While I haven’t had as much time to devote to reading/blogging (such is life), I will continue to share my favorites as they come along. I mean, we’re all busy right? No one should waste their time on the duds!! Loved the following, hope you do too!!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Although their first year of marriage may not be perfect (conflicting desires about having a baby, trust issues, in-law headaches) there’s no denying that Roy and Celestial have a strong, passionate bond. When Roy is wrongly accused of a crime and sent to prison, the letters the two exchange express, at first, a fierce loyalty to one another, but as years pass and Celestial’s career as an artist grows, she begins to live life without him. The epistolary part of the story made me weepy on many counts, their early love, the unfairness of the situation, the fact that so much time apart will, of course, cause their relationship to unravel. I understood Celestial’s need for freedom just as I ached for Roy, trapped in a cage. When Roy is absolved years later, he returns to find that an old friend has taken up residence in Celestial’s life and, from here, the story flashes back to their early years together. In addition to their marriage, I loved how the author incorporated interesting complexities in the marriages of both Celestial and Roy’s parents, and the strong opinions each family has regarding this very delicate situation. Oprah still knows how to pick ‘em!

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

As a friend of mine in book group likes to say before bringing up a sticky topic, “I don’t mean to be controversial, but…” Red Clocks takes place in a future where abortion is illegal and in vitro fertilization is banned. See what I mean? The story focuses on five women in rainy Newville, a small town outside Salem, WA: The Biographer, a single woman desperate to have a child, teacher to The Daughter, the teenager with the unwanted pregnancy (you knew there had to be one). The Mender, basically the town witch (whose lineage goes back to Salem, MA) who lives in the woods and knows her herbs and potions. The Wife, whose crumbling marriage and harried existence is the one who’s supposed to have it all, right? And Eivor, a nineteenth century Dutch pioneer in understanding ice formations…? Don’t worry, it all makes sense. Just an observation, obviously this is a story for and about women, but either the author kinda hates men or feels her characters should…they’re all jerks or dopes. As the women’s lives intertwine in this tiny town, we see how each is affected by the law and needs to rise above their powerlessness to make some brave choices on their own. This novel grabbed me from the start with pages reading like poetry in a an imaginary situation made to feel all too real in our current times.

Educated by Tara Westover

In this fascinating memoir, Westover shares stories from her childhood and formative years, living off the grid on Buck’s Peak, a mountain in Idaho. Her father was basically a fundamentalist nut, preparing for the end of days, stockpiling weapons and food and refusing to let his children attend public school or receive medical attention, despite the fact that his reckless behavior often led to dangerous accidents for his wife and family. Good thing mom is the local medicine woman. As the older sons age and begin to question their father, older brother, Tyler, opts to get an education and encourages Tara to buy textbooks and take the ACT to enter college as a home-schooled student. As a result, she taught herself algebra and with help from others outside her immediate family was accepted at Brigham Young University at age 17. Her fish-out-of-water tales trying in vain to acclimate to college life among the “sinners” is cringe-worthy…the poor girl had absolutely no life skills and was still operating under her father’s strict religious rules while completely overwhelmed by the amount of school work the little sense most of it makes (she is unaware Europe is a continent and has never heard of the Holocaust). Combined with being pretty much broke, it is a miracle she had the fortitude to push through the many obstacles (and failed tests) she had to overcome. Thankfully, there were several professors who saw her intelligence and convinced her to believe in herself and move away from her old life. As she begins to think for herself and experience the world she struggled with her anger toward her parents and one abusive brother while still yearning for their acceptance. It make for a heartbreaking, inspiring journey.