July 2022 Book Marks
Summer is indigo blue skies, hot pavement, a good book on the dock with a cool breeze and slipping into an air-conditioned movie theater at night to catch a blockbuster. I recently went to see the new “Top Gun: Maverick” movie, which was just as deliciously cheesy and engrossing as the first one back in the 80’s. Who remembers crying along with Meg Ryan when Goose died. Anyone?
n the summers, with everyone in my book club going in different directions, we sometimes substitute movies for books. The idea is we can talk about them later, or in our text thread (our handle is “Incredibly Sexy Book Club.”) Yes. I know. We’re a cheeky bunch. And for those of you planning to see “Where the Crawdads Sing,” a friend just sent me a ready-made book club toolkit www.sonypictures.com/
I’ve been plowing through books this summer and passing them on, so get ready for this crop of good summer reads, whether you’re indoors or out…
Bookends – A Memoir of Love, Loss and Literature by Zibby Owens
For anyone who knows her franchise “Mom’s Don’t Have time to Read,” along with lots of other things Mom’s don’t have time to do, Zibby Owens has written her own heartfelt memoir that covers love and loss and all the other things that make up a life. With the loss of her dearest friend during September 11, Owens examines how that loss and earlier aspects of her childhood have rippled out to form the choices she’d make. She deals with her parent’s divorce, eating disorders, mothering four kids, depression and a second chance at love, (she states at the beginning of the book that she won’t talk about her first marriage out of respect for the kids.) Laced throughout are mentions of all the books that helped her through hard times, all of which should be on your “to read” list with this one.
Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark
Years ago, I read this author’s book “The Gloaming” and fell in love with her prose, so I was quick to spot this immersive novel in an indie bookstore. At its heart are two elderly friends, Polly and Agnes, who grew up in bluestocking Philadelphia. One has married and the other is a famous children’s author, who has chosen the independent writing life. In the summers, they live in a small coastal Maine community, Fellowship Point, founded by Quaker ancestors who created a summer utopia. They have raised their children and cemented their friendship here, but the women are in their late 70’s, and their children have different ideas about the land, which will force the women to choose between family and friendship. So many other wonderful characters are woven into this story, a caretaker accused of a crime, a backstory on “Nan” the inspiration for Agnes’s children’s book series, an inside look at marriage and caregiving, death and life. It’s a sweeping novel, with gorgeous prose and interior dialogue that sparkles. But it’s the mystery at the heart of the book that kept me eagerly turning pages.
When We Were Bright and Beautiful by Jillian Medoff
People assume that the very wealthy are untouchable. But sometimes, the weakness comes from within the castle walls. Set in the Upper East side of New York City, the Quinns are close to royalty, but when their son Billy is accused of rape by his girlfriend at Princeton, the family pulls out every stop. Twenty-three-year-old Cassie, Billy’s sister, has her own dark secret and a complicated relationship with their parents. Will she throw herself on the pyre to save her brother? This nuanced and sharply written novel looks at the dark underbelly of the rich, while examining the lengths we will go to save the people we love, even if we lose ourselves in the process.
At Sea by Emma Fedor
After her mother’s death, Cara retreats to Martha’s Vineyard to contemplate her next step. Unexpectedly, she meets Brendan, who sweeps her away with his charm and divulges an incredible secret: he is part of an experimental study by the U.S. Special forces because he can breathe underwater. When Cara finds out she’s pregnant, she imagines them as a family, but Brendan’s mood swings and disappearances destabilize her. When both he and their baby Micah vanish, she is grief stricken. Five years later, married again and trying to move beyond her past, a local fisherman reports he has seen a man and a boy treading water far out in Nantucket sound. Cara’s life takes an unexpected turn as she resolves to learn the truth about her lost love and find her son.
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
Any reader of Eagan’s work knows her gifted writing is a patchwork quilt, each chapter pulsing on its own. When viewed from afar, the pieces fall into place, intertwined and connected in ways that cannot be seen up close. Picking up on characters from her award-winning novel, “The Goon Squad,” Egan begins this highly creative novel with Bix Bouton, a 40-year old tech genius and father of four who is focusing on how to “own your unconscious,” by sharing all of your own memories in exchange for others memories. As the novel buckles in time and interlocks the stories, we understand that some people are “counters,” who engage and track what is happening and others are “eluders,” who hide under the radar when it comes to their private data. While futuristic and tech-oriented, this is a very human story about our longing for connection, love, family, privacy and ultimately forgiveness and redemption.
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
Elle Bishop has had an erratic childhood, but life seems to be smoothing out as summer opens on the Cape in the generational family home, known affectionately as “The Paper Palace” for its gypsum board walls, chewed over the years by the mice. Happily married to Peter and a mother now, she encounters her childhood friend in their small seaside community. When they both end up trysting in a late-night secret encounter, a series of truths are set in motion to uncover something from the past that both connected and drove them apart. The story unfolds both over one day and 50 years, switch-backing in time to beautifully unwrap the universal deep emotions created by our family of origin and the one we choose to create.
Invisible Storm – A Soldier’s Memoir of Politics and PTSD by Jason Kander
Jason Kander served as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan for four months in 2006. When he returned home to Kansas City, suffering the effects of PTSD and depression, he simply pushed them down. For 11 years he kept that secret from everyone in his life, including his wife. As his political career took off, he became known as a rising star in the Democratic party, a wunderkind who Barak Obama anointed to take a run at the White House against Donald Trump. But as Jason’s survivor’s guilt haunted his nightmares and tested his marriage and friendships, his condition worsened. He abruptly hit a wall and pulled out of the race, choosing instead to leave the presidential field and run for mayor of Kansas City. Finally, experiencing suicidal thoughts, he sought help in a mental hospital and began to put himself on the road to heal. This raw and unflinching memoir beautifully illustrates what it is like to fight hard for survival and hope, and provides insights into what spouses and families go through when a loved ones suffers from PTSD.
*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!