Another Brooklyn - Jacqueline Woodson

RATING: ★

Jacqueline Woodson is a household name in YA, known for writing amazing books that are different from the majority out there right now. Up until last week, she was one of those authors that I knew I was supposed to have read, but never did. When I saw the cover of her gorgeous new novel, Another Brooklyn, I knew I had to read it. Technically, this book isn't sold as YA, but I'm pretty sure that any reader from 14 to 100 can enjoy and learn from this novel.

Another Brooklyn is the story of August coming of age. As August tells the reader at the beginning of the story: 'I know now what is tragic isn't the moment. It's the memory.' While this is August's story, it is also an ode to memories, tragic and not, and how our remembrances can shape us. August is an adult, thrown back into Brooklyn due to a tragic event, and tells the reader about her youth. She isn't reliable, but she is so lyrical and honest, that this book is a joy to read.

August grew up in Brooklyn with three close friends, Gigi, Sylvia and Angela. Throughout the novel, the backstory of all girls is revealed and their mutual, and very different, struggles are displayed next to each other. The book is an ode to the strength of girls, even if everything and everyone is against them.

There are a lot of time jumps in Another Brooklyn and the writing isn't a straight forward narrative. Things are left out or only alluded to, left there for you to fill the gap. However, that is what makes it so powerful. Filling the gap with an endless list of what possibly could have happened makes you relate to the characters so much more. The beautiful writing, mostly poetic throughout the story, makes it easy to relate to the girls.

I finished this novel in a day, but the story still hasn't left me. I want to know more about August. I want to hug her and Angela, Gigi, Sylvia. I want to crawl into the story and prevent certain things from happening. I want to protect them, but also experience with them. Another Brooklyn is unlike other books with its focus on memory and lyrical writing, but it is beautiful and I'm so glad Jacqueline Woodson shared this story with the world.

The Mothers - Brit Bennett

RATING: ★

I'm in America again!! This means that I will basically live at Barnes and Nobles for six weeks and in my first few days, I've already found some amazing new releases. I started reading The Mothers first, because I heard so many positive things about it. Even though usually books don't live up to their hype, this is one novel that I couldn't put down and I am so happy that Brit Bennett's story is out there.

The Mothers is the story of three African American teenagers growing up in California. Nadia Turner's mother recently committed suicide and Nadia is figuring out how to to deal with that while also deciding about her future and what to do after high school. She meets Luke, who is twenty-one and was a talented football player who had to retire because of an injury. He is the son of the local pastor and is waiting tables while trying to find a new dream. Another fixture in the church is Aubrey, who one day just wandered into the town looking for salvation. She lives with her sister and hides a traumatising past. 

As the title suggests, this is a book about mothers, but on more levels than I ever thought possible. It is clearly about Nadia's mother, who committed suicide for reasons no one seems to know. It is about Aubrey's mother, who is far from ideal and has put her child in some very harmful situations. It's about Luke's mother, who is a role model for the whole community and wants her son to be one too. However, it is not just that simple. Motherhood comes in many forms in this novel. Without spoiling it for any future readers, every single event that unfolds shows that motherhood is more complex than most people ever hold possible.

Besides a very strong theme, this is also just a very strong story. Nadia, Aubrey and Luke are all realistic characters with their own struggle who intertwine and relate on many unexpected novels. It's a story about growing up, and more specifically growing up African American in a society where your choices can be limited by your race. Just like Ruby, this book was an eye-opener for me to the specific challenges that seem so far from mine as a white European. This book doesn't lecture, this book shows and makes you feel everything every single character is feeling, even though it might be completely unknown to you before this story.

The writing is absolutely beautiful with every character having a distinct voice that transports you easily into their head. While I usually dislike changing perspectives, Brit Bennett does it so effortlessly that it makes the story only better.

No review will do this book justice, because it is an emotional story that stays with you long after you finished it. This isn't just about reading, this is about experiencing and I won't be able to stop recommending this book for a very long time.

The Good Guy - Susan Beale

Rating: ★

Goodreads

Five most important points

1. A heartbreaking tale about love and betrayal in 1960s America

2. Shows that "good guys" are really the worst men out there

3. Will make your feminist heart soar

4. Beautiful writing

5. Features the cutest kid I've ever read.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion of the book. 

Today is another session of: Emma picked a book solely based on the cover and had no clue what she was getting herself into. Remarkably, for once, this actually worked out. Though I picked The Good Guy because the amazing retro cover, I fell in love more and more with each page and left it feeling amazed by Susan Beale's writing.

The Good Guy is the story of Ted, who lives in suburban Massachusetts with his wife Abigail and new-born child Mindy. He's a disappointment to his family and in-laws by not becoming a lawyer, but focusing on a career as salesman of tires. Though he makes good money, he constantly feels underappreciated - especially when Abi starts excelling at university. He looks for distraction in an innocent fling with Penny, but that soon becomes more than he bargained for.

Look, any book with the title The Good Guy gets major side-eye from me, and luckily Susan Beale does not try to convince the reader how Ted is amazing. He thinks he is a good guy, he honestly truly to God thinks he does everything right, while he is actually a massive idiot who puts the women in his life in the worst positions. Not just Ted thinks he's nice, his whole neighbourhood does too, and this book just shows that you never truly know a person. Even though Ted seems perfect, his whole life actually seems perfect, he is deeply unhappy and deeply insensitive to the needs of those around him. 

Though I loved to hate Ted while reading, which shows the strength of Susan Beale's ability to write a great unlikeable character, I fell deeply in love with both Abigail and Penny. Both are extremely different and both were such a joy to read. While Abigail is focused on her education and the struggles of combining motherhood, her own life, and the expectations of a 1960s housewife who has to do everything in the house, Penny works but dreams about settling down and finding her prince charming and child. Throughout the book, both women seem to want what the other one has, though the reader is shown the downsides of each of their lives (mainly the fact that Ted is in it, but that's my opinion).

Overall, The Good Guy is an interesting look into the lives of women in the 1960s. In an era where women had to be married to start a family and where they were expected to give up everything for that husband, it is fascinating to see what happens when they behave out of the norm. Susan Beale writes beautifully and is able to guide the reader easily through the story while connecting to all the characters. While you might not love them all, you'll be invested in all of them. I've read this book in a day and felt sad when putting it down and leaving Abi and Penny's world. I can't wait to read more by Susan Beale.

 

 

A Spool of Blue Thread - Anne Tyler

Rating: ★★★

Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Bond Street Books
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 358 pages
Goodreads

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion of the book.

Once upon a time, I set out a goal to read all books on the Man Booker Prize shortlist of 2015. I decided to start with A Little Life, which is one of the longest and emotionally draining books I've ever read. Needless to say, I couldn't read any other book after that for weeks and thus I never read the Man Booker Prize shortlist. But when I was able to request A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler on Netgalley, I couldn't resist reading this book and I'm sure glad I did.

A Spool of Blue Thread follows three generations of the Whitshank family that all live in the same house. Their home is the core of the narrative through which different people are explored. There's the youngest generation, with four children all trying to find their way, their parents, who tried to find out what exactly family means and the grandparents, with the grandfather who build the house and his journey to make it a home.

It is important to note that nothing really happens in A Spool of Blue Thread, however, even though I am usually one of those readers who wants action, I really enjoyed A Spool of Blue Thread. The fact that there isn't a lot of action works beautifully for this story line. This is about a regular family who has their issues and problems, but nothing out of this world. There's romance, loss, worries, and concerns that any family has during any period of time. It felt realistic and touching, also because Anne Tyler just writes beautifully and is able to transport you into her world so easily.

A Spool of Blue Thread is a book you finish and then think about your own life, family and house and what really connects people together. Will the events of the book stay with you forever? No, not particularly. Like I said, they're not shocking or mind blowing. But it is a very enjoyable read and it really makes you reflect on your own life, while also missing the peaceful world Anne Tyler created. 

This book is perfect for this season; it's cold and rainy and who really wants to go outside? I suggest some tea (or coffee, if you're fancy like that), a cosy blanket, a fire place and A Spool of Blue Thread to get through February.