I just can’t seem to quit you

Since March 13th, which is when life as we knew it came to a halt in these parts, I have read 18 books, and I have started and abandoned many others. That got me thinking about why some books haven’t captured my interest during this crazy period in time. I hesitate just to toss them in the “give away” pile because perhaps under different circumstances, I might actually be able to read and enjoy them. This was something I thought about when I considered adding them to my Book Graveyard. When I think about the books that I have flown through, they all seem to have something in common: fast-paced, with great writing. These are books I just couldn’t put down and were totally diverting, which is what I needed so that I didn’t stress about other things, mainly my job.

Of the novels I have read since the beginning of quarantine, The Roanoke Girls has beenRoanoke my favourite. Even if I had read it during a different period in my life, I would have loved this story about a girl who discovers a dark secret about her family’s history. It had all the things I love in a book.

I also loved Lisa Jewell’s novel The Family Upstairs. In my experience, Jewell has always been a dependable writer. She’s someone I turn to when I am having a bit of a slump because I know I will enjoy her clever plots and excellent writing. This novel, about the impact one family has on another, delivered on all counts.

Then, there are the books that I’ve started, but just abandoned. Before I consign them to the Book Graveyard, though, I do a little research to see if I should give them another crack. I mean, there has to be a reason I bought them in the first place, right?

Here’s a look at some of the titles I have started and abandoned since the beginning of quarantine. I am not quite ready to break up with them just yet.

tutorFirst up is Peter Abraham’s novel The Tutor.

From the jacket: Master of psychological suspense Peter Abrahams returns with an ingenious take of an ordinary family that unknowingly invites the agent of their destruction into their own home.

Goodreads rating: almost 4 stars.

Review says: “An insidious tutor affects the lives of a dysfunctional family, in this sharply written psychological suspense.” – from Kirkus 

My thoughts: Although I have read a couple other books by Abrahams, (Reality Check, End of Story ), I just couldn’t settle into this novel about a family with every problem under the sun (professional disappointments, failed academic aspirations, troubled teen) and the tutor they hire to help them out. I think I got about 50 or so pages in, but then I just put it to the side. The reason I keep hesitating about tossing it is that I have enjoyed Abrahams in the past, and it is generally well-reviewed by readers.

Strange Fits of Passion – Anita Shreve

From the jacket: Set in the early 1970s, this powerful portrait of truth and deception strangecenters around two New Tork City journalists, Maureen and Harold English. Everyone believes the couple has a happy, stable marriage, and despite strange events, no one suspects domestic abuse could plague their seemingly perfect life together.

Goodreads rating: almost four stars

Review says: “As in her acclaimed Eden Close (1989), Shreve here picks up the loose threads of long-ago murder to weave a gripping and articulate story that has much to say about love and spite and domestic tragedy.” – from Kirkus

My thoughts: I am a big fan of Anita Shreve (Body Surfing, Testimony ) and I think the reason that I didn’t immediately groove to this novel (I only got as far as page 17) is because I knew that it was going to require some effort on my part. Some books need your undivided attention, and I expect that this is going to be one of them. I wasn’t prepared to buckle down at the time, so I put it aside. I will get to again it eventually.

longingThe Longings of Wayward Girls – Karen Brown

From the jacket: It’s an idyllic New England summer, and Sadie is a precocious only child on the edge of adolescence. It seems like July and August will pass lazily by, just as they have every year before. But one day, Sadie and her best friend play a seemingly harmless prank on a neighbourhood girl. Soon after, that same little girl disappears from a backyard barbecue – and she is never seen again.

Goodreads rating: three and a half stars

Review says: “Even with flaws, Brown’s complex and haunting piece is better than average.” – from Kirkus

My thoughts: This is actually my second attempt to read this book and I am not quite certain why I have never managed to get very far in either time. It sounds like a book that would totally be my jam, but for some reason I just never get far enough in to be invested. Perhaps third time’s the charm because I am not ready to give it away just yet.

Broken As Things Are – Martha Witt broken

From the jacket: From the day that Morgan-Lee is born, her extraordinarily beautiful and withdrawn older brother, Ginx, is obsessed by her. […] Morgan-Lee is the only person who is able to understand and engage Ginx. Sharing a secret language, they escape together into a make-believe world.

Goodreads rating: three and a half stars

Review say: “Follows old trails, yet everything you come upon seems absolutely new. A real wonder.” – from Kirkus

My thoughts: I got to page 39 before I set this book aside. It wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying it, although it was definitely an odd book. Sometimes, because of its rhythms,  I think you need to read a book straight through. For whatever reason, I didn’t do that with this one and I sort of lost momentum. I will definitely give this one another go at some point.

fatesThe Fates Will Find Their Way – Hannah Pittard

From the jacket: Sixteen-year-old Nora Lindell is missing. And the neighborhood boys she’s left behind are caught forever in the heady current of her absence.

Goodreads rating: three and a half stars

Review says: “A melancholy coming-of-age debut novel in the spirit of The Virgin Suicides.” – from Kirkus

My thoughts: I got 70 pages into this one, and that’s generally the point of no return for me, so I can only assume that I was just having a hard time staying focused. It’s definitely well-written, and it’s definitely a book I will return to.

What reasons do you have for abandoning a book? I’d love to hear what books you’ve set aside, but intend to get to at some point.

Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders – Julianna Baggott (although my copy is called The Seventh Book of Wonders)

seventh

From the jacket: A tale of long-lost love, motherhood, and family secrets that spans an entire century, this is Baggott’s most enchanting novel yet.

Goodreads rating: almost four stars

Review says: “Moments of heartbreak balance moments of hilarity in Baggott’s ambitious portrait of a family created from equal parts secrecy and love.” – from Kirkus

My thoughts: I made it to page 44, but I just couldn’t seem to fall into the book’s rhythms. The NY Times named it one of 2015’s Notable Books, and while I am not normally swayed by these sorts of accolades, I do think it will be worth getting back to at some point.

risenThe Risen – Ron Rash

From the jacket: While swimming in a secluded creek on a hot Sunday in 1969, sixteen-year-old Eugene and his older brother, Bill, meet Ligeia, a free-spirited redhead from Daytona Beach banished to their small North Carolina town. {…} But when Ligeia vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, the growing rift between the two brothers becomes immutable.

Goodreads rating: almost four stars

Review says: “The novel hits its share of false or clumsy notes, but it’s not ruined by them thanks to Rash’s sure evocation of the time and place and the complexity and poignancy of his portrait of his protagonist.” -from Kirkus

My thoughts: I actually almost hit the 100 page mark and could probably easily finish it – except it’s been a few weeks and in order to give the book its due, I would probably have to start again. I think this book would totally be my jam, if I could just commit to it.

 

 

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