I’ve read quite a number of books this year, but many of them were only ho-hum. I find that sometimes when I am caught up in reading st such a fast pace, quality gets lost in the quantity. That said, these are some books I’ve recommend wholeheartedly:
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Confession: I’ve read both Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus, and liked them fine, but never really understood the gushing over them. Well, now I am gushing over an Adichie. Americanah is the story of a young woman from Nigeria who comes to America for school, then eventually moves back to Lagos. In the meantime, she learns about what it means to be black in America, grows up, has relationships (romantic and otherwise). Through it all, there is a sense of what she left behind, of not quite fitting in despite learning the intricate ins and outs of American culture.
Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie
This book broke the ho-hum. I wasn’t expecting to love this like I did. Essentially, two New England professors go to London on sabbatical, and the novel follows their unexpected romantic liaisons. A rather simple story, but incredibly masterfully rendered. This book won a Pulitzer, and it is a well deserved award. It reminded me of Edith Wharton’s insight into both character and class. One difference is that Wharton’s characters’ selves are revealed to the reader, they still seem hidden to themselves. Lurie’s eventually seem to come to a bit more self recognition, though they still have further to go. It makes for a slightly more satisfying resolution.
I Am Forbidden, Anouk Markovitz
This one is intense. It is based in the world of the Satmars, a sect of Hasidic Jews. The author was brought up in the sect, but left as a young adult. The book follows the story of two foster sisters, one who stayed and one who left. Since the author left, I expected the narrative to follow the sister that left. Instead, it followed the sister who stayed. Markovitz was able to paint a picture of the religion and its followers are complex, principled people who still hurt each other in such deep ways.
***Edited to add: Um, wow. I didn’t realize this post went live, when it clearly wasn’t finished. Oops!