Americanah

37075451_10156782475533392_5623867393274019840_nAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Ifemelu and Obinze met as teenagers. When they met they trusted each other suddenly and completely and immediately had an intimacy between them. He made her like herself. It was almost like love at first sight and they were together up until Ifemelu moves to America to attend college.

Ifemelu really struggles when she moves to America. She can’t find a job, she doesn’t fit in, and she misses Obinze. Then something happens to her and she cuts off contact with Obinze. He is completely confused about why she has stopped contacting him. “He missed her, a longing that tore deep into him. He resented her. He wondered endlessly what might have happened. He changed, curled more inwardly into himself. He was, by turns, inflamed by anger, twisted by confusion, withered by sadness.”

Ifemelu soon finds out, “You are in a country that is not your own. You do what you have to do if you want to succeed.” “I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.” “How many other people had become black in America? How many had felt as though their world was wrapped in gauze?” She begins a blog about race that is a huge part of the novel and it becomes successful.

She has two serious relationships in America and then she finds that her heart just isn’t in it anymore. “She did not know what it was but there was something wrong with her. A hunger, a restlessness. An incomplete knowledge of herself. The sense of something farther away, beyond her reach.” “There was cement in her soul. It had been there for a while, an early morning disease of fatigue, a bleakness and borderlessness. It brought with it amorphous longings, shapeless desires, brief imaginary glints of other lives she could be living, that over the months melded into a piercing homesickness.”

Meanwhile Obinze is feeling the same way. “He had begun, in the past few months, to feel bloated from all he had acquired and would, from time to time be overcome by the urge to prick everything with a pin, to deflate it all, to be free. He no longer felt sure, he had in fact never been sure whether he liked his life because he really did or whether he liked it because he was supposed to.” “His mind had not changed at the same pace of his life, and felt a hollow space between himself and the person he used to be.”

So Ifemelu follows her heart and moves back to Nigeria and she and Obinze find each other again. Will their love be enough? Will he be able to leave his wife to be with her again? I desperately wanted a happy ending for these two and I won’t say whether they got one or not because I don’t want to spoil it for you. I found this book to be boring and tedious at times and the race subject was a little overkill. However, I kept reading because I was very invested in the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze. Adichie is a very talented and amazing writer and I will continue to read anything she writes

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the perfect mother

mother.jpgThe Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy is this summer’s latest raved about psychological thriller. The book centers around a group of women that are part of the “May Mothers.” These women all had babies that were born in the month of May and they get together weekly to discuss the hardships of motherhood.

The group decides to have a girl’s night out and when they do one of mother’s babies goes missing. The book alternates between the different women’s point of views. It explores what it means to be a good mother and also touches on postpartum depression.
It is a very quick read and you will find yourself suspecting each of the women of foul play at some point. After several plots twists, the truth is revealed. The building suspense kept me turning the pages, but the book wasn’t my favorite from this genre.

calling me home

36223868_10156741081053392_4381282484948566016_nCalling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Isabelle McAllister asks her hairdresser, Dorrie Curtis, to drive her from Texas to Cincinnati with little explanation. As the pair travels, Miss Isabelle’s story comes out. Isabelle thinks of Dorrie like a daughter and is the only person she trusts with the secrets of her past.
Isabelle fell in love with a black boy in the 1940’s Kentucky when it was unacceptable for two different races to be together. Her story is full of heartbreak and injustice. As Dorrie listens to the story of Miss Isabelle’s life she learns things that help her find her own way.
The book played the race card a little too much for my liking. Everything was about race and I think they story could have been told just as well without so much emphasis on race. It was really a sad and moving story and I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for Isabelle and Robert to find a way to be together. It was also a little too mushy for me, but if you like over the top sentimental stories, then you will probably love this one.

Pachinko

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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is an amazing family saga that takes place through eight decades and four generations. “Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival.” I read this book a month ago and still can’t quite put into words what I want to say about it. It is fantastic.

As a young girl, Sunja, finds herself unmarried and pregnant by Koh Hansu, a wealthy man who is already married to another woman. To her rescue, a young preacher (Isak) who feels it is God’s purpose for him, volunteers to marry Sunja and save her from disgrace. Sunja and Isak move to Japan to live with Isak’s brother and wife. They newly married couple soon discover how hard it is to be a Korean living in Japan. Koreans had to raise themselves up by working harder and being better, constantly fighting for survival and being treated unfairly.

Isak and Sunja have two sons: Noa and Mozasu. Mozasu grows up and works at a Pachinko parlor, hence the name of the book. There are parallels between the game of pachinko and the game of life.

Mosasu: “He understood why his customers wanted to play something that looked fixed but which also left room for randomness and hope.” “Life’s going to keep pushing you around, but you have to keep playing.”

The other son, Noa, has always been scholarly and aspires to go to college. Noa struggles with his identity. What he wanted most of all not be seen as Korean, but to be seen as human. “Noa carried the story of his life as a Korean like a dark, heavy rock within him.”

Koh Hansu, Noa’s real father, also resurfaces later in the novel. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who read it.

This book deserves all the literary merit it has received. Highly recommended! A literary gem.

summer secrets

36223467_10156741080893392_1994128799859474432_nSummer Secrets by Jane Green.

Cat Coombs first introduction to booze was in high school when her addiction to booze and frequent blackouts began by her desire to fit in with the crowd. She has struggled with addiction her whole life, always turning to alcohol for comfort, and ruining so many important relationships along the way.
The “summer secrets” began a long time ago when Cat’s mom, Audrey, spent a summer on Nantucket with her Aunt Judith and buried her own past.

“As the years pass, Cat grows into her forties, a struggling single mother, coping with sobriety.” Cat travels to Nantucket herself in attempts to make amends with some of the people she hurt along the way as a step in her AA program.  She has to deal with a lot of painful issues from her past that she has left unresolved. Will her loved ones be able to forgive? Will she finally be able to give up drinking once and for all?

There were several plot twists along the way that kept the book interesting.
This book was full of family drama, with lovely Nantucket as the back drop. This one is perfect for your beach bag.

the husband hour

51jRSeMD6BLThe Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner was just the light-hearted summery beach read that I needed. I read and loved Jamie Brenner’s book, “The Perfect Summer,” last year and was excited she had released another book.

Lauren Adelman knew from the age of fifteen that Rory Kincaid was the one for her and after high school they were happily married. Then Rory joins the military and never comes back. Lauren is left completely devastated and moves to her family’s beach home in New Jersey where she pretty much lives as a hermit for four years until this summer when her family comes to join her at the beach house.

Lauren’s sister Stephanie, a single mother, is displaced because of a failed relationship. She shows up to stay the summer with her son Ethan in tow. Stephanie and Lauren have had a troubled relationship for years and it becomes obvious that Stephanie is drinking way too much and not being a good mother.

Lauren and Stephanie’s parents (Beth and Harold) are also planning to stay the whole summer in their New Jersey vacation home. The girls don’t know it yet, but their father has decided to sell the family’s beach home because of financial difficulties. This may be the family’s last summer together at this house.

It isn’t long before secrets come out and family drama ensues. Their mother, Beth, is desperately trying to recapture the happy family they once had while her own marriage is disintegrating before her eyes.

Enters Matt Brio, a journalist working on a documentary about Rory Kincaid. As he digs up things from her past, Lauren is finally forced to deal with the pain she has kept buried all these years.

So there are lots of other fun minor characters and of course there is a little romance as well. This is the perfect book for those of you whole enjoy women’s fiction, romance and beachy books.

An American Marriage

51DVSda0kWL.jpgAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a powerful and complex novel about a married couple (Roy and Celestial), whose world is turned upside down when Roy is put in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. It explores the complexities of marriage and many other issues as well, such as, racial injustice, fatherhood, mass incarceration and love. It is told in alternating narratives from Roy, Celestial, and their mutual friend, Andre.

Will Roy and Celestial’s marriage survive so many years of separation? Can love survive such a horrible twist of fate? Will they be able to pick up their marriage when Roy is released from prison?

We get an inside look at what each character has to endure over the years. Besides marriage, I think Jones did a wonderful job of writing about fatherhood. Each character has a different type of father and the relationships they have with their fathers influence their feelings and actions. Some people don’t like to read books that are labeled “Oprah’s Book Club,” but I am telling you if Oprah recommends it, I am going to read it and I am going to love it!!!

From Amazon: “This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward–with hope and pain–into the future.”

Please Look after Mom

51EbTG+6vMLPlease Look after Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin is the story of a family left bereft after the disappearance of their wife/mother. Each section of the book is told from a different family member’s point of view. Mom’s disappearance triggers forgotten memories and feelings of guilt as they all begin to wonder how well they really knew their mother/wife. None of them had ever really considered their mother’s thoughts, dreams, happiness or feelings before her disappearance. They all took her for granted and regret not knowing her better. They blame themselves for her disappearance, naming the things they should have done differently.
Her husband feels completely isolated and alone in his home without his wife. He is angry with himself because all he did was ask her to do things for him or blame her for everything or ignore her completely.

He surprisingly finds that, “Your wife, who you’d forgotten about for fifty years, was present in your heart. Only after she disappeared did she come to you tangibly, as if you could reach out and touch her.” “Why didn’t you know you had a peaceful and lucky life? How could you have taken what your wife did for granted?” He doesn’t’ know how to do anything because she waited on him his whole life and took care of everything herself. He is lost.
The family had ignored their mother’s declining health condition for years. She had trouble remembering, was plagued with crippling headaches and sometimes couldn’t find her way home. None of them realized just how serious it had become.
“Mom did things that one person couldn’t do by herself. She didn’t have the opportunity to pursue her dreams and, all by herself, faced everything the era dealt her, poverty and sadness, and she couldn’t do anything about her very bad lot in life other than suffer through it and get beyond it and live her life to the best of her ability, giving her body and her heart to it so completely.”
The book is a little confusing at first because the narrator refers to herself as “you,” but once you get passed that, it’s a very moving book. I felt so bad for the characters and desperately wanted them to find their lost mom. The book brings up some great life advice… Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Tell them you love them. Apologize when you can. Spend time with them while they are here. One day they will be gone.

the leavers

31318368_10156592377218392_8885773605795790848_nThe Leavers by Lisa Ko is about a mother and her son and what brings them together and tears them apart.

When Deming Guo was 11, his Chinese immigrant mother, left for work at a nail salon and never returned home. In alternating narratives, this heart-wrenching literary novel tells both sides of their stories.

This novel is also about immigration, belonging in a foreign place, figuring out who you are and who you want to be and what it means to have a family.

After his mother’s disappearance, Deming Guo is adopted by a white family, Peter and Kay Wilkerson, and given the new identity of Daniel Wilkerson. Daniel struggles with the loss of his mother and the other people he considered his family. He had lost so much and he was lost himself and could never bring himself to fully accept the love his adoptive parents tried to give him. He kept everyone at arm’s length because he was scared they would disappear. He felt like a stranger and was always fearful and on edge, never feeling like he belonged anywhere.

Daniel really struggles with himself. He goes to school for a while and quits, goes back, quits again. He joins a band and quits. He drifts around from place to place torn between his two identities (Daniel and Deming), never knowing who he really is or who he should be.

Later in the book we learn what happened to his mother. Will he be able to forgive her for abandoning him? My book club didn’t care for this book. It has won a lot of literary awards, but I also felt like it just wasn’t as good as it could have been. Still, it provides a heart-breaking look into the world of immigrants and the battles they must face.