Winter Reading Escapes

Uncle.  I officially cry uncle on this winter.  I give up.  Shoveling and snow boots have lost their luster; my puffy coats have had WAY more than their share of time on display.  I’m ready for the weather to break.  To wear all those cute shoes languishing in my closet, to stop wearing long johns to the office.  BUT, this is mid-Michigan, so we’ve got a healthy month left – although, does anyone remember that AH-mazing St. Patrick’s Day about three years ago where it was 80 degrees?  That was pretty crazy.  So we might not be too far away from a break in the snow? (Hear that hopefulness?)

Whatever the weather may bring, we’ve still got to tough it out, and by this time, if you’re like me, you’re a little “over” winter activities.  The next few weekends will be spent with home-baked goods, take-out, and lots of reading.  Hunkering down, if you will.  With that, I bring you a handful of titles to help you get lost in the lives of others, right in your living room (or your bed, I won’t judge).  These are captivating binge-worthy reads; and while they might not totally change your life, are the literary equivalent of a really good movie.  They’ll make you sit back and really think, or exercise your imagination, or just transport you to another country or time period for awhile.

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
In 1960, A woman wakes up from a coma to her chilly husband and oddly insistent mother.  She tries to settle back into the life she’s told she had, but something doesn’t feel entirely right.  The doctors tell her this is normal, and it just takes some getting used to.  As she settles back into her life, she begins piecing together the months before her accident.  In 2003, a newspaper columnist happens upon a love letter mixed among the office archives; finding its owner and completing the story changes the lives of everyone involved.  (Footnote:  I read this in audiobook format from Audible, which I definitely recommend if you have a lot of around-the-house chores or driving to do. The narrator is a chirpy Englishwoman, and I found myself talking with a bit of a fun accent after a long day of listening.  I think it made the novel that much more enjoyable!)

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
A group of teens meet at a summer camp for the arts, and the novel follows them throughout their lives.  What happens in adulthood to those who are deemed “creative” as young people?  How do the choices of schooling, partner, and other life events shape a person?  As the title states, this characters in this novel are definitely interesting – no one is safe from scrutiny.  The ones you liked most become frustrating, and those who don’t seem like they’ll be very central may end up saving the story for you.  If you’re like me, it might make you think about the trajectory your life has taken, and how people in your life fit with characters in the novel. (And a thank you to the gals at A Beautiful Mess for introducing this book to me through their January book club selection!)

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
This novel spans a lifetime, and honestly will leave you wondering how much time has passed in your own.  Trigiani weaves together a story of two people throughout their lives, both at intersections and near misses.  From a small village in Italy, to New York City, World War II, and back again, readers enthrallingly follow the tumultuous lives of Enza and Ciro.  These are two characters you’ll really root for, page after page – so much more than an epic love story.

The Good House by Ann Leary
Hildy Good is a very successful real estate agent.  She might also be an alcoholic, depending on who you ask.  If you ask her children, she is an AA-attending, doting grandmother.  If you ask Hildy herself, she just likes her wine and relaxing with her two dogs.  Somehow Leary makes the novel light, despite the potentially heavy subject matter.  Told in the first person by Hildy, the story includes a charming cast of characters that live within her small seaside east coast town.  She’s quite the riot.  In the background hovers Hildy’s alcoholism – and in the same novel you find yourself wondering if her daughter’s have overreacted, but also concerned for Hildy’s life choices. (Footnote:  I also read this in audiobook format, and the narrator was wonderfully arch, really shaping my mental picture of Hildy.  So I never really know how this impacts my “reading” of a novel.)

The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain
In describing this novel to my mother, I said “Well, it’s kind of like Titanic.  We all know what happens, but we can’t stop watching.”  This fictional first-person account of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley is just so damn interesting.  It is fiction, but Mclain consulted many sources to make everything except the actual story line real, it definitely reads like a journal or diary.  I think regardless of your Hemingway knowledge or appreciation, this novel is a good one.  I love reading stories that take place in foreign countries, and Mclain has engaging descriptions of the haunts and hideaways of the Hemingways.

Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg
Two people get married, but each realize internally that they’ve made a mistake.  Eventually, they can’t get past this realization and divorce.  Somewhere in the middle, they have a daughter, who is now eighteen.  Living on opposite ends of the country, the ex-couple slogs through life just like anyone else, but have managed to raise a headstrong, down-to-earth daughter.  One day the unthinkable happens to their daughter, setting in motion an unlikely series of events, and the two must face one another for the sake of her safety and sanity.  Can they keep a lid on their feelings toward one another and the past long enough to make sense of the current situation?

These are just a few books I’ve devoured over the past few weeks – probably in lieu of doing something productive like cleaning or laundry.  Luckily no one around here complains.  Happy reading!

How about you?  Have you read any good books lately?  Anything that’s helped pass the extremely cold and snowy days?

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