A Hundred Small Lessons is a haunting discourse about life wrapped around two families’ stories within a single house.
Elsie and Clem buy a newly built house soon after World War II is over. They have eight-year-old twins and Elsie finds the reason for her existence in motherhood. Sixty-one years later, the twins are almost seventy themselves and Clem is dead. After a bad fall at home, Elsie is shuttled quickly into a nursing home and the house is sold to a new family.
Lucy and Ben are just starting out with their young son. After finding the former owner’s overlooked family photos, Lucy begins to imagine Elsie’s life within the house.
A Hundred Small Lessons alternates between Elsie’s and Lucy’s stories. The language is languorous practically poetic. It feels as if the reader is dreaming, rather than reading, the story. The setting of Brisbane Australia, with its unbridled nature encroaching into everyone’s attempt at order, is a perfect and subtle metaphor for how life can never be controlled.
The holidays and the start of a new year are the time for reflection about the meaning of life and our place within it. Elsie and Clem’s life juxtaposed with Lucy and Ben’s depict one such meaning. Sometimes a book’s plot is just a starting point for thinking about one’s own life. While there is melancholia here, there is also something rather sweet about how life moves through its cycle regardless of our petty triumphs and struggles. As Clem so eloquently says,
All these moments, he thought as the boat edged away from the riverbank. They added up to something, but he could never quite see to what.
A Hundred Small Things is a book to slowly savor. Its evocative setting and thought-provoking plot are perfect starting points for deeper self-reflection. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Atria Books, for sponsoring the Goodreads giveaway that gave me this wonderful book.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Literary Fiction Tagged with: Dec 12 2017, Family
Ms. Daheim begins again at A with this alphabetic cozy mystery series.
Alpha Alpine is the 27th in the Emma Lord series. It’s Labor Day in Alpine, a small town in the Cascade Range of mountains in Washington state. Emma is investigating a mysterious death of a new waitress at the Venison Inn and the shooting of the waitress’ brother. Why did the waitress wear a wig and use a false name when applying for her new position? Do the other two similar murders nearby imply a serial killer is at large? Blackwell is up to his usual shenanigans. This time he is trying to run for a City Manager position that hasn’t even been voter-approved yet and is investigating the Sheriff’s office.
I haven’t read Mary Daheim since 2001 when she was only up to letter N (Alpine Nemesis #14). I’m not sure why I stopped. Alpha Alpine is #27 in the series after Alpine Zen. The beginning of this book was pretty confusing for non-series readers (and me). All the characters are not only introduced but their relationship to other characters explained extensively in the first half of the book. I found this boring compared to solving a murder case and starting skimming at about 5% in. The first murder (of a visitor to the town of course) doesn’t occur until 20% into the book.
Much change occurred in the 16 years since I last read the series. Emma is now married to Sheriff Milo. Vida is talking about retiring. Alison is a new character who is helping Emma investigate rather than Vida this time. I always loved the small town setting of this series and that continues to be the case with this entry. The mystery wasn’t as good as I expected from this author. The extensive character explanation was a sluggish way to begin. I think Alpha Alpine deserves a solid 3 stars. However, it is not as good as her previous books. For readers just beginning the series, I would recommend starting at the first entry in the series, Alpine Advocate, rather than here.
Thanks to the publisher, Alibi, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: cozy mystery, Dec 12 2017, emma lord series
Formulaic mystery with a small town atmosphere and a refreshing romance.
Amy Webber has run back to her aunt’s house in small town Taylorsford Virginia following a disastrous and public breakup with her boyfriend. Her job as a public library Director with only one employee, Sunny Fields, is fun but not high-paying. When a person is found murdered in the library’s archives the game is afoot for Amy and Sunny. Amy also stumbles upon an old family secret and a possible town scandal.
I enjoyed the romantic aspect of Murder for the Books much more than the three mysteries within the plot. One problem with setting mysteries in small towns is that there are not enough suspects to make the mystery difficult to solve. Plus it seemed as though the debut author, Victoria Gilbert, tried to shove too many plots into one book. There were the three mysteries, romances for three couples in town, and even a potential ghost story within this short book. Hopefully, the next entry in the Blue Ridge Library series will limit its focus by including only one romance and mystery while also using the unique rural library setting much more.
While I was underwhelmed by the mystery plots, I totally enjoyed Amy and Richard’s romance especially how the body issues were handled. Therefore, I recommend Murder for the Books more for romance readers than mystery ones. However, I will read the next book in the series, Shelved Under Murder, to see where the author leads the characters after its publication in July 10, 2018. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Dec 12 2017, ghosts, series