The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

  • the-things-we-keep-pbTitle:  The Things We Keep
  • Author:  Sally Hepworth
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published: January 2017 – St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Anna Forster is only thirty-eight years old, but her mind is slowly slipping away from her. Armed only with her keen wit and sharp-eyed determination, she knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. But Anna has a secret: she does not plan on staying. She also knows there’s just one another resident who is her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

Eve Bennett, suddenly thrust into the role of single mother to her bright and vivacious seven-year-old daughter, finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke, she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna’s and Luke’s families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them. Eve has her own secrets, and her own desperate circumstances that raise the stakes even higher.  (publisher)

My take:  The Things We Keep is an emotional tale about people whose memories have vanished or been taken by events beyond their control. My father-in-law died from complications of Alzheimer’s several years ago so I have a basic understanding of this horrible disease. Sally Hepworth offers another facet of the disease with characters who are in their thirties and battling the loss of memory.

Anna and Luke are two people who’ve been diagnosed with different early forms of dementia. They meet at a residential care facility that is also for elderly who can’t live independently. The story is also about Eve, a recent widow and mother of a seven-year-old daughter, Clementine. Her life turned on a dime when her husband killed himself. She is the new cook at the home. There are several supporting characters – employees of Rosalind House and a few of the residents – whose presence added richness to the story.

The story is beautifully told and one I can recommend to readers – even though the topic of Alzheimer’s can be so off-putting and upsetting. It’s a compassionate novel that made me smile at times and grab for a tissue at other times. I know I’ll be thinking about The Things We Keep for a long time and I look forward to reading more from Hepworth.


Praise for THE THINGS WE KEEP – now available in paperback

“‘For better or for worse’ takes on new meaning in Hepworth’s devastatingly beautiful love story.” – People

“This book is such a page-turner! At the end, we were left full of hope and love.” – Women’s Day

“…an unconventional tearjerker of a love story… poignant and nuanced.” – Publishers Weekly

“With startling insight and intense compassion, Hepworth creates a character who watches her intellectual world implode while at the same time experiencing a new romance. The story is a rare gem.” – Columbus Dispatch


About the author:

Sally Hepworth lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and three children. She is currently working on her next novel.


 

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

  • Family Tree by Susan Wigg (8:9:16 Wm Morrow)Title:  Family Tree
  • Author:  Susan Wiggs
  • Pages:  368
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2016 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher; Edelweiss

My take:  Annie Rush is a producer of a television cooking show starring her husband Martin. Annie learned to cook from her grandmother who taught her that just as every recipe has a key ingredient, one’s life is mapped by key events. When Annie discovers her husband in a compromising position she knows this is one of those key events. If that isn’t enough Annie is about to experience a monumental key event.

Susan Wiggs’ story is one of second chances and the willingness to keep going, even under the most dire circumstances. Annie, Fletcher (a man from her past), and even her own parents discover what it takes to go for a second chance in life. Sometimes that means starting from where you are and other times it is starting over from scratch.

If you’re a fan of Susan Wiggs I think you’ll like Family Tree as much as I did. I loved the Vermont setting and all the foodie details. (My review galley didn’t contain any recipes so I don’t know if finished copies will.) It’s a fast read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Recommended to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

  • you will know me (7:26)Title:  You Will Know Me: A Novel
  • Author:  Megan Abbott
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  July 2016 – Little Brown
  • Source:  Publisher; Tandem Literary

My take:  You Will Know Me is the story of a family dedicated to the success of one of their children. Devon is a talented gymnast on track to make elite level and ultimately the Olympic team. The hopes of her family, coaches, and other families connected to the gym rest on her shoulders. She seems to take it all in stride until the dynamics of the gym are shaken by the death of someone close to everyone. What follows this event has everyone questioning their relationships and loyalty to each other.

I imagine there are some similarities in what it takes to become an actual elite gymnast – and how entire families are affected by the necessary sacrifices in favor of the gymnast – to the characters in this novel. I found it to be a compelling read that was difficult to put down – especially since I’d just watched most of the Rio Olympic gymnastics competition. Although I figured out the whodunit early on I thought it was an interesting novel all around.

Spotlight/US Giveaway: All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

all the time in the world

Description:

Charlotte, a gifted and superbly trained young musician, has been blindsided by a shocking betrayal in her promising career when she takes a babysitting job with the McLeans, a glamorous Upper East Side Manhattan family. At first, the nanny gig is just a way of tiding herself over until she has licked her wounds and figured out her next move as a composer in New York. But, as it turns out, Charlotte is naturally good with children and becomes as deeply fond of the two little boys as they are of her. When an unthinkable tragedy leaves the McLeans bereft, Charlotte is not the only one who realizes that she’s the key to holding little George and Matty’s world together. Suddenly, in addition to life’s usual puzzles, such as sorting out which suitor is her best match, she finds herself with an impossible choice between her life-long dreams and the torn-apart family she’s come to love. By turns hilarious, sexy, and wise, Caroline Angell’s remarkable and generous debut is the story of a young woman’s discovery of the things that matter most.



About the Author:

Caroline Angell grew up in Endwell, N.Y., the daughter of an electrical engineer and a public school music teacher. She has a B. A. in musical theater from American University and currently lives and works in Manhattan. As a playwright and director, she has had her work performed at regional theaters in New York City and in the Washington, D.C., area. All the Time in the World is her first novel. Follow Caroline on Twitter


Praise for All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

“An extraordinary book. Caroline Angell is wise beyond her years in rendering the heartache of grief, and all the different kinds of love we are capable of feeling. I was haunted by All the Time in the World long after finishing the last page. It reads like the work of a mature writer at the height of her powers, not a debut novel. I can’t wait to see what Ms. Angell will write next.”  —Alice LaPlante, New York Times bestselling author of Turn of Mind

“In All the Time in the World, Caroline Angell explores the different ways in which people find their way through grief, and she does it bravely and masterfully. A heart wrenching yet life affirming novel. What a debut!”  — Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle

“Caroline Angell deftly handles the complexities of love, grief, hope, humor and family. All the Time in the World is funny, beautifully textured and deeply moving. An absolute joy to read.” 
— Allie Larkin, author of Stay and Why Can’t I Be You?

“There’s wit, wisdom, and insight on every page of Caroline Angell’s great debut novel. But, more importantly than any of that are the emotional truths she reveals at every turn.” — Matthew Norman, author of Domestic Violets


US Giveaway

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all the time in the world
Giveaway ends on July 15, 2016

Summer At Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

  • summer at little beach street bakery (3:22)Title:  Summer At Little Beach Street Bakery
  • Author:  Jenny Colgan
  • Series:  Little Beach Street Bakery #2
  • Pages:  416
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2016 – William Morrow Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Description:  A thriving bakery. A lighthouse to call home. A handsome beekeeper. A pet puffin. These are the things that Polly Waterford can call her own. This is the beautiful life she leads on a tiny island off the southern coast of England.

But clouds are gathering on the horizon. A stranger threatens to ruin Polly’s business. Her beloved boyfriend seems to be leading a secret life. And the arrival of a newcomer—a bereft widow desperately searching for a fresh start—forces Polly to reconsider the choices she’s made, even as she tries to help her new friend through grief.

Unpredictable and unforgettable, this delightful novel will make you laugh, cry, and long for a lighthouse of your own. Recipes included.  (publisher)

My take:  Jenny Colgan takes readers back to Mount Polbearne. I loved seeing what was new in the lives of Polly, Huckle and all the rest. We meet a few new characters and yes, Neil the puffin is back.

Colgan’s novel lived up to my expectations. There’s love, loss, humor and drama in the lives of the residents of the tiny seaside village in Cornwall we first visited in Little Beach Street Bakery. It was great to visit and my hope is that we might someday meet up again.

Even though Colgan provides a brief catch-up of the first book I highly recommend reading it before this book because I enjoyed it so much. Fans of small town settings and characters will find a lot to love in these books.

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

  • the expatriates (1:2016)Title:  The Expatriates
  • Author:  Janice Y.K. Lee
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Pub. date:  January 12, 2016 – Viking
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Janice Y. K. Lee’s blockbuster hit debut novel The Piano Teacher was called “immensely satisfying” by People, “intensely readable” by O, The Oprah Magazine, and “a rare and exquisite story” by Elizabeth Gilbert. And now, in her long-awaited follow-up, Lee explores with devastating poignancy the emotions, identities, and relationships of three very different American women living in the same small expat community in Hong Kong.

Mercy is adrift. A recent Columbia graduate without a safety net, she can’t hold down a job—or a man. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her inability to conceive a child she believes could save her floundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, ostensibly a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering loss. As each woman struggles with her own demons, their lives crash into one another in ways that could have devastating consequences for them all. Moving, atmospheric, and utterly compelling, The Expatriates confirms Lee as an exceptional talent and one of our keenest observers of women’s inner lives.  (publisher)

My take:  The Expatriates is the story of three women who find themselves living in Hong Kong and connected to each other in unimaginable ways. The synopsis explains it all. What I found compelling was Lee’s way of getting to the core of each woman. They share a similarity or two but each is unique in her circumstances. As they come to understand each other they gain perspective on their own lives.

I found myself relating the most to Margaret. I could understand her reaction to the horrible loss. My heart ached for her as I wondered how I would go on after such adversity.

Lee’s portrait of Hong Kong’s expatriate community drew me in. In a way, it was like any community here or abroad with people trying to fit in or trying to maintain a sense of where they came from.

I liked this novel but thought it wrapped up a bit too civilly. Then again, perhaps that just shows the growth experienced by the women.

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

  • The AdmissionsTitle:  The Admissions
  • Author:  Meg Mitchell Moore
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  September 2015 – Doubleday
  • Source:  BookSparks

Description:  The Hawthorne family has it all. Great jobs, a beautiful house in one of the most affluent areas of northern California, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth. And then comes their eldest daughter’s senior year of high school . . .
     Firstborn Angela Hawthorne is a straight-A student and star athlete, with extracurricular activities coming out of her ears and a college application that’s not going to write itself. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, and like a dog with a chew toy, Angela won’t let up until she’s basking in crimson-colored glory. Except her class rank as valedictorian is under attack, she’s suddenly losing her edge at cross-country, and she can’t help but daydream about the cute baseball player in English class. Of course Angela knows the time put into her schoolgirl crush would be better spent coming up with a subject for her term paper—which, along with her college essay and community service hours has a rapidly approaching deadline. 
     Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real-estate career where she caters to the mega rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, Maya, still can’t read at the age of eight; the middle-child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few ill-advised moves put the Hawthorne family on a heedless collision course that’s equal parts achingly real and delightfully screwball.
     Sharp and topical, The Admissions shows that if you pull at a loose thread, even the sturdiest of lives start to unravel at the seams of high achievement.  (publisher)

My take:  This is a story about a family with hopes and dreams…and secrets. It’s about what happens when their secrets become known to others and how each person deals with it.

It’s also about how we view others – our perceptions and the actual reality of what we think we know. Does that family next door really have life by the tail? How can they be so lucky when I’m not? It’s about the expectations we feel or place upon others and the intense anxiety that almost always follows. Anyone who went to college, played a sport in school or participated in a competitive group or had kids who did the same will recognize some of the emotions felt by one or all of the characters in this novel.

There’s foreshadowing from page one but as the author revealed events I was second-guessing myself in what I thought was going to happen. Meg Mitchell Moore’s novel is a warm, entertaining and addictive read that left me missing this family after turning the last page. Recommended.

I read The Admissions as part of the BookSparks Fall Reading Challenge 2015

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