Bewks! I mean books! I mean berks! Never mind.
Okay, it’s March 11th. I remember one year ago today I was shooting a recipe whilst listening to NPR, and I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing that the WHO (not the band) had just declared Covid a global pandemic. Remember that? It’s been a year. An entire year. Which in ways feels like 678 years. But in other ways, merely a blink. Isn’t that wild? This has nothing to do with books. I’m just marking the occasion. I did get my first shot yesterday, so the hope has now settled into my gut and is gonna simmer there and I’m letting it.
Books are saviors, there’s no question. And these three that I’m recapping today – well, you need to be warned. I didn’t pick anything warm and fuzzy to talk about. These books are GRIT, man. Not so much The Neighbors, but I couldn’t not talk about it because it was such a surprise enjoyment. And I need you to know about it.
Ready? We can hold hands if you wa- no? Okay.
Before We Were Yours: UUUUUUUGH.
First of all, it’s a slightly older book. I’m just tragically late to this heartbreak. This is the thing about it, if you can separate yourself from the gut-wrenching sadness, it’s actually quite beautiful. It’s got these major Where The Crawdads Sing vibes, with the heavy wilderness and river talk, the poverty within the family, all of it. You’re THERE. You’re right there on that shack-like Mississippi River shantyboat.
The other thing about this book, is that it’s based on a true story. I had absolutely no idea that this child trafficking institution was happening in Memphis in the ’30s and ’40s under the guise of an “orphanage.” It’s so sad. SO so sad. So when you read names like Georgia Tann in the book, you can GOOGLE IMAGE THAT BIA MONSTER and see her actual face. And it will make you crazy.
In short, it’s the story about this family whose four (wait, five?) children get lit-rally stolen from them (while the mom’s having twins in the nearby town) and forced to live in this horribly abusive orphanage. And it is just awful. (I’m not selling this very well, am I?) That was the thing about this place. They’d take babies and children from loving (but poor) homes and sell them to movie stars and politicians like it was nbd. This happened. Have you read this book? I’m clearly still not over it.
The other thing that I loved, was that it bops back and forth from current times to the then times, and ties together a family scandal from today to the web of sisters from back then. I tried to figure it out as it was all happening, and I didn’t see that twist coming. Dang it, Wingate. Bravo on that one.
If you need your eyeballs and heart simultaneously ripped out of your bodies and stomped on with a baseball bat, read this! As tragic as it is, it’s one of my favorite books of this year so far. Is that deranged?
Don’t answer that.
The Neighbors: OMGGGGGGG.
This wasn’t a book anyone recommended. (at least I don’t think) I occasionally do these deep dive rabbit hole excursions through GoodReads and I somehow landed on this one. The premise sounded fun. Scandalous, mysteriously dramatic, maybe a tad cliché. But it actually caught me off guard at how much I loved it! For me it was up there with edge-of-your-seats reads like Behind Closed Doors and The Couple Next Door. SO GOOD.
I won’t give anything away, but it’s this couple who moves in next door to another couple. And the husband of this couple and the wife of that couple have major history. But no one else knows it. It also goes back and forth from 1992 to current times, because something excruciatingly horrible happens back then, and – will it taint the current relationships and lives? What will be uncovered? Who knows the truth? Who will discover the truth? And then something so unexpected happens right at the end your face will explode off your body. It’s WILD. I loved it so much. Highly recommend.
Have you read it? Bump it up.
The Four Winds: WOW. wow. WOW.
I mean, it’s Kristin Hannah. Girl knows how to severely depress us. You all know how much I loved The Great Alone and The Nightingale (and how I apparently read Winter Garden twice, my gosh.) This one is just as fabulous.
The book takes place in the Texas Panhandle during the Great Depression. Which already sounds so awful. And then you add the DUST BOWL to the whole mix, broken love, a stubborn tween and the never ending hardships that life just keeps swinging their way and it’s just too much. You’ll want to brush your teeth 45 times a day. And wash your face with clean sudsy water. And appreciate your soft cotton sheets with no body outlines of dust each day when you rise from bed. Classic Hannah, teaching us to appreciate every tiny ding dang thing around us.
I just thought the book was fantastic. Depressing, yes. But also so touching and very sweet in unexpected places. Is there a happy ending? Well, you’ll see. Is justice served for those migrant workers in California during this horrendously unfair time? I’ll let you decide. (I find it interesting that not that much as changed from then to now. In ways, yes. But in other ways, not at all.)
It’s gut wrenching. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful and sad and wonderful and terrible. All of it together. Saddle up and read it, pronto.
Who would play Elsa in the movie, you think?
This is what’s next! I obviously made this collage photo before I read The Four Winds, and I didn’t go back and make a new photo because I’m a Leo/Virgo and it doesn’t mesh well. So there’s that.
I’m about 100 pages into Rodham, and it’s great! It’s fiction, yes. But it’s sort of like the Sliding Doors version of what would have happened if Hilary never married Bill Clinton. I find it fascinating.
Have you read any of these? I’ve heard nothing but incredible things about every single one of these books. Tell me what’s on your nightstand! You know I live for book recs.