For full reviews of these books, click on the title to read more at Marie's Book Garden.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
I loved this story of a German girl living in a small town near Munich during World War II. It's about the Holocaust, of course, but more than anything it's about Liesel and her relationships with others, including a Jewish man who hides in her basement, her foster parents, and her best friend Rudy. This book is undeniably sad, but well written and beautiful at the same time.
Glow, by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
I found the writing in this book to be exquisite. The story starts with Ella McGee, daughter of NAACP activist Amelia McGee, who is put on a bus down south to Georgia in 1941. Unfortunately, the bus breaks down and she is left stranded--and soon beat up by two strangers--on the side of the road. She's rescued by former slave Willie Mae Cotton and her partner, Mary-Mary Freeborn. The book description promises that it traverses Ella's family history. It does indeed do that, in the form of beautiful individual stories of various people closely or distantly related to her or Willie Mae. Where the book fell short for me, though, was that it never adequately circled back to Amelia and Ella. Rather it was almost a book of interwoven short stories...and I'm no fan of short stories in general. I loved so much about this book, but I wanted more out of it.
The Mama Boy's Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger, by Kate Stone Lombardi
This is SUCH an important and desperately needed book. New York Times contributor Kate Stone Lombardi makes the fascinating point that of all the possible parent-child relationships, the most circumspect and maligned is that of the mother and son. This was an illuminating beginning to this book. Close mother-son relationships are abundant, but they are kept in the closet. This book affirms that I can have truly deep relationships with my sons, and they will be better prepared for adulthood because of our strong mother-son relationships. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who has a son or works with boys.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
Author Rebecca Skloot, daughter of acclaimed Portland writer Floyd Skloot, takes us on a journey back into the 1950s, when an African-American woman named Henrietta Lacks contracted aggressive, advanced cervical cancer. Her cells, taken without her permission, became the first immortal human cells grown in culture. They are still alive today and have multiplied billions of times. Skloot excavates Lacks' family history and gets to know her children and other family members, many of whom are too poor to afford steady health insurance. This is the story of Skloot's journey into this story, Henrietta's history, her family, and medical research and ethics over the decades. What's particularly amazing about this book is not only its insight into this fascinating story--and how a poor black woman was taken advantage of--but the fact that it was written by a young white woman who grew up in Portland, Oregon, a long way from Baltimore or Clover, Virginia.