What’s on the Bookshelf

I had been looking for new titles and authors to read when The New York Times posted their selection of the 100 best novels of 2020 in December. I was excited to peruse the list to make a few selections. With covid still playing a big role in all our lives, exploring another place and time in the world seems ideal. If anyone has been looking for a good book to curl up with, I definitely recommend checking the list out for yourself. And below I have included a brief review of a few I have read so far. Leave a comment below if you have other suggestions or thoughts on these titles!

Beheld is a historical fiction novel told from the women’s point of view. It was interesting, since the places and characters were all real. I think the author overused the word, “betwixt”. Like the first 3 times it was clever and then after that it was annoying. And after growing up being told the pilgrims were peaceful and in search of religious freedom, it’s a little disheartening to learn how violent and discriminatory they actually were. However, I would miss turkey if we stopped celebrating Thanksgiving. And legend has it there was no turkey at the first thanksgiving, so I’m taking the win. This was a quick read, I finished it in just over two days.

The Mercies is another historical fiction novel set in Sweden in the 1600s around the time when witch trials were gaining popularity. A big storm killed all the men, who went out to fish, leaving the women to fend for themselves on small island in the northernmost part of the country. They are able to survive, thanks to a couple of women who stepped into leadership roles and made sure people could eat and go about their tasks. But the king ended up sending an officer to check things out essentially, because there were whispers. You can feel the drama build as the chapters progress and it comes to a disturbing climax, but spoiler, the protagonist is ok in the end, though it’s not really a happy ending.

The Third Rainbow Girl was part cold case investigation, part memoir, of the author living in West Virginia and learning about a double murder in 1980 that basically destroyed the people of a town for generations. It had high points and low points for me. I agree with the authors final thoughts about what happened, but I felt that the third rainbow girl didn’t really factor in. She was just more of an example of what Nancy and Vicki were like before they died, and perhaps what they could have been had they lived. Maybe it was supposed to represent the human spirit, but after a whole wild goose chase over whodunnit, whydunnit and with multiple trials, only to still be unresolved to this day erred on the side of pointless.

A review of Everywhere You Don’t Belong said it crackled off the page, and I really believe it did. Actually, I realized when I uploaded the cover art that it was the review right on the cover, haha. It carried a fast pace thanks to the author using dialogue to carry the novel. It had high energy through sad, funny and terrifying moments. Its main character was a young boy growing up in Chicago’s South Shore and the people he knew and experiences he had. But his history followed him to college and more conflict ensued. This was probably my favorite novel of the bunch I picked out.

The Boy In The Field by Margot Livesey was a novel about 3 siblings who, you guessed it, discovered a boy in a field who was unconscious from an attack. Thanks to the siblings, he survived and the story follows their lives over the next year. It had extremely subtle prose, with rich descriptions and well crafted metaphors. Towards the end of the book, Matthew, the oldest sibling says, “since that afternoon in the field, everything’s been different.” The pages were full of joy and pain. I wondered why all the way to the final chapter, and appreciated the glimpse into their simple yet complicated lives. Reading this actually made me think of The Third Rainbow Girl, but I preferred the more nuanced approach from this novel, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting a result from the crime committed.

I still have some other titles I look forward to reading and posting about in the near future. Keep checking back in, if you are like me and always on the hunt for a good book!

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