This installment: writers reflect on their mothers (nf); a crazy part-Chinese family in the foothills (f); mothers and daughters (f); a legal thriller with a deportation theme (f); and a poignant novel about loss (f).
Editor’s Note: Since our print collection is currently unavailable, the titles and links below all direct you to our digital ebook and eAudiobook collections, either in Overdrive or Hoopla*. You can learn more about using those services on our blog, and contact us if you need assistance.
*Restrictions to using Hoopla apply based on your home address.
What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About edited by Michele Filgate
Subtitled “Fifteen Writers Break the Silence.” Heavy-duty essays by a variety of authors reflecting a broad range of relationships. Most are freighted with dark emotions: grief, anger, and regret, but almost all acknowledge some form of love despite. Some that especially struck me: Jamison who wanted to get to know about her mother’s life in her hippie days before the author was born; Chee whose mother was deaf and what she chose not to hear; Munaweera on growing up between cultures with the specter of craziness; and Machado whose mixed feelings about having a child of her own are deeply affected by her own upbringing. I know most of the writers in this collection and appreciated their candor about that most primal of family ties.
The Border of Paradise by Esmé Weijun Wang
Here we have family dysfunction stirred with a mix of cultures and it’s a positively baroque mess (which I enjoyed while it was creeping me out). The Nowak family made its fortune in pianos. Father dies, leaving the company to his 11 year old son David who ends up selling it. David has severe mental health issues. After the next door family sends their daughter, Marianne, away—they didn’t approve of the relationship–David goes to Taiwan and brings back a woman he renames Daisy. They have a son and hole up in the California foothills. Meanwhile David tracks down Marianne, now a novitiate. She gets pregnant and ends up giving the baby to the Nowaks. David kills himself—we were expecting this—and Daisy insists the teenage siblings become lovers, an obscure Chinese tradition. See what I mean? It all sounds nuts but I found it fascinating, partly because the characters were so well drawn they made the highly improbable seem possible.
Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristin Higgins
Emma, a therapist with 16-year-old daughter, gets summonsed by her dragon lady of a mother, Genevieve, to see her through her imminent death. Emma hasn’t been in touch since she was kicked her out of the house for getting pregnant at 18. She goes, very reluctantly, because money is very tight and her daughter’s being bullied at school. All sorts of revelations take place and there’s a happy ending. I have to admit this book had elements of cliche sometimes verging on Romance but I was up for escape reading, the storyline held my interest, and it helped pass a few hours. (In these unusual times, my inner critic must be otherwise engaged.)
The Girl in the Glass Box by James Grippando
Ebooks are leading me to a genre I previously spurned as too “popular” but I just gobbled up this legal thriller in three hours and believe I might be hooked. Undocumented Julia’s horrid boss reported her to ICE; she fears her brutal husband back in San Salvador. Lawyer Jack Swytek to the rescue, though it’s a murky, circuitous path to the slam bang denouement. Jack’s abuela (he has Cuban roots) got him involved with the case. Miami setting, legal manipulation, lively style. Now I know why Grippando is a best seller and I’m sold.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
What would it be like to survive a plane crash when the other 191 perished? Lucky? No, awful, as Eddie discovers. He’s a scrawny 11-year-old, plunked down with an aunt and uncle he barely knows who have their own burdens. A saving grace is Shay, the iconoclastic girl next door. He feels safe in her presence but utterly unmoored otherwise. The title refers to two duffle bags full of letters from family members of those who died, wanting to reach out to the last person who saw their loved ones. (Speaking of burdens…) Chapters shuttle back and forth from the plane and its passengers to Eddie’s growing up years and there’s a sweet denouement. Whew! A thoughtful, poignant book.
Back next week.
Editing and formatting: Ana