The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

the-invention-of-wingsI had been struggling to post this recommendation, I couldn’t figure out why, so I thought about this book for a few weeks.  Then the shooting in Charleston took place. Then I really thought about this story. I finally realized my struggle was shallow, I felt like I should be writing about light hearted beach reads. Beach reads are the cool kids right now. I have not been cool a day in my life, so why start now? In the heat of summer, my reccomendation is a high quality book about slavery and two little known abolistionists.  The Invention of Wings is heavy, yet it is an important book, and relevant to the history of Charleston. I will get to my beach reads later.

Sarah turns 11 and is given a girl named ‘Handful’. ‘Handful’ is hers to own, given like a piece of furniture or doll. Sarah attempts to set her free, but an 11 year old cannot change laws with a handwritten piece of paper. Handful is her slave, and the daughter of the best seamstress in Charleston. Handful and her mother are owned by the Grimke’s and keep the family plantation working and profitable.

The story flips back and forth from Handful to Sarah, telling the stories of Handful’s each girls life from childhood to adult. The injustice and cruelty is hard to stomach, but the story is so rich with character development, historically accurate events, and impeccable story-telling.

Sarah Grimke and her sister, Angelina, grew up to be  abolitionists. Sarah and her sister fought for the rights of slaves and the rights of women in a time when white men truly ruled the world with a tightly closed fist. The Grimke sisters were mocked and called spinsters. They are lesser known heroes in the fight against slavery.

Be sure to read the afterward, the Grimke Sisters were fascinating, and Sue Monk Kidd shares her research and methods of writing the story. A good read.

To Order on Amazon, click here:  The Invention of Wings

The Girl on theTrain

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

the girl on the trainToday I hoped for heavier traffic so I could finish listening The Girl on theTrain.  If you were a fan of Gone Girl, this is your next read.  Rachel rides the same train every day back and forth; she is lonely, tormented, and desperate.  As she rides the train from her small town to London each day, she gazes at the back gardens of all the homes.  She starts to notice the same people each day, she begins to create caricatures in her mind of who they are, what they might be like.  Then one day she sees something; something disturbing and suspicious, and the story gets very interesting.  Three women’s lives intertwine, each one battling their own demons, each one not quite what she seems.  This book is quietly thrilling because no one is easy to figure out, no one is all good or all bad, but some very bad things happen.  Girl on a Train is not a cuddly feel good story, it is dark and gritty, but the suspense at the end is impeccably written.  The tension will grip you to the core, if you need a plane or beach read, pick it up.  If you are fan of intensity, suspense, and thrillers, you will like it.

To Purchase from Amazon, click here: The Girl on the Train

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

TheBoysintheBoatOur book club recently read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.  If you read only a handful of books this year, please put it at the top of your list. It is non-fiction at its finest, filled with facts, yet reads like story.  Daniel Brown tells the story of the University of Washington’s men’s crew team competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  The story starts long before Berlin, with 9 boys coming together in Seattle, when the city was barely establishing itself.  The story of Joe, the main character is heart-breaking and inspiring.  With little support, or hardly a family to call his own, he begins to row at the University of Washington.  Joe’s story is an incredible tale of tenacity and overcoming adversity.  Brown explains the technicalities of rowing in such simple rich language that you will be enveloped and enthralled as you read.  As Hitler is rising to power and putting a gleaming sheen on Germany for the entire world to see; these humble boys come and fight for the Gold, with every ounce of strength they have.  The Boys in the Boat is rich with World War II history, Seattle history, and the thrill of competition.  If you liked stories like Rudy, Hoosiers, or Cinderella Man, you will love this book.  Put it in your top 5 for the year.  The audiobook is fantastic.

To Download on Amazon, click the link here:

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

To Download the Audiobooks, click the link here:

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

TheOppositeOfLoneliness Ok, so I am a jerk.  I saw this book on the NYT Bestseller list, requested it from the library, and picked it up one Saturday.  I glanced at it, threw it in the passenger seat of my car, and wondered what this young woman could have to say.  I expected something fluffy or self-indulged.  Then I opened the book and read about the author.  I saw two dates, 1989-2012. I stopped and stood in my hallway, absorbing and reading.  I read about Marian Keegan, a talented, accomplished, intelligent young writer who died 5 days after her college graduation in a car accident.   I felt like a terrible person, forgetting the first rule of reading; don’t judge a book by its cover.  Then I sat and read and read.  Marina had incredible things to say, profound, witty, endearing, humane, hopeful, lovely things to say.

This compilation was published after her death.  It is a compilation of short stories and non-fiction pieces.  They are full of longing to change the world, and joy in the journey of life.  She was a writer that could capture human experience succinctly and make you think, “I have felt that, I have done that, I know exactly what you mean.”   A college girl writing about college boyfriends, those are stories one can pound out from their own recesses of experience.  However, Keegan wrote a story about a middle aged woman adopting a baby.  It was sweet, funny, poignant, and very well done.  I was impressed with her ability to capture life stages far beyond her own.

The essay I connected to the most she wrote about her high school car.  Her coming-of-age experiences in it, and the storage unit her care transformed into. A co-worker once laughed at my random collection of things in my car, a can of diet coke, one shoe, and detachable straps from a bridesmaids dress.  My car was my extra home on wheels for many years; it saw me through a lot of happy and sad.  Keegan encapsulated this feeling, I related so well to her depictions.  I believe this is what great writing does, reassures you there is someone else who has felt and experienced the exact same things.  Marina Keegan is a voice gone way too soon.

To Purchase on Amazon, click here:

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

Deep Down Dark

deep down dark book jacketThe story of the trapped Chilean miners is a story I remember hearing about, I knew they were rescued, and their plight sounded bad, but I was ignorant to the details of the story.  Reading Deep Down Dark was humbling to say the least. The daily conditions these men worked in were something I could never endure, however, their entrapment was truly inhumane.  One morning in August the miners left for a normal day of work and did not see the light of day again for 69 days.

While the men were trapped underground they made a pact to keep their story and only tell it to one person who would represent them well.  Hector Tobar was chosen, and he wrote an incredible narrative of their experience. It is known worldwide the men were recsued, but I was on the edge of my seat as I read. As a reader you begin to feel what the men were going through, balancing hope, fear, and helplessness day after day. Tobar wrote this as only a master storyteller could, he layered facts with tender moments from the lives of people. He included the topography of the mountain, technical details about drills and ore, the science of starvation, all pieced together in a heart-wrenching narrative.  The men bonded, fought, and prayed through the endless hours being trapped. It was engrossing from start to finish.  I was grateful for the knowledge I gained about this story and the conditions of modern day mining.  Deep Down Dark is the best book I have read in 2015.

To Purchase on Amazon, click here:

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free

This is a photo of the capsule in which they were brought up out of the mine. Photo credit to smithsonian.

fenix-capsule

Here is a photo of the men that were trapped.  This is on the back of the book, but hard to see. Photo credit to Macmillan.

DeepDownDark_miners