Quick Lit April 2022

I asked Patreon supporters which audiobook I should listen to next and this won in a landslide. I went into this not knowing much about John Green’s personal history. I was surprised to learn that he’d nearly become an Episcopal priest, and that he held an early and formative job at Booklist magazine. Each topic he reviews here—Canada geese, sunsets, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest—is a leaping off point to reflect upon something else, something deeper. Green’s lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression is thoroughly and tenderly documented. It was these moments of deep personal reflections that I enjoyed the most. I’m glad I read it in the audiobook format; Green is an excellent reader of his own work, and the audiobook contains several essays that don’t appear in the print edition. I’ve often said the sign of a great book, to me, is that, long after I turn the final page, I keep thinking about it. I’m still thinking about this one.
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From the publisher: "Crystal Wilkinson combines a deep love for her rural roots with a passion for language and storytelling in this compelling collection of poetry and prose about girlhood, racism, and political awakening, imbued with vivid imagery of growing up in Southern Appalachia. In Perfect Black, the acclaimed writer muses on such topics as motherhood, the politics of her Black body, lost fathers, mental illness, sexual abuse, and religion. It is a captivating conversation about life, love, loss, and pain, interwoven with striking illustrations by her long-time partner, Ronald W. Davis."
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From the publisher: "Siobhan is a quick-tempered life coach with way too much on her plate. Miranda is a tree surgeon used to being treated as just one of the guys on the job. Jane is a soft-spoken volunteer for the local charity shop with zero sense of self-worth. These three women are strangers who have only one thing in common: they’ve all been stood up on the same day, the very worst day to be stood up—Valentine’s Day. And, unbeknownst to them, they’ve all been stood up by the same man. Once they've each forgiven him for standing them up, they are all in serious danger of falling in love with a man who may have not just one or two but three women on the go.... Is there more to him than meets the eye? Where was he on Valentine’s Day? And will they each untangle the truth before they all get their hearts broken?"
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From the publisher: "A novel about what happens to a group of obsessed recreational swimmers when a crack appears at the bottom of their local pool. This searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters—and the sorrows of implacable loss—is the most commanding and unforgettable work yet from a modern master. The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief. One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice's estranged daughter, reentering her mother's life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline."
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From the publisher: "Arlo Dilly is young, handsome and eager to meet the right girl. He also happens to be DeafBlind, a Jehovah’s Witness, and under the strict guardianship of his controlling uncle. His chances of finding someone to love seem slim to none. And yet, it happened once before: many years ago, at a boarding school for the Deaf, Arlo met the love of his life—a mysterious girl with onyx eyes and beautifully expressive hands which told him the most amazing stories. But tragedy struck, and their love was lost forever. Or so Arlo thought. After years trying to heal his broken heart, Arlo is assigned a college writing assignment which unlocks buried memories of his past. Soon he wonders if the hearing people he was supposed to trust have been lying to him all along, and if his lost love might be found again. No longer willing to accept what others tell him, Arlo convinces a small band of misfit friends to set off on a journey to learn the truth. After all, who better to bring on this quest than his gay interpreter and wildly inappropriate Belgian best friend? Despite the many forces working against him, Arlo will stop at nothing to find the girl who got away and experience all of life’s joyful possibilities."
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An all-too-relatable exploration of how to find new ways to live, work, and be in the world when our long-held beliefs and methods fail us. In this warm and wise collection of essayettes, Niequist relates the midlife circumstances that forced her to reconsider many things she thought she knew for sure, and to find new ways of living when the old ways broke down. Along the way she discusses love and friendship, trauma and loss, parenting and being parented, reading (so much reading!), and moving from the midwest town she thought she’d never leave to Manhattan at age forty. I inhaled it in one big enjoyable and occasionally teary gulp, while highlighting it to pieces and texting friends quotes with the caption Weren’t we just talking about this? Comforting, practical, and wise, with meditations of faith and a chapter or two on Christian prayer; this reads like the kind of girls’ night conversation that keeps you out too late because you can’t bear to leave. For fans of Kelly Corrigan’s Tell Me More and Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.
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A tender coming of age story that unfolds over the course of a single summer. Our narrator is 10-year-old Kenyatta, whose family is in upheaval. After her father dies from an overdose and the family loses their Detroit home, her mother sends her and her older sister to live with their grandfather in Lansing, for reasons that, though unclear, are plenty scary to young KB. While Nia seems to slip easily into Lansing life, KB struggles to find her place, unsettled by the discovery her world and her family are more complex and frightening than she once believed them to be. A moving exploration of family, identity, and race that piercingly evokes the pains and pleasures of childhood summer days. Harris beautifully voiced her young book-loving protagonist and the many references to Anne of Green Gables were apt and touching. Content warnings apply. For fans of Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing and Gail Godwin’s Grief Cottage.
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