Normal People

Sally Rooney, 2019

There is nothing normal or ordinary about the wonderful description of a youthful, complicated  romance between Marianne and Connell, two teenagers living in rural Ireland. The two have both financial and status differences. Connell is being raised by a single mother, who works as a housekeeper for Marianne’s family. Marianne is the privileged daughter with wealthy parents. Marianne is very bright but not outgoing and girls at school think she is strange. Connell is “one of the guys”, an athlete, liked by all.  What is the strange connection that pulls these two together—both in high school and later at Trinity College Dublin. Sally Rooney in her quiet prose reverses the roles of the characters. Marianne thrives and makes friends. Connell is home sick and misses his football friends. The character development is unique. The reader gets into the head of these complicated young people and gets to understand why they are so attracted to each other.

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The Most Fun We Ever Had

Claire Lombardo, 2019

The Sorensons—Marilyn and David—are still very much in love after 40 years of marriage and four girls.  Each of their daughters has issues. The eldest is rootless after burying her wealthy husband. The second is trying to win the best wife and mother medal, except she has a very deep, dark secret.  The third is a professor who is not elated to find herself pregnant by a man she is not sure she loves. And, Grace, the baby is working menial jobs while telling her parents she is attending graduate school. The sibling rivalry is intense, especially between the two oldest.  Lombardo paints a picture of a loving but neurotic family. The dialogue is hilarious with a vicious edge. 
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In Pieces

Sally Field, 2018

This memoir about the multi award winning actress Sally Field was a thought provoking and very interesting read.  Her deeply complicated life is described in great detail that leaves you in awe of what she endured in her childhood, career and personal life.  I picked up this book on a recommendation from a friend and I was not disappointed. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Sally Field and her work.

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Dutch House

Ann Patchett, 2019

Even though they are separated in age by seven years, Maeve and Danny Conroy are extraordinaryly close.  Abandoned by their mother and raised by an indifferent father, the children depend on each other.  The Conroys live in a beautiful mansion they love and call The Dutch House, named after the former owners. Out of the blue, their father remarries Andrea, a selfish step-mother who has two young daughters.  “The Dutch House” is also a novel about affluence — about having it, losing it and then getting some of it back. After their father’s sudden death, Andrea evicts Maeve and Danny from the house.  They spend the rest of the book mourning the loss of the house and of most of their money.   The thing that makes this book extraordinary is how much you care about the siblings and The Dutch House, which becomes another character in this fascinating novel.

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The Commoner

John Burnham Schwartz, 2008

What is life like for a commoner who marries the heir to the Japanese Chrysanthemum Throne. This is the premise of Schwartz’ beautifully written historical novel about the controlled existence within the Japanese imperial household.

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City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert, 2019

Elizabeth Gilbert loves New York City.  Her exuberant best-seller celebrates the crazy life style of Broadway during World War II.  When 19-year-old Vivian Morris gets expelled from Vassar, her parents send her to live in New York with her father’s sister—Aunt Peg.  Peg owns a run-down theater in Hell’s Kitchen and Vivian loves the action.  She rooms with a show girl and goes out every night, having the time of her life.  Aunt Peg hires Vivian to create some costumes but soon the na├»ve youngster causes a scandal.  Gilbert’s book is just plain fun.

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