Well, of all the things I thought might happen this March I could never have come up with where we are now. I’ll spare you the contents of my brain churning with the anxiety I have not only over family and friends flung across America, but all the people who have lost their jobs, the people sick and struggling. I feel helpless.
So, while it feels a little frivolous to write about books, I’m working on the assumption that some of you have been told to stay home in your state and might like some reading ideas. The tiny bit of good news is that while March was another mixed bag, mostly due to my increasing inability to focus, there were some outstanding reads this month.
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
Published by Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date: October 17, 2017
Your Local Book Store, Amazon
Uncommon Type is actor Tom Hanks’s first foray into writing. Much in the same way his acting always feels genuine and, even in dark roles, comforting, so do these stories. The theme throughout is typewriters, but the stories range from a billionaire in the future who keeps spending millions to time travel to the past, to a divorced woman put off by the too-friendly teacher next door. Each is humorous and touching in its own way. I’d recommend the audio because Hanks’s voice is always wonderful.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore: 5 stars, review to follow
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Published by Flatiron Books
Publication date: February 25, 2020
Your Local Book Store, Amazon
If you’re looking for distraction then Oona Out of Order may be the perfect book for you. It’s fiction that demands attention because the plot is so unique. Oona’s birthday is on New Year’s Day. When the novel begins she is 18 and about to turn 19. Except midnight comes and she is thrown into another time. Internally she is 19, but her body and her life are 51. This is just the first of many hops Oona makes every year. If it sounds too confusing, don’t despair or opt not to read. The author paves the way and makes following Oona’s humorous and touching life easy. Also, there is a twist later in the novel that completely blindsided me so, extra points for that.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle: My favorite book in March and possibly the year. My review
The Herd by Andrea Bartz: Murder mystery set in a contemporary female-centric company. Review to follow
In the Land of Men by Adrienne Miller
Published by Ecco
Publication date: February 11, 2020
Adrienne Miller was the fiction editor for Esquire for nine years. She documents her path to getting there and what life was like working for a men’s magazine in her memoir, In the Land of Men. Once at Esquire she edited and had an affair with David Foster Wallace. Which was as dysfunctional and creepy as you would imagine.
I don’t need my memoirs to read like The National Enquirer or TMZ especially when they’re about the publishing world, but Adrienne Miller goes a bit far in the opposite direction. Yes, she was the fiction editor for Esquire, but her numerous, repeated references to Greek mythology, Martin Amis and Nabokov made me feel like I was back in a senior year Literature class at college. They stopped the pacing of her life dead in its tracks and began to sound like showing off.
After a while, as much as I wanted to read about the world of magazines, writers, and NYC, I had to give up on this one. Where was her editor?
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai: Beautiful debut about one Vietnamese family’s struggles through the 20th century. My review
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel: Wicked, twisty fun about a mother and daughter. My review
The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Published by William Morrow
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Your Local Book Store, Amazon
I read The Shape of Family hoping for an exploration of the varied terrain of marriages between different cultures. Keith is Midwest America personified and holds true to the capitalist dream as an investment banker. Jaya is the daughter of an Indian diplomat and is cultured and well-traveled. They have two children—Karina and Prem. Their marriage is a loving one until tragedy strikes their family.
I realize grief impacts everyone differently. I was prepared for that and I appreciated Jaya and Keith’s stories, even when I didn’t understand them. They felt real. Prem’s voice was also touching, in trying to cope with what’s happened to the people he loves. It is Karina’s path that lost me. It may be that it’s a subject/option that’s been played with a lot in recent years and so didn’t feel fresh or realistic, but it dragged the novel down.
I had hoped for depth in The Shape of Family, but instead it was a bit like A Good Neighborhood—a plot that kept expanding outward without ever digging down. A good option is you’re looking for outsized plot to keep you reading.
That’s for me this month. How are you doing? I know I’ve never met most of you, but I appreciate your support of my blog and would love to hear how you’re doing in these difficult times. Please feel free to comment, even if it’s not about books.
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Brittany Block says
March has been a strange month for me but oddly I think I’ve read the most I’ve read all year. Oona Out of Order was an option for me to pick as an early audiobook through in February, but I skipped it thinking it wasn’t for me. I may try it on audio just as a different read because it sounds interesting. I can’t wait to listen to Untamed (or maybe actually own?) now that I’ve listened to her first two. I wanted to know more about her and her writing before I jumped into her newest one and am so glad to have read her earlier ones. There are people in my family that I think would benefit from reading both of those but unfortunately they aren’t readers (which I will never understand)! Still may try around the holidays.
I think the audio of Untamed would be wonderful because she has a lovely voice. Very soothing.
I just looked at my stats and I had the same experience! I would have said I didn’t read much at all, but I did. Maybe it didn’t stick? Nothing is normal anymore…
It is wonderful to have your reviews and comments all the time but especially now when we are so lost from each other!
Thanks for keeping up your good comments!!
Janie from Idaho
Thank you so much for continuing to stop and read my book (non-book) thoughts! It is a scary time, especially here in Michigan. Sadly, I don’t think we’re unusual and every state is going to go through what we are depending on when they start really testing.
You’ve read a lot in March despite less ability to concentrate! Well done! I have Untamed on my bench right now, and will get to it sometime soon. My reading pace is slower than normal but I’m giving myself grace about it! Sending good thoughts your way.
You, too! We definitely need to be kinder to ourselves. I read and write when I can and when I want to knit or watch TV I do that.
Been trying to keep the anxiety in check by not watching endless hours of daily news. We’re cooped up inside in Western Canada where the weather this week is freezing. My husband is able to work from home and we’ve done some Zoom chats with family & friends around the States and also in town which helps. It’s a weird & somber reality everyday to wake up to. Anyways I hope you are keeping well in Michigan. I heard the Governor there made Biden’s list for possible VP candidate. Hmm. It sounds like Adrienne Miller indeed needs an editor …. and my interest for it … is not there. stay well. ps. the situation makes one feel helpless for sure ….
We’re fine here, but watching the numbers in Michigan jump by over 1,000 every day is sobering. Plus the feeling that we have NO leadership and have been misled from the beginning by the person in power. Gretchen Whitmer is great- very proactive. She was considered, but even before this said no- which I appreciate. She is a first term governor and wants more experience.
Stay safe, my friend. Any chance spring is on its way? We had sunshine today and it was lovely.