Thursday, August 28, 2014

THE BARTER by Siohban Adcock

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, August 18, 2014

THE STORY HOUR by Thrity Umrigar

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Trapped in a loveless marriage and crushed by loneliness, Lakshmi decides to take her own life.  After she fails, she is forced to attend therapy sessions with Maggie.  Maggie is everything that Lakshmi is not.  As a strong African-American woman who is a successful therapist in a happy marriage, Maggie doesn't seem to have much in common with Lakshmi. Yet, something draws her to the young Indian woman. Lakshmi's domineering husband has limited her world to their home and grocery store/restaurant.  With no friends and no connection to family, Lakshmi's crushing loneliness leads her to her desperate act.  Maggie helps Lakshmi to realize her worth and how to become more independent. In spite of herself, Maggie is drawn to Lakshmi and begins to cross her carefully constructed professional lines.  The two women begin to confide in one another and share secrets without realizing that each one has very different expectations about the relationship.

Although it took a little while to get going, I really enjoyed this story.  I thought both women were really interesting and that the characters were well-developed. It was especially satisfying to see Lakshmi come into her own throughout the course of the book. However, it was equally upsetting to see the poor choices that Maggie made. While one woman began to thrive, the other began to all apart. Much of the book had to do with friendship and the importance of connections between people but I think the most important part of the book was the theme of forgiveness.  Although the actions of the characters could often be frustrating, I think the book was ultimately a lovely tale of forgiving and moving on.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A really nice story featuring on the connection between two unlikely friends and the far-reaching consequences of that relationship.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

DOLLBABY by Laura Lane McNeal

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

When I first heard about this book, it was billed as a read-alike for THE HELP.  I loved THE HELP so that description immediately attracted me to the book.  However, I feel that comparing this book to THE HELP is doing it a disservice.  Yes, it takes place during the 1960s. Yes, civil rights issues are highlighted.  Yes, some of the main characters of the novel are African-American women in domestic service.  But, for me, that is where the comparisons end.

Liberty "Ibby" Bell is unceremoniously dropped off by her mother at the home of the grandmother she has never met when he father unexpectedly dies in the Summer of 1964.  Everything about Grandmother Fanny's New Orleans house is foreign to Ibby. Especially the idea of hired help.  Fanny employs a cook named Queenie and her daughter Dollbaby.  Dollbaby has gotten involved in the Civil Rights movement and sneaks out to participate in acts of civil disobedience.  Dollbaby and Queenie help Ibby to navigate her way through her new life. Ibby learns the hard truth about race in the South over her years with Fanny.  During that time, family secrets come to light that will change everything.

I describe this book to people as THE HELP meets Fannie Flagg. It has a lot more humor than the THE HELP and the focus is much more on the family dynamics than the the Civil Rights movement. As long-time readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan of family secret dramas.  This one does not disappoint in that department.  The characters are all interesting and compelling.  I like to think about how books could be adapted into movies and I visualized Jessica Lange as Fanny. It took a little while for the story to get going, but once it did I was pulled in and could not put the book down. The ending was especially satisfying.

BOTTOM LINE:  Highly Recommended. One of my favorite books this year.  A great family drama with a lot of love and humor.