The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry, a retiree living in Devon (on the south coast of England), receives a letter from a former colleague who is dying of cancer. He decides, impulsively, to walk 600 miles to see her, hoping she will wait for him. Harold’s odyssey takes him through fields, villages and several cities; he meets all sorts of people, including several who stick with him for a while. Meanwhile, his wife Maureen waits uneasily at home, missing him much more than she expected to. Harold is a thoughtful, kind man and I so enjoyed walking the length of England with him, and sharing his memories and musings. Wonderful.
The Family Vault, Charlotte MacLeod
As Sarah Kelling’s family prepares to bury her great-uncle Frederick, they reopen their vault in a historic Boston cemetery, only to find the body of a long-dead burlesque dancer. How did she get there? Who killed her? And what do Sarah’s eccentric family members know about it? I enjoyed this first book about Sarah and her large, wacky family (there are 12); it was a good introduction to the characters and the mystery was compelling. Great fun.
The Withdrawing Room, Charlotte MacLeod
Recently widowed, Sarah Kelling (see above) turns her Beacon Hill mansion into a boardinghouse, only to lose one of her boarders to murder. She works wit private detective Max Bittersohn to solve the case while keeping the house running, grieving her husband’s death and dealing with various members of her upper-crust family. Hilarious and even better fun than the first one.
The Palace Guard, Charlotte MacLeod
Sarah and Max (see above) take on a case involving the death of several guards at a Boston art museum, and the possible forgery and smuggling of multiple paintings. The action dragged a bit at times, but the case was still entertaining (though many of the minor characters were stereotypical artist or hippie types). Good fun.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
A fun boarding-school story with a sharp, witty, irrepressible heroine. Frustrated by the aura of WASP privilege at her school, Frankie (tired of being called “adorable”) decides to infiltrate an all-male secret society on campus. Her pranks are brilliant, but nobody quite understands them, least of all her boyfriend (who is a member of the society). Lots of action, and insightful musings on teenage love, being accepted, and the choice between solitude and being with someone who doesn’t really see you.
Writing from the Center, Scott Russell Sanders
I heard Sanders speak at the Glen Workshop and enjoyed his memoir, Staying Put. He addresses similar themes in these essays: how do we treat the earth? How can we live grounded, thoughtful lives in a world beset by fear and war and busyness? How do the places we live in (and the ways we inhabit them) shape our lives and writing? Sanders is thoughtful and wise, a reliable guide to the forests and fields of the Midwest and the interior landscape of the writer’s life. Highly recommended.
The Bilbao Looking Glass, Charlotte MacLeod
Sarah and Max (see above) move up to Sarah’s country house on Boston’s North Shore for the summer, only to encounter robbery, murder, arson and (of course) irritating family members. Sarah is also considering Max’s proposal of marriage. A fast-paced plot, a web of family secrets and a few comic moments, as always. Great fun.
All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know about Getting and Spending, Laura Vanderkam
I found Vanderkam’s first book, 168 Hours, fascinating and also enjoyed her musings on money and happiness. This is not a get-out-of-debt book, but a thoughtful consideration of how we can make, spend, save and give money in ways that boost our happiness. Vanderkam’s perspective is decidedly upper-middle-class, but I appreciated her ideas on how to make more money and how to truly enjoy what you earn (while still saving for retirement). Well-researched and thought-provoking.
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What are you reading lately?