“Be Mine” is a novel about finding contentment with age and dealing with loss. Richard Ford is one of my favorite authors, and his ability to address the struggles of life in a matter of fact and sometimes amusing way is on display in this sometimes uncomfortable and yet reassuring novel.

The novel begins with a chapter entitled “Happiness”. “Lately, I’ve begun to think about happiness…To be happy—before the gray curtain comes down. Or at least to consider why you’re not, if you’re not. And whether it’s worth the bother to worry about…It is worth worrying about—although I’m certain of little else…But to go out the door…and not bother with being happy is to give life less than its full due. Which after all is what we’re here for…Or am I wrong?”

Frank Bascombe, the semi-retired real estate agent and prior sports writer, at age 74, is struggling with these questions. And his struggle comes in the form of caring for his 37 year old son, Paul, recently diagnosed with ALS. Paul and Frank have traveled to Minnesota, from Haddam, New Jersey, so that Paul can receive experimental treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

Paul is a unique character and his relationship with his father feels tortured and yet genuine and heartfelt. “For all of life, our father-son discourse has been encoded and elliptical—sustained, on-topic converse being simply not our way. Sometimes to the point of silence.”

Frank also has a daughter, Clarissa, who lives in Scottsdale and runs a boarding and grooming kennel. She does not think much of her father and their relationship is fraught. “My daughter can churn up deranging effects in me. I don’t much like her, if truth were told.” Clarissa does not approve of Frank’s efforts to take care of Paul and thinks that Paul should stay with her and her wife in Scottsdale.

While Paul is receiving treatments at the Mayo Clinic, Frank busies himself with his care and with other entertainments, including the very young masseuse Betty. In the meantime, Frank is planning a RV trip with Paul to Mt Rushmore. He rents an out of date, unusable old camper attached to a Dodge 1500 with Florida plates, because this is what Paul chooses.

The last step in Paul’s care at the Mayo Clinic is an appreciation event. The descriptions of the Mayo Clinic, and the staff at the Mayo Clinic feel like something out of a futuristic dystopia. “Gonda Atrium is a lofty, buzzing, light-shot Scandinavian fishbowl…Over in front of the great window…a barbershop group of red-jacketed oldsters crooning “Edelweiss” and “Sunrise, Sunset”…Wide corridors lead unceasing foot traffic in all directions…”.

Ultimately Paul and Frank make it to Mt. Rushmore, and despite all the difficulties, the trip is a success. Throughout the novel, Frank is meeting new people and remembering the life he has led to this point. Ultimately, Frank and Paul do end up with Clarissa in Scottsdale and that is where Paul’s life ends. Frank concludes that “It isn’t life that’s well-nigh unfathomable and in need of amplification and more light…its death that’s the profound mystery and the real story.” The novel ends with a final chapter on Happiness. 

Although Frank Bascombe is trying to come to terms with aging, happiness and death, and he is trying to convince himself that he has done just that, I believe he has failed. That said, I believe he has come to terms with understanding that these are all things that he cannot exactly control and that for the short time we all have, we should continue to seek and hopefully find, if not happiness, contentment. Be Mine can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking on https://discover.cuyahogalibrary.org/Record/202423

Tom Lake is a story of life’s winding roads, disappointments, and ultimate joys and beauty. “The past, were I to type it up, would look like a disaster, but regardless of how it ended we all had many good days. In that sense, the past is much like the present because the present — this unparalleled disaster — is the happiest time of my life.”

Lara and her husband Joe are in their late 50s and live and run an orchard in Michigan. Their three daughters, Emily, Nell and Maisie are living with them because of the pandemic. Emily, the eldest, lives in a separate house on the orchard and intends to take over the orchard when the time is right. Maisie is training to be a veterinarian and Nell wants to be an actress. The pandemic has put everything on hold.

Emily, Maisie and Nell are very interested in the course of Lara’s life and the novel is Lara’s reminiscence of her past and how she ended up married to Joe and living on an orchard — some of which she tells her daughters and some of the story she withholds, but tells us!

The story begins when Lara (previously known as Laura — a tidbit her daughters just learned), was in high school and volunteering to check people in for tryouts for “Our Town.” She ends up auditioning and getting the role of Emily, which she performs to perfection.

After high school, Lara is admitted to both Dartmouth and University of Pennsylvania (neither of which she could afford), but she attends the University of New Hampshire. She did not do any acting until her junior year, when she again plays Emily in “Our Town”, where she is “discovered” by Bill Ripley. Ultimately, she goes to Los Angeles where she is cast in a movie. The release of the movie is continuously delayed.

She moves to New York where she struggles and finds herself at Tom Lake, a summer theatre in Michigan, where she is given a dormitory type room and the role of Emily in “Our Town.” “…this unremarkable room with the remarkable view in Middle-of-Nowhere, Michigan, was everything that had ever been written about freedom and possibility.” At Tom Lake, Lara meets and falls in love with another actor in the play, Peter Duke, a handsome, extremely talented, wild man.

Lara tells her daughters the detailed story of her acting experience, her relationship with Duke and how, through a variety of mishaps and perceived limited talent, she gives up her career as an actress. Interestingly, the film she made earlier in Los Angeles is ultimately released to acclaim. Duke becomes a famous actor and Lara’s daughter, Emily is obsessed with him throughout her childhood.

We also learn a lot about Lara by the stories she chooses to withhold from her daughters. In addition to Lara telling the twists and turns of her life, we learn about her daughters and their lives. Joe’s story, along with Duke’s story and the story of Duke’s brother, are left to the end.

The book is simply wonderful and life affirming, told in Ann Patchett’s deceptively simple style with subtle humor along the way. The novel describes life’s unexpected twists and disappointments, while at the same time affirming its ultimate joy and preciousness, without in any way being saccharin or preachy.

“There is no explaining this simple truth about life: you will forget much of it. The painful things you were certain you’d never be able to let go? Now you’re not entirely sure when they happened, while the thrilling parts, the heart-stopping joys and larger sorrows, and unbelievably, those things get knocked aside as well, until one morning you’re picking cherries with your three grown daughters and your husband goes by on the Gator and you are positive that this is all you’ve ever wanted in the world.”

I love Ann Patchett. Every novel is different but her perspective on life is positive in the face of all the negative day to day existence has in store. Read this novel! Tom Lake can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

“I Have Some Questions For You” is a complex story about the murder of a teenager (Thalia) at a seemingly high end boarding school in 1995. The story is being told 23 years later by Bodie Kane, a graduate of the Boarding School and a roommate of the murdered student.

There is a lot going on in the book. Bodie is now 40 years old, has two children and is separated from her husband. She lives in one part of a duplex and her husband, Jerome, lives in the other half. This living arrangement allows them to share child responsibilities. Jerome is a well-known and successful artist.

Bodie has a tragic family history, having lost both her father and her brother at a young age and ultimately her mother as well. She was raised by a kind Mormon family in Indiana who arranged to send her to the boarding school in New Hampshire, known as Granby. Bodie spent her time at Granby feeling out of place, uncomfortable and inferior. She believed that all of the other students were wealthy and entitled. The extent of her history is disclosed throughout the novel.

Bodie has become a relatively famous podcaster and her friend Fran, who now teaches at Granby, arranges for her to teach a two week seminar on podcasting and film studies at the school. “My podcast at the time was Starlet Fever, a serial history of women in film—the ways the industry chewed them up and spat them out.”

Bodie is obsessed with Thalia’s murder. The school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, the only African American at the school, was ultimately convicted of the murder and sent to prison. Bodie is convinced that he is innocent.

Thalia had been very beautiful and had a boyfriend in her class, Robbie. But unknown to almost anyone, Thalia was also having an intimate relationship with one of the teachers, Denny Bloch. The novel is Bodie’s letter to Denny Bloch, explaining all the harm he has caused. Bodie is convinced that Denny Bloch killed Thalia.

The students in her podcasting class decide to take another look at the murder. As a result, a legal rights group gets involved and tries to get Omar a new trial. A number of Bodie’s classmates are called to testify and there are some very interesting interactions among old classmates, where they learn things about each other they did not previously know.

In the meantime, Jerome (Bodie’s husband) has been accused of sexual misconduct based on a relationship he had many years ago with a 21 year old college student when he was 30 years old. Bodie cannot accept the inequity of her husband being accused of improprieties for an adult consensual relationship when Denny Bloch was preying on young girls who were his students. “It was like seeing someone hanged for stealing gum when down the street someone else was robbing a bank.”

The novel touches on society’s differing expectations of women and men, privilege, the MeToo movement, race, wealth and class, the judicial system and a lot of other timely issues. The novel starts out slow but the reader’s patience is rewarded with an interesting story and a lot of things to think about. Rebecca Makkai is definitely an author to watch.

“I Have Some Questions For You” can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

The Rabbit Hutch is the story of lives gone awry in the depressed town of Vacca Vale, Indiana. In the past, the town had been completely dependent on Zorn Automobiles. “For decades, Zorn Automobiles was a miracle, a heartbeat, an empire…” And then the factories closed. “After 1963, Zorn, a superhero in previous generations—became the Vacca Vale bogeyman.” Zorn left behind environmental issues, empty buildings and despair.

The novel begins with an incident in one of the apartments in La Lapiniere Affordable Housing Complex, also known as The Rabbit Hutch. Specifically, 18 year old “Blandine Watkins exits her body.” The exit is loud and other tenants in the building hear her screams.

The novel then introduces us to some of the other tenants, one of whom is Joan Kowalski. Joan, 40 years old, works at Restinpeace.com, where she scans comments to obituaries and removes anything negative about the deceased. Joan is responsible for reviewing the obituary for a child television star named Elise Blitz, who has died at age 86. Ms. Blitz had been a child star in a television series called Meet the Neighbors, where she played “Susie Evans, a trouble loving spit-fire at the center of the series.” Ms. Blitz wrote her own, slightly embellished obituary. Ms. Blitz left behind a neglected and rather disturbed adult son, Moses Robert Blitz. Moses leaves an unpleasant message on his mother’s obituary and after some emails with him, Joan allows the comment to remain. Joan is disciplined by her boss for this and the comment is removed.

Blandine (f/k/a Tiffany) is a foster child of immense intellect and talent. She is given a scholarship to go to the town’s one and only private school, where she feels like an outcast but she thrives academically. One of her teachers, James, a music teacher, takes an interest in her and sparks fly. He asks her to babysit for his children and she discovers he is wealthy and lives in a mansion. “The house is inconveniently magnificent.” His wife comes from “Zorn money.” When the relationship between James and Blandine progresses, James feels regret and distances himself. Blandine’s reaction is to drop out of school.

In the meantime, Blandine’s three male, 19 year old roommates are sacrificing animals at frighteningly accelerating rates. When Blandine brings home a goat, there is trouble. We learn the story of the animal sacrifices, the goat and Blandine’s exit from her body from one of the 19 year old roommates, who is telling his story to the police.

Moses Blitz, 53 years old, writes a mental health blog, which is quite ironic since he has what appears to be serious mental health issues. Moses is quite bitter about his mother and is also bitter towards Joan for removing his comment on his mother’s obituary. Moses, who lives in California, decides to travel to Vacca Vale to teach Joan a rather bizarre lesson. While in the process, he discovers what is going on in Blandine’s apartment.

Throughout the novel the possibility of community development looms and Blandine grows increasingly agitated at the prospect. She also carries a book, “She Mystics: An Anthology” with her everywhere she goes and is obsessed with the mystics. The other tenants in the Rabbit Hutch are a side story in the novel, but the focus is on Blandine and Moses.

The novel is sort of dark and disturbing, with humorous moments and a hopeful ending. This novel is not for everyone, but it is well written and unlike just about anything else. It also won the 2022 National Book Award for fiction. The Rabbit Hutch can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

“Shrines of Gaiety” is a raucous, action packed novel about a matriarch led family that owns numerous, very profitable nightclubs. The story takes place during a short period of time in 1926, after World War I, and begins when the matriarch, Nellie Coker, is being released from prison.

Nellie has six children who are more or less somehow involved in the nightclub business. Edith, the oldest daughter, is the child Nellie trusts the most with the business. Nevin, the oldest son has been in the war, is extremely principled and seems to have little interest in the nightclubs. Shirley and Betty each run a club and have been highly educated in the hopes they each will find a husband who is a member of the landed gentry. “To Nellie, money without a title was almost as bad as a title without money.” Ramsay is a 21 year old drug addicted dreamer who wants to write a novel and is struggling with his sexual identity. Finally, Kitty is an 11 year old afterthought. Shirley, Betty, Edith and Ramsay each run a nightclub. No one nightclub is the same and each caters to a different class of patron. However, each nightclub has girls who are paid to dance with male patrons. London is in post war insanity during the period reflected in the novel.

After Nellie is released from prison it becomes clear that there are a number of people who want to either take her down or take over her fiefdom. First is the police officer Maddox, who Nellie has been paying for protection but who is seeking to take control of her empire. Next is Detective Chief Inspector John Frobisher, who is looking to close down the clubs due to illegal activities. Finally, there is a mysterious man named Azzopardi who seems to want to bring down the empire, but might it be something else?

Enter Gwendolen Kellig, formerly a part time librarian in York, who is rescued by Nevin but is “spying” for Frobisher. Gwendolen has come to London to search for her friend’s sister, Freda, and Freda’s friend, Florence. Freda and Florence have run away to London, where dead girls are being found in the Thames on almost a daily basis. Freda has run away seeking to be a star, after being attacked by her mother’s boyfriend. Freda’s sister had suggested that Freda could work in a library. “’The Library?’ Freda echoed, unable to keep the horror out of her voice. A library—the deathliest place on earth.”

All of the characters come together in the context of the nightclubs and the story has many twists and turns. Nellie’s character is based on the story of real life Kate Meyrick, who “was the queen of Soho’s clubland” during the same time period.

The novel is loads of fun and beautifully written. This is a definite do not miss! You can reserve the “Shrines of Gaiety” at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

“The Marriage Portrait” is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction revolving around the marriage of 13 year old (15 in the novel) Lucrezia di Cosimo de’Medici to Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara in 1560.

The novel begins with 16 year old Lucrezia and her husband, not quite a year into their marriage, traveling to the Duke’s hunting lodge. Lucrezia suddenly realizes why they are there. “This is the reason for their sudden journey to such a wild and lonely place. He has brought her here, to this stone fortress, to murder her.”

The novel then moves back and forth, chapter by chapter, from Lucrezia’s birth to the moment that brings her to the lonely lodge and her fear of what is about to happen there.

Lucrezia, the fifth child of Eleanora and Cosimo, was a wild child and for a time was banished to the servant’s quarters. Ultimately she is returned to the nursery to be raised by Sofia, along with her many brothers and sisters. Lucrezia’s life is one of privilege, living in a grand palazzo in Florence. Her father keeps a sort of menagerie in the basement and one day Lucrezia sees a tiger arrive. When their father takes some of the children, including Lucrezia to see the animals, Lucrezia, to the horror of the servants and her father, actually pets the tiger.

Through her studies in the Palazzo Lucrezia discovers that she has significant artistic talent. She spends as much time as she can painting all sort of creatures and ideas.

Her sister, Maria, is engaged to Duke Alfonso but before they are married she contracts a fever and dies. Alfonso tells the family he would like to marry Lucrezia. She is 12 years old at the time of this request and he is approximately 27. Lucrezia and Sofia scheme to delay the marriage, but ultimately they are married when Lucrezia is 15 years old. The two spend the first weeks of their marriage in a villa before moving to the palace where Alfonso runs state. It becomes clear that Alfonso is keen to produce an heir as soon as possible to cement his position. However, Lucrezia is warned that although he has been very active with other women, Alfonso has never produced an heir. It also becomes clear that Alfonso expects complete devotion from his wife. “’You are my wife and I scarcely need to remind you that your first and foremost duty must always be to me. No one else…’”

Alfonso is alternatingly kind and nasty with Lucrezia. One day while he is out and Lucrezia is wandering in the villa, she hears a noise and finds a man has fallen. She is able to revive him with honey and he is grateful. He is an apprentice to a famous artist who has been retained by Alfonso to paint Lucrezia’s marriage portrait. The process of creating the portrait is a significant part of the story.

Ultimately Lucrezia and Alfonso move to the family palace where Lucrezia becomes close to Alfonso’s older sister Elisabetta. Elisabetta is having a forbidden romance with Ercole Contrari, the head of the guardsmen in the palace. When Alfonso discovers the romance the extent of his cruelty is on display.

The story ends in the bleak hunting lodge where Lucrezia is certain that Alfonso is trying to kill her, in part because of her independent nature (which he deplores) and in part because she has not yet given him an heir. Even though I know how the story ends (it is historical fiction after all), I was still on pins and needles at the end. The novel is perfectly written and is a nerve wracking page turner! You can reserve this novel at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

“Lessons” is a story of a life, its influences, its twists and turns and all of the changes that occur with the passage of time. The novel is pure Ian McEwan.

Roland Baines is the product of a complicated family life. Roland has a half-sister, Susan and a half brother, Henry, children from his mother’s first marriage. His father, Captain Robert Baines, a stern military man, has a warm and a soft side. His mother, Rosalind, appears meek and fearful. But Rosalind has some secrets, which are slowly disclosed throughout the novel.

Roland’s parents both quit school at the age of 14. They wand better for Roland and send him to a boarding school when he is 11 years old. His father insisted that he take piano lessons and it turns out that Roland is an extremely talented pianist. His lessons begin with Miriam Cornell. Miss Cornell is inappropriate toward Roland and he avoids her for many years. But ultimately, an intimate relationship develops between them which has lasting consequences for Roland’s future.

When the reader first meets Roland, he and his infant son, Lawrence have been deserted by his wife, Alissa, and the police suspect foul play. Roland is their primary suspect. Roland, who at this point is, among other things, a poet, has written some poetry with the lines “She won’t go away. Just the wrong time, when I need calm. She must remain dead.” Of course this poem is not about Alissa—it is about Miriam.

Alissa’s family life is also complex. Her father, Heinrich, was a German student during World War II and distantly involved with an antiNazi group and her mother, Jane had been a journalist until she met Heinrich and married.

Alissa has left to pursue her dream of becoming a novelist and she does, in fact, become a great novelist. She believes that the only way to create great literature is to focus exclusively on writing and wants nothing to do with her son even as he tries to reach out to her. She is considered Germany’s greatest novelist. But is the price too high?

Throughout the novel Roland has many romances but none stick until he finally marries his close friend Daphne late in life. Roland leads a long life and a lot of things happen in the world during that time. The Berlin wall falls, parents die, stories evolve, efforts are made to tackle climate change, children grow, marry and have children, England leaves the European Union and there is a pandemic. Each thing touches on Roland’s life and yet life goes on. Miriam’s influence on his life flows throughout the novel.

The novel ponders early life influences and human resilience despite the tugs of politics and loss. The story is typical Ian McEwan in its treatment of external influence on fate and yet it also has a certain level of hopefulness based on family, love and human empathy. The novel is dense and long and it is not an easy read, but it is worth the effort. You can reserve “Lessons” at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

Lucy by the SeaLucy by the Sea is an amazing rumination on life during the COVID pandemic from the perspective of Elizabeth Strout’s well known character, Lucy Barton.

Lucy Barton is a famous novelist, recently widowed and living in the Manhattan apartment she shared with her New York Philharmonic cellist husband David. David has been gone for almost a year and a half. Readers of the Lucy Barton series know that Lucy has a very close relationship with her ex-husband William, from whom she has been divorced twenty years and with whom she has two daughters, Chrissy and Becka.

Lucy had cancelled a European book tour that would have begun in October of 2019 and was supposed to have been in Germany and Italy in March of 2020. Instead, in March of 2020, William demands that Lucy leave Manhattan and go to Maine with him. Lucy has a hard time comprehending the fuss. “What is strange as I look back is how I simply did not know what was happening.”

William and Lucy rent a battered house in Maine on the water. William’s friend and lawyer, Bob Burgess, arranged for them to rent the house and Lucy and Bob become close friends. The community is not at all welcoming of New Yorkers, fearful of the virus.

Lucy hates the house. “The house should have been lovely, I mean you could see it had been lovely at one point…but as I walked inside I felt what I always feel about being in someone else’s house: I hated it.” Lucy finds peace only by taking long walks. “I walked without seeing people…It seemed strange to me that the world of New York would remain so beautiful as all those people were dying.”

Lucy stays in touch with her daughter and communicates with her sister and brother. William stays in touch with his ex-wife Estelle and their daughter Bridget. The pandemic prevents them from seeing each other but ultimately they are able to visit outside and at a distance. And in the meantime, William and Lucy are growing closer.

The novel runs through the worst part of the pandemic, the George Floyd murder and the arrival of the vaccine. The novel addresses the personal side of the politics of division and the importance of treating people with decency regardless of perspective. But perhaps the most amazing aspect of this truly wonderful novel is that, despite everything—the pandemic, political trauma, distance—life goes on and people continue to change and grow. Lucy describes this continuity of life as ping pong balls bouncing around randomly and randomly hitting one another. “My point is, if we are lucky we bounce into someone. But we always bounce away again, at least a little.” And yet, there are still things you can only experience alone.

This novel is simply spectacular. It evinces a sense of unreality that we all experienced during the pandemic and yet it also highlights our adaptability and ability to make the most of the time we have. I cannot recommend this enough, although you may want to start with “My Name is Lucy Barton” and work your way up to this novel. Lucy by the Sea can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

Horse“Horse” is a work of historical fiction about horses, race, wealth and art. The novel focuses on a historic racehorse, Lexington. The story spans three different time periods and ties together disparate people and incidents.

The novel begins with Theo in 2019, a Georgetown PhD candidate with diplomat parents and a privileged upbringing. Theo grew up overseas, went to boarding school and played polo. Despite his education and privileged upbringing, he feels that he is constantly the target of racism. He lives across the street from an older couple who sneer at him each time they see him. After the husband dies, the wife puts a number of household items on the curb. Theo takes a portrait of a horse out of the pile. That horse is the famous Lexington.

Jess is from Australia and works for the Smithsonian “managing their vertebrae Osteology Prep Lab at the Museum Support Center in Maryland.” Jess receives a call advising that a researcher from the Royal Veterinary College in England is looking for an articulated skeleton of a horse. That skeleton also happens to be Lexington. Theo and Jess meet accidently but discover they have the horse in common. They commence a romantic relationship which is fraught with racial tension.

In 1850, Dr Warfield has a horse farm and Harry Lewis is a free black man who manages horses for Dr. Warfield. Dr. Warfield purchases Jarret, Harry’s son, at Harry’s request. The horse Lexington is born on Dr. Warfield’s farm and Jarret has a natural relationship with Lexington from the moment of the horse’s birth.

Thomas Scott is an artist who is commissioned to paint Lexington at various points during Lexington’s life. He first meets Lexington and Jarret when both are young, but Scott is a constant presence in their lives.

Lexington is sold a number of times and each time Jarret is sold along with the horse. Each time Jarret is sold, the chapter about Jarret is named differently. First, Warfield’s Jarret, then Ten Broeck’s Jarret, then Alexander’s Jarret, and finally, Jarret Lewis.

Lexington becomes the fastest horse in history and wins a number of races until his failing eyesight causes him to leave the racetrack. Lexington then becomes a stud horse and sires some of the fastest horses in history. Lexington and Jarret’s story continue through 1875, well past the Civil War and into Jarret’s life as a free man in Canada. Lexington’s story is a story of racing, animal cruelty, and Jarret’s dedication to the horse. Thomas Scott’s paintings are also a significant part of the story.

The third segment of the novel involves Martha Jackson, from 1954 through 1956. Martha Jackson comes from a well to do family and her mother was a devoted equestrian until her unfortunate death in a riding accident. Her horse was a descendent of Lexington. Martha runs an art gallery and is close friends with Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock’s wife. Martha’s housekeeper asks Martha to value a painting of a horse owned by her family. She wants to sell the painting to raise funds to enable her brother to go to medical school. Martha gives her sports car to Jackson Pollock in exchange for two of his paintings, enabling her to buy the horse painting. The painting is done by Thomas Scott and is a painting of Lexington.

The novel tells the story of Lexington and Jarret in parallel with the story of Jess and Theo. There is some happiness in the novel and an awful lot of tragedy. Portions of the story are based on actual events and the author includes an Afterword and a really interesting section entitled “Lexington’s Historical Connections.”

I am a big fan of Gerladine Brooks, and although this is not my favorite of her novels, it is, like everything she does, very very good. So if you are a fan of horses, a student of the Civil War or passionate about art, this is the novel for you.

You can reserve Horse at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

TrustTrust is a unique novel about perception v reality, wealth v greed, gender equity and the complexity of relationships.

The story is told in three segments. The first segment is a separate novel within the novel by fictitious author Harold Vanner. Vanner tells the story of Benjamin Rask, the ancestor of an extremely wealthy New York City tobacco family. “Because he had enjoyed almost every advantage since birth, one of the few privileges denied to Benjamin Rask was that of a heroic rise.” Benjamin has no interest in the tobacco business and soon discovers a passion for investing. He becomes incredibly wealthy and builds a limestone beaux arts mansion on Fifth Avenue. Enter Helen Brevoort.

Helen’s family “were an old Albany family whose fortunes had not kept up with their name.” The family leaves America in an attempt to avoid their bad fortunes and goes to Europe where they move around from place to place, staying with other Americans. Helen’s father’s mental condition rapidly deteriorates and her mother checks him into a sanatorium in Switzerland (Dr. Bally’s Medico-Mechanic Institute at Bad Pfafers). Her father wanders off never to be heard from again.

Helen is befriended by an employee of Benjamin Rask and ultimately Helen and her mother return to New York City. Helen is introduced to Benjamin and they marry. Helen uses some of Benjamin’s wealth to support philanthropic causes in the arts. She holds small private concerts in her home and sponsors authors and musicians. When the stock market crashes, Benjamin profits and his reputation is viewed somewhat askance. In fact, he is blamed for causing the crash.

As a result of the controversy over Benjamin’s actions, musicians and performers start to decline Helen’s invitations and her mental health begins to deteriorate. Ultimately, Benjamin has her admitted to Medico-Mechanic Institute at Bad Pfafers in Switzerland for her psychological issues. The story does not end well.

The second part of the novel is the unpublished memoir of Andrew Bevel. Andrew Bevel is the wealthy financier upon whose life Benjamin Rask is based. The memoir is effectively written by Ida Portenza, who is hired by Bevel to assist him in telling his story. Bevel has lost his wife, Mildred, and is furious over the Vanner novel. He uses his wealth to ensure that the Vanner novel is destroyed and never seen again. He wants Ida to help him tell his true story and Mildred’s true story. Mildred did not end her life due to mental health issues and he wants the record set straight. He presents himself as civically minded and always interested in the greater good. He presents Mildred as a quiet unassuming woman who requires his assistance with her philanthropic goals.

In the third part of the novel, Ida tells her story. Between the second and third parts of the novel we learn portions of the true story.  Bevel’s memoir is not published and years later, Ida acquires access to some of Mildred’s notebooks. Ida shares the content of the notebooks. Mildred’s notebooks tell the real story!

The novel is brilliant in concept and execution. The story is a lot of fun and tells the reader quite a bit about the early twentieth century and the challenges for women during that time. Definitely give this a read. You can reserve Trust at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.