Superior Reads

A PLACE FOR READERS AND WRITERS

It’s hard to write about the Dust Bowl without tipping over into melodrama, and at times it felt as if the only thing moving the story forward was the next disaster. The relationships between the women in THE FOUR WINDS kept me invested. Elsa is a bit of a sad-sack, but her daughter Loreda is fierce and as she ages, she challenges Elsa to overcome her fears.

One of the things I struggled with was the pacing; at times, the narrative dragged. And, because Addie never enjoys real intimacy in most of her relationships, some of the characters lacked depth; they read like character sketches and weren’t fully formed within the pages of the story. I would have liked to see more of Addie in the key historical moments the author only touches on – the French Revolution and World War II for instance. Instead of focusing so entirely on Addie’s love life, a plot that wends her through America’s turbulent 60’s or the Velvet Revolution or any number of culturally significant moments in history would have been more interesting to me.

Carl Hiaasen has a long career as a journalist and his fiction has often reflected his concern about climate change and invasive species in Florida, but he coats his commentary with a huge dusting of comedy. Hiaasen’s books seem to pick the easy targets – cultural and social commentary on the outrageous extravagances of the twenty first century – whether that be reality television, politics, or overdevelopment and its impact on our environment – it is a truth to be acknowledged that you can’t make this stuff up. But yet, Hiaasen does. Mocking cultural icons and putting an air hose to the absurd— the President has a tanning bed tester instead of a taste tester, for example – Hiaasen knows how to make us laugh, so that we won’t cry.

THE GREAT CIRCLE is a big book – not just because it is nearly 600 pages long – but because of the breadth of the subject matter – art, aviation, prohibition, noncomformity, war, isolation, connection – and the period it spans 1909-2014 – give or take a few decade gaps. There will be So. Much. To. Discuss. with your book group! Maggie Shipstead has a keen understanding of longing and what it means to be human.

The choices Stella and Desiree make, and the outcomes of those choices, reveal the ugly inventions of race and sex and class in America. Hobbled by those definitions, Bennett’s characters push and pull against them. Stella sacrifices family and true connection for a false identity. Desiree surrenders to her identity and sacrifices her dreams.

I cannot recommend EARLY MORNING RISER enough. EARLY MORNING RISER brims with love and hope and humor. Heiny redefines family in this enchanting novel and I felt my heart lifted from the heaviness of the past year. Her characters are complex and quirky – they’re your mother, your brother, or your neighbor – they are just like all those complicated people you encounter on a daily basis. Whether you live in a small town, or your village of people is in a big city, you’ll recognize them and after reading EARLY MORNING RISER, you’ll find the things that may have previously annoyed you, endearing. Heiny is like that – through her lens, you’ll see things differently.

BROOD brims with hope in the midst of grief and tenderness in spite of loss. “Life is the ongoing effort to live,” Polzin writes, “some people make it look easy. Chickens do not.” BROOD is an honest look at life, love, loss, and to some extent, chickens.

Butler masterfully examines the tenuous bonds of family against the backdrop of faith. The emotional landscape fittingly mirrors the physical as we progress through the seasons. LITTLE FAITH explores the significance of lifelong friendships, the fickleness of the seasons, and the capriciousness of romantic and familial love. In Butler’s world, as in real life, nothing comes without a price.