The Week in Books #37

It’s been a big few weeks around here as I have been really pushing to put down my phone and read a book instead of endless scrolling. It has been really nice to have a distraction that isn’t depressing news on an endless cycle! And I’ve managed to clear 7 books off my to read list which is a great feeling. I also snagged an excellent stack of books through Indigo and made a very exciting score at GIRO where all books are currently on sale for “by donation” (so essentially free as I collected a stack of about 15 for $3 in pocket change.)

Books I’ve devoured since my last post:

1. Conjure Women by Afia Atakora. I absolutely adored this novel. Set in the south both before and after the Civil War this historical fiction had a touch of supernatural and some really captivating and memorable characters.

Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.


2. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. This was a swift and morosely beautiful story of the lives of unusual twins Ava and Henry that felt like a cross between an episode of X-Files and the movie Big Fish. As the title alludes the story is very sad but told in a whimsical and enjoyable way.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava — in all other ways a normal girl — is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naive to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the summer solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

Google Books

3. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This is obviously a very powerful and important book. I will not review it because frankly my opinion does not matter, but I will suggest that everyone read it ASAP.

Ibram Xolani Kendi (born August 13, 1982) is an American author, historian, and scholar of race and discriminatory policy in America. In July 2020, he assumed the position of director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. His work in Boston is a continuation of his work at the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at the American University


4. The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. I ordered this on a whim when I saw it was about a maternity ward in Ireland during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and then read it cover to cover in a day. The characters were great, the writing style was very easy to read and it was very well researched. Also timely given the current pandemic, though she began writing it before the virus unfolded.

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

Google Books

5. Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the Worlds Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump, PHD. I’m sure we are all sick of hearing about this absolute garbage human right about now, but when I saw the lengths Donald was willing to go in order to attempt to block publication of this book I was definitely on board with buying it. While none of the information was really new, Mary did a good job of sharing the backstory of Donald as well as the Trump family (spoiler alert; they are all horrible) and put some context to how he has developed into the monster he is today.

In this revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him, Mary L. Trump, a trained clinical psychologist and Donald’s only niece, shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.

Simon and Schuster

6. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. The recently released sequel to The Handmaids Tale. This book brings us back to the world of Wives, Aunts and Handmaids popularized by Atwood’s original feminist science fiction story, though the connection felt a little thin. Of course it’s Atwood so I loved it, but the ending left me wanting more.

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Penguin Randomhouse

7. The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson. This is a really lovely and intelligent memoir about Willow’s move to Egypt and subsequent (but long-time-coming) conversion to Islam. I was expecting this to be about a white girl moving to the Middle East and “finding herself” but it was so much more than that and I’m very grateful it was. Willow’s writing is so magnetic and stunning, and her views on religion and the relationship between Western Civilization and Middle Eastern culture are definitely worth a read. Very illuminating and informative.

After graduating from university, Willow Wilson, a young American – and newly converted Muslim – impulsively accepts a teaching position in Cairo. There, she meets Omar, a passionate young nationalist with a degree in astrophysics. Omar introduces Willow to the bustling city, and through him she discovers a young, moderate nationalist movement, a movement that both wants to divest itself of western influence and regain cultural pride. When the two find themselves unexpectedly in love, despite their deep cultural differences, they decide that they will try to forge a third culture, a new landscape that will embrace some of each of their cultures, and give their fledgling romance some hope of survival.

Google Books

Book haul for the week: I treated myself to a few titles from Indigo including The Pull of the Stars and Too Much and Never Enough, and then to balance out the yuckiness of reading about Trump I chose Canadian POC memoirs Love & Courage by NDP leader and total dreamboat Jagmeet Singh, and From the Ashes by Métis-Cree writer Jesse Thistle.

Score of the week was a pristine hardcover copy of Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, which I had literally just had in my indigo cart but saved for later because the $35 price tag was a little intimidating. I found this copy a day later at GIRO for $1. Wooooo!

Next up is The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. I’m only 3 chapters in but so far it’s promising!

In the spirit of Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go, this dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees—and to their children and one another—against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis.

Simon and Schuster

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