Holy Cow! I had the sense that it had been awhile since I had updated what my book group was reading, but didn't realize how incredibly lax I had become. Don't even know if I can't resurrect everything, but here are a few we have discussed over the last months:
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Shine
Is it possible someone actually compared this to a Jane Austen novel? Not one character in this book seemed real. Two sisters - a librarian and a literary agent - move to Westport, CT, to keep company with their mother, whose marriage has fallen apart. I particularly took exception to the portrayal of the disgraced literary agent. She was hapless, ineffectual, spacey and passive. There was no way she could have been a power player in the New York literary world. My agents would have eaten her for lunch. Couldn't work up a healthy interest in any of the other characters or their problems either.
When Everything Changed by Gail Collins
I love Gail Collins' columns in the NYT. I think she is a smart, funny, compassionate writer. That said, this book, a history of the women's movement, was a bit of a long slog. There were fascinating details - like when Billie Jean King, then the reigning US tennis champ, couldn't qualify for a credit card, but her husband, who she was basically supporting, could. Or the secretary who came to court to pay her boss' parking ticket, and got yelled at by the judge for wearing slacks. You forget how relatively recently all this took place. But the book was still pretty unwieldy.
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
We still can't stop talking about this book. It is a memoir by the controversial Ali, who grew up Muslim in Somalia, and has now repudiated Islam and become a darling of the American right. Agree or not with her politics, the book is incredibly powerful, well-written and provides a window into a world I hadn't even imagined.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
This book got great reviews, and the only explanation I can come up with is that it was about journalists and reviewers love to read about themselves. A series of connected but disjointed sketches of people who work at a fictional international newspaper in Rome, it was another one of these novels where it was hard to work up any interest in the sad sack collection of characters. The book didn't seem to go anywhere either. It was well written and provided a slice of life kind of look at this group, but overall - eh.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
We all loved this novel. The set up: twins Marion and Shiva Stone are born in Ethiopia, sons of Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a nun, and Dr. Thomas Stone, a surgeon. Their mother dies in childbirth; their father flees the country. The twins are brought up by Hema, an Indian-born obstetrician and Ghosh, who Hema marries after adopting the twins. The brothers become estranged but at the end of the book are reunited, while also reconnecting with their father. The book was ambitious, with compelling characters, fascinating descriptions of the political turmoil in Ethiopia, and interesting depictions of what life is like for foreign medical residents in the US. The book has some magical thinking parts - it opens with Marion describing his birth, while other parts is grounded in really gritty medical writer - the author is a physician and when you read about a liver transplant, you get the gory details. It wasn't perfect, but it was a great read.