By: Tracy Manaster
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 12/5/2017
My Rating: 3 Stars
A violent crime from years ago becomes front and center for Tracy Manaster’s characters in THE DONE THING – a tragic event changes the course of lives and nothing will ever be the same. How far will one woman go?
Highly-charged, emotional, and frustrating at times. From obsession, hatred, and revenge to an attempt at forgiveness and acceptance. One life-altering event catapults a family into turmoil, revealing secrets and feeling that may leave them fractured forever.
For eighteen years and four appeals, Lida had waited. Each April she had petitioned. She despised the man, Clarence who had been responsible for putting her sister, Barbra in the ground. Clarence was the husband of Barbra and father of Pamela.
Barbra had left her daughter Pamela behind. Lida had raised Pam. Childless, she and Frank could not have children, and about the time their adoption came through, they had Pam to raise. Before they took custody he girl had spent exactly one weekend in her care.
Prior to her retirement at sixty, Lida was a successful orthodontist. Now Frank was gone, dead . . . and Pam was grown with a life of her own. Married and expecting.
Lida now has more time on her hands to obsess and scheme. She is bitter. She is angry. She wants Clarence to die. To suffer. “Clarence lingered, unshakable as the phantom weight a watch leaves on a naked wrist.”
She knew that once he died she could find new thoughts. She would love to serve him his last meal.
Barbra’s lover. Lawrence Richard Ring. Next Barbra fell, split apart by four bullets. Clarence had picked up Pamela and lied about a dentist appointment. Pamela was in the car. Clarence had been granted three letters to Pamela a year.
Presently, Lida has turned sixty-three and Pamela has purchased her a new computer. She comes up with a plan. She wants revenge. She discovers Clarence Lusk. Be a Penfriend. It’s the Write Thing. Be a Candle to Those in Darkness.
The Prison in Arizona. Inmate 58344. He wants a pen pal. She would change her name and set up a post office. She would be Maisie. Lida crosses a line and begins to write to Clarence. Pretending to be a flirty twenty-three-year-old, in an effort to attain retribution.
Will Clarence open up to her if he thinks she is someone else? Or will he be smart enough to catch her deception? Will she lose control of the situation?
What is Pam thinking or feeling? Does Lida consider her actionsLida thinks she is always rushing to get married, hoping the baby would be born—before the needle. The death of her father.
The author captures every evil thought of this angry, manipulative, and lonely woman. The strained relationship between aunt and niece. Lida is so consumed by revenge has she forgotten the family in front of her. She dwells on everything bad in her life and chooses to believe this one man is at fault and to blame.
The letters between Clarence and Lida delve deep into the human emotions, and how deep the scars run after a tragedy that will forever change lives. How after years it begins to consume her.
Scene (Chapter 35) was well done and quite comical. The phone call and banter between the two. The claws come out.
The description summary from the publisher was right on – fans of Elizabeth Strout’s, Olive Kitteridge — complex; quite similar to the heavy mood of darkness, pain, and gloom. The internal war waging within. Human imperfections and family dynamics. Learning to let go and free oneself of anger.
However, the writing is well-crafted as the author explores the complex minds of humans in the midst of tragedy and the overwhelming need for justice. The consequences of this obsession are at the heart of THE DONE THING.
After reading three books in a row back to back, The Last Suppers(also death row), What Remains True ( the aftermath of a boy dying), and now THE DONE THING. Something a bit lighter with humor is in order.
All three family dramas are well-written books which teeter on literary fiction; however, they are deep, dark, and sad. This is the type of book you may want to mix in among a few upbeat ones.
A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
Publisher: Lake Union
Publication Date: 12/5/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars
Master storyteller, Catherine Ryan Hyde returns following (2017) Allie and Bea and (2016) Say Good-Bye for Now landing on my Top Books of 2016 with her latest emotional, moving, and heartfelt novel THE WAKE UP – a spiritual journey of rediscovery, self-worth, hope, and acceptance.
A man and a boy have lost their way. Fate steps in and connects these two in unexpected ways. They slowly learn they have more in common than they may know. Each will ultimately find solace in a past of abuse and injustice, with trust and love.
Empathy equals good. Lack of empathy equals bad. Is there a balance?
Aiden Delacorte a single forty-year-old cattle rancher. He inherited the ranch from his deceased stepfather, which had adopted him. His mother has dementia and in a home in Buffalo.
One day while hunting, something odd happens to Aiden. He shoots a buck and at the same time, literally falls to the grown, in horrible pain. He is feeling the animal’s pain.
Shocked, he discovers he has "empathy" for animals in a way he cannot tolerate slaughter, dressing, or eating the animals. His so-called gift will cause him disgrace among other ranchers and cattlemen, and his present girlfriend, Livia. They break up. She does not understand this new Aiden.
THE WAKE UP. There was something different about that day. Even before it became painfully obvious. Even before it left Aiden no choice but to fully live through it. Slowly he starts feeling the feelings of animals, and even some humans. (both good and bad).
Aiden was also abused by his biological father and has repressed some of his past. He recalls drowning his fear with a bottle at a young age and became an alcoholic. He has been clean for years; a fine and upstanding citizen.
The worst part, with his new gift, he will have to give up his career and sell off his cattle. Would his stepfather be ashamed of him or tell him to follow his heart? Others would make fun of him for not being a real man.
In the meantime, he seeks the help of a psychiatrist, Hannah to get a handle on his life. He also meets Gwen a single mother in town and clerk at the grocery store. She has two children: Elizabeth and Milo.
Milo is a troubled child. Abused in many ways by his father. Gwen has her hands full with the boy. Gwen and Aiden begin dating one another. Elizabeth adores Aiden; however, Milo is acting out in unspeakable ways and Aiden becomes involved in the process.
When Aiden sees this, first he is upset at his cruelty to animals; however, decides he will help the boy, even though he makes it literally impossible at times. He needs to teach him differently. Can he trust him with the animals, he dearly loves?
Gwen and her children move into a little cabin on Aiden’s property and their relationship progresses. Elizabeth warms up to Aiden immediately; however, Milo is a different story. He is a very sensitive boy, due to his past abuse.
He needs someone to believe in him.
Milo struggles with never being good enough. The fear. However, Aiden is persistent and determined to demonstrate taking something ugly and broken to pieces, can be put back to together and into something beautiful. However, it involves a big dose of trust. Taking a chance on a boy. To care for a precious colt.
From past to present while working with Dr. Hannah Rutledge, Alien revisits his past and his demons. From a boy to the present 40-year-old man, he discovers hidden truths of his own life, which may ultimately help rebuild Milo and at the same time, provide answers to his own problems.
Breaking the cycle of abuse. Healing from the darkest places. Using trust and love to overcome tragedy. This newfound empathy of Aiden’s touches every part of his life, and discovers the importance of compassion, love, and acceptance—and at the same time able to pass along tools to help Milo change his life, as well.
A father who finds a son defective and unworthy of love. From hiding the pain to acting out. The emotion had to go somewhere. A haunting and beautifully written story of love, loss, hope, trust, and rediscovery.
I especially enjoyed how Aiden uses the love of animals, and the broken pots turned into mosaic art to transform a young boy. A lesson for us all in today’s cruel world. Instead of punishment, drugs, and doctors –taking the time to learn what causes the pain. Teaching, understanding, and patience.Offering ways to channel the rage in other ways to promote healing and self-esteem that has been torn down.
Catherine Ryan Hyde has a special gift with stories of the heart. Her love of animals is reflective throughout THE WAKE UP. Extraordinary! Each of her stories possesses power and emotion. Thought-provoking, with a strong takeaway message. Each is unique and different and enjoy how she connects lost souls in unexpected and magical ways.
An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. (guide included). If you have not read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book, you are missing a rare opportunity. You will learn something every time you open her books as the characters jump off the page.
Upcoming: From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde comes a bittersweet novel about healing old wounds and finding a new place to call home… Heaven Adjacent coming May 22, 2018! A definite pre-order. Be sure to add this one to your reading list for the new year.
A special thank you to Lake Union and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
By: Amy Sue Nathan
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Publication Date: 11/21/2017
My Rating: 4 Stars
Amy Sue Nathan returns following The Good Neighbor andThe Glass Wives with LEFT TO CHANCE – can you return home, unchanged?
“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it." – George A. Moore
Teddi Lerner left Chance, Ohio years ago. It was not a place for wimps; however, she was on her way, regardless. The place that had haunted her for the past six years. The town she grew up in, and ran from, on the day of Celia’s funeral.
Teddi is a successful wedding photographer for Hester Hotels and is called home to photograph the wedding of her best friend’s (Celia) husband, Miles. They had a daughter, Shayna who is now twelve years old. This is the only reason she is back. This is what mattered most.
Everything has changed in the small town. There is also Celia’s brother, Beck. Beck, of course, looked better at thirty-five than at twenty-nine.
Beck held a grudge. She did not blame him. But Teddi had allowed herself to believe he would forgive her.
She had always photographed things that grew. Babies, kids, flowers, relationships. Those things also died. She also had forgotten what it was like to be with people who knew things about her besides what she had chosen to tell them.
Does she know what true friendships and deep relationships meant? Letting someone in, letting her down, and possibly letting her go.
From an unexpected friendship, secrets of the past, guilt, and emotional courage— a warmhearted charming story of love and loss and what it truly means to return home.
Redemption. Facing the past and overcoming obstacles. A Hallmark story for those who enjoy happy endings and discovering the truly important things in life.
For fans of Sonja Yoerg, Barbara Claypole White, Patti Callahan Henry, Joanne Demaio, and women's contemporary fiction.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
By: Elizabeth Berg
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 11/21/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars
Loved this book!
Talented storyteller Elizabeth Berg returns following The Dream Lover and Make Someone Happy: Favorite Postings with one of her most charming books yet, THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV. Emotional and powerful, mixed with humor – three unlikely souls with their own loss, find solace in one another in this heartwarming tale.
Arthur Moses’ wife, Nola passed six months earlier. He has a routine. He tends to his cat Gordon, his rose garden, and takes the bus to the cemetery with his fold-up chair, to visit his beloved late wife for lunch. He is 85 years old.
Lucille Howard is Arthur’s neighbor. A bit nosy; however, she loves to cook and makes sure Arthur has plenty to eat. She is in love with her high school sweetheart, Frank. She is 83 years old. (very funny) She is excited about her second chance until she receives devastating news.
Maddy Harris is a troubled teen who sees Arthur at the cemetery. She has a strained relationship with her dad, bullied at school, a boyfriend who does not care about her, and a mother who died when she was but a baby. She is intrigued by Arthur and his relationship with his dead wife. She is 18 years old.
A little naive, she takes the bus to the cemetery. To be with people. She loves photography; however, feels isolated and soon finds herself pregnant. With no support from her own dad, she turns to Arthur for help.
Her own mother was cremated and she wished her mom had been buried at the cemetery. She finds graveyards comforting. She feels her dad blames her for his wife’s death. She lived, and her mother did not.
Maddy and Arthur strike up an unlikely friendship. Arthur is a selfless man and thinks of others. He listens and offers his time. He loves talking to his wife and keeping her updated with engaging stories.
The teen soon names Arthur “Truluv” due to his devotion to his wife. Maddy soon finds herself pregnant and when everyone turns against her, Arthur is there to assist. They soon become best friends and then Lucille becomes a part of the group and the three move in together.
What they did not expect was to learn something about themselves in the process. A second chance at life. An unexpected friendship. Arthur soon finds he has a housekeeper and a cook. A lively and interesting home full of love and laughter.
Elizabeth Berg has a remarkable and unique talent of peaking inside the lives and hearts of people and life. Her characters are real and authentic. You feel their emotions and they jump off the page.
If you have read Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, you will see a difference in the character, Arthur. Everyone loves Arthur. He is not grumpy and is selfless. We all would love to have an Arthur in our lives!
Was reminded of the movie “Our Souls at Night”, starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. A widow and widower who've lived next to each other for years, who barely spoke; ultimately make a connection. (minus the sex) with Arthur and Lucille.
A light-hearted, a deeply moving novel (with a powerful takeaway), Berg once again delivers a thought-provoking tale of the resilience of the human spirit in the midst of grief and loneliness. Proof people can bond, outside of family across generations.
In our world of doom and gloom, it is pleasant to read such a charming book to lift your spirits.
A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.