No One Could Have Guessed the Weather, by Anne-Marie Casey
Reviewer: Anne Glenn; age 29; Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Her take: Reading No One Could Have Guessed the Weather is like eavesdropping on a group of ladies at tea. Sometimes their conversation is deep, and sometimes it’s funny, but no matter what, it’s always interesting. Each chapter is written from a different woman’s point of view, a format that allows the reader’s understanding of the plot and characters to deepen gradually.
The central character, Lucy, is a stay-at-home mother who has just moved to New York City from a suburb in England. As she struggles to construct a new identity for herself, she makes friends with three women full of personality, each in possession of a unique backstory. Written like a collection of short stories, the book is touching and personal.
Her take: This memoir reads like a love letter to the author’s childhood in San Francisco during the late 1970s and 1980s. She grew up with a single father, the openly gay bohemian poet Steve Abbott, whose life was cut cruelly short by HIV/ AIDS at the height of the epidemic. Fairyland is written with frankness and candor, and it is filled with so many simple human truths that it spoke to me louder than anything I’ve read in recent memory. Abbott does not inundate the reader with history, but rather with sweet and tender accounts of two figures on parallel journeys of self-discovery. After finishing this beautiful, open-hearted book, I couldn’t help wanting a hug from my own dad.
Her take: Harper Curtis is a time-traveling serial killer who stalks his victims through different eras in the city of Chicago. Obsessed with high-achieving young women—those who “shine” above others—his murders are both gruesome and impossible to solve until one of his shining girls, Kirby Mazrachi, survives her ordeal and teams up with a veteran journalist to unravel the mystery. I’m not usually interested in books that involve time travel or serial killers, but Beukes is an excellent storyteller and does a great job getting the reader hooked. If you like suspense thrillers, you will enjoy The Shining Girls.
Her take: This novel is a fun look at diamond advertising and the people who do—and do not—buy into the hype. It begins with the fictionalized tale of Frances Gerety, the real woman who coined the phrase “a diamond is forever.” (Gerety spends a lot of time convincing others that diamonds are necessary, but she herself has no desire for a sparkling engagement ring.) As the book goes on, Sullivan introduces us to other characters in various stages of life and love who are all dealing, in some way, with diamond rings. I was captivated by the narratives and thrilled with the way the pieces came together in the end. But The Engagements is more than an entertaining read: It also gets the reader to question society’s values—particularly our obsession with material possessions.
Her take: In the span of three months, Claudia Silver finds herself fired from her first job out of college; caring for her younger sister, who fled from their tumultuous childhood home; and embroiled in not one but two disastrous love affairs. I found this novel to be thoroughly entertaining and surprisingly thought-provoking. Ebel addresses issues of race, ethnicity, forgiveness, triumph, and relationships—with siblings, friends, mothers, daughters, and men—in a tender, humorous tone. This is a perfect summer book: Readers will start it on the beach under an umbrella, finding themselves laughing loudly at the narrator’s clever split-second comebacks, and keep coming back to see the drama unfold. After finishing it on the plane ride home, they’ll quietly ponder the subtle themes that ran throughout the entire story but were only fully revealed in the end.
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer
Reviewer: Angelica Martin; age 26; Los Angeles.
Her take: This book opens with tragedy: Greta’s identical twin brother, Felix, has just died of AIDS, and her lover of 10 years has left her for another woman. The loss proves too much for Greta to bear, and she plummets into an unyielding depression that’s immune to therapy and pills. As a last-ditch attempt at normalcy, Greta undergoes a radical psychiatric treatment that promises relief. What she gets instead is the impossible—the ability to step inside alternate realities and live in another time. Each of Greta’s new lives has its own challenges and rewards, and a righted wrong in one is balanced by pain in another. This novel is a guilty pleasure of sorts for anyone who has ever wondered, What if? We’re taught not to dwell on paths not taken, but this book weaves a tale about the magical possibility of what could have been.
Reviewer: Yael Zoldan; age 37; Passaic, New Jersey.
Her take: The world begins and ends with women, and so does this novel. In this sweeping saga crisscrossing centuries and continents, Dublin-born author McCann gives us Ireland’s movers, shakers, and history makers—and more importantly, the brave women who nurtured them, cared for them, and mourned them. With spare prose, McCann skillfully melds the hunger and hatred of Ireland’s past with its beauty and enduring ache for freedom. The book leaves the reader contemplating all the things that drive us as humans: desire, destruction, ambition, forgiveness, hope, and love.