a stranger in the house

21268160_10155451585333392_209012515_oA Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Tom Krupp comes home from work one night to discover his wife has left the house in a hurry, leaving the front door unlocked and her phone and purse behind.   He soon gets a call from the police that she has been in a car accident and is in the hospital with a concussion that has resulted in temporary amnesia.

Karen Krupp ran head on into a light pole after driving way too fast and erratically and has no idea how or why she did so. Soon we discover that there was also a murder the night of her accident and she becomes the prime suspect.

Tom wonders how well he really knows his wife after all. Does she really have amnesia? Could she possibly have murdered a person? Doubts start to cause cracks in their perfect marriage.

Karen also begins to doubt herself, her husband and her friends. By the book’s conclusion, buried secrets are reveled and there is a nice little plot twist at the end. I can’t say much more without giving away the book. You will wonder while reading who is telling the truth and what really happened that night. A good thriller, but not as good as Lapena’s first thriller, “Behind Closed Doors.”

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Ordinary Grace

21037855_10155394490383392_1273885445_o.jpgOrdinary Grace

by William Kent Krueger.

“For thirteen –year old Frank Drum, the preacher’s son, it was a grim summer in 1961 in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.” A coming of age story set among an unsettling Minnesota background.

Frank is growing up scrambling for meaning and full of confusion and fear. In the midst of that, a lot of frightening things happen that leave him in a constant state of apprehension. There are so many troubled characters in this book:

Jake is Frank’s younger brother. Jake is often quiet, especially outside of his home because he has a bad stutter: “I don’t like to talk to people because I’m afraid I’ll stutter and they’ll make fun of me. I feel like a freak sometimes.”   There is a lot more to Jake than his stutter. He also has a way of understanding things and seeing things others don’t notice.

Ariel is Frank and Jake’s older sister. Ariel is her parents golden child. Everyone believes she is destined for greatness. She is her mother’s favorite. Ariel is hope for mother’s unfulfilled longings. Jake and Frank adore her. She is their confidante, conspirator, defender, encourager, and supporter.  But is she as innocent as everyone thinks? Frank often catches her sneaking out late at night and he knows something isn’t quite right.

Their father, Nathan Drum, is a preacher. He is also a war vet and is clearly troubled by his past.  There are several other war vets in the book as well. Gus- his father’s friend, a drunk, who lives in the basement of the church. Nathan often says that he owes Gus his life, but we never find out why.

“There are a lot of men left troubled by the war. Every man handles in a different way the damage war did to him. Some men seem to have put their wars behind them easily enough.”

“Whatever cracks were already there the war forced apart, and what we might otherwise have kept inside came spilling out.”

“The truth is when you kill a man it doesn’t matter if he’s your enemy and if he’s trying to kill you. That moment of his death will eat at you for the rest of your life.  It’ll dig into bones so deep inside you that not even the hand of God is going to be able to pull it out, I don’t care how much you pray.”

Emile (Ariel’s piano instructor and Mrs. Drum’s dear friend) returned from World War II blind and disfigured and wanting to feed in isolation on the meat of his bitterness. He lives with his sister Lise who is also a bit of a recluse. Lise is mentally retarded and has no future that anyone could see. They are both two damaged souls that the rest of the family has pretty much abandoned.

The preacher’s wife and mother to Frank, Jake and Ariel is less than delighted with her life as a minister’s wife. She has a fondness for martinis and as things progress that summer, she becomes angrier and angrier at her husband for putting God before his family.

I had great expectations for this book and was a little disappointed that it didn’t quite live up to them. It was a little slow going at first, but once things start happening, I had just had to know how they ended. I hate that I had figured the book out before it ended, but not everyone will.  A literary mystery that isn’t that thrilling, but will really get to the heart of things.

“What is happiness? In my experience, it’s only a moment’s pause here and there on what is otherwise a long and difficult road. No one can be happy all the time.”

the people we hate at the wedding

book cover weedingThe People We Hate at the Wedding is the story of a dysfunctional family that have come together in London for a wedding. All the characters are having some problems of their own. Amid family drama, buried secrets, heartaches and a big fancy wedding, chaos ensues. I laughed out loud a lot.

Paul is the bride’s half-brother. He is beginning to confront the fact that his partner Mark is a real douche bag. Everyone else has seen this all along, but Paul just feels that he doesn’t any deserve better. He also realizes that he is very obsessive. “It’s what he does; it’s how he survives.” He mulls things over so much that “he often finds himself in a state of overwrought paralysis.”

His sister says of him, “He has become curiously unhinged since his father’s death. He’s blindly groping for something-an explanation, someone to blame, a metaphorical or literal lifesaver. Just-something.”

His mother says of him, “Paul was a fragile and sentimental boy who had grown into a slightly less fragile and sentimental man, someone who lived in romantic superlatives, that the truth could so readily destroy. Paul was the boy who was forever searching for ways to escape who he feared he might be, but who always managed to stumble back to himself again.”

Paul’s sister, Alice, is having a crisis of sorts herself. She is having an affair with a married man and has been battling something in her past for a long time. She has been popping pills and drinking excessively, because she would prefer to feel nothing at all. Getting high helps her to temporarily forget.

Alice has harsh feelings toward her half-sister, Eloise for many reasons. She feels rage about Eloise’s perfection and kindness. Her mother treats her like an employee and Eloise like a prize. Eloise was not there for Alice when she went through a traumatic experience. Paul and Alice both sort of resent Eloise because of the charmed life she has lived. Alice begins to unravel and realizes that things have gotten so bad that she is afraid of herself and what she might do.

Eloise feels that no matter how hard she tries to crack Paul and Alice, they just won’t let her in. Her whole life, she has constantly been trying to find equal footing with her half siblings. “Comforting her siblings has always confounded her. She wants to fix them, to save them, to pull Paul and Alice up and out of the messes they’ve made. She worries her own gilded life somehow prevents her from empathizing with them as deeply as she should.” No matter how hard she tries, they always take her the wrong way.

Donna is the mother of the siblings. Paul and she have not been speaking for a long time and she is desperately trying to work her way back in his life. “She thinks of her children. She wants to drill inside their heads, to split them open and excavate their thoughts. She wants to know what they are feeling. Are they enduring the same bowel-loosening cocktail of heartbreak, memory, grief, and above all regret?” Donna is also feeling “daunted by the years of obscure and shapeless loneliness that lies before her.” She smokes weed to make her feel better and it’s hilarious.

After all the drama, they all manage to be there for each other and work a few things out. Paul: “He thinks of the beautiful, gut-wrenching future awaiting them, and the claw marks they’ve left in everything they’ve given up. He thinks of all the times they’ve faced the world on two steady feet, and all the times he knows it will knock them over to the ground. Mostly, though, he thinks that for today, at least for today, they’ll be ok.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Summer Must-Read

A Publishers Weekly BEST SUMMER BOOKS, 2017

New York Post Best Books of Summer

Redbook‘s 10 Books You Have to Read This Summer

the identicals

0316375195_01__SX142_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand. 

Twin sisters, Harper and Tabitha, have been estranged for many years when their father dies and they are suddenly forced into each other lives again.

Tabitha lives on Nantucket with her troubled teenaged daughter Ainsley.  When their parents divorced, Tabitha went to live with their mother Eleanor, “who had the countenance of a queen, a regal being, an unassailable authority.”

Harper lives with her dog, Fish, on Martha’s Vineyard. Harper went to live with her father when her parents divorced.  She has been taking care of her father the whole time he has been sick and simultaneously having an affair and falling in love with her father’s doctor.  When her affair is discovered she escapes the island and the rumors by going to stay at her sisters house to care for her niece.

The sisters end up switching islands and lives.  Tabitha returns to her father’s home in Nantucket to remodel the house and get it ready to sale and ends up gets romantically involved with the carpenter working on the house.

“Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.”

This wasn’t my favorite Elin Hilderbrand book.  It wasn’t terrible, but some of her other books are way better. To me, it just felt a little too mushy and chick-litty. I would still recommend it for a light, summer read and I still believe that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of summer reading.