I actually read two books this week! Booklovers have told me about this book for a long time, most recently my neighbors, who told me I would never look at my dog the same way again. And they were right. This story is narrated by Enzo, who's human caretaker, Denny, is an aspiring race car driver. Denny is married to Eve, and they have a daughter Zoe. When something happens to Eve and her parents go to extreme lengths to wrestle custody of Zoe from her father, all hell breaks loose. The entire story is told through Enzo's eyes, whose only wish is to come back in the next life as a human so he can have opposable thumbs and be able to speak all the thoughts that are in his mind. Through Enzo's narration the reader learns what the world is like from a dog's perspective, and why they do what they do. A really graceful, lovely story.
Another "narrated by the dog" story. I have actually read about half of this book and it is really lovely. It follows the life (I really should say "lives," because this dog has several lives in succession) and the thoughts of the dog as he lives with a family through all its stages. Attached most closely to the boy in the family, he describes what it is like to visit the old couple on the farm (Grandma and Grandpa), one of his favorite places with its multitudes of smells and places to discover. He also describes how confused he is as the boy goes off to college and he is told to "stay." I have the feeling that if I finish this book it will be with a box of tissues next to me.
When Elizabeth Gilbert visited the Twin Cities (see "Elizabeth Gilbert Fills the House" on this blog), someone asked her what is her favorite book to recommend to people, and this book was her answer. It is the true story of a Hmong family in Merced, California, who has a young daughter with severe epilepsy. How the family viewed this "illness," and how the medical community viewed it, created a clash of cultures with tragic results. Fadiman also gives the reader an extensive history of the Hmong people: their beliefs, their homeland, and the circumstances of their journey to the United States.
I first heard of Elizabeth Benedict when she appeared as a guest butler on the Head Butler site, first writing about Joyce Carol Oates new book about her sudden widowhood, and then again when she wrote about the book "The Winter of Our Discontent: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept With her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale." I went to her website and read some delightful essays, then decided I would check out "Almost," one of her novels. The first chapter has me totally hooked and I plan to keep this one for myself to read. From the inside cover, "Almost divorced, Sophy Chase is in bed with her new lover - an art dealer and father of four young children - when the police call her with shocking news. Her almost ex-husband, Will, has died suddenly....Sophy takes off at once, hurled back into a life and a family - her husband's grown twin daughters and their prickly mother - she had intended to leave behind." Did I mention it is funny, intelligent, and promises an unforgettable cast of characters?
From the inside cover: "'We were a world of two, my mother and I, until I started turning into an American girl. That's when she began telling me about The Good Daughter. It became a taunt, a warning, an omen.' Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortly following her father's death, Jasmin was helping her mother move; a photograph fell from a stack of old letters. The girl pictured was her mother. She was wearing a wedding veil, and at her side stood a man whom Jasmin had never seen before." Eventually Jasmin convinces her mother to tell her the story of her first marriage at age thirteen, the years of abuse, and the daughter she had to leave behind to save herself.
Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley
My friend Deb P. recommended this book. I said I don't read crime or detective stories (my somewhat ill-informed impression of author Walter Mosley's work). She said this one is different. Fortunate Son follows two half-brothers, one white and one black, over the course of their childhood and young adulthood. One is not expected to live at birth, the other is unusually strong and thriving. As their life circumstances change, one goes through many hardships, while the other goes through life feeling completely disconnected from emotion. After ten years of separation they reunite under dramatic circumstances and discover what they have meant to each other all along. Booklist said, "Mosley, best known for his Easy Rawlins mystery series, weaves the themes of race, destiny, and redemption into an astonishing tale of unlikely siblings and unconditional love."