What Lisa is Reading
"I don't see why we ever think of what others think of what we do--isn't it enough to express yourself"
A wondrous new novel from the Minnesotan author of "Ordinary Grace. I fell in love with the writing and with the two young boys, Albert and Odie, full of vim and vigor yet unable to lead a normal life at the punishing Lincoln Indian Training School; a charity place mostly for Native American children forced from their families, truly a place of wrath and tears. This tale takes place over one summer during the Great Depression as the boys and two other lovable orphans escape and launch off on their own in a canoe down the mighty Mississippi River with the American landscape as a haunting, dangerous yet beatific backdrop. This story is riveting and an absolute must-read. A coming-of-age Odyssey. Reminiscent of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.
A stunning novel from an award-winning author of young adult and children's books, this multi-generational tale is musical. Woodson's vibrant, clear and crisp writing (less than 200 pages) begins with an African American family in Brooklyn throwing their beloved Melody a sweet sixteen party in 2001. A hopeful time, yet Iris, Melody's estranged mother laments getting pregnant at sixteen and brings tension and unresolved resentments to the party. Told from past and present points-of-view. Deals with mother-daughter relationships, identity, family legacy, class, race, education.
This novel is impossible to forget. A loving family's life in Aleppo, Syria is blown apart by the cruelties of war. Nuri, a beekeeper and his wife Afra, an artist, suffer the unimaginable and embark on a long arduous refugee journey, from Syria to Turkey to Greece and onward to England. This story is told in magical writing, literary, yet intensely focuses on a family's wounds and how memory and imagination sustain them as they precariously hold on to what they love.
1960s America. A crime story, a love story, a road trip and the assassination of JFK. This blockbuster of a novel brings
together Frank Guidry, a mobster on the run and Charlotte, a mom with 2 kids who road trips toward California away from her drunken husband in Oklahoma. I raced through this story, and the writing is smart, gritty, and exceptional.
Jung Changs writes history with astounding clarity. Her 1991 book "Wild Swans" about her life in China is a top 5 memoir book for me. My knowledge, interest and understanding of feudal life, Mao's cultural revolution and the last 150 years of Chinese history begins with her story.
This recent book is about three sisters from Shanghai, educated in the US, married to powerful men in 20th century China--"One loved money, one loved power and one loved her country." From monarchy to republic to revolution these Soong women were at the forefront of history . A treasured reading experience.
A love story that takes the long way home. This novel begins in the 1970's, in the suburbs of NY and dramatizes two neighboring police officer's families. The fathers are connected by being part of the NYPD, their children forge a strong friendship, yet the families never really understand or acknowledge the pressures and traumas each other face. These internal forces build in severity over time and lead to a terrible act of violence. Keane writes with compassion for each of her characters flaws and their journey toward acceptance and forgiveness.
This is the fourth outstanding memoir from an extraordinary woman. Fuller writes about her family in full sun and full darkness. From her father's bedside in a hospital in Budapest in 2015 to her childhood in Zambia to her recent loss in Wyoming, she writes with an emotional intelligence and honesty that soars while recounting the grief she is experiencing.
Being out in the wilderness with one's best friend, fly-fishing, attuned to each other's rhythm and cadence is bliss, yet in this novel, the dazzling and blinding beauty of an exquisite river adventure turns the elastic nature of time into fight or flight for two friends who share a deep and poetic connection to each other.
A magnificent novel. Set in various locations-- remote British Columbia, the rarefied stratosphere of Manhattan, a container ship off the coast of Mauritania, this 5th novel is very different on the surface from Mandel's novel "Station Eleven" which is being picked up by HBO and made into a series. Showcasing her literary talent and her uncanny ability to craft a cohesive narrative arc with seemingly disparate chapters and voices is a triumph. A contemporary story questioning the nature of reality, the value of art and identity in a highly materialistic society, while pondering the consequences of greed and exclusion.
1976 Odessa Texas. A masterfully told debut novel that is riveting. A must read for women, for men, for communities. Told from various women's perspectives, life in a small West Texas town is fraught with dangerous creatures, men, other women, the corrupt justice system and alarmingly divided along ethnic and racial lines. Yet, despite the threats of retribution, the brutal assault of a 14-year-old girl binds the women in this dust-up oil town to take action. This novel, these characters, and these issues have profoundly affected me. Thank you Elizabeth Wetmore for writing this story.
Lagos, Nigeria. In this slim novel, two sisters couldn't be more different. One kills, one cleans up. I raced through this story. Braithwaite writes with dark humor about sibling rivalry ratcheted up to the extreme. This family has member roles deeply ingrained and unquestioned-- the codependent hard-worker, the beautiful indulged daughter, and the narcissist mother. Loved this reading experience. A fast- paced plot, the sisters are wildly entertaining and the ending has an unexpected twist.
Sure to be one of the best books of 2020. Historical fiction of the highest quality. Set in Spain beginning in 1936 and spanning 40 years of exile in Chile and Venezuela. During the brutal Spanish Civil War the lives of Victor Dalmau--a medic fighting against Franco, and Roser, a young Basque girl with exceptional music talent, are woven together in this novel of war, refugees, love and loss. Allende has the magical ability to keep the plot moving with indelible characters full of human fragility and resilience. A homage to Pablo Neruda, the healing powers of medicine and music, passionate women and courageous hearts.