I’m back with the next installment for my best of 2019, I wanted to wait a few days to share my favorite fiction reads including short stories and historical fiction. Three of the books on this list were published this year.
UNMARRIAGEABLE by Soniah Kamal
“Jane Austen is ruthless when it comes to drawing-room hypocrisy. She’s blunt, impolite, funny, and absolutely honest. She’s Jane Khala, one of those honorary good aunts who tells it straight and looks out for you.”
My track record with retellings of classics have been hit or miss. But this book one of the best I’ve read. True to the essence of Pride and Prejudice, I think Austen would enjoy this modern spin on her beloved book. I had the opportunity to hear the author speak about this book twice. She even signed my book!
THE TWELVE TRIBES OF HATTIE by Ayana Mathis
Somebody always wants something from me,” she said in a near whisper. “They’re eating me alive.”
Some might find the structure of this book a bit complicated because they can’t connect with Hattie. But if her own family, her children, found it a challenge to do so, why would Hattie allow you, me, a stranger to do so? The moments of understanding are there: Hattie’s heartbreak, hurt, her sacrifice, her longing, her desire to be happy. It’s in there. I can understand it because there are parts of us that we keep to ourselves, some of those same things.
THE MATTER IS LIFE by J. California Cooper (short stories)
“All the time you thought you was spending only money, you been spending time. TIME. Chile,time. The most valuable thing you got! Or ever gonna have!”
Auntie Cooper and I started the year together and I was at home with this one. I pulled up my chair and soaked in as much of her wisdom as I did tea. If you haven’t had the chance to do so, pick up one of her short collections and enjoy some lessons about life.
THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead
“You can change the law but you can’t people and how they treat each other.”
I’ve done you a disservice by not reviewing this book sooner. But it’s one that meant so much it was hard to find the right words to convey my thoughts and feelings. I’m thinking of turning Whitehead’s books into a personal reading project. I read The Underground Railroad and remember not being able to separate myself from the people in those pages. Maybe I’ll start there with a reread and work backwards.
THE STATIONERY SHOP by Marian Kamali
“Things don’t always work out the way we planned. Those who are young tend to think that life’s tragedies and miseries and its bullets will somehow miss them. That they can buoy themselves with naïve hope and energy. They think, wrongly, that somehow youth and desire or even love can outmatch the hand of fate.”
The Stationery Shop was the book that took me by both hands and pulled me in and didn’t let go. 77 year old Roya goes to an assisted living home to face the man who stole her heart over 60 years ago- to find out why he didn’t show up the day he promised for them to runaway and be married. What happened? Travel back in time and we meet young Roya and Bahman, in a Stationery Shop in Tehran. A story of first love,broken hearts against the backdrop of political unrest, social norms and expectations, the ripple effect it has on so many.
LILAC GIRLS by Martha Hall Kelly
The first book selection for my the seasonal book club, Seasons by the Book, that I co-host with Cate @ Ramblings of a Redheaded Snippet. I didn’t review this book but had the chance to do a Q&A with the author I’ve linked above. A memorable conclusion to a very good book.
THE WAKE OF THE WIND by J. California Cooper
“Don’t overestimate me and do not underestimate yourself. We both are important to this freedom.”
Yes, Auntie Cooper gets another slot for a favorite of the year. Her writing is delicious and I have resolved to read all of her books again.
When an author stirs an excitement in the dedication of the book, you get ready. When the author’s note sets the tone for the people on the pages to come, you get ready. The prologue…. ooooh chile!!! All of this and you HAVEN’T started the novel. The stage is set and you get ready. JCC is best consumed when all you have is time because you don’t want to put the book down. When I started, I came up just long enough to refill my tea cup and forge ahead. Lifee and Mor’s journey became my own.
THE GILDED YEARS by Karin Tanabe
“How hard it must be to constantly remain alert, to appear effortless with so much effort, to leave the reality about yourself somewhere else.”
The Gilded Years is a historical fiction book based on the real woman, Anita Hemmings. Anita Hemmings was the first African American woman to attend and graduate from Vassar College in 1897 although the school didn’t admit students of color at that time. So how was this possible? Anita made the decision to pass and enroll as a white student to obtain the education she deserved. She used her fair skin to her advantage but not without challenges.