Off the Shelf: Sharing a good book

Sue and I were talking about what we were reading the other day. Go figure. Hazards of working with books, I guess. She said something like: “Here, this is good, I can’t tell you a thing.”? Hmm. Well, I just put that very book down this morning, and she was right about everything. I would love to recommend it, so I’m going to try to be as cryptically tempting as possible since it totally defies being put into a category!

“The Possible World” is told by three, maybe four characters: Ben, Lucy, Clare and Leo. Ben and Leo are little boys, Lucy is a doctor working in an emergency room and Clare might be the oldest person in her nursing home. Ben and Leo both have experienced life-altering trauma. Lucy is overworked, overtired, and overextended, and while she isn’t looking her marriage might be over, too. Clare is standoffish, with a rich inner monologue reflecting the nearly 100 years of life she has experienced. The author, Liese O’Halloran Schwarz, begins by opening the door into Ben with a glimpse of a bloody birthday party gone horribly wrong. But before you can get to know more, Lucy is introduced, then Clare is revealed. Somehow their lives intertwine and unfold through the Great Depression, hurricanes, murder, and war. Somewhere along the way you become so invested in each character that you don’t need to know why or how or what, nothing matters but the story and the fact that these characters matter. I really came to love Clare so much, I felt for Leo, I worried about Ben, and I wanted Lucy to be happy. This book is sort of crazy and unpredictable and totally, utterly satisfying.   

“The Hideaway” by Lauren Denton is about a ramshackle B&B just off the bay in Alabama. Most of the people who come to the Hideaway end up staying. And when Mags flees her old life and stumbles on the place, she stays, too, eventually inheriting the house from the owner. Years pass, then so does Mags. Mags has bequeathed the place to her granddaughter Sara, who plans to quickly unload the house to get back to her life in New Orleans, such as it is.  But when Sara gets back home to the Hideaway, she is met with such good memories, along with the elderly tenants who helped Mags raise her that giving up the Hideaway suddenly isn’t as easy as she first imagined. As Sara uncovers secrets about the life her grandmother lived, such as her loves and heartbreak, excuses keep extending her stay, which is helped along by the handsome contractor she hires to refurbish the old Victorian. He also just happens to share her love of historical buildings. Reading this book is very like the Hideaway itself; it’s clean and relaxed and comfortable, an easy place to spend some time.

It’s November. That means it must be time to return to Three Pines. When Louise Penny’s husband died, she didn’t know if she’d be able to write again because he was her inspiration for Gamache and everything linked toThree Pines. Then one day she just began writing, and “Kingdom of the Blind” became her latest mystery. When I was reading it, it suddenly occurred to me reading a Louise Penny book is like catching up with old friends. What can I say? If you like Louise Penny, you won’t be disappointed, and if you haven’t read Louise Penny, please start at “Still Life” and get to know all of the eccentric folks who live and work in Three Pines. I guarantee it’ll be worth it. And again, if you haven’t read Louise Penny, what are you waiting for?

I just know readers have been wanting a factual, fun book about our solar system. “The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal” by Nick Seluk is a great introduction to our planets and the star we all keep revolving around. “Did you know that the Sun never stops working to keep things here on Earth running smoothly? (That’s why it’s been Employee of the Month for the last 4.5 billion years.)” This is a fun read whether you have a budding astronomer at home or not.

It’s always fun to share good books. “The Possible World” that Sue recommended, was an interesting pick that might have gotten past me, and I’m so glad I got to read it. So talk amongst yourselves and then stop in and check something out.