Posts Tagged ‘Jess G.’s Picks’

Greatest Hits: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

January 4, 2013

Join us the next five days and kick off the new year with The Book-A-Day Blog’s most popular posts of 2012!

 

What Alice Forgot“What if you could skip ahead ten years, and spend time with your future self?  Would you recognize who you’ve become?  This is the premise for Liane Moriarty’s novel What Alice Forgot.

 

One morning while in a step aerobics class, 39 year old Alice falls and hits her head.  When she wakes up, she believes it is 1998, and she is care-free, kind, in love with her husband, pregnant with their first child, and just beginning to restore their dream home.  The reality is that her 39 year old self doesn’t match up with that Alice – 2008 Alice has a beautiful home, three children, a marriage that’s crumbled, and a personality that is nothing like her former self.

 

As the story unfolds, Alice learns not only who she has become, but how and why she’s changed so dramatically.  She must figure out who Gina is, what has happened to her relationship with her sister, and why she and Nick have gone from happily married to fighting over everything, all the while trying to recapture her memories, and manage her busy life and children.

 

There’s also the story of Elisabeth, Alice’s sister, woven throughout the novel – told through letters to her therapist, as well as through letters that Frannie, Alice and Elisabeth’s grandmother, writes.  While seemingly two different stories at first, they cleverly help expand upon the novel’s exploration of the way in which time, and our experiences fundamentally change our personalities, subtly, until we’re forever altered by them.

 

What’s lovely about this book, which appears from the start to be a light-hearted read, is that it develops slowly in depth as one reads it.  It lends itself to reflection on the reader’s part, all the while continuing to be an engaging, fun read, with equal parts drama and comedy.  The epilogue is one of the most eloquent I have read – wrapping up the story in a few beautifully written pages.  I look forward to reading more by this Australian author.”

 

Find this book in our catalog.

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Still Alice by Lisa Genova

November 16, 2012

Imagine heading out for a run, following the same route you’ve traveled for years. Yet you suddenly, inexplicably, realize you’re lost – none of the landmarks you’re passing look familiar. This is how Still Alice by Lisa Genova begins.

Alice, a renowned Harvard professor and researcher of cognitive psychology learns she has early-onset Alzheimer’s. The story unfolds from Alice’s perspective, chronicling her gradual decline. Life as she, her family, and her colleagues know it is unraveling, slowly but surely. Slowly, she loses the ability to perform her job, to navigate her way home, to carry on a conversation. As she struggles to understand the eventualities of her diagnoses, Alice also searches for ways to make her experience less difficult, not only for herself, but also for her family. Though the end of the novel is known from the beginning, it’s one which keeps the reader turning the pages, often with tears.

What makes Still Alice remarkable is the first person narrative. As the reader, you experience the gradual descent into a foreign place, one where you are lost and terrified. As Alice’s disease progresses, slowed by medication but ultimately not halted, you find yourself confused at times – both by the lapse in time, as well as the events that preceded a chapter. This is entirely intentional on Genova’s part, and just one of the ways in which this book in nothing short of brilliantly crafted. Genova is a masterful writer who also happens to be a Harvard neuroscientist who has studied Alzheimer’s exhaustively. She is also the author of Left Neglected, and her upcoming book Love, Anthony is due to be released shortly. Still Alice reads as if it’s the memoir of an individual with Alzheimer’s – it is a book that will change the way you look at this disease forever. It is a beautiful, heart-breaking, terrifying book all rolled into one.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

October 19, 2012

The cover of this novel should come with a warning for potential readers – don’t read anything that will give away the plot of this book. Every Last One, by Anna Quindlen, opens into the life of the Latham family, as told through the voice of Mary Beth, mother of three teenage children, wife, and landscape designer. What appears for the first 100 pages to be domestic fiction – a narration of the complex, but typical lives of an American family, is in reality building to a dramatic, devastating event.

Preoccupied with her teenage son Max, and his ongoing depression, Mary Beth struggles to balance her efforts to help him with attention to her other children. Alex, his twin brother, is outgoing and athletic – the opposite of sensitive, shy Max, but dealing with his brother’s struggles while establishing his own social circle. Ruby, Mary Beth’s teenage daughter, is in her last year of high school, and a brilliantly talented writer who is troubled by the unraveling of her long, complex relationship with a boy who has been a part of their family dynamic for years. New Year’s Eve comes, and the family is scattered – one son on a skiing trip, the other at home with his favorite Christmas present, and Mary Beth, her husband and daughter at a party. What happens that night divides Mary Beth’s life permanently into “before” and “after”. The captivating way in which Quindlen develops her characters make the tragedy hit the reader harder than in most fiction. The Latham family feels like one which could be our own, making their experiences all the more real.

This is a novel about facing the things we fear most, and finding ways to travel roads we never intended to travel. The second half of this novel explores what it’s like to live a life we never dreamed we’d have to live and have no choice but to be brave enough to try. Rarely do I read a book which evokes a physical reaction, other than laughter or tears. Every Last One left me feeling like I’d gotten the wind knocked out of me. This isn’t a book for anyone who prefers light-hearted fiction – there are raw, dark parts of this novel that are hard to read. But Quindlen is a masterful storyteller, and in this novel she’s crafted a story which is nothing short of memorable. Full disclosure – I read everything Pulitzer-prize winning author Anna Quindlen writes. I can always count on her novels to be ones which I become so engrossed in I neglect everything else around me. Every Last Thing may just be my favorite of her novels.

Find and request Every Last One in our catalog.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Morarty

October 3, 2012

“What if you could skip ahead ten years, and spend time with your future self?  Would you recognize who you’ve become?  This is the premise for Liane Moriarty’s novel What Alice Forgot.

One morning while in a step aerobics class, 39 year old Alice falls and hits her head.  When she wakes up, she believes it is 1998, and she is care-free, kind, in love with her husband, pregnant with their first child, and just beginning to restore their dream home.  The reality is that her 39 year old self doesn’t match up with that Alice – 2008 Alice has a beautiful home, three children, a marriage that’s crumbled, and a personality that is nothing like her former self.

As the story unfolds, Alice learns not only who she has become, but how and why she’s changed so dramatically.  She must figure out who Gina is, what has happened to her relationship with her sister, and why she and Nick have gone from happily married to fighting over everything, all the while trying to recapture her memories, and manage her busy life and children.

There’s also the story of Elisabeth, Alice’s sister, woven throughout the novel – told through letters to her therapist, as well as through letters that Frannie, Alice and Elisabeth’s grandmother, writes.  While seemingly two different stories at first, they cleverly help expand upon the novel’s exploration of the way in which time, and our experiences fundamentally change our personalities, subtly, until we’re forever altered by them.

What’s lovely about this book, which appears from the start to be a light-hearted read, is that it develops slowly in depth as one reads it.  It lends itself to reflection on the reader’s part, all the while continuing to be an engaging, fun read, with equal parts drama and comedy.  The epilogue is one of the most eloquent I have read – wrapping up the story in a few beautifully written pages.  I look forward to reading more by this Australian author.”

Find and reserve this book in our catalog

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

August 29, 2012

Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, The Snow Child, is a treasure. Set in remote Alaska in 1920, the story of Jack and Mabel unfolds. They have moved to this remote place to start over, to escape the sorrow of being childless, and the memory of a stillborn baby. But the brutal life begins to takes it’s toll on them – Jack from the staggering amount of physical labor, and Mabel from the isolation and sadness that has followed her. In an unexpected moment of joy during the first snowfall, they build a snow child, and dress her with a hat and mittens. The next morning, the child and clothing are gone, but footprints lead to the woods. Soon, they begin to see a young girl and her red fox running through the trees. Is she real, or a figment of their imagination, created out of a desperate longing? Mabel recalls a Russian fairy tale of a child made of snow who disappears when the snow melts, and waits breathlessly each time until the girl who calls herself Faina reappears. Though she is easily scared off, over time Jack and Mabel grow to know and love Faina, though they never fully understand the mystery that surrounds her.

The Snow Child reads as equal parts survival story, realistic fiction, and fairy tale. The descriptive prose in this novel made both the harsh Alaskan climate, as well as the lonliness and desperate longing the characters felt come to life.
This was a captivating story which I wanted to linger over, but found myself racing through, all the while not wanting it to end. I read the last 50 pages with my breath held – almost paralyzed with fear over the possible endings.

I’ve recommended The Snow Child to many people since reading it, and it’s one of my new favorites. I’m anxiously awaiting Ivey’s next novel.

Find and request this book in our catalog.


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