2018 Picks by Amy Clark

December 5, 2018

 

 

 

We're so excited to bring in Amy Clark of momadvice.com  as our resident book guru. Every week, Amy shares some of her favorite reads which we've compiled for you below. Amy is also an expert in many other mom areas, so check out her website, join her book club on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram. We think you'll love her as much as we do!

 

 

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

 Looking for beautiful storytelling? This gorgeous coming-of-age story is about what it means to be family and how the most unlikely people can be a part of that despite all racial and societal barriers. Set in the '60s, the spitfire child narrator captured my heart. 

 

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

Set in the 1960s, Carly's husband has passed away in the Vietnam War before she can even share with him the news that she is pregnant. At her routine doctor's visit, they discover that this baby has a heart condition that cannot be treated and that her baby will die. It is when she gets this news that her brother-in-law, a gifted physicist, shares with her that there is actually a surgery that can be done, but this surgery won't be available until 2001. How could he know this? Well, let's just say that he has time traveled a bit...

 

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

The entire Birch family must come together for seven long days to be locked down into quarantine for the holidays. Olivia, their daughter, is a doctor and has been treating an epidemic abroad and they need to ensure that no germs are spread. The family hasn’t been together this long in years and, as we all do, everyone falls back into their old roles. Children become children again, parents resume fighting, and they all must learn to live with one another again.

 

The One by John Marrs

This thriller dives deep into the exploration of DNA matching and the complexities of love and lust that happen when we are told that someone is scientifically matched to you. From a straight man who finds out he is matched to a man, to a woman who discovers her match has died before she has connected with him, to another who finds out that her match is terminally ill, to the founder of the profiling system and the relationship with her match; there are just so many fun dynamics in this one...Oh, and did I mention a serial killer who is out on the loose?

 

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

The author is the 39th child in her polygamist family of 42 children in this telling memoir about the complications of polygamy and relationship with her mentally ill father. You really learn about what it is like to grow up in poverty, the true challenges of being just one of many wives, the challenges of disability, and how Ruth must learn to stand up for herself in a world that seems against her.

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf. No, I am not kidding. His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book. When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoken with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she led.

 

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf. No, I am not kidding. His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book. When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoken with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she led.

 

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Rachel is living a typical life of a little Hawaiian girl -- she has spats with her sister, she dreams of getting out of Hawaii, and she is loved by her family. When a rose colored mark appears on her leg, her mother pricks her leg and finds that Rachel does not react. Rachel’s mother knows immediately that Rachel has leprosy. In fear of protecting her daughter, she covers the mark and hides other marks that appear on Rachel’s body. It is the family’s dark secret since all people afflicted by leprosy are quarantined and taken from their families. When authorities suspect she has been afflicted, Rachel is taken from her family and moved to the island of Kalaupapa, a quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i.​

 

Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

This is one of those books that you think will just be a quick escape, but ends up being a beautiful story with endearing characters that you think about after you close the final pages. This coming-of-age story follows the friendship between two teen girls and then the consequences of them both falling for the same guy, which destroys their friendship. Thankfully, it was just so much more than that and really built around a cast of flawed characters, the bonds & love of our family, first loves, true loves, and how friendships between unlikely people can reshape your destiny.

 

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

Iris Lockhart is a single young woman who spends her days tending to a vintage-clothing shop and trying to sidestep a commitment with her married boyfriend. To her surprise, she receives a call one day letting her know that her great-aunt Esme is going to need to find a new place to stay because the insane asylum that she has been staying at is going to be closing. The clincher is, Iris never knew that her great-aunt existed and that she has been housed in the asylum for over sixty years.

     

The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine

Tessa Fontaine shares two death-defying stories...her own and the incredible story of her mother who defied all predictions of death for many years after suffering a series of strokes. Many of us dream of escaping it all, but Tessa actually does this and applies for a job working with the World of Wonders, America's last traveling sideshow. Bravely, she tries all sorts of incredible acts within this company like sword swallowing, snake charming, and even performing as an electric woman. Layered between these captivating moments, she weaves in the parallel life of her mother and her own death-defying act of traveling the world in the midst of health struggles that should have killed her. ​

 

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

The idea for this story sounded horribly depressing. A mother commits suicide and her family is left to pick up the pieces… but it is so much more than that! Fabiaschi writes this story in a way where the mother, Maddy, is still there and able to manipulate her family members into doing what she needs them to do by speaking to them through their thought streams. From helping them find better solutions to deal with her death, to guiding friendships, and even finding her replacement. Her presence and voice is one of the alternating chapters in this novel, along with the voices of her husband and teenage daughter.

 

Himself by Jess Kidd

Mahony was abandoned at an orphanage as a baby and has always assumed his mother did not want to be a part of his life. When he receives an anonymous note though, it implies that she might have been forced to give him up and that there might be more to this story. Mahony sets off to his hometown to try to find out what exactly happened to his mother. If you love a good Irish accent, be sure to listen to this one on audiobook because it really is a treat. Even with such a potentially heavy topic, this book is thick with humor and heart.

                                      

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Watson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane's life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane's love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman's most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

 

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George

George weaves a gorgeous coming-of-age story, set in the late 70’s, that chronicles the life and friendship of two boys that find each other in eighth grade. This friendship blossoms as a tragic event unfolds in each family’s life and brings them closer together. It’s hard to say more about this without giving away some of the tragic twists, but the setting and characters are so beautifully written that your heart will quickly be wrapped up in this sweet story. Make sure you have a few tissues handy for this heart-aching read!

 

 

Hey Ladies by Michelle Markowitz

The entire book is in email format with a few text threads and hilarious illustrations woven in and the correspondence mostly centers around the planning of one of the gal's weddings (and all the ridiculous requests that entails). You follow these friends through their correspondence throughout the year as they write back and forth to one another through dates, breakups, vacations, and the hellish wedding planning. The email sign-offs and correspondences were so funny that I started sending screenshots to my husband. Is this book life-changing? Nope. Is it a hilarious escape? Yes.

 

 

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Ludwig shares in his bio that he is the foster parent of a teen with autism and it is through his own experience (and fellow parents of autistic children) that helped him carve out his character, Ginny Moon. Ginny Moon had been taken from her neglectful mother and has been living with her new Forever Mother and Forever Father. When her birth mother starts creeping back into her life, Ginny will stop at nothing to get back to her mom and goes to shocking lengths to make that happen. When a new baby then is added to her Forever Family, Ginny becomes increasingly more of a burden to her strained foster parents and they must decide if this is the forever family THEY want.

 

The Little Clan by Iris Martin Cohen
This debut novel is about two old friends who decide to open a Victorian-inspired literary salon at an aging Manhattan arts club. While Ava is quiet and bookish, her friend Stephanie is in the scheme for the fame and parties. This coming-of-age story really drives home the challenges of female friendships and the struggles of finding yourself in your twenties. This story has great humor and Cohen's sentences really shine, thanks to her exquisite storytelling.

 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Wingate shares the story of two little girls who become a part of one of America's most notorious real-life scandals of children being kidnapped and sold to wealthy families by Georgia Tann, a director of a Memphis-based adoption organization in the late 1930's. This fictional story is built around the stories of real-life orphans and will just rip your heart to shreds. Moving backward and forward through time, the reader gets to solve the mystery of two unlikely women with a bond that could never be broken and the granddaughter that must unravel it all, even at the expense of her family's high-society position.

 

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

Imagine getting an x-ray and being told you have a bullet residing in your body that you knew nothing about. This is the exact premise of this book and the reader gets to watch the life spiraling unfold. The origin of that bullet and the people around her that it has affected cause a cold case to be reopened… reopening wounds of the family and friends around her.

 

Self-Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyon

Lu is a struggling photographer who lives in an artist loft where she has been working on a personal photography project taking a daily self-portrait. A little boy, in the apartment above, tragically falls to his death and she happens to be taking a self-portrait when the tragedy occurs. Upon development, she sees that it is one of the most beautiful images she has ever taken and has to grapple with the decision to let this work be seen.

 

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Mastai is a screenwriter, and this book plays out just like a film as Tom Barrens, our main character, time travels from the 2016 we *thought* we would be living in (AKA- The Jetson’s version of 2016) and then must time travel into the REAL 2016, all to prove his undying love for the girl of his dreams. Smartly written, finely crafted, and laugh-out-loud funny- I couldn’t put this one down.  It is no surprise the movie rights were quickly sold!

 

Rabbit by Patricia Williams

Rabbit is a memoir by Patricia Williams (aka Ms. Pat) that shares her life growing up in Atlanta at the height of the crack epidemic. Williams is one of five children and witnessed how her mother was able to work the system to help her family survive…and also how Pat understood how they were all being used for these purposes. Despite the circumstances, she survived it all, sharing her story with equal parts heart and humor.

 

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

This is a sweet literary escape and tells the story of brothers living in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the ‘40’s. While the men are away to work, in the midst of a winter storm, both of their wives go into labor and end up delivering their babies at home. Give that midwife a trophy! It’s the birth of these two babies though that begins to threaten and unravel the two families as the mothers carry around a family secret that begins to impact them all.

 

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

Polly has an unexpected surprise in her late fifties and gives birth to her daughter, Willow. Because of her age, one of her daughter’s biggest worries is her mother dying and when she ends up being diagnosed with cancer, it is like her worst fears coming true. Polly’s not going to exit this world quietly though, and her daughter decides she wants to know more about Polly’s life from her younger years, taking the two on an epic road trip. This might not sound like a laugh-out-loud book, but I promise you that Hepinstall’s writing is charming and a book you want to share with a dear friend.

 

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

A small plane crashes in the middle of the South Pacific leaving two of the passengers stranded as they are both washed ashore on a small island. Sound familiar? I promise you, it’s so much more than that.  The writing is surprisingly witty and laugh-out-loud funny, while still giving you that ache in your heart at all they have lost. Being stranded on an island requires a writer to really drive this story with strong characters and that is the heart of the story as these two seem to lift off each beautiful page. 

 

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Serial fans will LOVE this fantastic debut novel that explores a fictional murder and the podcast series that threatens to expose one family’s deepest secrets. As a reader, it should give you some food for thought on our own obsessions with true crime and what that might be like for a family who suddenly has become the topic of exploration.

 

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