The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Why I Picked It: Let’s face it. It was time. How did I reach this age without reading what is widely considered one of the great American Novels? (Second only to To Kill a Mockingbird.) Especially since we’ve had a hard copy edition published in 1953 since 1992?
Details/Topics: American Dream, Roaring 20’s, obsession, money/corruption.
“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.”
“He looked at her the way all women want to be looked at by a man.”
“The rich get richer and the poor get – children.”
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Why I Picked It: After some heavy and heady reading for Book Club, I needed a simple summer read.
Details/Topics: Judd, separated from his cheating wife, learns his father has died and must go home to his dysfunctional family to sit Shiva for a week.
Sitting Shiva, death, life, dysfunctional family, sarcasm.
“You never know when it will be the last time you’ll see your father, or kiss your wife, or play with your little brother, but there’s always a last time. If you could remember every last time, you’d never stop grieving.”
“Whatever the opposite of a plan is, that’s what I’ve got.”
““You get married to have an ally against your family, and now I’m heading into the trenches alone.”
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Why I Picked It: Technically, I didn’t. Book Club did. But since it is in the post-apocalyptic genre, there is a good chance I would’ve gotten around to it eventually. Especially since it continues to appear on so many “must read” lists (see here, here, here and here) and was a National Book Award Finalist and the Arthur C. Clarke award winner.
Details/Topics: Pandemic, art/theater, survival, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” (or, Arthur Leander as the case may be.)
The author does an amazing job of telling a multitude of characters’ stories and weaving them all together (hence the Six Degrees of KB reference) byt the end. Fascinating.
“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”
“Because survival is insufficient.”
“The more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”
The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Why I Picked It: I will admit I selected this book because Amazon.com described it at as “an unconventional love story as breathless and romantic as The Time Traveler’s Wife” – which just so happens to be my all time favorite love story. It didn’t sweep me up in quite the same way, but I found the opening chapters to be intriguing in a “scratching my head” sort of way.
Details/Topics: A young woman (Evelyn) living alone on farm discovers, what she believes to be an injured man, buried in the mud on her farm. She takes him in out of the rain, and in discovering who and what he is, falls in love. This is their love story.
“Looking into those eyes, which were now a pure, lucid blue, I saw no harm or malice. Only strange, expansive otherness. Sitting on the floor, cradling his head in the bend of my knee as his odd voice hummed through me, I fell not so much in love but into fascination, into a deep and tender accord.”
“Do you know who you are, Evelyn? Who all of you are? Where do you come from? You don’t know any more than I do.”
“People whose children have died do not believe in God the same way everyone else does. The death of a child is an earthquake of the soul. The landscape changes forever.”
I’m sure that Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and S.E. Hinton were initially responsible for my love of books in general. But Suzanne Collins, John Green and now Rainbow Rowell have contributed to my enduring love for Young Adult fiction specifically.
Or maybe I’m just immature.
Whatever the reason, I’m a huge fan of the YA genre and rarely disappointed by a book I’ve discovered in the YA section.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell was no exception. Like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I found the dialogue between the two main characters to be so authentic and smart. (Warning: there IS quite a bit of crude language – the type you overhear in any public high school.) I was completely mesmerized by the story of these two self-identified “misfits” and their experience of first love.
Eleanor’s home life totally sucks and is made even more complicated by issues of poverty and domestic violence. Park has two loving parents, a room of his own, and all the “extras” that typical American kids in suburbia have. But he is bi-racial (Korean/Caucasian) and he doesn’t feel like his dad truly accepts him for who he is.
Eleanor and Park bond over comic books and mix-tapes and their shared experience of feeling different.
Reading this book brought back memories of some of those awkward teenaged years. But I also identified with and found myself cheering for Park’s mom and dad who, despite being imperfect parents, were doing their very best to do be “a village.” Though not immediate, Park’s parents felt a responsibility to provide a safe and loving place for Eleanor to hang out, as well as an opportunity to experience healthy family dynamics. We’ve felt that same sense of responsibility with some of our own kids’ friends.
Sometimes, even when I love a book, I am disappointed by the ending. With only one or two pages left I was afraid this was going to be the case with Eleanor and Park. But thankfully that was not the case. The very last sentence of the book was open-ended, profoundly hopeful and utterly lovely. May all first loves be the same.