Best-selling books for a quiet January evening? You betcha.
I think January is the perfect time for pleasure reading. The holiday hoopla is over, the garden is resting, and dieting means more raw foods, so less to prepare!
In fact, as I type this, we are having a rare January thunderstorm with a combo of sleet and rain.
These titles will keep you intrigued while you are settled in, warm and cozy.
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
I don’t often cry – at movies, or commercials, and especially not when reading a novel – but this one brought me to tears.
Oh, and not because it was bad. Because it was good.
This story focuses on a family whose middle child is the “favorite,” and how that perception affects their interrelationships.
Ng delves into the psychology of identity, and comes up with a story that is universally recognized. To what extent do we go to enable our children to succeed, and why?
How do our kids interpret that parental influence, and respond?
Ng’s delicate revelations as a family struggles with the death of a child are so accurate and recognizable that you will not easily forget this story.
I never read formal reviews of this novel until today. I’m surprised that it is dubbed a “literary thriller” in a New York Times book review.
To me, this is a story about love.
Read it and let me know what you think.
A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles
This novel brings to mind a sophisticated Daddy Warbucks and Annie tale. Maybe that analogy turns you off, but it shouldn’t.
Towles gives us a history lesson in this rich story about a displaced aristocrat in Stalinist Russia, who devotes his life to raising and, ultimately freeing, an orphaned girl.
The tale unfolds in the Russian styles of Tolstoy and Pushkin, with an array of vivid characters and setting.
You’ll be entertained by Towles’s wit as the novel begins. I found myself a bit unfocused in the middle of the book, because I didn’t see where the story was going.
As with much tale-telling these days, the big twists come at the end. So, stick with it. You’ll be glad you did.
My Name Is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
Some people have trouble saying, “I love you.” Lucy’s mother never said those words when Lucy was growing up.
Lucy spends her adult life trying to be a different kind of person, and a different kind of mother.
She escapes her childhood poverty the old-fashioned way: by studying hard and moving to the big city. She avoids returning to her childhood home and visiting her parents until her dad passes away.
Piecing together memories of her childhood, Lucy realizes how tough her mother really was, and still is. She raised a family in poverty alongside a husband plagued with serious mental illness.
And when Lucy needs her mom the most, she is by Lucy’s bedside, showing the love that she could never convey in words.
You will want to keep this book, so get two copies and give one to your best friend, who may, in fact, be your mother.
The Ragged Edge of Night, Olivia Hawker
Another World War II saga?
Well, that’s what I thought when I started reading this book while on vacation.
But, this one is different. It is told from the point of view of an ex-friar, who in his gentle way leads a resistance against Hitler from within Germany.
Don’t be fooled that you are going to be taken through back alleys and dark tunnels (well, there is in fact a dark tunnel).
This is more a story about the less famous players in the war – those everyday people who plowed through the years carrying any and all in need.
It’s a story about building a family and sustaining a community when the world is at its darkest moments.
And you’ll learn that Olivia Hawker wrote this story based on memories passed down through her husband’s family. The true back story makes the book even more special.
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
This is Celeste Ng’s second novel (see above for her first). Her storytelling talent is undeniable as she weaves an intricate tale of the pitfalls of affluence, set in America’s first planned suburb, Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Ng herself was raised in Shaker Heights from age 10, so she knows of what she writes.
In this story, Mia and her daughter, Pearl, arrive in the Heights to “finally settle into a real home.” Mia is renting from the Richardson family, who live nearby. Both she and Pearl become part of the day-to-day life of the prosperous Richardsons.
Mia is an artist, and her photography barely keeps her and Pearl afloat. Mia is accustom to making do with very little.
Ng unveils for us the parallels and contrasts of these two families, and how Mia and Pearl challenge the Richardson family to consider their values and morals.
Of course, that means a reckoning for all of us, as well.
The editorial content in this post is an honest assessment by a.joann. It does not represent the opinions of the book authors, sellers, or publishers.
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