Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

"America, I think, is about poor people playing music and poor people sharing food and poor people dancing, even when everything else in their lives is so desperate and so dismal that it doesn't seem there should be any room for any music, any extra food, or any extra energy for dancing.  And people can say that I'm wrong, that we're a puritanical people, an evangelical people, a selfish people, but I don't believe that.  I don't want to believe that."

"It's all been worth it.  Every fight, all those years of childish experimentation, the occasional heartbreak, the paltry checking account, the used, old trucks.  To have lived with another human being, another person, this man, as long as I have and to see him change and grow."

This was an incredible book and I'm so glad that I picked it up!  The book is essentially a love song to life - to friendships, to family, to love, to forgiveness, and to small-town rural Wisconsin.

Hank, Leland, Kip, and Ronny were all born and raised in the small Wisconsin town of Little Wig.  They have been friends since as long as they remember.  They each went their separate ways after high school, but they soon find themselves all back in town and husbands and fathers and still trying to figure out their place in the world.  And then there's Beth, who plays a special part in each one of their lives. Shotgun Lovesongs is a truly remarkable book and a tribute to American live and is filled with rich storytelling and finding hope against all odds.

This description says it all: 'There is conflict here between longtime buddies, between husbands and wives — told with writing that is, frankly, gut-wrenching, and even heartbreaking. But there is also hope, healing, and at times, even heroism. It is strong, American stuff, not at all afraid of showing that we can be good, too — not just fallible and compromising. Shotgun Lovesongs is a remarkable and uncompromising saga that explores the age-old question of whether or not you can ever truly come home again — and the kind of steely faith and love returning requires.'

This book was #5 on my top ten list of 2015.

We read this for the January 2016 selection of the Germantown Community Library Adult Bookclub.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

"The holes in your life are permanent.  You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps."

Rachel is in her late twenties and her life has taken a turn for the worst.  Recently divorced, she has taken to heavy drinking and now lives with an old friend from college.  Rachel lost her job, but still takes the train into the city everyday so that her roommate won’t know that she is out of work.  Everyday, she takes the same train route and sees “Jess and Jason” having breakfast on their porch.  Rachel has made up names for the couple and sees them as having the “perfect life.”  Only a few doors down lives her ex-husband, Tom, with his new wife and daughter.  One day, Rachel sees “Jess” kissing a man on her porch that isn’t her husband and it is soon reported that she has gone missing.  Rachel soon learns that “Jess and Jason” are really Megan and Scott.  Wanting to help the police find Megan, she reports what she saw and finds herself suddenly involved with their lives.   

            As the search for Megan continues, flashbacks show that her life and marriage to Scott were not as perfect as them seemed.  Tom’s wife Anna also plays a part in the story when the police find out that Megan had previously helped out with babysitting their daughter.  Rachel learns that the lives of herself and the other two women are more connected than she had realized.  When Megan turns up dead, Rachel is determined to help Scott figure out who the murder is.  The more tangled up that Rachel gets in the investigation, the more secrets she learns about Megan’s past life.  But, Rachel’s drinking problem often causes her to forget things and she is far from a reliable source.  She may know something about the murder, but the police (and readers) question whether or not they can trust her.

I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down.  It had a rapid and intriguing storyline that kept my interest until the very last page.  Many reviews that I read of the book stated that the book was the “new Gone Girl.”  I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn a few years ago and would have to agree: both books were compelling, suspenseful, and had wonderfully written characters that I hated and loved at the same time.  My only concern with the book (and the reason I gave it four stars out of five) was that the three voices of Rachel, Megan, and Anna felt too similar to me.  I sometimes found myself forgetting which narrator I was reading because they seemed too alike.