The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

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The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant, came up as a recommendation on one of my many booklover sites (I believe it was librarything.com but it could have been goodreads.com). I read The Red Tent a year or two ago and found it gripping and heart-wrenching, so I approached The Boston Girl, by the same author, Anita Diamant, with caution. I thought it was likely that I would love the book but I was afraid of the commitment. Am I the only one who has that problem sometimes? The struggle is real.

Anyways, I buckled down and read The Boston Girl, and it was just as enticing and upsetting as I expected. Addie Baum is an elderly woman dictating the story of her life growing up in Boston to her granddaughter. The third daughter of Jewish immigrants in the early 1900s, her path was a rocky one, but full of sweet memories, love and good friends.

The Boston Girl addresses the struggle of immigrant families, the nuances of growing up Jewish during a tumultuous time, the difficult relationships between mothers and daughters and sisters, the shocking introduction of men and dating for a very naïve young woman, and the pain of loss followed by the warmth of togetherness shared by kindred spirits. If you love books that deal with women’s issues and focus on the feminine, The Boston Girl is a wonderful example…If you think you can handle it. And if you have a box of Kleenex by your bedside. The Boston Girl is not a fun summer vacation read, and not light reading by any standard…But I loved it. And some of you might love it, too.

My Father’s Wives by Mike Greenberg

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Jonathan Sweetwater has it all-beautiful wife, two great kids, blossoming career…One day, however, he comes home early to find what he thinks could be evidence that his wife is having an affair. All reality fragments for him and he finds himself on a quest to learn who he really is, and what kind of power his father may have had in defining the man he becomes. Jonathan sets off to find out just what his estranged father was actually like, and why he left a trail of five wives behind him before he passed away.

This is a novel of reflection, of nature versus nurture, of letting the past or others define who you are, and learning to see what is right in front of your eyes instead of trying to find something better around every corner. Readers will be surprised by this novel, which ends in a heartwarming place where you never would have expected it to end.

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

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You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz, is a suspense novel unlike anything I’ve ever read. In the vein of Gone Girl, this story unwinds in ways you could not see coming and leaves the reader shaking his/her head and sitting in stunned shock.

Grace Reinhart Sachs is a New York couples therapist and mother. Her life is exactly the way she always wanted it to be. No surprises, just the normal day to day routine with her son’s school and extracurricular activities, her husband a busy pediatric oncologist. She’s so pleased with her life, in fact, she has decided to write a self-help book for the poor sad women in the world who haven’t had the common sense to follow her own example. Just before the book is about to be released, telling women that they should have known all along that their husbands were cheaters, liars, addicts, hopelessly under-employed, (and worse)-Grace gets the shock of her life…

Seems like her husband may have had a few secrets of his own. A mother from her son’s school comes up murdered, and the police keep trying to find out what Grace may know about the crime and the victim. But Grace just doesn’t understand why they think she might know something…The woman was barely even on her radar. When the facts start raining down on her and she realizes she really didn’t know her husband at all, the brutal truth has the potential to ruin her entire life, or at least the life she always thought was perfect.

You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz, is a psychological suspense novel. I wouldn’t call it a “thriller” per se, because most of the novel is not action, but the slow unveiling of truth to a woman who thought she knew it all. I thought the audiobook was excellent for my work commute and for housework-but don’t listen while being interrupted a lot, because if you miss something you will be very confused! Every detail counts in You Should Have Known, which is a novel entirely comprised of little details which lead up to one horrifying conclusion…You’ll have to read it or listen to it if you want to know more!

 

Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt

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The year is 1904, and Teresa and her daughter, Lucia, are servants in the grand villa of a count and countess on the Bay of Naples. Lucia’s beginnings were shady, she doesn’t know who her father was, only that her mother was assaulted on the shore while working at a masquerade ball many years before. Still, they have a peaceful life, for the most part, cleaning the villa and keeping to themselves. One day, however, everything changes. Her mother aspires to sing opera, and who should appear before her but a famous male opera singer. She confronts him in effort to make him listen to her beautiful voice and she is cast aside and humiliated. News about the episode travels over the island, and the incident appears to be all the Count needs to escalate his poor treatment of Teresa, and to turn it’s terrible focus onto Lucia. Suddenly, the young woman and her mother are fleeing Italy and headed to America to find a new life.

Early 1900s America was a bustling place, full of opportunity and modern ideas…But life is not so wonderful as families in Italy were led to believe. Sweatshops fill the cities and immigrants are treated badly. Racism is powerful and there is no love lost between the Italians, the Polish, the Irish… All are competing for work and suspicion runs rampant. Still, Teresa gets a job and Lucia is allowed to learn English and go to school, and things go quite well for some time…But Teresa struggles, trouble finds them, and they must find a new path. Teresa decides to chase her dream and finally gets work as a performer in a vaudeville show. Lucia is finally able to graduate, but she receives terrible news about her mother, and her life and plans are put on hold…Maybe forever. Will Lucia ever find the life she wants, or will she continue to be beaten down, time and again?

Once in a while, an avid reader finds a novel like Pamela Schoenewaldt’s Swimming in the Moon and is thrown a little off-kilter by it’s originality and deep emotional pull. Many of us get trapped in genres, Paranormal Romance, or Historical Romance, or Fantasy, or ChickLit, and we never venture outside of our comfort zone. Swimming in the Moon is the type of book that takes you out of your comfort zone, although I would categorize it as women’s fiction because it outlines one of the greatest challenges faced by many females: the mother-daughter relationship. If you enjoy fiction with a lot of drama and feeling, you won’t want to miss Pamela Schoenewaldt’s Swimming on the Moon.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is kindof a mess. She doesn’t seem to get along with the other parents at her daughter’s school, her house is falling apart, her husband is never home, and she hates dealing with strangers so badly that she has decided to hire a personal assistant in India to make all of her appointments and take care of all of her duties. You may think that these things sound like issues that every woman deals with, but things are about to get even WORSE for Bernadette. The neighbor lady has a vendetta against her and things are about to come to a head in a major way. Her daughter has decided that for her reward for getting perfect grades in middle school, they should all make a trip to Antarctica to see the penguins….And Bernadette gets unbelievably seasick.

One day, Bernadette just disappears, and her daughter decides to follow the clues to figure out just who her mother really was, and what happened to make her go away. She refuses to believe that her mother would just leave or take her own life. But what happened to Bernadette? Following a trail of letters, emails and receipts, the middle schooler has decided the grownups have made a mess of things, and it’s up to her to put things right.

Any woman who has ever wondered if they were going to have a nervous breakdown and go completely bonkers will LOVE this novel, which takes you down Bernadette’s humorous path to possibly lunacy with perfect timing and character. Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple, is an easy read, and the audiobook format by Hachette Audio is perfection. If you ever venture into the world of audiobooks, add this one to your list.

If you enjoy books like What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty, which delve into parenting, marriage, sanity, and the politics of the PTA, this novel is right up your alley.