A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

a gentleman in moscow

It’s hard for me to believe that I enjoyed this book so much because it is long (462 pages) and mostly set in one location, the hotel Metropol in Moscow.  I don’t usually read books that long because there are just too many books to be read to spend on one that long, but this was a book group selection, and I’m glad it was selected.  I had read his previous book, Rules of Civility, which I also enjoyed, so I was interested.  This book is about Count Rostov who was sentenced by the new Bolshevik regime because he was an aristocrat, and he was fortunate to escape a sentence of either being sent immediately to a firing squad or being sent to Siberia.  He escaped those fates because of a poem that had been previously written and attributed to him.  Instead he received the unusual sentence of house arrest at the hotel for the remainder of his life. He would be shot if he stepped outside the hotel.  He was moved from his current hotel room to a small attic space and most of his belongings were confiscated.  He handled his sentence with grace and made the best of it.  Count Rostov is insightful, delightful and charming.  The reader is given glimpses of what is going on in the outside world through visitors who come to see him at the hotel, and his interaction with the hotel guests and staff is entertaining.  I also enjoyed Rostov’s keen observations.  Towles writes beautifully and has developed wonderful, interesting characters to make a delightful story that really comes to life through his telling.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

do not become alarmed

I had read Maile Meloy’s Liars and Saints back when it first came out and really enjoyed it, so I decided to read this one when I received an ARC from Edelweiss.  This book will be published in June 2017. It was insightful as expected, but I wasn’t expecting the thrill ride.  It’s about Liv and Nora who are cousins and decide to take their families on a cruise together along Mexico and Central America over the Christmas and New Years vacation.  Liv and Nora both have an eleven-year-old and a younger child as well.  At one of the ports in Central America the dads decide to play golf while the moms take the children zip-lining with another family they met on the ship.  All goes well until the van carrying the moms and children breaks down. The families walk to a nearby beach as they wait for a replacement vehicle.  The children are on floats out in the water and in a brief moment aren’t observed and disappear.  From here the nightmare begins, and the story is propelled forward by alternating between what is happening to the children and the adults.  The story is gripping and the characters are well-developed.  The book explores family and marital dynamics, race,  privilege, guilt, and responsibility.

This book was just selected as one of the top 10 reads for books coming out in June selected by librarians on Library Reads.  I was excited that a portion of this write-up was included for the promotion of that book.  Another one I enjoyed on that list was Magpie Murders.  I’ll be writing about it in an upcoming post.

 

The Perfect Son By Barbara Claypole White

the-perfect-son

Felix and Ella Fitzwilliam are parents of a child with special needs.  Their brilliant teenage son, Harry, struggles with Tourette’s.  Felix has been a successful, perfectionist, workaholic investment banker and hasn’t been very involved with the family.  Ella, however, has left her career to be a full-time mom for Harry, and she guides his life minutely and with strong support.  When Ella has a near fatal heart attack on a return flight home, life for this family changes drastically.  Ella must take time for her recovery, so the day-to-day task of caring for Harry falls on Felix who is ill-equipped to handle the role.  Everyone is struggling with the situation, as both father and son are both worried about Ella and also don’t really understand each other and struggle to get along. As time progresses the father and son learn how to adapt to each other, and their bond grows stronger as they face the prospect of possibly losing Ella.  I loved the way the book was developed.  As the story progresses you learn more about Felix and what causes him to be the way he is, and the bond that eventually builds between father and son was touching.  I also enjoyed the way that Harry had learned to manage and and make accommodation for his disorders.  This is a heartwarming book about a family in crisis.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

a piece of the world

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post, but that is because my son got married, and I’ve been busy celebrating.  I will try to make more frequent posts to catch up!  Before the wedding, I recently had the opportunity to hear this author speak at the Christamore House Guild Book and Author Benefit.  An interesting part of her talk was to share the similarities she has had with the painting including a mother and grandmother named Christina and living in Maine and having a father who took the family to the house for a picnic in the field.  I have always enjoyed the painting of Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth, and the Orphan’s Train was a book I enjoyed by this author, so I was eager to read this book.  The book is historical fiction, and although it features Wyeth’s painting, the artist has a minimal presence in the book other than becoming a friend and frequent guest at Christina’s house.  The book gives the back-story of Christina’s family and how they arrived at the farmhouse.  The farmhouse was very primitive and dilapidated and Christina had physical issues which got progressively worse.  She had a tough life, unable to complete school because she had to care for her family and the farmhouse, and the additional physical issues caused an added difficulty.  It was interesting to learn the story of the person in the painting.