American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
This book begins with Alice Blackwell, first lady of the United States, waking up distressed in the middle of the night. She has made a huge mistake that may ruin her husband’s presidency. That is all Sittenfeld tells us before she goes back to 1954, illustrating the chain of events that led to this disaster, starting with Alice’s childhood. I knew that Alice’s character was based on Laura Bush, but it wasn’t until I did my own research on Laura that I realized how similar the two women are. Both crashed their car at the age of 17, both became librarians, both married up in class…etc. I found this book an incredible page turner and a witty piece of work. I love the way Sittenfeld artfully portrays Alice’s adventures through love, lust, motherhood, morals, and politics. I am especially intrigued by the way Sittenfeld illustrates Alice’s political beliefs. As a young adult, she is a Democrat, but she marries a Republican. When he goes into politics, Alice has to be a Republican to the public, but this does not bother her much, something that astounds me. She believes that there is obvious right and wrong in some cases, but in the others she will gladly leave the moral debate up to politicians. I, on the other hand, am very passionate about my political beliefs, so I found her character incredibly intriguing. Sittenfeld shows a sharp contrast between the husband and wife’s personalities, leaving me to ponder different ways of thinking. I applaud Sittenfeld for writing such an enjoyable and pensive book by taking an overlooked character from recent history.
Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight
This book is such a page turner; I think I read the second half in a single day! This novel follows three separate women, all connected in different ways to the dead body of an infant that has recently been found. One woman is the reporter on the case, another is the police chief’s wife, and the last is a high school dropout. I can’t tell much without ruining the plot, but I can tell you that I found the author’s deep understanding of human nature shining through the pages. All the characters are complex and realistic human beings, each with some secret.
I enjoyed this novel so much I forced my mom to read it. Halfway in to a school day, I saw that I had multiple paragraph-long texts from my mom; immediately fear shot through my entire body–what have I done wrong? As I read over them, I realized that she had been texting me all her thoughts and comments on the characters. My mom and I both found it so gripping that we searched the library catalogue for McCreight’s other books later that afternoon!
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams
Reading this novel, I felt as if I was jumping into the ‘20s aristocratic gossip scene, talking about who’s having an affair with whom and whose husband drinks too much. I have to guiltily admit that I enjoyed the dramatic plots which intertwined their lives. In order to make it more than merely a gossipy romance novel, Williams lays out a murder mystery in the background.
Octavian is a young war veteran, deeply scarred by the Great War. He finds solace in a married woman of a “certain age,” (middle aged) and he thinks he has found love. But then comes along Sophie Fortescue, a girl of new money at the age of 19. Octavian is torn between the two women, and his idea of love is vastly changed. But he can’t get past the hunch that something dark lies in Sophie’s past.
Narrated from the perspectives of the two women, Williams takes the reader on a journey through early 20th century love affairs and murder mysteries. It is thrilling to watch the mystery of Sophie’s path unravel while wondering which woman Octavian will choose–the one he is dependent on, after she helped him recover from PTSD, or the one he actually loves.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
I’ll admit, I was a bit taken aback by this title. But, seeing it all across activist bookworms’ blogs, I felt like i should give it a shot. I ended up absolutely loving Eddo-Lodge’s insight and wisdom. She draws you in, with an intriguing and educated voice, then slams the facts down on the table in a way that makes me want to squeal and clap in delight. Words can wield incredible power, and Eddo-Lodge has mastered the art of doing so. The book’s focus on British Civil Rights history especially made it stand out to me since I have never learned a thing about it. To my surprise, Eddo-Lodge, a Britishwoman herself, did not know much Black British before doing extensive research. Instead, she had been taught about Rosa Parks and MLK who, although inspirational, seemed quite far away from her. Also, I enjoyed the bluntness with which she laid out the situation. She straight up told me what I wanted to know: how we can make a change. I highly suggest this book, especially if you are white, so that you can gain a better understanding of the structural racism that is evident in many developed countries. It is truly eye-opening to someone who has never had to experience such forces working against them.