The Tapestry of Fortunes is a blend of humor, wisdom, education and friendship that I found delightful. Cecilia has just lost her best friend to a fast-moving cancer. Penny had been the one to motivate and help Cecilia to know herself. Now she finds that Penny is still speaking to her in subtle ways and she followes her advice to slow down and seek changes. She puts her career aside, sells her home and furnishings and finds a group of women to share a home and a road trip. Cecilia receives a postcard from a former boy friend just home from Tahiti, and weighs the risks of reconnecting knowing how much they have changed. This beautifully written novel is a sensitive and hopeful story of women supporting each other through life’s trials.
The first novel of Irish journalist, Kathleen MacMahon is a compelling love story that hints at a tragic end almost from the start. Addie is an unemployed architect that designs dream swimming pools, takes daily swims with her dog, and cares for her recently injured father, a self-important surgeon. An American banker, Bruno, who is divorced and just finding himeself unemployed after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, travels to Ireland to research his family tree and locate Irish cousins. The two second cousins meet and begin a romance in 2008 against the backdrop of the presidential elections. (Bruno vows that he won’t return if Obama doesn’t win). As they spend their time traveling around Ireland, adjusting to each other’s cultural differences and meeting family and friends, Addie is ignoring a pain that her sister keeps nagging her about. In This is How It Ends, lighthearted banter, interesting characters, challenging times all unite to create a memorable story that keeps begging to be read.
Julie Kibler has written a debut novel that won my heart. I could not put this tragic love story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the south during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods as years later now ninty year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral 1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelles secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by Julie Kibler!
Something just didn’t add up as I read this story, I knew there was a mystery lurking in the background, but I wasn’t sure what it was or why. Secrets were behind every turn. Willa Jackson had just moved back to Walls of Water, North Carolina. Her grandmother, Georgie Jackson, was in the nursing home there and seemed to be worried about peaches.
Paxton Osgood, now lived in The Blueridge Madam mansion, which at one time had belonged to the Jackson family. Paxton’s grandmother, Agatha Osgood, was Georgie’s best friend. Paxton decided to have a grand party to celebrate the social woman’s group that Agatha and Georgie had started years ago. Willa wasn’t interested in the event to honor both grandmothers, but when the peach tree was taken out and a skeleton was found, the secrets come out. Then we find out about the traveling salesman, Tucker Devlin, who had worked his charms on the town when Agatha and Georgie were young women. By the end of the book, both Willa and Paxton fall in love, secrets are unraveled, and everyone lives happily ever after.
For all Austen enthusiasts Syrie James has written a novel in the essence and style of Jane. It begins with a contemporary story of American librarian, Samantha McDonough, discovering a hidden letter written by Jane Austen in the back of a book of poetry while vacationing in London She gains enough insight from the letter to begin to believe that Jane has written and lost another manuscript while visiting friends at Greenbrier in Devonshire. Pursuing this exciting possibility, Samantha meets handsome owner of Greenbrier, Anthony Whtaker and begins the search within his home. Now the story within the story begins when the manuscript is found and the two begin reading it to each other. We walk the streets of Bath with Austen characters in a story with all the atmosphere, romance and charm found in a Jane Austen novel.
The wonderful books of Maeve Binchy have come to an end with her death last July in Ireland. This last delightful book, A Week in Winter was finished just a few weeks prior to her becoming ill. Those of us who are her fans will miss her common sense and creative approach to life’s obstacles and trauma. Maeve has written about every kind of personality imaginable in her Irish tales. Her stories unite characters bringing support to each other and finding answers to difficulties. Whether it be divorce, unwanted pregnancy, lover’s who run off, death, senility, Maeve’s characters learn to journey on.
In her last novel we are experiencing the windswept coast of western Ireland where Chicky is turning an old estate into a bed and breakfast. She has returned to her home town after many years in New York hiding the fact that her love deserted her after convincing her to leave home. The following chapters each tell the story of a person who finds themselves at Stone House that first week.
Maeve was a journalist for the Irish Times for many years. When interviewed about her books she shared this bit of philosophy that was evident in her wonderful books, “I don’t think you’re happier if you’re thin or beautiful or rich or married. You have to make your own happiness,” Binchy told Australia’s Illawarra Mercury newspaper in 2000. “My heroines do not become beautiful elegant swans, they become confident ducks and get on with life.”
Who remembers Girl with a Pearl Earring? Tracy Chevalier wrote that international bestseller in 1999 which was adapted into a movie in 2003 with three Academy Award nominations. Her newest novel is again historical fiction but for the first time has ventured into pioneer America. A major focus of the abolitionist movement, Oberlin, Ohio is the setting for Honor Bright’s story of arriving in America from England after a very difficult ocean crossing. Knowing she can never survive the incapacitating seasickness again, Honor must make the best of life in the harsh landscape of this backward land. Grace, her restless sister, corresponded with and agreed to marry an older man who had started a new life in America. Honor decided to accompany her after suffering the heartache of being released from her engagement to a local Quaker man who found another to love. Grace dies suddenly from yellow fever and Honor must find her way among the Friends believers in Ohio. Much of the story deals with the Underground Railroad and how it affected families. We feel compassion for the runaway slaves and how lives were put in jeopardy for helping to move them to safety in Canada. The austere life of a rough existence in this new land with few friends is felt by the reader as Honor remembers the comforts of home. The Last Runaway is an experience of heartache and hope as we live life through the mind of a Quaker looking for the Light in all, even the slave catchers.
Anne Lamott has a beautiful way of sharing her faith in the most honest way. She writes from the heart about her personal experiences in a way that we all can identify with. Having just experienced a life crisis with my 91 year old mother, I was greatly blessed by this little jewel of a prayer book. Help prayers for when we need God to hear us in the most crucial times, thanks for the many little happenings so that hopefully we will develop a gratitude habit, and wow for the amazing world that surronds us. This tiny book, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers is packed with a multitude of thoughts and prayers to help us release our hold and allow God to overcome all that the world throws at us
Catherine Ann Benson is a child forced to move from California and an exclusive lifestyle to a small town in Texas after her parents are killed. She moves in with her grandmother and is befriended by two boys in a similar circumstance–both have been abandoned by their parents. The three forge a bond of friendship that lasts throughout their school years. The boys are football stars, revered in their small Texas town, and Catherine is planning to attend medical school. Tragedies occur that change their futures and send them all on separate paths. Over the next twenty years, their lives change and all follow their own course, but all have secrets that they carry. One of the three returns to their small town after 20 years away, determined to reveal the secrets that caused the divisions between them. Filled with themes of friendship, betrayal, loss and forgiveness, Tumbleweeds is a saga with twists, turns and drama that will keep the reader captivated. Roses is the previous novel by Leila Mecham that also takes place in Texas.
With the first chill of autumn in the air, I carried my warm weather house plants inside that survived the intense Kansas heat. Just one day into cold temps and I am already dreading the long, cold winter. Reading is a respite when the story’s setting is lush and tropical. My latest read is set in the low country of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Porch Lights is Dorothea Benton Frank’s newest. All thirteen of her books revolve around this small town at the entrance to Charlestown harbor and draw you into the laid-back, charm of beach life.
Jackie McMullen has recently lost her NYC firefighter husband to a tragic accident. She takes her ten year old son, Charlie, home to Sullivan’s Island for the summer. Jackie finds a part time job and her mother does everything she can to make Jackie feel at home. Jackie feels over mothered and even pushed into a relationship with the widower who lives next door. Charlie finds friends and distractions from his sadness and wants to stay permanently. The ending is satisfying as they begin healing in the love and warmth of family.
Open the back cover of Calling Invisible Women and you will hoot with laughter. The photo of the author, Jeanne Ray, is as imaginative as this story.
Clover Hobart is a middle aged mother of two young adults and the wife of a pediatrician with an insanely busy practice. One day she discovers that she is invisible. As any middle age woman knows, this is not uncommon, however, Clover was actually gone. She could not see her own hands, face or anything else. This crazy situation was being experienced by other women that Clover finds through a newspaper ad she stumbles over while searching the notices. The 10 a.m. meeting at the Downtown Sheraton of equally invisible women brings comfort to Clover and a determination to discover the source of their invisibility. Could a combination of prescription drugs that all of these women have taken actually lead to this result? How are they going to battle a major pharmaceutical company? When will her family actually take notice of her condition?
Jeanne Ray wrote her first book as a retirement project after working forty years as a registered nurse. This New York Times bestselling author has a wonderful sense of humor. I can’t wait to see what else she has written.
Paul and Pamela’s daughter had been away all summer on a mission’s trip and was only home for a short time before heading off to college. Now, Paul wants a divorce, no discussion, no chance of repair, he wants out so he can marry Dana Taylor, a woman he volunteers with at church. With no forewarning that Paul has been unfaithful, Pamela is in shock and believes she can win him back. Jumping in Sunset by Dawn Ringling tells of Pamela’s struggle to accept Paul’s abandonment and to move on with her own interests. Without her best friend, Starla and Ken, her new friend, Pamela would not have gotten through this devastation. She soon realizes that she had been living the life that Paul wanted from her and now she is free to live the life that she loves. Ringling brings to life real people in a real world with real problems and shows that with God’s help one can endure the hardships life sometimes throws at us.
by Liane Moriarty
Ellen, the hypnotist, is in love with a widower that is being stalked by his last love. Saskia, the stalker, cannot let Patrick and his son Jack go. She spent three years of her life raising Patrick’s son from a toddler. How could he just say it’s over. Saskia won’t let Patrick get by with pushing her out of his life. Ellen, is intrigued with Saskia’s behavior, but when she shows up at the foot of her bed in the middle of the night, that is just a little bit too bizarre. Patrick’s love for his first wife, Colleen, seems to still be fresh. Ellen isn’t sure she can compete with his sentiment for her. Will Ellen be able to live with a stalker pursuing their every move and the fact that Patrick hasn’t left his first love behind? The Hypnotist’s Love Story, set in Australia, is an intriguing read, with several interesting characters in the sidelines.
Ciro and Enza, two Italian immigrants, find each other and a future in Adriana Trigiani’s epic historical novel, The Shoemaker’s Wife. in 1905, seven year old Ciro and his brother, Eduardo, are left at a convent in Italy by their distraught mother who can nolonger care for her sons. Her husband had died in America while trying to make a new life for his family. The nuns become their substitute mothers and Eduardo takes to the religious life, while Ciro wants more from life. He meets 15 year old Enza when hired to dig the grave of her little sister in a nearby mountain village. Their attraction for each other during this difficult time begins a love relationship that spans many miles and many years.
Adriana Trigiani spent twenty years writing this story that tells the enchanting love story of her grandparents, who came to America. The hardships they endure as they search for a way in this country are overcome through their determination to succeed and strength of character. The historical details of the Metropolitan Opera House in the early twentieth century, and Enza’s relationship with Enrico Caruso for whom she sews costumes and cooks traditional Italian delights add to the delight of this story.
>Gemmy Hardy doesn’t remember having a home. Orphaned at a young age, Gemma is taken from Iceland to Scotland to be with her uncle. After forming a close bond with him he also passes on, leaving her in the care of an indifferent aunt. Her scholarship to a boarding school seems like a blessing, but doesn’t turn out that way. Along the way, Gemma maintains her dignity and self-worth, standing up to those who try to belittle her. This practice is noble, but doesn’t always work in her favor. When her dreadful school closes, she desperately grasps at a position in the Orkney Islands to be the au pair to the young niece of a Mr. Sinclair, a wealthy man with a secret. For the first time, Gemma is treated with respect, as an equal.
Sound familiar? In The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Livesey has taken on the challenge of writing a modern interpretation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Rewriting such a classic is a difficult undertaking and, except for a couple of small weak spots, Livesey has come through with shining colors. She follows the plot quite closely with adjustment for the setting of post-war Scotland. The true triumph, though is the feel of the book. We follow along as Gemma faces one difficulty after another and soldiers on. The book expresses perfectly a dark undercurrent of rootlessness without succumbing to despair. The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a beautiful story about the strength of the human spirit.