and the dialogue around this insanely privileged, rich family is laughable but weirdly compelling (the sexism and misogyny, while annoying, is probably historically and demographically accurate). I liked the going back and forth between the two time periods, even though they were only a few years apart, because it gave some depth to this story that might have otherwise been sort of good but not great. Tiny went from a blah character to an very complex one before my eyes, and I liked that Williams kept up the dual narrative thing going with this book.

Tiny Little Thing does suffer a bit from being the second book in a trilogy – it’s not as exciting as the first book, and while I haven’t read the third yet, I’ve heard only amazing things about it – but I did enjoy it quite a bit. Even an okay book by Williams is great compared to lots of other novels, and I really loved getting to know Tiny. By the end of the book, I can truly say that I was rooting for her to find the love and happiness that I felt she deserved. Again, not my favorite Beatriz Williams of all time, but still a solid novel that I liked a lot.

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS EpidemicAnd the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
Published by Stonewall Inn Editions

From the publisher:

By the time Rock Hudson’s death in 1985 alerted all America to the danger of the AIDS epidemic, the disease had spread across the nation, killing thousands of people and emerging as the greatest health crisis of the 20th century. America faced a troubling question: What happened? How was this epidemic allowed to spread so far before it was taken seriously? In answering these questions, Shilts weaves the disparate threads into a coherent story, pinning down every evasion and contradiction at the highest levels of the medical, political, and media establishments.

Shilts shows that the epidemic spread wildly because the federal government put budget ahead of the nation’s welfare; health authorities placed political expediency before the public health; and scientists were often more concerned with international prestige than saving lives. Against this backdrop, Shilts tells the heroic stories of individuals in science and politics, public health and the gay community, who struggled to alert the nation to the enormity of the danger it faced. And the Band Played On is both a tribute to these heroic people and a stinging indictment of the institutions that failed the nation so badly.

I don’t even know what to say about this incredible, devastating, marvel of a book. I feel like I have nothing whatsoever to add to what was I’m sure an intensely interesting conversation when the book was first published, nor do I have anything to add to these three words: incredibly important read.

I just can’t with this. The insanity of a government, of the very people elected to serve and protect the citizens of a country, making the conscious decision NOT to spread awareness and educate the very group of people most at-risk for a deadly disease is just unconscionable to me. And yet. This is what happened, not many years ago, in the United States, with the AIDS virus. There is so much more to this book than that, but much of the trajectory of the spread of AIDS resulted from that one simple fact. And it is just bananas to me.

This book is really, heartbreakingly sad. Shilts gives the reader an up close and personal look at the lives of many of the people who were some of the first to be diagnosed with AIDS, and of the people who were fighting for education and preventative measures, and you fall in love with these men and root for them, and then almost all of them die. And then if you’re like me, when you finish the book, you research the author to learn that he also died of AIDS. It’s sad in the saddest of sad ways. But it is also fascinating and SO well-written and unbelievably compelling and really, this book produced so many emotions in me I can’t even begin to explain it.

So here is what I will leave you with – yes, this book is long, and complicated, and really freaking sad, but how important it is outweighs all of that. To me, And the Band Played On falls in the must-read category, one hundred percent. As difficult and heartbreaking and infuriating as the book is, it is so incredibly great. And so, so important.

 

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

For the second year now, Trish is hosting this super fun event called A Day in the Life – encouraging bloggers to share the details from an ordinary (or not so ordinary!) day in our lives. I totally spaced and didn’t prioritize recording one of my days this time around, but as I’m reading all the other posts it is making me SO sad that I didn’t participate this year. As I type this, it’s 5 pm on Thursday and I have a decent memory of what happened yesterday. So here is my best recollection of Wednesday, March 23rd. Times are my best guesses.

Oh and – refresher on me, I am a branch manager at a well-known financial institution.😉

6:40 – alarm goes off. I am not a snooze person so I get up right away, drink some water, brush teeth, and get in the shower. Spend the next 30-40 minutes getting dressed, etc.

7:30 – begin drive to work. It usually takes me about 45 minutes but today’s commute is great because spring break means fewer cars on the road, and NO school buses! Throughout the drive, I think about what I want to eat for breakfast – I’ll probably go with the yogurt I have in the fridge at work – and listen to my current audiobook (Troublemaker by Leah Remini).

8:05 – arrive at work 10 minutes early due to said great commute. Wait around for second employee, when she gets there at 8:15 we go in.

8:20 – do morning pre-opening things like making coffee, getting the branch ready for the day, and other bank/money stuff that is not interesting at all. I make my coffee in the Kuerig we all share and decide that the yogurt does not sound appetizing. Luckily, one of my employees has breakfast burritos that she made and froze in the freezer and offers me one. It’s delicious!

8:50 – unlock the doors and get ready to start the day. A few more employees are here by now.

9:05 – boss shows up unannounced. This is completely fine because I enjoy my boss a lot and don’t feel that I have to prepare for his visit or act any certain way when he’s there. He goes around talking to all of my employees while I sit down with a customer who has an issue with something, and resolve said issue.

9:30ish – 11:30ish – sit down with boss and discuss banking things and come up with a plan for a few things I need to work with my team on.

11:30ish – boss leaves. I start employee lunches, and today I have a very slim staff so I’m covering for people as they take lunch. I spend the next 3 hours helping customers, in person and on the phone, and bouncing back and forth between the teller side and the customer service/banker side.

3ish – sit down to eat my own lunch, the second half of my Chipotle burrito bowl from the day before.

3:20ish – 6:10 – this part of the day is mostly a blur to me. I know we were pretty busy so I helped a lot more customers and dealt with a few issues. Also, at some point during this time another branch manager friend of mine stopped by on his way home because he had to be in the area for something else. We chatted for about 10 minutes and he left.

6:10 – lock branch doors. There are no customers left in the building so my team might actually get to leave on time today! Very excited about that.

6:20 – tellers are done with everything for the day, I let them out and they go home. The bankers and I are staying late tonight to do some phone calls. Ask me more about this if you care, otherwise it’s pretty boring.

7:05 – phone calls done, everyone gets to go home. I start driving home, thinking about what I’ll eat for dinner almost the whole way home. Hubby is working late tonight (until 1 am!) so I know I’m on my own and don’t want to make anything elaborate or that takes up too much time.

7:45ish – get home. Take the dog out, clean up cat litter boxes, unload the clean dishwasher and re-load with dirty dishes in the sink from last night. Change into yoga pants and tank top and continue thinking about what to eat.

8:00ish – pour glass of wine. Stand in front of fridge for approximately 5 minutes before settling on a frozen turkey burger I find. Scrounge up bacon, cheese, and an egg and decide to add all that stuff to my turkey burger. Can’t find any buns so I settle for regular bread.

8:00-8:30ish – while I’m making dinner and while eating, I listen to my current podcast. When I finish eating, clean up the kitchen and put dishes in dishwasher.

8:30ish – time for the dog’s nightly walk. I start the walk with my earbuds in, listening to my podcast, but I abandon that quickly when I realize it’s REALLY dark in my neighborhood and I should probably be able to hear what’s going on around me. We take a quick walk, just around two blocks and back. I’m back home about 15 minutes later.

8:45ish – head upstairs to read for a little while. I finish Night Watch by Sarah Waters and move on to The Art of Fielding. I read for about an hour, while my dog sits by my side, munching on her “cookie” (she gets a rawhide treat thing most nights).

9:45ish – 11:30ish – despite being really tired, I want to watch some TV before bed. We have a TON of shows that we record on the DVR and are always falling way, way behind. This particular night, I pick Madame Secretary. The first episode is so good that I end up watching two and at this point, I’m beyond tired.

11:30ish – not sure exactly when I turned the TV off and went to bed, but I think it was shortly before midnight.

At some point between 1 am and 2 am my husband comes home, but he is really quiet so luckily I didn’t hear him and wake up.

On nights when hubby doesn’t work late, which is most nights, we cook and eat dinner together, talking about our days, and watch one or two TV shows after. He is always the dog walker at night and I sometimes go on the walk, sometimes not. I usually read after TV/walk and he does stuff on his computer. I almost always watch TV before bed, usually while playing on facebook or instagram or some other time suck. I want to get better about what I know is a bad habit, but truthfully, I love terrible reality shows like all the Real Housewives, and right before bed is my favorite time to watch them. So I probably won’t ever stop this habit, at least not anytime soon.

So that’s it! A regular Wednesday for me. Did you record your own day? Head over to Trish’s post to read about how others spend their days!

 

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Published by Viking

From the publisher:

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. 

This is one of the more captivating, interesting, unexpected books I’ve read in a long time. A Tale for the Time Being is a book that really intimidated me before I picked it up – I thought it would be difficult to read, too complicated for my brain to handle, and I heard magical realism being used to describe it which is something that almost never works for me. But after some gentle nudging from my cousin, who loved it (hi, Bonnie!), I started reading it. And was totally hooked from page one.

Nao is such a charming, incredibly lovable young girl who is going through so many tragic things all at once. She is bullied relentlessly – and when I say bullied, I mean some of the most hardcore, terrifying treatment of kids by other kids I’ve ever read about – her family has very little money, her father is depressed and suicidal, and the only person she feels she can trust is her great-grandmother, the Buddhist nun. Her life is just really, really hard, and the fact that she is SO hilarious and has such a joyful personality (outside of her own plans to end her life) is such an interesting contrast to the realities of her life. It makes reading her journal so compelling and I could NOT stop reading this book because of it.

Ruth, on the other hand, was mostly boring and I thought a lot of the sections from her point of view could have been cut out. Not all of it – she’s needed as the person who is reading Nao’s journal, thinking about it, reacting to it, etc. – but I would have loved getting even more from Nao if it meant getting rid of some of the banality of Ruth’s sections. But anyway.

There’s a weird sense of urgency running through a lot of the book, because Ruth is desperate to save Nao from herself, yet in reality she’s reading her journal years after Nao wrote it, so she knows intellectually that if Nao did what she said and actually took her own life, it would have happened years ago. Also, Ruth knows that the tsunami hit right where Nao lived, so she may have been killed in the tsunami. Yet even knowing these things to be true, Ruth still feels this intense pull to finish the journal and find a way to save Nao.

Ozeki does some weird things with time and maybe magical realism? that I am not sure I totally understood, but honestly I didn’t even care. I loved Nao to pieces, I loved this story, I loved how ultimately the two stories she was weaving of Nao and Ruth came together, and I thought this was such a gorgeous, brilliant novel in so many ways. I could go on and on about this book but I think the way I should end is just to say – READ IT. Then tell me what you think – I’d love to discuss!

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

The UncouplingThe Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Published by Riverhead Books

From the publisher:

When the elliptical new drama teacher at Stellar Plains High School chooses for the school play Lysistrata-the comedy by Aristophanes in which women stop having sex with men in order to end a war-a strange spell seems to be cast over the school. Or, at least, over the women. One by one throughout the high school community, perfectly healthy, normal women and teenage girls turn away from their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom, for reasons they don’t really understand. As the women worry over their loss of passion, and the men become by turns unhappy, offended, and above all, confused, both sides are forced to look at their shared history, and at their sexual selves in a new light.

I had very high expectations for this book, my first experience with Wolitzer, because I’ve heard nothing but great things about her writing and her novels in general. While I wasn’t disappointed, exactly, the book didn’t wow me like I had hoped it would. HOWEVER. It was pretty good. So I will mostly explain what I thought was good about The Uncoupling.

The best thing about the book, in my opinion, is what a great job Wolitzer does at portraying the ordinary lives of her characters. We get an inside look at several marriages and one parent-child relationship. She does such an incredible job at making the mundane aspects of marriage and family seem fascinating. We never do know what’s going on in our friends and neighbors homes, do we? There is no way to understand another couple’s relationship, is there? In real life, there is rarely an opportunity to see the truth of someone else’s life but in this novel, Wolitzer shows that to the reader over and over again. And so much of what these couples do and say and feel are things that I could relate to, that I’m sure most people would nod their heads along as they recognize parts of themselves or their relationships in these characters. That I think is a gift Wolitzer has and I definitely appreciated that aspect of the novel.

Also, there are quite a few characters in this novel, especially for a shortish book like this, yet it never feels overwhelming to keep track of everyone. I definitely think that some could have been given more attention as there were a few one-dimensional characters here, but overall I thought Wolitzer did a good job creating a solid cast of well-rounded and interesting characters who all played a unique role in her story.

My least favorite thing about the book was actually the main plot point, which was the no-sex spell that came over the women. I have a hard time, with realistic fiction especially, being okay with not understanding why something happens, and while I get that this is fiction, the fact that this “spell” is never explained bothered me. It made it more difficult to connect to the emotional aspect of what these women and men were going through. At the end it’s sort of revealed that the drama teacher has something to do with it, but exactly what is still very unclear. I also feel that how everyone was miraculously cured of the spell wasn’t explained or handled very well, either.

While I liked The Uncoupling for many reasons, I didn’t love it like I had hoped that I would. I am, however, very intrigued by Wolitzer as an author and will definitely explore more of her work.

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

What Was MineWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
Published by Gallery Books
Review copy provided by She Reads

From the publisher:

Lucy Wakefield is a seemingly ordinary woman who does something extraordinary in a desperate moment: she takes a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her own. It’s a secret she manages to keep for over two decades—from her daughter, the babysitter who helped raise her, family, coworkers, and friends.

When Lucy’s now-grown daughter Mia discovers the devastating truth of her origins, she is overwhelmed by confusion and anger and determines not to speak again to the mother who raised her. She reaches out to her birth mother for a tearful reunion, and Lucy is forced to flee to China to avoid prosecution. What follows is a ripple effect that alters the lives of many and challenges our understanding of the very meaning of motherhood.

Wow. What a page-turner this one was. While the book focuses mostly on the three women at the center of this story – Marilyn, Mia’s birth mother, Lucy, and of course Mia herself – there is so much plot that pushes the book forward and keeps the reader turning pages.

The author did a pretty incredible thing with this book, which is that she made me sympathize with and almost root for a kidnapper. Lucy did a terrible, unforgivable thing – she stole another family’s child – yet since much of the book is told from her point of view, I really liked her. Of course, I sympathized with Marilyn and Mia a whole lot more, for obvious reasons, but as the story goes on and the reader gets to know Lucy as a person, outside of this awful thing she did, it’s clear that she’s not a terrible person overall. She just made a really, insanely bad decision and continued with the lie for the rest of her life.

I also think that the author did a good job showing what type of reaction a teenager would have upon learning her entire life was a lie. She reacted out of the extreme emotional reaction of anger, but it made perfect sense for her to do that. If her mother could lie to her about her entire LIFE how could she ever trust that person again? So it made perfect sense that she would run straight to her birth mother and attempt to form a bond with the person who never got to be her mother, who never got the opportunity to gain or lose her trust.

There is so much emotion packed into this novel. I’m not a parent, so I can only begin to imagine how people with kids would feel as they read this book – pretty sure this situation is every parent’s worst nightmare. I could feel the intense pain of Marilyn, the desperate longing of Lucy’s to have a child, and the resentment and feelings of betrayal Mia had upon discovering the truth. I so appreciate how the author was able to pull all of those feelings off the page and into my heart.

I’m not sure about my feelings on the ending but I don’t know what the alternative could have been. How do you end a book like this? Certainly the story of these characters can’t possibly end at the end of the book – there are YEARS of healing and relationship-building to do in a situation like this. So, that being said, I think the ending was as good as it possibly could have been and definitely left the door open for these characters to continue to work on themselves and their relationships with each other.

What Was Mine was overall pretty great. I couldn’t put the book down and I really loved how Klein Ross created and developed these characters. Highly recommended!

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