Weldome to a new feature on Book Club Mom: Short Reviews of Recommended Reads. I hope you’ll take a look!
Born in a Treacherous Time by Jacqui Murray: I dove into this prehistoric story, Book 1 of Murray’s Dawn of Humanity trilogy, and wow, what a great portrayal of a world we can only imagine. Set 1.8 million years ago on the savannas of East Africa, we meet Lucy, an early human female from the Man-who-makes-tools group. Tragic events break up Lucy’s group and she joins another group, toolmakers, but different from her people. Pregnant, Lucy mourns the loss of her forever pairmate, Garv, but like all others, she must carry on in a world that is dominated by hunting and survival from starvation, attacks, extreme weather, volcanos and earthquakes. Lucy’s keen instincts, excellent hunting skills and knowledge of healing herbs and techniques prove an asset, yet other members resent her. They must all work together to survive, however, as they face many perils, including the ominous presence of Man-who-preys. Murray makes it easy to picture what life may have been like during this period, full of violence, but with equal amounts of emotional and social aspects.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio: Here’s a book you just have to like for its feel-good story and message. Fifth-grader Auggie Pullman has been born with a severe facial deformity, one that has required many surgeries. Previously home-schooled, his family enrolls him in a private middle-school in New York City. Not many people can say how Auggie feels to be so disfigured, to be stared at, made fun of, and worse. He has felt it all, yet he remains remarkably upbeat. Palacio does a nice job presenting Auggie’s character, through his own words. She continues the story through other characters’ narrations, giving us a wider perspective. Most interesting of these points of view is that of his older sister, Olivia, who has always loved and protected her brother, but begins to push away from that role. Olivia has lived in the background at home, with necessary attention being given to her brother. The overall message of kindness is perfect for readers ages 8-12.
Well Behaved Wives by Amy Sue Nathan: I enjoyed this historical fiction story set in the prestigious Jewish neighborhood of 1960s Wynnefield, Philadelphia. It begins as Ruth and Asher Applebaum, newly married, move in with Asher’s parents, Shirley and Leon. Shirley, stung that the couple eloped, sets her mind on making Ruth, a confident and career-minded New Yorker raised by her father, into a well-mannered woman of society. That means looking your best, saying the right things and supporting your husband’s career. Ruth has other ideas. A recent graduate of Columbia Law School, she plans to study for the bar exam and begin a career helping battered women. The problem? Asher has not told his parents about Ruth’s plans. Shirley arranges for Lucy to attend grooming classes, led by Shirley’s close friend and socialite, Lillian Diamond. Together, with three other young women, they become the “Diamond Girls.” Ruth discovers that she may be able to help one of her new friends escape dangerous circumstances and she soon learns that these older women have a lot more to them than she thought. Light reading, a little heavy on the message, but an interesting story.
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