The Story Hour, Thrity Umrigar
Therapist Maggie is good at maintaining professional distance from her clients. But when she meets Lakshmi, an Indian immigrant who attempted suicide, Maggie’s boundaries dissolve. The two women become friends after a fashion, but each has secrets that will jeopardize their relationship and both their marriages. Umrigar tells a good story, though I found Lakshmi’s speech (a primitive pidgin English) jarring. (I’m married to a therapist, so I found the main plot distressing.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 19).
The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
Roger Mifflin (of Parnassus on Wheels fame) has settled down in his Brooklyn bookstore, with his wife Helen, dog Bock, and a new apprentice. Sinister forces are at work, though, and Roger uncovers a nefarious plot with the help of a young advertising man. Dragged a bit in the middle, but still bookish and fun. Recommended for bibliophiles.
Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
Tita, the youngest daughter of a domineering Mexican mother, is forbidden to marry, so she channels her passions into her cooking. I normally love foodie novels and magical realism (see: Chocolat), but this one felt melodramatic, and I didn’t like the ending.
When Audrey Met Alice, Rebecca Behrens
First Daughter Audrey Rhodes is bored and lonely in the White House – till she unearths a diary written by Alice Roosevelt. Inspired by Alice’s antics (keeping a pet snake, smoking on the roof), Audrey tries a few of her own, with amusing, sometimes disastrous results. Lighthearted and fun.
Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family, Kathleen Flinn
This foodie memoir (Flinn’s third) chronicles her family’s history, with simple, hearty Midwestern recipes. It’s a typical American story in many ways, but full of heart – I loved it. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 14).
Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha, Dorothy Gilman
After her recent adventure in China, Mrs. Pollifax is called back to Hong Kong, where she meets a psychic and runs into an old friend. Twisty and entertaining, as always, though the psychic stuff was a little weird.
Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok
When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate to the U.S. from Hong Kong, Kim struggles to stay afloat at school while helping her mother at a Chinatown factory (read: sweatshop) in the evenings. Kim’s voice is sharp and clear, and I was absorbed by this tale of hard work, tough conditions, deep love and difficult choices. Highly recommended.
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
I’d never read this book and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I did not like it. I found Holden as phony as all the people he castigates for being such fakes.
Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.
What are you reading?