August 2021 Book Marks
The crickets chirping in the late afternoon grass are my signal that summer is moving toward August’s end. The angle of the sun isn’t as broad on my porch, the college kids are leaving for campus and I can sense the “back to school” vibration. It’s a feeling, an internal shift, the way a bird knows to migrate.
Speaking of chapters closing, losses come in bunches. We attended two funerals in one weekend; one for Bob’s aunt and the other for his Dad, complete with military honors. Watching the two solemn soldiers unfold and fold the American flag is such a simple, ritualistic act. No matter what crazy level of discourse goes on in our country, it’s hard not to feel lit up with patriotism when you think about those who served and still do. And it’s difficult to watch the pain and suffering in Afghanistan and hear so many stories from veterans about revisiting the trauma of their losses and the cost of that service as they see the humanitarian crisis happening in a place they once tried to defend. “All for what?” an Iraq veteran said to me recently. I had no response.
Sitting in the church for my father-in-law’s service, surrounded by jewel-toned stained glass windows, I replayed the funerals, weddings and baptisms I’d attended within those stone walls throughout the arc of my married life. As we walked out into the bright sunlight and hushed green grounds of the Cranbrook School in Birmingham, Michigan, I felt the cinching of time intersect with the great circle of life. Bob’s Mom and Dad were gone, and with them the nuclear cohesion that pulls you back to a place and that anchors you to a greater community. My own children were already on the wing, moving forward with the tools we’d given them to construct their lives. And then beyond that? Well, like any good book, you just need to keep turning the pages. And speaking of that, you might find something that strikes you in this crop of August books…
We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza
The story begins with the shooting of a young, unarmed black boy named Justin, but that’s where the book diverges from others in its exploration of race, friendship and the ties that bind. Jen (who is white) and Riley (who is black) have been friends since elementary school. Jen didn’t have an opportunity to go to college like Riley, who is an up-and-coming journalist and eyeing the anchor job at her local station. Jen is married to a cop and finally pregnant with her first child through IVF after a long battle with infertility. Riley is assigned to cover the shooting, but when the details are revealed, they complicate and strain the friendship, laying bare some hard truths. Co-written by two real-life best friends, each author took a writing turn standing in both characters shoes. If there is any hope in the way forward in our polarized society, it lies in the heart of this book and the graceful way it uses the story to “show” not “tell.”
Mrs. March by Virginia Feito
George March has published yet another literary smash and his devoted, doting wife is incredibly proud. Yet one morning, while making her rounds at a high-end Manhattan patisserie, the clerk asks if her husband has based the novel’s character, a promiscuous woman, on her. That one casual remark will begin to unravel the tightly controlled and waspy world of Mrs. March. That spark will grow into a blaze, both in her own psyche and within her family, that destroys everything she knows about her husband and lays bare her secretive past. It’s a wonderful psychological journey that keeps you guessing until the end.
Ladyparts by Deborah Copaken
If you haven’t read anything by Copaken, then you are missing her honest, witty, live-out-loud, truth-telling voice. At its core, the memoir is a story of resilience; a woman whose marriage is falling apart, whose journalistic profession is being strangled by the internet and whose lack of continuous healthcare coverage creates darkly comedic moments. Organized through the lens of her failing “ladyparts,” (some of her experiences are harrowing) the book also examines the way in which the medical profession has historically neglected the study and care of women’s bodies. There are so many stories within the story, including the mishaps of app dating, a sexual harassment suit, bad luck, true friendship, the demands and sacrifices of parenting and the overlay of Covid-19. Rooted in sociological facts, medical research and personal history, Copaken’s deft writing and tale of spinning plates kept me turning pages.
Friends Like These by Kimberly McCreight
Ten years after graduating from Vassar, a desperate intervention for a drug addicted friend brings a group of college friends together in the Catskills. There is history here; loyalty and grief, complications, egos and deep, dark secrets. During their college years, a tragic accident on campus culminated in a suicide, the details of which have bound them all together. But over the course of the weekend together, it becomes obvious that there are more than just cracks in the friendship. By Sunday, one friend is dead and another is missing. Local detective, Julia Scott, believes that the group is hiding more than just what happened on one long-ago college night. But it’s the unexamined events in her own past that may ultimately prove to be the key.
Alpha – Eddie Gallagher and the War for the Soul of the Navy Seals by David Philipps
The trial against Navy Seal leader Eddie Gallagher in 2019 was national news and another in a series of national polarizing events. Pulitzer-prize winning author Philipps dug in with interviews and transcripts to provide a detailed account of what it means to be in the SEAL brotherhood, the cost of keeping secrets, even when it requires breaking the law, and what role ethics play in warfare. Like many books that go deep, this can sometimes get bogged down in detail, but the overall story is an important microcosm of the broader American landscape today.
Not Dead Yet- Rebooting Your Life After 50 by Barbara Ballinger and Margaret Crane
There are many gifts that come with getting older and hopefully wisdom is one of them. These two authors have organized both practical and wise information about navigating life after 50, using a combination of their stories and others experiences to cover everything from friendships and dating to choosing the right living situation, managing trusts and inheritances and staying connected through technology. It’s both a breeze to read and incredibly useful.
*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are Bookshop.org affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to rent books at your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!