Small Blessings touches on issues like the consquences of adultery, along with alcoholism and drug abuse, but uses them as devices rather than serious themes. At the end of Small Blessings we find Rose crossing her fingers, “hoping against hope that life really might be that simple.” Unfortunately, real life isn’t as simple as it is presented in this feel-good romance.
Moyes’s novel reminded me of The Middle Ground, a 1980 work of fiction by Margaret Drabble, which centres upon a single mother and shows the disparity between the comfortable classes and the struggling ones. Moyes’s plot is also akin to that of Jane Eyre, in centring on an intelligent woman with a strong sense of fairness, who meets a rich man. Like Mr. Rochester, Ed must be humbled by misfortune before he can fully appreciate Jess – though there is no madwoman in the attic and no fire in One Plus One.
Baldwin combines a breezy, easy to read writing style with years of classroom experiences to produce a well written work filled with short to a little longer sketches that offer a peek into the life of teachers and parents. While not every offering is meant to be humorous, the ones that are do bring a smile to the lips and giggles during the read.
Conversations are convincing, dialogue is used to enhance and move the narrative forward. Characters are well fleshed. Settings are authentic. The reader is drawn into the narrative slowly at first, but completely, and is held fast in the grip right to the last paragraph. The tale is well plotted, the ending is not predictable or formulaic, but is satisfying as well as a bit bittersweet.
Doucette heightens the suspense and tension with sinister details; for instance, Dietzhoff’s eyes are “compelling, dark at the centre, glittery like tacks”. A big scary bronze owl hangs just outside the window of Serena’s old room. A mysterious metal box is discovered by a workman who is searching for the septic tank cover.
Random Acts of Kindness is a road trip novel involving three forty-something high school friends, who live on the U.S. west coast. The novel opens with Jenna fleeing her Seattle home with some belongings thrown into a milk crate and her Chihuahua, Lucky, in the passenger seat. She turns up at the rural Oregon home of her high school classmate, Claire, whom she hasn’t seen in sixteen years. Claire, who has breast cancer, is longing for time-out from her ultra-helpful sisters and from an atmosphere of gloom (her mother and one sister died of the disease.)
As Baker takes us between time continuums, a grieving husband, a fierce warrior, supporting characters, and confounding hints, leads, and fast paced action, two things are guaranteed – you will enjoy this book, and you will be surprised. If you saw any of what comes, you’re a much smarter person than me.
American Sycamore is as intimate as a chat with a friend or a reminiscence on a summer evening in a big comfortable armchair on the front porch. While reading, you physically sense the smell of the river, and the insects. You feel the place. You want to hold this book, carry it around to accidentally open, and read new stories.
The author’s touch is very unique in this book: as it was already said, every chapter is written from one or the other character’s point. Four Parts of the Universe have a lot in common with classic “stream of consciousness” books. You can actually judge the character by his thoughts, the way he sees the world and, as well, by his actions. The rest of this fictional world is described through four pairs of eyes.
Motherline is a bit like a coming-of-age story—Maggie is facing first-time motherhood, saying goodbye to merely being a daughter and granddaughter and now having to face responsibility for another human being, thus continuing the “motherline” of generations of women that had gone before her, while Katharine is still grieving the son that she lost but trying to move forward into her new role as grandmother (and eventual family matriarch) in her own way.