Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I read in April (2014)

It was a great month for reading. For full reviews of these books (these are just excerpts of the reviews), click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden.

Two great historical fiction books

The Invention of Wings
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Invention of Wings is based on the lives of Sarah and Angelina Grimke, abolitionists and feminists. The novel begins in the early 1800s, with Sarah Grimke turning 11 and her mother "giving" her ownership of her own slave, Hetty, or Handful. Sarah is deeply uncomfortable with her family's legacy as slave owners. The novel weaves the story of Sarah with that of Handful and her mother Charlotte. While Sarah struggles to put a voice to her passionate thoughts, Handful and Charlotte weave their own pains and desires in their quilts and pass on their family history through stories. This novel is not an easy read--Kidd depicted the horrors of slavery without flinching. Sarah and Angelina Grimke were pioneers of their time, standing up for what they believed was right, even if their voices shook.

My Notorious Life, by Kate Manning
I LOVED this book, but it's probably not for everyone. Introduced as a lost diary, the book opens with a suicide. The main character fakes her own death with this dead body of another. We know she's married, and her husband helps cover it up. Axie Muldoon, a poor Irish immigrant child, was sent off to the midwest on the Orphan Train with her siblings.
Without giving too much more of the plot away, I will say that Axie is a complex, fascinating character. Axie's story is based on the life and death of Ann Trow Lohman (1811-1879), also known as Madame Restell, a "notorious" midwife. This wonderful piece of feminist historical fiction will give you new perspectives about the status of women--then and now--and the lesser evil of abortion. I could not put his book it! It's sad and thought provoking, but redemptive. 

Interesting nonfiction

Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder
Before I read this book, I knew very little about Burundi. After reading this memorable narrative nonfiction, I feel more educated about this part of the world. As a third-year medical school intern, Deogratias (Deo) Niyizonkiza fled the genocide in Burundi 1994. He arrived in New York City with $200 to his name and no English, and ended up sleeping in Central Park and eking out an existence by delivering groceries to rich New Yorkers for a few dollars a day. Helped by a few kind people, he eventually attended Columbia University and the Harvard School of Public Health. Tracy Kidder tells Deo's extraordinary story with vivid detail. Deo established Village Health Works, a community-driven health center. Most people do not return to Burundi after they leave, but Deo has dedicated his life to helping the poor in his native land. His life and story are astonishing.

Engaging thriller

Gone GirlGone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
These characters are extremely unlikable, but they are interesting. Amy is married to Nick, and the book starts out with Amy going missing. They're both also spoiled brats in their own ways. It's beautifully crafted, and I couldn't put it down. But I also understand the perspective of people who didn't like this book. It doesn't exactly give you hope in the future of humanity, and it makes me wonder how on earth people could want to stay married to each other when they clearly despise each other so much.

Happy reading, everyone!

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