Book Review: Run by Ann Patchett

Run
by
Ann Patchett

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m on a bit of a mission to read all of Ann Patchett’s books and so last week I picked up Run, which was first published in 2007. I like Patchett’s fiction because she writes about a wide variety of situations, yet with each book I’ve read, I’ve felt a familiar warmth about the characters she creates.

Run is a domestic drama set in Boston and takes place over twenty-four hours in the aftermath of an accident during a blizzard. During this time, members of the Doyle family discover a shocking connection between them and a mother and daughter involved in the accident, Tennessee and Kenya Moser, and must redefine their beliefs about family.

Patchett tells the story in a third-person omniscient point of view and through her characters’ thoughts and other flashbacks, readers learn the Doyle family’s back story. Bernard Doyle, a widower, is the former mayor of Boston and father to three grown sons, Sullivan, Tip and Teddy. Sullivan, the oldest and his only natural son, is thirty-four and has just come back from Africa. He’d left Boston after a scandal and his prodigal return brings tension to the family, as it seems he is again on the run.

Tip and Teddy are Doyle’s adopted African American sons, brought into the family before Doyle’s wife died. They are natural brothers, given up by their mother, first Teddy, as a newborn and soon after, Tip, a toddler. Now in college, their father is pressing them to enter politics, to fulfill his own dream that was cut short. Through their conversations, Patchett shows the growing conflict between the otherwise loving, though doting, father and the mostly always appeasing boys who have no interest in politics. Tip is a student at Harvard, and has immersed himself in the study of ichthyology (that’s fish). Teddy, like his uncle, Father Sullivan, is a freshman at Northeastern and plans to become a priest. Doyle, always persistent, still thinks he can change their minds.

But that’s all on hold because now the Doyles must step into new roles as they look after Kenya Moser while her mother is in the hospital. Kenya, twelve, lives in the projects not far from the Doyle’s upscale home and the uncomfortable contrast becomes the elephant in the room. I was particularly moved during a heartbreaking scene in which Doyle takes Kenya to her apartment to pack her things and Kenya has nothing to put them in. And while Sullivan seems to be the one you can’t depend on, he comes through in a way the others can’t.

Readers sense a building tension as the Doyles and Kenya move through the day and Tennessee recovers at the hospital. Teddy has urged them all to meet up at the hospital and arranges to transport his frail uncle to see Tennessee, certain that his Uncle Sullivan’s healing powers will help her.

I enjoyed this family story about dreams, disappointments, secrets and lies, although I thought it was a little bit dated, fifteen years later and a bit coincidental. Patchett includes themes of religion, race, privilege and poverty and shows how the brothers and Doyle, despite their privileged lives, learn a great deal from Kenya. The title comes from a variety of ideas. First, there is Doyle’s desire for his sons to run for political office. In addition, Kenya’s talent as a runner connects her to Tip and Teddy, who were once talented runners. And although I didn’t realize it until I started writing this, the title can also refer to how Sullivan has run away from his problems.

I recommend Run to readers who like family dramas that are tied to social and political ideas.

Check out my reviews of:

Bell Canto
Commonwealth
The Dutch House
State of Wonder

Here’s some information about Ann Patchett and her books.

From Ann Patchett’s website:

ANN PATCHETT is the author of eight novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, State of Wonder, Commonwealth and The Dutch House. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories, 2006, and has written five books of nonfiction, including Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy, What Now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays examining the theme of commitment, and These Precious Days, essays on home, family, friendship, and writing. In 2019, she published her first children’s book, Lambslide, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. Escape Goat was published in 2020.

Fiction:
The Patron Saint of Liars (1992)
Taft (1994)
The Magician’s Assistant (1997)
Bel Canto (2001)
Run (2007)
State of Wonder (2011)
Commonwealth (2016)
The Dutch House (2019)

Nonfiction:
Truth and Beauty (2004)
What Now? (2008)
The Bookshop Strikes Back (2012)
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (2013)
These Precious Days: Essays (2021)

Children’s Books
Lambslide (2019)
Escape Goat (2020)

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Audiobook Review: Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner, read by Ari Graynor and Beth Malone

Mrs. Everything
by
Jennifer Weiner

Read by Ari Graynor and Beth Malone

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Mrs. Everything, Weiner’s 2019 decades-spanning family drama about two sisters who grow up in Detroit during the 1950s. I’d read All Fall Down and remembered it as a semi-light read that covered serious issues. In that sense, the two books are similar, but at 480 pages (and close to 17 hours of listening), Mrs. Everything covers a lot more ground.

Jo and Bethie Kaufman are young girls when their parents move them from a racially-diverse apartment in Detroit to a mostly Jewish, and safer residential neighborhood just outside the city. Early on, their stay-at-home mother tells them that “birds of a feather must flock together,” based on her own painful childhood experiences as the daughter of immigrant parents. When their father dies, Jo, Bethie and their mother must learn to fend for themselves.

Jo is tall, strong and athletic, the classic tomboy, and Bethie is rounder, pretty and loves everything girly. Both girls struggle to find their own way and face many obstacles. Jo knows she’s different. She only likes girls, but must decide between what was then an unacceptable lifestyle or the conventional route of marriage and children. Bethie, a promising singer and stage performer, learns early that being pretty can attract the wrong kind of attention and enters a ten-year-long period of self-destruction.

Mrs. Everything is historical in that in addition to cultural, political, and social references, it covers major national and political events, wars, civil rights protests and women’s rights movements. To add color to her story, Weiner also includes trends, fashions, music, popular foods, descriptions of homes and interior décor. Present-day problems focus on women’s struggles in the modern world and highlight the Me Too movement.

I don’t like criticizing a book that supports worthy issues, but Mrs. Everything is an exhausting read in that it covers every single bad thing that could happen to a family and is a certifiable man-hater book. Most of the men in the story are terrible people, with only two exceptions: the deceased father and Bethie’s husband, a minor character. I found this approach very one-sided and unrealistic. Although I didn’t try to verify every date and fact, other readers have been critical of the author’s inaccurate references to time and place. I will say that I think that the author is very casual with some of her descriptions and plot lines. Maybe that doesn’t matter. I found it a little annoying.

Reviews of Mrs. Everything are mostly positive (It’s a New York Times Best Seller), but I’m not alone in my opinion and best seller doesn’t always mean it’s good. In the end, I’d say that this type of book just isn’t for me. To help you make your own decision, here are three bloggers’ reviews.

Subakka Bookstuff
Read with Aimee
Becky’s Reading Journey

Have you read Mrs. Everything? What did you think? Leave a comment!

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Book Review: The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Mother-in-Law
by
Sally Hepworth

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed The Mother-in-Law, an engaging family drama about money and secrets and a look at how adult children deal with problems. Set in Australia, the story opens with Lucy Goodwin, a stay-at-home mom with three children and her husband, Ollie. From the beginning, Lucy has never had a close relationship with her mother-in-law, Diana, who is cold and controlling, especially when it comes to the family’s vast fortune. And Diana has made it clear that Lucy doesn’t measure up. She’s also hard on Ollie and his sister, Nettie, denying them loans that would help them in their adult lives. She frequently points to the struggling women refugees she helps with her charity, her life’s passion. In contrast, Diana’s husband, Tom is friendly and generous, and has secretly loaned Ollie and Nettie money, setting up a complicated family dynamic.

When police discover Diana Goodwin’s body, the evidence suggests that she took her own life. Her family tells detectives that Diana, newly widowed, had breast cancer. But investigators think there’s more to the story.

In alternating chapters that jump between past and present, readers learn more about Lucy and Diana and begin to understand why Diana feels so strongly about withholding money from her children. After she denies Ollie a loan, Diana tells her husband, “I think Ollie could do with being a little hungry. A little hunger is good for young people.” She reminds Tom, “It was the making of you.” Readers also learn more about how the adult children regard their future inheritances and how the family relates to each other.

Despite its 340 pages, this is the type of book you can finish quickly because of its interesting storyline and characters. I especially liked seeing how the relationship between Diana and Lucy changes, offering an insight into how seemingly opposing characters are more connected than they realize.

I was less satisfied by the tie-up at the finish and how the big reveal omitted details about the investigation and its resolution. I think this book fits better in the women’s fiction and family drama genres and is less of a thriller or mystery. A couple grammar problems (the old “between he and I” mistake) detracted from its polish, which was otherwise excellent. I would definitely read another book by Sally Hepworth.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Stevie Turner

Author name:  Stevie Turner

Genres:  Romantic Suspense, Memoir, Dark Humor, Women’s Fiction, Family Dramas, and Paranormal

Books:  A House Without Windows; The Pilates Class; For the Sake of a Child; The Daughter-in-law Syndrome; Repent at Leisure; The Donor; and many more titles available here.

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing.  Since childhood I’ve always made up stories and poems, and won an inter-schools’ writing competition at the age of eleven.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  I work as a medical secretary three days per week, and write as a hobby in my spare time.  Until I earn more royalties than working as a medical secretary then my work will always have to come first.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  My wedding day. Also the births of my two sons.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I’m definitely a ‘pantster.’  I make it all up as I go along.

Could you write in a café with people around?  Absolutely not. I need to be on my own and in a totally silent room so that I can think.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  Yes, in Examining Kitchen Cupboards, I needed one of my characters to speak Portuguese.  I looked up the words on Google Translate.   

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  The one I could read over and over again is L.P Hartley’s The Go-Between.  It was written in a different age, without computers and iPhones etc.  Sometimes I wish we could go back to that foreign country, the past. What am I reading now?  I’m just about to start I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  My Kindle is my preferred choice, but I do read quite a few paperbacks too.

Do you think print books will always be around?  Yes, I think so.  Not everybody prefers eReaders.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  No. My phone is for making phone calls or reading text messages.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  I have an iPhone, but I’m not always going to it!

How long could you go without checking your phone?  All day, and I sometimes do.  At work it lives in my rucksack, and when I get home I sometimes forget to take it out.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  No, as I find them rather expensive to buy.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  I’ve given up Facebook and LinkedIn as I wanted to cut down a bit. My favourite social media platform is WordPress followed by Twitter.

Website and social media links:
Website: stevie-turner-author.co.uk
WordPress Blog: steviet3.wordpress.com
Twitter: @StevieTurner6
YouTube: Stevie Turner
Amazon: Amazon.uk; Amazon.com; Amazon Author Page (worldwide)
Goodreads: Stevie Turner

Awards/special recognition:  Several Indie awards, which you can find here


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Book Review: A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

A Rule Against Murder
by
Louise Penny

Rating:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Quebec, but in the fourth book in this series, Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie are taking a mini-vacation at the beautiful Manoir Bellechasse to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Or so they think.

They’re sharing the remote lodge with the wealthy Finney family, there to honor the raising of a statue of the late Charles Morrow, Mrs. Finney’s first husband and the father of their four adult children. It isn’t long before someone is murdered, however, and Gamache must change gears to investigate. He summons his staff, Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir and Agent Isabelle Lacoste, they quickly set up an investigation room and begin interviewing suspects.

The Finney family is not a warm bunch and the adult children are laden with bitterness and hatred for each other. Although they are in their 50s and 60s, their petty rivalries shoot to the surface, all centered around who was favored and loved and who was shunned. It doesn’t help that their mother is cold and distant and her new husband, Bert Finney is a puzzle. An accountant, he’s frequently seen doing his “sums” and the reader can’t help but ask if he’s in the marriage for the money.

The siblings are busy asserting themselves, in terms of who’s the most successful, most charming (on the outside), best at the piano, and word games and they frequently jab at each other’s weaknesses. The youngest Morrow, Mariana, takes her fair share of criticism. Unattractive, sloppy and less refined, she also has a child whose sex she refuses to reveal to the family.

Busy serving this demanding family are Pierre Patenaude, the Manoir’s maître d’, his large staff of young waiters and attendants, the owner, Clementine Dubois and Chef Véronique Langlois. There are secrets, romance, drama and a little rebellion among the Manoir’s staff, adding to the story.

Everyone is a suspect and, while it’s easy to line them up, it’s not easy to explain how the impossible events of the murder occurred. For Gamache, when more people go missing, it’s a race against time to figure it out.

Penny includes strong themes of family, fatherhood, and parenthood in general, the conflict between French and English Canadians and also between the upper class and the working class. Many of her characters, Gamache included, struggle in this story to understand their pasts and possible misconceptions about their families. She also includes a bit of her Three Pines characters, the recurring setting in her other books.

I enjoyed reading A Rule Against Murder, which absolutely can be read as a standalone, or even out of order. I read my first and only other book in the series, A Great Reckoning (Book 12) about two years ago and had no issues adjusting to the story line or characters then or now. You can read my 4-star review here. Penny’s books are smart, literary, a little quirky (but not too much to keep me away) and both serious and warm. I recommend A Rule Against Murder to mystery readers who enjoy both standalones and series.

Have you read any books by Louise Penny?

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Book Club Mom’s summer recommendations – grab a book and some fresh air!

Image: Pixabay

Summer reads have a certain feel about them and grabbing the right book can take you back to when you had long lazy days stretching out in front of you. Now, for many of us, it’s more a matter of creating the mood of an endless summer. So steal an hour, find a nice place in a park, in your yard or even at home with the windows open, and dig into a book that will grab you right away. Here are some recommendations to help you choose:


Dig Right In

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – light, entertaining historical fiction during the late 1800s when billionaire American families match their daughters with cash-poor dukes and princes in need of American money.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer – set in Greenwich Village, NY, Greta discovers her 1985 self living in two other time periods, one in 1918 and one in 1941.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin – historical fiction and fascinating portrait of Truman Capote and his distinct sides, as both pet and confidante to the New York upper class, and serious writer.

Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed – great story about a mother who believes she is doing the right thing, but can’t see its impact until decades later.


Family Dramas

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – a complicated family from Baltimore, full of secrets and an unacknowledged division between its members.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – great family saga that begins in the 1960s with six kids from two different families, thrown together because of an affair, a divorce and then a marriage.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub – light beach read about a dysfunctional family on a trip from Manhattan to Spain for some forced family vacation fun.

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde – a man goes duck hunting and finds an abandoned baby boy in the woods, changing his life in unimaginable ways.


Historical Fiction

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín – classic tale about post-war immigration from Ireland to America.

The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor – set in NY in 1950 during the Red Scare, the story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, arrested for spying for the Russians.

Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor – biographical novel about Emily Dickinson and a fictional coming-of-age story about her young Irish maid.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – a look at Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Elizabeth Hadley Richardson and their six-year marriage, spent mostly in Paris.


Secrets and Suspense

The Dry by Jane Harper – atmospheric thriller set on the edge of the Australia’s bushland during a devastating drought.

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey – an old woman on the edge of dementia falls into a confused world of memories and suspicions, certain that her friend Elizabeth is missing.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian – a flight attendant wakes up after a night of heavy drinking and discovers she is in bed with a man who has been brutally murdered.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Young Adult story about mysterious events of one summer, forcing a family through painful changes.


I hope you find a good place to escape for a bit. What will you read?

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Who’s That Indie Author? James J. Cudney

whos-that-indie-author

Author name:  James J. Cudney (Jay)

Genre:  Adult / Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Mystery & Suspense

Books:  Watching Glass Shatter (2017), Father Figure (2018)

Bio:  James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City. I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog, I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time.

My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, is an emotional rollercoaster about a family full of secrets. When the patriarch dies in a car accident, his widow Olivia, and their five adult sons must learn how to re-connect, except all the secrets stand in the way. It’s full of humor and tears, but you will find a whole new family to love when you take this book on.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  Being able to create characters and a plot that truly bring emotions to a reader, whether it’s tears, laughter, inspiration or fear. Knowing that I can share an idea that’s in my head, and seeing how it materializes for each distinct reader, brings me immense joy.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  Convincing people to take a chance on reading your work when there are so many talented authors in the world. I try to build relationships rather than just ask someone to read my book; my available time becomes a challenge as building connections doesn’t happen overnight. I am committed to finding success by always being honest and sharing who I am, connecting with my readers as much as possible.

Favorite book:  It changes, but right now, Ken Follett’s Night Over Water

Contact Information:
Author Site:  jamesjcudney.com
Blog:  thisismytruthnow.com
Amazon Author Page:  James J. Cudney
Goodreads Author Page:  James J. Cudney

Awards/special recognition:  As an October 2017 debut author, I am just submitting my work for contests and awards. My book was written in for the Goodreads Debut Author Choice Awards by over a hundred people, which was heartwarming humbling. I hope to make a huge splash in 2018 as I begin marketing the first book, Watching Glass Shatter, and publish the second one, Father Figure.


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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Premiere by Tracy Ewens

Premiere Goodreads

Premiere
by
Tracy Ewens

Rating:

Samantha Cathner knows all too well that it’s not so simple to be young and in love. Peter Everoad was her one true love, but he left her for a playwright’s career on Broadway. Now he’s back and he’s brought his new play with him to the Pasadena Playhouse.

Sam has moved on with her life, or has she? As assistant creative director at the Playhouse, she must work directly with Peter and she soon discovers that the characters in Peter’s play bear a close and uncomfortable resemblance to Sam, Peter and their close friends and family.

The sparks are still there and Sam wrestles with this undeniable attraction and her anger with Peter for leaving four years earlier, just as their romance was taking off. But Peter’s story is much more complicated than a guy fleeing when things get too involved. Pasadena represents good and bad memories for Peter. Now that he’s back, he’s forced to confront the painful reminders of his father’s suicide, including a mother who can’t make it to lunchtime without a drink.

I enjoyed reading this smart romance about the trials and angst that young professionals endure as they navigate love’s rocky road. It’s a great look at young lives when everything is on the brink of happening. The reader can see where things should head, but the characters struggle to find their way.

Ewens’ characters move within Pasadena’s privileged class and it is fun to jump into a world where money is no object.   But Sam is not a princess. She is strong-willed and career-driven, like her grandmother, who is portrayed in Ewens’ first book, Catalina Kiss.

The story moves along at a nice pace with lots of romantic tension and fun, intelligent conversation. Ewens has a good feel for what it’s like to be a twenty-something young professional, with equal parts of romantic drama and serious personal conflict.

Suspense carries the reader through to the play’s opening night. With his personal life unsettled, Peter has struggled to write a satisfying ending, which he’s kept secret to all. As she sits in the audience, Sam shakes with nervous anticipation and can hardly watch as Peter’s final and unconventional scene draws her into its conclusion.

Premiere is an enjoyable romance, with the bonus of interesting and uncomplicated descriptions of behind-the-scenes drama production. The attraction between Sam and Peter is well-presented, with realistic dialogue and conflict. In addition, Ewens has managed to write love scenes that are nice and spicy, but not over-the-top, which gives the story class and separates it from popular bodice-ripping tales. I think the strongest scenes are between Sam and Peter in New York. It’s what the reader sees as an ultimate coming-together, but with more pages ahead, there’s a lot to figure out. But my favorite scene is towards the end between Peter and his mother, one of those conversations that has taken years to happen and is satisfying to witness.

Ewens also raises the important question of where writers get their material. Peter’s best writing comes from his own experiences, which he puts on stage for all to see, a catharsis for him, but a writer’s dilemma as well. Is it right to include these painful and personal experiences, at the expense of family, friends and, especially Sam?

Premiere is a seemingly simple story with more complicated layers and is best described by one of my favorite quotes from the book, “If only life were as simple as a good-looking guy and a great dress.” So true, but the complicated parts are just as entertaining!

I received an ARC to review Premiere, which will be released on October 27.

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