PHOENIX (Olivia's Book Club) -- 2020 marked the second year of Olivia's Book Club! Sharing books with a growing group of Arizona's Family has been wonderful, and gave us a needed connection and sense of community during such a stressful year. If you are looking for recommendations, here is what we read.
"Long Bright River"
First up was Liz Moore's "Long Bright River," a dramatic suspense novel set in Philadelphia, which also takes a deep look at complicated family relationships. Two sisters, torn apart by past trauma and addiction, are on opposite sides of the law. Mickey is a police officer, another a prostitute, both dealing in very different ways with childhood trauma. The estranged siblings connect again as a serial killer targets women in the neighborhood.
"Long Bright River" is very well-written and sparked great conversation. It was a particularly meaningful book to those whose personal lives had been impacted by addiction.
"The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo"
That was a heavy one, so we lightened things up with "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I selected this book because I fell in love with Reid's more recent release, "Daisy Jones and The Six" and this did not disappoint. Her unique writing style uses emails, social media posts, and letters in telling of the fascinating life of a famous Hollywood movie star ready to spill her secrets in a tell-all memoir. When she selects an unlikely reporter for the gig of a lifetime, you know there will be many layers to the secrets revealed. This book is a page-turner that was both a fun escape that also delivered surprises and heart. As usual, Reid's characters feel so real I couldn't help but google "Evelyn Hugo" just like I did with "Daisy Jones." Highly recommend!
"How Not to Die Alone"
Months into the pandemic, "How Not to Die Alone" by Richard Roper felt like a timely selection as we were in the thick of adjusting to a socially distanced lifestyle. It is a dark, comedic story of a lonely Brit named Andrew, whose job takes him into the homes of people who died alone, many of the deaths not even noticed for great lengths of time. I loved "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman, and this book is similar, but Andrew's story wasn't as captivating.
Summertime brought more months at home, so I picked "Beach Read" as a literary escape. Emily Henrie's story of two novelists with a long-standing rivalry who find themselves in neighboring beach houses was enjoyable, romantic, and well-written. It was a great summer selection when we couldn't actually get to a beach.
Kristin Hannah's "The Nightingale" was overwhelmingly the book club's favorite pick of the year. The World War II tale of two French sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, is at times gut-wrenching, other times life-affirming. A well-researched work of historical fiction, Hannah shines a light on the crucial role brave women played in the French resistance to the Nazis. This is the kind of book that stays with you, and I can't imagine anyone finishing it without shedding many tears. "The Nightingale" is being released as a feature film later this year, starring real-life sisters Elle and Dakota Fanning.
"Then She Was Gone"
"The Nightingale" was a very tough one to follow. All the readers had such love for the story that the next book felt bound to disappoint. To avoid too much comparison, we switched genres and read Lisa Jewell's "Then She Was Gone." Jewell is great at writing page-turners that feel like you can easily finish in a weekend, and this was no exception. It is a creepy, painful story of Laurel, whose daughter Ellie was abducted years earlier. As Laurel begins to figure out how to move forward, in spite of her grief, she finds herself in a position to learn more about the disappearance after a new man comes into her life.
"The Giver of Stars"
Our final selection of the year was "The Giver of Stars" by Jojo Moyes. This book was fantastic and deeply enjoyed by the club. Historical fiction, it tells the story of a group of women known as "Packhorse Librarians" in rural Kentucky, who bond when they're brought together by their work delivering library books by horseback. It is an inspiring story of resilience, of friendship, of loss, and love, and perfectly highlights the power of literacy and access to information.
What we're reading now
January 2021 marks the start of year three Olivia's Book Club. Our first book to share is "Anxious People" by Fredrik Backman. The book is described as thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, and comical.
You can purchase this at a discount at both locations of Changing Hands Bookstore when you mention the book club.
A virtual discussion of "Anxious People" is scheduled for Feb 24.