Neshama’s Choices for August 21st

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The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese   

I almost didn’t read this masterpiece because the review in the New York Times didn’t embrace it fully. But when my copy arrived, something compelled me to open it and then I couldn’t put it down—all 600+ pages of it. In Kerala, India, a family suffers from a peculiar, crippling syndrome: fear of water.  Which is especially difficult because the region is very watery. In 1900  a very young girl meets her 40-year-old husband-to-be, and their relationship works surprisingly well. When he drowns, she becomes a powerhouse who steers subsequent generations through very rocky shoals. Agonizing births and deaths, leprosy, medical challenges, art, and taking a true path rather than the expected one all get a workout. Vividly atmospheric, packed with  fascinating characters—what a journey!   


Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson   

The Stocktons, a very rich family, have been ensconced on Pineapple Street in Brooklyn Heights for years. What happens when outsiders (god forbid) enter their well-appointed lives? Darley, Stockton’s older daughter, is married to Malcolm. He’s Korean American—no problem there except for subtle racism—but she’s chafing as a stay-at-home mom. With Stockton's husband Cord, Sasha from New England is stuck in the family manse, stuffed with uncomfortable furniture and memorabilia; she always feels wrong-footed at family gatherings. The younger Stockton daughter Georgina falls in love with the wrong guy at work and goes into a severe dive when he dies. The world of the wealthy is so much fun to satirize, but the characters become more three-dimensional as troubles come upon them and I even started to root for them—a sweet surprise.   


We Were Once A Family by Roxanna Asgarian   

Subtitled A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America. A shocking event—two white mothers and their 6 adopted biracial children drive off a cliff—got lots of press but no one looked at what this meant for the birth families of those kids.  Journalist Asgarian does so here and it’s a devastating story of dire institutional malfunction and personal tragedy. A call for much-needed reform but with financial constraints and this country’s history of removing children “for their own good” (Native Americans, Orphan trains), it doesn’t look promising.  A hard book to read but has such an important message, is so well-drawn.   


All That Is Mine I Carry With Me by William Landay   

Jane Larkin disappeared one day, leaving behind husband Dan and kids Alex, Jeff, and Miranda. Investigation dead-ends, no concrete evidence of wrong-doing, no corpus delicti. Dan takes up with girlfriend Sara soon after and they get married. Jeff and Miranda are convinced Dan killed their mother. Dan, a very skilled attorney, is never charged. After Jane’s body is found years later, Jeff, Miranda, and Jane’s sister Kate mount a civil case. A fascinating take on the slippery nature of the law, questions of family loyalty, and a stunning denouement.