August 2022 Book Marks
As I write, the rising sun is sifting through the window and onto the floorboards. The windows are wide open and the humidity has broken. In the early morning hours of a summer morning, as I pour my first cup of coffee, this is as close to joy as a person who has lived through decades of sunrises can feel. Maybe it’s more like joy mingled with complete and utter contentment.
The fact that the big orange ball comes up over that mountain every day, that the world keeps spinning, that the flowers keep opening and multiplying, well, I’m going to take that as some kind of a peaceful prayer in this crazy, knucklehead world. And may the sunrise of a new day and the promise of a good book be enough for you today, as well.
The Lobotomist’s Wife by Samantha Greene Woodruff
In the vein of storytelling through “the wife’s” eyes, this one takes a hard look at the shocking practice of lobotomy in the earlier part of the 20th century as a “miracle cure” for mental health issues. Ruth Emeraldine has lost her brother to suicide after he returned from WW1. Her wealthy family has its name on a Manhattan hospital for the mentally ill. When Ruth takes a job there, she falls in love and eventually marries Dr. Robert Apter, an up-and-comer helping to pioneer a new transformative procedure. But her husband begins to spiral out of control, randomly and recklessly lobotomizing patients to perfect his “ice pick procedure” for simple issues like the baby blues. Ruth begins to realize she must stop him, and in doing so, destroy her own reputation and marriage. On a side note, this author’s last name was a plus for me!
Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley
Following her successful book “Island Queen,” Riley turns her historic talents to this sweeping novel about the Haitian revolution. The story is based on the lives of two extra-ordinary women, Marie-Claire Bonheur, the first empress of Haiti, and Gran Toya, a West African born warrior woman who helped to lead the rebellion that freed the enslaved people. This colorful story tells the often-overlooked account of the most successful black uprising in history and the tremendous courage it took for these women to use their voices and fight for freedom.
Touch by Olaf Olafsson
When the global pandemic hits, Kristofer must close his successful restaurant in Reykjavik, plunging him into sorrow and confusion like the rest of the world. One day, completely out of the blue, he receives a message from Miko Nakamura, a woman he had loved as a student in London in the 60’s, who suddenly left, ending the relationship. Compelled to find the answer to the mystery, he travels to London and Japan to meet her just as the virus threatens to shut down the entire world. This is the delicate story of the secret lives and pasts we all possess and how the pain and beauty of those relationships leaves an indelible mark on us all.
Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
She’s one of my favorite performers, with a heart as big as her list of Grammy nominations. And with her naturally born-songwriting ability, it’s no surprise this story is engrossing. Like a personal scrapbook, she’s included song lyrics and black and white photos as she traces the arc of her humble beginnings and “misfit” life as part of a musically-gifted Seattle family of deep faith. As an openly gay teen, she often felt like an outsider. The memoir rolls through the incredible events of her life and loyalty to friends as her music catches, her fame grows, she marries and has a family and she meets mentors and friends from Elton John to Joni Mitchell. She has never stopped giving back. On a personal note, for our Bob Woodruff Foundation (bobwoodrufffoundation.org) annual fundraiser, “Stand Up for Heroes,” Brandi and “the twins” donated their time to perform and raise money to help injured veterans and their families. That’s an artist who puts their talent to good use for others!
All The Dirty Secrets by Aggie Blum Thompson
Twenty-five years ago, Liza Gold and her high school friends celebrated their graduation with a party on the beach. By the time dawn broke, one of them was dead. Life went on for Liza and she learned to live with what happened on that terrible night. She grew up, married and as the story begins, she is a single Mom with a typical sullen teenaged daughter, complete with eye rolls. When her daughter Zoe’s best friend mysteriously drowns at the same beach, Liza decides to take a deeper look at how the two deaths might be related. Most disturbing of all, she must call into question the people whom she’s thought of as her closest friends for the past two decades.
The Storyteller – Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
True confession. I’m not a huge Nirvana or even Foo Fighters fan, but I love a good memoir, and this one packed it all in. Grohl’s story is similar to so many artists who feel disconnected in high school, come from families with issues ( don’t all families have issues?) or have an urge to create. This is a portrait of a talented person whose life is comprised of extraordinary experiences and intersections with people, events and the times that made him one of the most popular and iconic musical artists today. Through it all, he writes with humility, an almost “aw shucks I’m pinching myself” voice that makes it so readable and authentic. I even downloaded some music after. So maybe my musical tastes are changing?
*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!