Blog Book Marks

April 2024 Book Marks

When something gets too hyped, a book, a movie, an experience, I always worry I’ll be disappointed in the end.  Can anything possibly live up to so much praise?  So, when I asked my family to set aside the eclipse weekend, take off a day of work and spend it in “totality” with me in upstate New York, my goal was that they would be wowed.  At least a little.   

Standing in an open field at 3:26 PM, as the sky darkened, the temperature dropped and the moon slid completely across the sun, was awe-inspiring.  The universe showed up to delight us, and for a few magical minutes, we were all united, looking skyward with silly paper glasses and incredulous expressions.  The eclipse was a reminder to slow down, pay attention to the small miracles in nature, use our sense and relax into the quiet. 

Books do that too.  Sitting and reading, using your imagination to draw in the lines on a face or picture a character in their home, is one of the best forms of entertainment.  So, here are some April suggestions that cover a few genres.  And let’s hope those April showers bring May flowers.

Memoir:

The Wives by Simone Gorrindo 

Simone’s husband Andrew was raised in a non-military family, and she is surprised to realize that he’s serious about enlisting.  Moving to a small town in Georgia, she initially experiences culture shock, and then finds commonalities and true friendships with the other wives, despite different backgrounds and ages.  Just like someone else’s marriage, no one can truly understand what it means to be a military spouse unless you’re in it.  This compelling memoir covers the intricate relationships, fears, and challenges in a marriage that can be governed by the duties of service to country.  The author brings us inside her life and heart to show what it means to serve, and the ways in which military wives are both marginalized and absolutely fundamental to the core.  This story is about coming of age, marriage, motherhood, loss, and the bonds we make in life.  I found it one of the most beautiful explanations and descriptions about why someone chooses a life in the military. 

Fiction: 

The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazzo

Piazzo is a born storyteller, and this novel is based on some of her own personal family history.  Sara’s business and marriage has failed, and her great aunt has passed away, leaving her an inheritance in Sicily.  This is the portal to a future she desperately needs, so she heads overseas where she has been gifted a deed to a potentially valuable plot of land owned by Sara’s great grandmother.  The family story has always been told that their great grandmother died from illness before she could come to America.   But in Italy, Sara stumbles on the long held secret that her ancestor was actually murdered.  The book flashes from present day with Sara back to the early 1900s, where we meet the young and fiery Serafina, (Sara’s great grandmother) a teen mother who fought for a better life for herself and the women in her village.  This fun romp through the Italian countryside is an ode to the heroism and bravery of everyday women, as well as the need to solve a mystery.

Fiction:

Days of Wonder by Caroline Leavitt

Ella and Jude were two teenagers in love in New York City.  But all of that sweetness evaporates into a nightmare when Ella is accused of trying to murder Jude’s father, who is a prominent judge.  Much to her shock, Ella receives a 25-year sentence, and then shortly after that, she realizes she is pregnant.  Doing the math on her prison term, she decides she must give the baby up for adoption.   But when she is released, she is unable to abandon the past and the child she never met.  When she learns that her daughter might be in Ann Arbor, she moves to Michigan to try to learn more and perhaps get her daughter back.  Ella must try to remember the events of that fateful night that led up to the attempted murder in order to let go of the past.  In a page turning book that covers redemption, family and memory, Leavitt explores the ties that connect us.

Fiction:

Come & Get It by Kiley Reid

As the author of “Such a Fun Age,” Reid has a keen eye and ear for stories layered with race, class and the various generations.  Professor and writer Agatha is in the process of breaking up with her dancer girlfriend, who appreciates the finer things in life, but doesn’t have the paycheck to support them.  When Agatha takes a teaching job at the University of Arkansas for a semester, she meets Millie Cousins, a senior and RA in one of the dorms.  Millie’s goals are to graduate, find a job and buy a house.  And for a small bit of cash, Millie is more than willing to help connect Agatha to some of her dorm mates to be interviewed for a writing project.  But as the unruly, self-centered group of students begins to spin out of control, everyone must make choices to get the things they want.  Reid absolutely nails the language of today’s college girls and sometimes each page feels like a train wreck that you need to keep watching to see how it ends.

Fiction: 

Burst by Mary Otis

Viva has always found ways to manage her mother’s impulsive, eccentric, and addictive personality.  And for her entire life, it’s been Viva and Charlotte against the world. After accidentally discovering an innate ability for dance, Viva chases her new passion with the same single-mindedness that her mother chases the bottle. Over the years, Viva’s talent becomes a ticket to a life of her own, and as she moves further away from home to pursue her dream, Charlotte struggles to make peace with her past as a failed artist and the effects of her addiction.  When tragedy strikes, Viva begins a downward spiral and she must decide whether she will repeat her mother’s mistakes, or finally take control of her life.  This deeply moving novel explores the relationship complexities between mothers and daughters, the desire to escape, and the longing to connect.

Non-Fiction:

Profiles in Mental Health Courage by Patrick J Kennedy and Stephen Fried

As a follow-up to his memoir about personal and family challenges with mental illness and addiction, Kennedy has compiled diverse and compelling stories of a special group of people who were willing to talk about their own illnesses, treatments and struggles.  In a country where mental illness is still not seen as a disease, (despite the fact that we are reaching epic proportions) this book helps illuminate the crisis across America, from homes to workplaces, in jails and out on the streets.  This unflinching look at the silent epidemic touching so many individuals and families is inspiring and human, helping us form a connection to something that is all too often simply a headline or a news report, and is so deserving of our attention and focus.

Non-Fiction: 

Fatal to Fearless – 12 Steps to Beating Cancer in a Broken Medical System by Kathy Giusti

Kathy Giusti was a successful business woman who had just started a family when she was given three years to live with a cancer diagnosis that wasn’t “one of the good ones.”  That led Giusti on an incredible journey, not just to heal herself, but to help millions who face this life changing diagnosis.  Giusti went on to found the MMRF, becoming a warrior for patients and using her knowledge of the pharma industry to help fast track new medications.  This book is two things – a personal memoir that walks us through the heartbreaks and triumphs with family, friendships, children and marriage, and it is also a playbook and a crash course on how to survive a difficult diagnosis in twelve-steps.  Accompanying each step is practical advice from experts and hard-fought wisdom about the medical system, in all its broken glory. Giusti pulls from 30 years of journals, for each of the years she was NOT supposed to live, and that makes this book the best food for the soul as well as the head.

 

 

 

Lee Woodruff     Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer
Leewoodruff.com