Books I Read This Week 2020 – 18

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I also have an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Days of Distraction (3 stars): I liked this story of an Asian American woman and her relationship with her family, her white boyfriend and with her job. The way she wrestles with her identity throughout the book seemed real and honest. The way the job was depicted felt a bit more caricaturish to me, but also had lot of traces of honesty. I’ve never lived in Ithaca so I can’t speak to her depiction of the town but overall I connected with her and her grappling for identity and belonging.

Valentine (5 stars): This is the best novel I’ve read this year so far. Like last year’s Plainsong, this novel was slow, quiet, and profound. The blurb says it is an: “exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope.” But what it doesn’t say is that the characters in this book are strong, strong women with giant hearts. This book is about how resilient we are, how strength and vulnerability can live hand in hand. It’s about the power of community and connection and looking out for each other. I loved every minute I spent with it.

The Book of Longings (5 stars): Sue Monk Kidd is an exceptional writer. Her ability to tell stories, to create characters and dialogue are simply unparalleled. I am not religious and know very little to nothing about the life of Jesus. When I first read about this book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. I am not all that interested in religion and historical fiction is not my top genre. But I’ve loved her writing in the past so I wanted to at least try. From the moment I started the book, Ana took a hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I didn’t want to put the book down for even a moment. In between meetings, as I was cooking, even in the bathroom, I snuck this book into all my free moments. I swallowed it whole and it spread all over my soul. It is absolutely beautiful.

Hidden Valley Road (4 stars): This was a fascinating tale of a family with 12 kids (10 boys, 2 girls) six of which ends up being schizophrenic. There’s so much in this book about being a family, a wife, a sibling, a brother, and even a little sister. There’s so much about the way research and medicine works. So much about mental illness. So much about what it means to grow up in a family this big, this broken, and it’s just so hard to believe that this is a true story.

Latitudes of Longing (4 stars): “The entire island rises up to the occasion. The birds, insects, trees, waves, and the setting sun all play their part in a larger symphony, orchestrated by the fingers in communion.”

This book has four sections that seem not connected at first glimpse but are connected by a thread that goes across the characters so each one has a character from the previous connecting them even as they go back and forth in time.

“Death …” Chanda Devi reflects on the word as cicadas, frogs, and flies intervene. “Ghosts do not live where they died. They return to the place where they felt the most alive. They have struggled, lived, and enjoyed their time there so much, they cannot let go.”

My favorite by a large margin was the first story. Chanda was one of my favorite characters and the bits of magical language mixed in with the magical realism made me fall in love with the location, the characters, the love, the writing. All of it. She was the most vivid character in the whole story, for me.

“Yes,” she agreed with him. “Perhaps that’s how time is for some of us. It doesn’t fly. It sits still.”

The second story about a boy and a mom who are long lost to each other was heartbreaking. That evocative writing is uplifting when applied to love and devastating when applied to torture and imprisonment. It was hard to read the story. In fact, both the mom and the son’s stories were really hard to read.

“The best stories are the ones that are still to come, Ghazala. Close enough to hear, smell, and admire. Yet out of reach.”

By the end of the book, I was less connected than I was in the beginning. Even though I loved the imagery in every story and the writing never lost its power, none of the other characters took my breath away the way Chanda did.

“And then you went on to say the most beautiful thing I have heard. ‘It’s love,’ you told me. ‘Faces change and are misleading. Sometimes you may not recognize who the person really is. But love is love. So long as you feel it, give it, and receive it, it is enough. It connects you to everyone and everything.’ ”

All in all, the lyrical language and imagery in this book will stay with me for a very long time.

with gratitude to netgalley and Random House for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Master Class (3.5 stars): I read this whole story in one sitting. The dystopian future where they separate the kids by their IQ and ability to succeed in school, the ways mothers sacrifice for their kids, the way the man you married who was already a bit evil turns out to just get more and more evil seemed a bit cliche. I still liked it and the pace kept me engaged the whole time.

And there we go, grateful to be reading.

Books I Read this Week 2020 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2020 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

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