The Week in Books #53

10/12 ✅

Books! It’s been a busy week. “Busy” of course is a relative word now as life isn’t really that busy at all, but being a stay-at-home parent with a toddler is definitely no vacation. I’m getting close to the end of this stack, and also the end of the year! My original goal was to read 24 books (two per month), which I did easily, so I upped it to 50. I am now at 78 books read so I’d say things have gone well.

1. Girls Burn Brighter Shobha Rao. Phewwwf. This book is like a punch in the face. Beautifully written, unfolding at just the right pace, and that ending! It’s hard to find the words to review this story, it is devastating but also filled with strength; it tells the story of two girls separated following a traumatic event and of each of their lives as they try to find each other again. Girls burn brighter speaks to the endurance of women who have to struggle for everything they have. It’s not an easy breezy read but incredibly moving and very memorable.

Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them. They are poor. They are driven. And they are girls.

When Poornima was just a toddler, she was about to fall into a river. Her mother, beside herself, screamed at her father to grab her. But he hesitated: “I was standing there, and I was thinking…She’s just a girl. Let her go…That’s the thing with girls, isn’t it…You think, Push. That’s all it would take. Just one little push.”

After her mother’s death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to take care of her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond the arranged marriage her father is desperate to secure for her. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.

Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face ruthless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighterintroduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them.

Book Browse

2. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. This story starts out with a character named Paul and heads in an interesting direction that definitely grabbed my attention, but then moves into another world entirely where a crime has been committed and the sense of dread as they await discovery is palpable. I was completely engrossed and anxious to learn what would happen. I’ve had several dreams where I have committed a crime and am anticipating the moment where I get caught and they make me sooo antsy. This book really captured that feeling for me. I loved the setting of the hotel, a remote town on northern Vancouver Island, and all the mysterious atmosphere. Very enjoyable book. I love Emily’s writing style!

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: Why don’t you swallow broken glass. High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. When the financial empire collapses, it obliterates countless fortunes and devastates lives. Vincent, who had been posing as Jonathan’s wife, walks away into the night. Years later, a victim of the fraud is hired to investigate a strange occurrence: a woman has seemingly vanished from the deck of a container ship between ports of call.

In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.

Penguin Randomhouse

3. Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese. So, this book has perhaps the most depressing first 20 pages of any book I’ve ever read. Ten people die! Thankfully they are relatively unknown to the reader as it is early in the story, and essential to the building of the characters that are then introduced. I didn’t let that deter me; it may start out morose but very quickly rockets into a wonderful story of friendships held together through thick and thin. The deaths did not end in the first 20 pages, however, and they don’t get any easier. This book is really beautifully written. I’m not even sure what else to say about it, it was just a really stunning story.

Four chronically homeless people–Amelia One Sky, Timber, Double Dick and Digger–seek refuge in a warm movie theatre when a severe Arctic Front descends on the city. During what is supposed to be a one-time event, this temporary refuge transfixes them. They fall in love with this new world, and once the weather clears, continue their trips to the cinema. On one of these outings they meet Granite, a jaded and lonely journalist who has turned his back on writing “the same story over and over again” in favour of the escapist qualities of film, and an unlikely friendship is struck.

A found cigarette package (contents: some unsmoked cigarettes, three $20 bills, and a lottery ticket) changes the fortune of this struggling set. The ragged company discovers they have won $13.5 million, but none of them can claim the money for lack proper identification. Enlisting the help of Granite, their lives, and fortunes, become forever changed.

Penguin Randomhouse

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