Mini book reviews continue today!
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk 👊🏻 3.75 ⭐️
“The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club…” This fundamental rule is a cultural reference so ingrained in us that you feel like you’re missing out if you haven’t read the book or seen the film. Up until recently, I felt like I was missing out. When I was in college, a friend of mine kept telling me this was her favorite book and that I had to read it. It sat on my shelf, gathering dust for years. I picked it up many times, only to put it back down again. In an attempt to finally read it, I added it to my #20backlistin2020 list.
Following an unnamed narrator who suffers from insomnia, who finds relief by impersonating a seriously ill person in several support groups after his doctor tells him that insomnia is not suffering. He meets a mysterious man named Tyler Durden and establishes an underground fighting club as radical psychotherapy. An aggressive novel with an incredible plot twist, this novel takes the youthful rebellion trope and injects it with anarchy, destruction, and escalating violence. For most of it, I was uneasy and the erratic nature of the narrative made me a little anxious. But the ending shifted my view and I didn’t see it coming. I enjoy books that leave substantial breadcrumbs so that the reveal seems obvious once you know it, but you also never saw it coming.
Have you read this one? Seen the film? What’re your thoughts about it?
Red at the Bone by Jacquline Woodson | 5⭐️
The first five-star read of 2020!
I underlined something on almost every page of this book. A story of how a teen pregnancy ripples through generations of two families from different social classes, this novel explores naïveté, love, sexuality, race, and motherhood. A quick read that packs a gut punch, this story evokes emotion with every chapter. 💔💛
This story highlights the things we underestimate, the things we grow out of (which can sometimes be love), and the devotion we have to things we didn’t think we wanted. I sped through it, only to slow down for the last 30 pages, sad to see the end of this story. It moves through time as we move through life—forward and backward as if something pulls us to the dreams we envision and the realities we cannot forget. Highly recommend!
Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould
Perfect Tunes is a multi-generational coming of age novel. Beginning with Laura arriving in New York City to pursue her music, the novel chronicles Laura’s turbulent and consuming relationship with a musician named, Dylan, who is part of a band on the rise. Laura is drawn to Dylan by a magnetic pull and tries to keep him close but their affair is short lived. Fifteen years later, Laura’s daughter, Marie, has questions about her father and Laura struggles to answer them. We then watch Marie grapple with her own coming of age. Told with wit, empathy, and a depth often missing from quick reads, this novel hits the mark. —
Tender is the word that comes to mind upon finishing this novel. I started this book and within two days, arrived at the final chapter. This novel is different than most coming-of-age stories because its rooted in family development. Usually, a coming of age story shows our heroine breaking away from her family and finding herself. When Perfect Tunes begins, that structure is present – Laura leaves her small Ohio town to pursue music in the Big Apple. What follows, however, is anything but the narrative we would expect. This story is ultimately about family – a mother’s love, a child’s struggle as she yearns to understand her genetic code, the comfort we find in partners who give us stability but maybe don’t fulfill our sexual hunger. It is about small moments that, while in retrospect are lesser than we thought, change the trajectory of our lives impermeably.
Gould manages to balance quick pacing with contemplative complexity. The writing is sharp and poignant. I also want to highlight that the dialogue is believable and flows as if you’re overhearing a conversation in a bar, in a café, or on the streets of New York. Have you read it?! Do you want to?
P.S. did I use my niece’s small guitar for this photo? Yes. Does she have me play this *very badly* for her? Also yes.
The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan 💛
Thank you NetGalley and William Morrow Books for the e-ARC!
When the news of William Sweeney’s fatal heart attack reaches his eldest daughter, Liza, she immediately calls her sisters – Maggie, the free-spirited artist and middle child, and Tricia, the disciplined lawyer who works for a big firm in New York and baby sister. The sisters convene in Southport, Connecticut to handle their father’s estate and soon realize that while they knew he was a famous writer who embraced ‘male writer bravado,’ they didn’t expect to learn that they had a sister. Furthermore, they certainly didn’t expect that sister to be Serena Tucker, who they’ve known their whole lives as the neighbor girl who was born two years before Liza.
Serena, who discovered the truth about her biological father through a mail-in DNA test she won at her company holiday party, is conflicted about how to engage the sisters. Grappling with the discovery of a new sister, the Sweeney Sisters try to locate the memoir manuscript their father finished before his death, hoping it will contain the answers they seek.
The Sweeney Sisters has a little bit of everything – family drama, sisterly love, self-discovery, tensions over an inheritance, romance, and wit. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Each sister was well-developed and I appreciated the way they could read each other in any situation, providing cover for each other where needed. I loved how their interactions with Serena transformed individually and believably for each sister. Considering how many characters there are, the novel is well-paced and the characters are authentic. Specifically, Bill Sweeney’s presence is palpable despite the fact that he is only present through his writing and stories that the women tell about him. More generally, their childhood home becomes its own character and represents something unique to each sister. I loved that this story is layered with unresolved questions, questions about what we know about family, and forgiveness.
Have you read any of the above?