From the book flap: Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship: everything is about to change
It was an accident. It was dark, it was raining, Alison had only had two drinks. And the other car ran the stop sign. But Alison finds herself trapped under the crushing weight of grief and guilt, feeling increasingly estranged from her husband…
Charlie, who has his own burdens. He’s in a job he doesn’t love so that Alison can stay at home with the kids (and why isn’t she more grateful for that?); he has a house in the suburbs and a long commute to and from the city. And the only thing he can focus on these days is his secret, sudden affair with…
Claire, Alison’s best friend. Bold where Alison is reserved, vibrant where Alison is cautious, Claire has just had her first novel published, a thinly veiled retelling of her childhood in North Carolina. But even in the whirlwind of publication, Claire can’t stop wondering if she should leave her husband…
Ben, an ambitious architect who is brilliant, kind, and meticulous. And who wants nothing more than a baby, or two—exactly the kind of life that Charlie and Alison seem to have…
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When I read the synopsis I thought it sounded like a daytime drama. I’m happy to say my first impression was wrong. It’s the story of two couples – Alison and Charlie, Claire and Ben – and what happens when a tragic accident sets in motion unavoidable changes in their lives.
When something terrible happens, a lifetime of small events and unremarkable decisions, of unresolved anger and unexplored fears, begins to play itself out in ways you least expect. You’ve been going along from one day to the next, not realizing that all those disparate words and gestures were adding up to something, a conclusion you didn’t anticipate. And later, when you begin to retrace your steps, you see that you will need to reach back further than you could have imagined, beyond words and thoughts and even dreams, perhaps, to make sense of what happened. (p. 245)
Christina Baker Kline’s clean, crisp writing drew me into the novel and I kept reading until my eyes refused to stay open. The story is told from all four characters’ perspectives, present day and flashback, of how they met, fell in love and got to the point where things started to fall apart. Interesting to me was that there didn’t seem to be an inordinate amount of blame issued to one character, when it would’ve been very easy to do.
Why did these people decide on marriage? Why marry one person when you’re attracted to another? Should vows be honored or should we grasp for whatever happiness might come our way – after all, we only have one life. Will happiness and love be found with another person? Obvious answers? Maybe. This is one of those times I wish I belonged to a book club. The discussion would be lively, I’m sure. Bird in Hand is the second novel I’ve read by Christina Baker Kline and I look forward to reading another soon.
From the back cover: Angela Russo finds herself in Maine thanks to a sailing instructor, an impulse, and an idea that in Maine, people live “the way life should be.” But reality on Mount Desert Island is not what she expected. Far from everything familiar, Angela begins to rebuild her life from the ground up. Relying on the flair for Italian cooking she inherited from her grandmother, she begins to discover the pleasures and secrets of her new small community – and to connect her heritage to a future she is only beginning to envision.
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This book is one of those unexpected finds – a book I happened upon while looking for something else. The title grabbed me right away. For years my family vacationed in Maine. Each summer we’d fly to Boston, rent a car, and drive north to Maine for an all-too-short time.
I was a bit envious of Angela with a chance to set her life in a different direction. I admired how brave she was after her reason for going to Maine turned out to be a disappointment. And I liked that she started to look inward for answers to what she really wanted in life. Angela had help from several supporting characters. The most enjoyable for me was Flynn, the owner of a coffee shop. He gave Angela a job, his friendship, and encouragement. Christina Baker Kline made me laugh as I read the banter between Flynn and Angela.
I enjoyed Kline’s writing. When Angela was at the beach letting her dog run she thought about her surroundings:
“Though the air is frigid, the sun makes a valiant effort to warm these rocks, this place, my face. The coast is not cold in the way that people think, or even in the way I imagined before I came. The coldness is threaded with warmth, tempered by moments of grace.”
That describes the way I felt about Angela’s story. Her life did seem cold at times but she shared moments with family members and new friends that were, well, graceful. At least, that’s how I saw it. The Way Life Should Be turned out to be one of those books that was just too short. It was a fast read and it left me wanting to know “what happened next”. I look forward to reading more books by Christina Baker Kline.
Three sisters— responsible Riley, vivacious Maisy, and fun-loving Adalee—reunite to save the family’s beach-community bookstore. But summer also marks the return of Mack Logan, whose choice of Maisy over Riley years ago destroyed the special closeness between the sisters…
Now Riley, a single mom, is hiding a shattering secret about their mother. Maisy, a California designer, still blames Riley for ruining her one true love. And Adalee resents the family’s intrusion into her summer plans. All three will be forced to confront the conflicts that tore them apart and the bounds of love and loyalty that still draw them together…
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Funny how I’ve gravitated to vacation books lately. No actual beach getaway for us this year so I’m reading books about people who live at the shore! Having six sisters, I think Patti Callahan Henry did a great job portraying the Sheffield sisters’ relationships with each other. It may have gotten a little dramatic and intense at times but that was believable as well.
Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was the interaction between the ‘summer people’ and the town people. Not in a negative way – just that both groups seem to idealize each other and the location’s effect on their lives. I have wonderful memories of family vacations at the shore and the people who lived there year-round.
If you’re looking for a story about family dynamics and other relationships (both realistic and idealized), Driftwood Summer may be just the book for you.
From the book flap: Laurel was mesmerized, staring at the pale things. They were terrifyingly beautiful – too beautiful for words.
Laurel turned to the mirror again, her eyes on the hovering petals that floated beside her head. They looked almost like wings.
In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever.
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My thoughts: I don’t want to explain the plot but I will say if you like a magical story that is set in today’s world, you will probably like Wings. I rarely read Teen or YA fiction but decided to give Wings a try after reading a few good reviews. I liked it! It’s a sweet and entertaining tale that fans of this genre will surely embrace.
This book completes the Support Your Local Library Challenge – 2009
From the back of the book: Four months after her husband’s death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband—now his last gift to her.
As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow—mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can’t release. Yet Janie’s self-imposed isolation is breached by a cast of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.
As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others—even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.
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Shelter Me by Juliette Fay is about grief. Not just the grief of a young widow but also grief caused by other loss – trust, innocence, hope, to name a few.
Janie LaMarche is barely coping after the tragic death of her husband when construction begins on a porch he’d contracted without her knowledge. Her never-married aunt is trying to convince her to take a self-defense course because she needs to be able to protect herself and her children. And while she’s at it, Janie may as well help her aunt at the soup kitchen. These are just a few of the ways Janie is forced to move forward with and through her grief.
Fay’s writing is so natural and her portrayal of the emotions of loss, true. I enjoyed the secondary characters. The bits of information I learned about them drew my own comparisons to people in my life. At first glance it may seem that the book bites off more than it can chew – so many people with their own issues (Janie’s brother, her mother, her parish priest, her son’s best friend’s mom, I could go on) but I think it all distills down to this: everyone deals with their own grief, in their own way and yet most try to move forward and most have people who love them, depend on them and need them to not give up – people who will also help to give shelter on the journey.
I recommend Shelter Me to everyone. I borrowed it from the library but will be buying a copy for my “keeper” shelf.
From the book jacket: Like other well-meaning mothers, Julie Mueller’s believed she did the right thing when she secretly ended her teenage daughter’s crush on Michael Slayton, a wild older neighborhood heartthrob with a penchant for Shakespeare and the pedigree of trailer trash.
Twenty years later, Betty Mueller has come to realize that was a big mistake. Her daughter Julie – divorced and raising a teenage daughter alone – is a workaholic obsessed with her career. And Michael, the one man to whom could make her happy, is the one man to whom she won’t speak a word.
Now near the end of her life and determined to make amends, Betty stages her last great feat of motherhood by reuniting the couple in a dessert class where she hopes the sweetness of a chocolate almond Torta Caprese will erase the bitterness of a wretched misunderstanding.
If you spot me reading a Sarah Strohmeyer book chances are you’ll see me laughing. It’s as if my best friend is sitting next to me telling me a great story. Sweet Love had me laughing most of the time and tearing up a little as well. I was pulling for Julie to have things work out with Michael. For me, the stars of the book are Julie and her mom. I loved their relationship . A lot of their give and take hit close to home. That said, I wanted to know more of the supporting characters’ own stories. Michael could be a book by himself. Julie’s brother, Paul or her friend, Liza were so enjoyable and yet only in the novel to move the plot, I guess. I could have read on for a few hundred more pages. Just saying…
It’s a good romantic comedy. I recommend it.