The Week in Books #47


The week in books! It was a fun-filled week of Halloween activities around here; carving a pumpkin and leaving it in the tunnel, visiting a big animatronic dinosaur, hitting up the drive through trick or treating at the school (contactless candy collection!), it was actually pretty good despite the pandemic changing things up a bit. I managed to get through three more books this week, leaving me with just three to complete this stack. Woo!

1. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. This was great, I can see how it has ended up one of Indigo’s most popular books of the year. I liked how things unfolded between the different perspectives (both sisters and also their daughters) and the way the stories were all woven together. Very readable, definitely recommend.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Halfconsiders the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Penguin Randomhouse

2. How Should a Person Be? By Sheila Heti. This was a bit of a weird one. It’s a quick read as much of the dialogue is formatted like a screenplay and the chapters are very short. Sheila has written an unusual novel that feels like a memoir but is also an experimental piece of writing that is a little hard to figure out and/or really get into. She sets out to find the answer to her question: How should a person be? Parts of this book were interesting/insightful but overall I don’t think it came across as profound as she intended.

How Should a Person Be? is an unabashedly honest and hilarious tour through the unknowable pieces of one woman’s heart and mind, an irresistible torn-from-life book about friendship, art, sex, and love. Part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part racy confessional, it is a fearless exploration into the way we live now by one of the most highly inventive and thoughtful young writers working today.

House of Anansi Press

3. The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner. This story covers a pretty epic span of time and several generations living on a tiny Italian Island between the early 1900’s and 2007. In all honesty I thought it was pretty boring. With stories that cover such a lengthy period you inevitably skip over large chunks of time, which was definitely the case with this one where in one chapter a character was eighteen years old and the next time she was mentioned suddenly she was into her fifties. I find it hard to get to know a character this way, and leapfrogging forward in time skips over so much. It’s not my style of novel though it probably appeals to many other readers, it had a real Isabel Allende vibe to it. Not enough of interest happened in it for me, though bits and pieces were enjoyable to read and the conclusion was fairly satisfying.

On a tiny island off the coast of Italy, Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, thinks he has found a place where, finally, he can belong. Intrigued by a building the locals believe to be cursed, Amedeo restores the crumbling walls, replaces sagging doors and sweeps floors before proudly opening the bar he names the ‘House at the Edge of Night’. Surrounded by the sound of the sea and the scent of bougainvillea, he and the beautiful, fiercely intelligent Pina begin their lives together. Home to the spirited, chaotic Esposito family for generations, the island withstands a century of turmoil – transformed in ways both big and small by war, tourism and recession. It’s a place alive with stories, legends and, sometimes, miracles. And while regimes change, betrayals are discovered and unexpected friendships nurtured, the House at the Edge of Night remains: the backdrop for long-running feuds and the stage for great love affairs.

I’m digging into Do Not Say We Have Nothing next and dreaming of the future stacks I have already put together 🖤 Lots of exciting books to look forward to!


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