I occasionally read a romance novel. One of my favorite authors in this genre is Emily Henry. When she recently released her latest novel, I requested it from my library. My turn finally came around earlier this week, and I finished it in three days.
About half way through this book, I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up liking it. The story is told from the point of view of Harriet. She and her long-time boyfriend Wyn broke up five months ago, sending her into a tailspin. They used to attend the annual friends vacation together, but this year is her turn after the split. But when she gets there having just about gotten over him, Wyn is there, too. They end up having to make the most of a bad situation for reasons I won’t spoil.
I wasn’t sure this book was for me because the crux of the plot is a miscommunication between Harriet and Wyn, or at least a lack of communication. They spend much of the book making assumptions about the other’s thoughts and feeling regarding how and why they broke up. I hate this trope! I mean, just talk to each other and clear it up already! But when the author gets around to clearing things up around 70% of the way through, it turns out there are good reasons for not having discussed it. And they feel legitimate and real rather than forced.
As I said, this is a miscommunication, enemies become lovers (again) romance. But it goes surprisingly deeper than that covering such themes as life purpose, individuality, self-care, mental health, and growing into yourself. I am very glad I finished the book. It may be my favorite of hers so far.
My rating: 4/5
For Pride Month, my book club decided to read The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This book won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1983. That’s a lot to recommend it. I have to say I was not disappointed. In fact, I read the entire book in one day this past Sunday, all 288 pages.
The book is an epistolary novel told through letters written by Celie. On page one is the shocking revelation that she was sexually abused by her father at the age of fourteen, having two children by him. She is married off to a man who really wants to marry her sister Nettie. From there it goes on to tell about her relationships with her husband, his children, and a woman that Celie falls in love with. Most of the letters are addressed to God. But as her relationship to and understanding of God changes, so does who she addresses her letters to.
This novel touched me deeply. Not only is it about family and overcoming trauma, it is about growing into real adulthood and a deeper understanding of one’s spirituality. To my sense, this sense of spirituality as based in nature and her laws really rings true. In its approach to the divine, it reminded me of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.
There is a whole section that describes the experience of missionaries in Africa. They try to help the natives they live amongst even as powers beyond their control slowly encroach on their village, forever changing their way of life. This reminded me of Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart that I read in college back in the late 80s. Just like then, the truth of that experience was a gut punch.
Overall, the word that comes to mind to describe this book is “authentic”. It feels true to the human experience in its challenges, ugliness, joys, and triumphs. Despite the sometimes bleak situations, the book left be feeling warm and hopeful about how we as humans can grow and improve.
My rating: 5/5
Here is another winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella. It is a portal fantasy where children return from their world to parents frantic about their missing children. When the kids tell mom and dad about where they have been, the parents naturally think them traumatized by whatever experience they actually had. In their pursuit of help, they come across a woman running a school for just such children. What they don’t know is that the headmistress was herself a child who traveled to another world and understands that the children are telling the truth.
The story follows one girl as she arrives at the school desperate to get back to her other world. As she starts to settle in, terrible things begin to happen. The children help the headmistress to figure out what is going on. We learn what is going on as the children do.
This book is both dark and funny. It deals with issues of adolescence and sex and gender in sympathetic ways while still feeling true to how children treat and relate to each other. I found the ending rather abrupt but otherwise thoroughly enjoyed the book.
My rating: 4.5/5