The New York Times best-selling author writes about her life [so far] with honesty, sometimes self-deprecation and humor, as she talks about growing up Jewish, overweight with a father who deserted the family when she was in high school, a mother who “came out” in middle age, Weiner’s time at Princeton University where she blossomed into the self-assured writer, her marriage and divorce, giving birth to her two daughters, her path to best-selling author even after walking away from a “big agent” when Weiner doesn’t life the changes she suggests for her first novel and how it feels to find out your father died of a drug overdose on the bathroom floor in his girlfriend’s apartment. Weiner recounts growing up smarter but heavier than most of her peers and points to the moment (in high school) when she stopped trying to fit in and found out she really did fit in, just in a different way. Often full of self-doubt, once Weiner realizes that she can’t control everything and can make decisions that are best for her alone (until she has her daughters) and doesn’t have to agree with or approve of other people’s decisions to still love them and be a part of their lives, as she is able to do with her mother who announces when Weiner is an adult, that she is a lesbian. Weiner’s father is more difficult, but once she accepts what he is and that he made his choices because they were his choices and had nothing to do with her, she is able to move on and grieve his death.
Full of wit and wisdom, Weiner feels good about herself---finally---and hopes she is able to project this positive feeling not only toward her daughters but to everyone’s life she touches. This thoroughly enjoyable collection of essays will appeal to not only fans of Weiner’s novels but anyone who enjoys an engaging memoir.
Little Boy Blue by M.J. Arlidge
In what may be her most personal case to date, Detective Inspector Helen Grace is called to a Southampton night club where she realizes she knows the victim who has been asphyxiated after what looks like a night of bondage; she quickly realizes that her double life may be revealed and all her secrets will come out, possibly ruining her career. A second victim, one who holds Helen Grace’s secrets as well sends Helen to her superior Gardam to confess her connection to the victims, but in a final, very personal twist, Helen finds that she has been outsmarted by someone surprising and unexpected and finds her very freedom on the line. Full of twists and turns, this latest entry into this series delves even deeper into Helen’s psyche than previous novels and leaves readers with a cliffhanger that will have them breathless until the next installment is released.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
In post-Civil War Texas, retired and widowed Captain Kidd ride from town to town earning his living reading newspapers to audiences full of those eager for news of the world. In Wichita Falls he is offered a $50 gold piece in exchange for delivering ten-year-old Johanna to her people in San Antonia four years after being kidnapped by the Kiowa, living as one of their own since. Kidd agrees to the 400-mile journey, meeting with difficulties he imagined and those he didn't, forming a unique bond with this unsettling young girl who is strong-willed and has no memory of her past being raised by European parents and their ways. Johanna goes along with Kidd, if not unwillingly, reluctantly, but soon learns that she needs him for protection, food and shelter and comes to trust Kidd for her basic needs and eventually companionship. Kidd’s initial reluctance fades as well as he learns to communicate with Johanna and comes to realize he may need her as much as she needs him, leading to a surprising decision in this gorgeously written novel with prose and sparse and precise as the barren Texas landscape through which Kidd travels.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Ruth Jefferson has been working as a labor and delivery nurse in a Connecticut hospital for over twenty years. She is stunned when a white supremacist couple tells her supervisor that they don’t want Ruth, or any other African American staff member to touch their baby; to Ruth’s surprise, her supervisor complies and a note is placed in the patient’s file. The next day, baby Davis goes into distress and Ruth is the only personnel in the nursery at the time. If she intervenes, she may lose her job; if she doesn’t, the baby may die. Making a decision, Ruth performs CPR and participates in the team’s efforts to save the baby, efforts which ultimately fail. What happens to Ruth next is unthinkable, as she is charged with the murder of the baby. Arrested and incarcerated, Ruth finds herself in an unbelievable situation, a situation which she has certainly read and heard about over the years but never expected to find herself, or a family member in. Public defender Kennedy McQuarrie takes Ruth’s case but tells Ruth that her charges have nothing to do with race, but rather her actions on the fateful night, but Ruth isn’t sure she agrees. As Ruth, released on bail, tries to maintain a sense of normalcy for herself and her son, she, and Kennedy, and even her sister who has chosen to embrace her African American heritage, leading a different life than Ruth has chosen for herself, all begin to realize how race affects more things than the seemingly obvious, and the things they, and we, were brought up to believe may not be as cut and dry as they do at first blush. Even the hateful father of the dead baby comes to realize that not everything is as it seems and that changes everything for everyone. Picoult once again tackles difficult feelings and situations with an openness and honesty that leave no easy answers. She is careful not to make too many assumptions and, and in a note at the end of the book, admits to shortcomings and pitfalls she ran up against writing about these sensitive topics and the attempts she made to overcome and understand them. An epilogue at the end of the novel ties all ends up perhaps a little too neatly for some, but does offer hope and in some cases, even redemption.