The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

  • the-whole-towns-talking-1129Title:  The Whole Town’s Talking: A Novel
  • Author:  Fannie Flagg
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  432
  • Publish date:  November 29, 2016 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  The Whole Town’s Talking is the story of a town: Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Fannie Flagg introduces the reader to the town founder Lordor Nordstrom who came from Sweden in 1889 and found the perfect spot for the dairy farm he’d dreamed of having. Word spread and other immigrants followed. The town of Elmwood Springs grew from these early families.

Anyone who’s grown up in a small town will recognize the people of Elmwood Springs – they are everyman and woman. Flagg’s characters live ordinary lives and rise to unexpected occasions when needed. The Whole Town’s Talking (also the name of the weekly society column in the local newspaper) is a lovely, folksy tale that I enjoyed. The chapters are short making it an easy reading experience. I read it over the course of ten days which was unusually long for me but I’m glad it did because it never failed to make me smile and I want to enjoy a book like that for as long as possible!

In her wonderfully humorous and warm style Fannie Flagg explains the mysteries of life and death –  at least, how she sees them 🙂  Recommended to fans of the author and stories about small town life.

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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • Eligible (4:19:16 RH)Title:  Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice
  • Author:  Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Genre:  Literary Fiction
  • Pages:  512
  • Publish date:  April 19, 2016 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher/NetGalley

Description:  From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century.
 
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
 
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
 
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . 
 
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.   (publisher)

My take: I don’t consider myself an Austen scholar – not even close! – but I love her books. Even if you’re not a fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I would recommend Eligible based on my enjoyment from reading it. It’s highly readable – addictive, I’d say. I was very happy I’d tossed it in my bag when I went on vacation.

I loved thoroughly modern Lizzie and her endearing sister Jane. Her other siblings added to the plot, for sure. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett were similar in temperament to the parents in P&P. I loved the occupations held by Darcy and Bingley and how the modern predicaments of all characters moved the plot.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s retelling of P&P is fun yet addresses the same basic issues as the original. There are distinct differences but I was happy about them – most made me laugh in a good way. I won’t spoil with specifics but I’ll recommend Eligible to anyone looking for an entertaining novel.

US Giveaway: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison (signed copy)

a small indiscretion

A Small Indiscretion: A Novel
By Jan Ellison
Published by Random House
Hardcover: 336 pages
January 20, 2015; $27.00 US/ $32.00 CAN; 9780812995442

Description
A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past — the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.

A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love — the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.

Author Bio
Jan Ellison 
is a mother of four and a novelist, essayist and short-story writer. Her first book, A Small Indiscretion (Random House 2015) is a literary suspense novel about a harrowing coming-of-age, a marriage under siege, and a mother who must excavate the truth of her past. It was an Oprah Editor’s Pick and a San Francisco Chronicle Book Club Pick.

Jan’s essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere, and she received an O. Henry Prize for her first short story to appear in print.

Jan is a graduate of Stanford and San Francisco State University, where she spent seven years earning an MFA when her children were small. Jan had a brief career at a Silicon Valley startup, marketing risk management software to derivatives traders. The company went public, Jan became a mother, and instead of leaning in she leaned out, became a stay-at-home mom, and began to write.

Jan’s experiences living and traveling abroad after college continue to fuel much of her writing. She also left Stanford for a year at nineteen to live and work on a shoe-string in Paris and London. She took notes on yellow legal pads, and years later, those notes provided the inspiration for her first novel.

Jan grew up in Los Angeles and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband of twenty years and their children.

For more information please visit http://www.janellison.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter


Praise for A Small Indiscretion:

“Delicious lazy day reading…just don’t underestimate the writing.” —Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 Editor’s Pick
“Ellison is a tantalizing storyteller…moving her story forward with cinematic verve.” —USA Today
“Lovely writing guides us through, driven by a quiet generosity.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Ellison’s debut novel is both juicy and beautifully written.” —Flavorwire 
“Ellison writes gracefully, with moments of startling insight.” —The Rumpus

US Giveaway of a signed copy

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a small indiscretion

Spotlight/US Giveaway: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

a small indiscretion

Description
A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past — the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.

A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love — the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.


 

Author Bio
Jan Ellison is a graduate of Stanford University and San Francisco State University’s MFA Program. She has published award-winning short fiction, and was the recipient of a 2007 O. Henry Prize for her first story to appear in print. Her work has also been shortlisted for The Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. A Small Indiscretion is her first book.

For more information please visit http://www.janellison.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter


 

Reviews
“This voice is alive. It knows something. It will take us somewhere. The magic is accomplished so fast, so subtly, that most readers hardly notice… A Small Indiscretion is rich with suspense…astonishing … Delectable elements of this terrific first novel abound: Its characters are round and real…Ellison gives us an achingly physical sense of family life … Lovely writing guides us through, driven by a quiet generosity … This voice knows something, and by the end of the novel, so do we.” — San Francisco Chronicle, A&E, by Joan Frank

“The literary equivalent of a day spa: sink in, tune out, turn page, turn page, turn page. Delicious, lazy-day reading…just don’t underestimate the writing.”— Oprah’s Book Club Editor’s Pick, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, by Leigh Newman

“An engrossing, believable, gracefully written family drama that reveals our past’s bare-knuckle grip on our present.”  — Emma DonoghueNew York Times bestselling author of Room

“A stunning debut by Jan Ellison . . . Like the photograph that arrives in the mail and sets in motion the plot of this gorgeous novel, A Small Indiscretion reminds us of the intensity of youthful desire and of the fragile nature of a marriage built on secrecy.” — Ann PackerNew York Times bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

“It might be convenient if our mistakes would fade with time rather than hunt us down complete with consequence, but that wouldn’t make for the kind of taut, hypnotic story Jan Ellison tells. The impact of narrator Annie Black’s ‘small’ indiscretion is anything but, and in a brilliantly paced unraveling, Ellison makes vivid the sometimes tragic interplay of choice and fate, lust and love, youth and adulthood — which can bring its own mistakes. Absorbing, chilling, and moving, A Small Indiscretion is the debut of an elegant writer who will be known and admired from the start.” — Robin Black, author of Life Drawing

“An emotional thriller of the Anita Shreve variety, with revelations that continue and relationships that evolve until the final pages . . . Connoisseurs of domestic suspense will finish this book in a few breathless sittings, then wait eagerly for Ellison’s next trick.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“[A] cleverly constructed debut . . . a deftly crafted, absorbing novel that peels back the layers of Annie’s character as it reveals the secrets of her past and present.”
— Booklist


US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form

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a small indiscretion

Published by Random House
Hardcover: 336 pages
January 20, 2015; $27.00 US/ $32.00 CAN; 9780812995442


Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Vine- Still Life With Bread Crumbs

  • Title:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs
  • Author:  Anna Quindlen
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  January 2014 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

My take:  Rebecca Winter, famous for a serendipitous photo series years earlier, recently won a prize for her photography that generally means she’s “old news” in the art world. She now rents out her New York City apartment and lives in a tiny and dilapidated cottage in the woods so that she can afford to pay her father’s rent, her mother’s nursing home bills and occasionally send her son a check.

Rebecca hears animals in her roof above her bed every night and one day meets Jim Bates, a roofer several years her junior. He takes care of the animal issue and eventually becomes a friend. They are charmingly awkward around each other.

As Rebecca hikes the woods she discovers what look like memorials – the kind you’d see along the highway. These are white crosses with mementos of a girl’s youth. Rebecca photographs them not knowing their actual meaning and origins – and the result is a new photography show. What will happen when she learns the truth behind the photos?

I loved this book and I loved Rebecca. She needed to step away from her life to find out if that was the life she wanted to define her – to find out if there might be more in store for her. The first half of the novel quietly built up to the point where I couldn’t stop reading. The characters are beautifully developed and achingly true. I know I’ll be thinking about Tad and Sarah and Jim and Rebecca for a while.

True Life with Bread Crumbs would be a wonderful selection for book groups.