Tag Archives: From Briefs to Books

Behold the Dreamers – by Imbolo Mbue

“Behold the Dreamers” is a first novel about immigration and the American Dream. The novel tells the story of two families, the Jongas and the Edwards. In 2004, Jende Jonga arrived in America under slightly false pretenses, obtaining a temporary visa with the understanding that he intended to return to his home country of Cameroon … Continue Reading

The Ninth Hour – by Alice McDermott

The Ninth Hour is an utterly charming novel about faith, dissent, good works and love. The novel begins when Jim decides to take his own life by releasing gas into his lungs, leaving pregnant Annie on her own to make her way with her not yet born daughter. It is Annie’s good fortune (if there … Continue Reading

In The Midst of Winter – by Isabel Allende

“In the midst of winter, I finally found there was within me an invincible summer.” Albert Camus “In the Midst of Winter” is an extraordinarily enjoyable novel, beautifully written, about three people brought together for a few days due to a snowstorm. Through a compelling mix of history, mystery, romance and humor, Allende emphasizes the … Continue Reading

Little Fires Everywhere – by Celeste Ng

“Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer; how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.” This is the first line in Little Fires Everywhere and the rest of the novel explains how the Richardsons ended up losing their fancy Parkland Rd., … Continue Reading

Sing Unburied Sing – by Jesmyn Ward

“Sing Unburied Sing ” is a brilliantly evocative novel about race, family, love and addiction, with a touch of magic realism and spiritualism. Thirteen year old Jojo and his sister, Kayla, live with their mother, Leonie, their Father, Michael and their grandparents, Pop and Mam. Jojo (Joseph) and Kayla (Michaela) have never met their paternal … Continue Reading

Stay With Me – by Ayobami Adebayo

“Stay With Me” starts out strong. Yejide and Akin are Nigerian, young, in love and newly married. There is an immense amount of family pressure on them to have a child but Yejide is unable to get pregnant. She even goes so far as to climb the Mountain of Jaw-Dropping Miracles, where she is part … Continue Reading

A Horse Walks into a Bar – by David Grossman

A Horse Walks into a Bar is the story of Dov Greenstein’s stand-up routine, showcasing one evening in Netanya Israel. It would not be at all accurate to portray Dov’s routine as comedy. The novel begins with Dov taking the stage and immediately insulting his audience. Pretending to believe he was in the city of … Continue Reading

Forest Dark – by Nicole Krauss

“…in Israel no one can ever agree on the way the world appears, and despite the violence of the never-ending argument, the basic admittance of discord had always been a relief to me.” Forest Dark is about two very different people, completely unconnected, searching for some sense of something in Israel. Jules Epstein, a wealthy, … Continue Reading

A House Among the Trees – by Julia Glass

“A House Among the Trees” is a story of the fictional Morty Lear. Morty Lear is a famous author of children’s stories, best known perhaps for his novel “Colorquake”. Colorquake is a story about Ivo, whose “mother kept a perfect house, a house among the trees.” Ivo is “utterly beguiling”, an artist, a painter of … Continue Reading

Exit West – by Mohsin Hamid

“We are all migrants through time.” Exit West is a story of migration, refugees and change, told through the experiences of an unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed. Saeed and Nadia meet while taking an evening class on corporate identity and product branding in an unidentified middle east city at an unidentified place of education. Nadia … Continue Reading

Do Not Say We Have Nothing – by Madeleine Thien

“Do Not Say We Have Nothing” is an epic history of China, beginning in 1872 and ending in 2016. The story is told by Jiang Li-ling (Marie Jiang) as she discovers her family history through the violence and tragedy of the cultural revolution. After her father commits suicide in 1989, Marie Jiang lives alone with … Continue Reading

Homegoing – by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is a three century long saga of slavery, violence, discrimination, struggle and eventually some progress, beginning and ending in Ghana, with interludes in America. The story starts in 1760 in a Fante village touched by a destructive fire. Fire, its strength and its violence, is an ongoing theme in the book. Effia, a child … Continue Reading

Lincoln in the Bardo – by George Saunders

“’bardo’ (noun) (in Tibetan Buddhism) a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person’s conduct in life, and manner of, or age at, death.” English Oxford Living Dictionaries. “Lincoln in the Bardo” is simply an extraordinary work of fiction, unlike anything else I have read. The novel starts out … Continue Reading

Between Them – by Richard Ford

Richard Ford is one of America’s great writers. He has a way of answering the question “what is the meaning of life?” in the most direct way possible–by writing about living. “Between Them” is two separate memoirs, one of his mother and one of his father, written 30 years apart. In the memoirs, Ford describes … Continue Reading

The Spy – by Paulo Coelho

Mata Hari was executed by firing squad in Paris on October 15, 1917, accused of being a spy, a double agent for Germany and France during World War I. “The Spy” is a fictionalized account of her story. The story is told from two perspectives: first from Mata Hari’s perspective, in the form of a … Continue Reading

The Schooldays of Jesus – by J.M. Coetzee

“What is it that we lack when we lack nothing, when we are sufficient unto ourselves? What is it that we miss when we are not in love?”  “The Schooldays of Jesus”, J. M. Coetzee’s allegorical tale, raises many metaphysical questions. David is six years old and is newly arrived in fictional Estrella with his … Continue Reading

I Married A Communist – by Philip Roth

I decided to take a little trip back in time, to a novel published in 1998 by one of my favorite authors, Philip Roth. Maybe I needed a sense of stability in these seeming uncertain times, or maybe I wanted to ensure that I chose a book that would be worth reading. In any event, … Continue Reading

Judas – by Amos Oz

“Here is a story from the winter days of the end of 1959 and 1960. It is a story of error and desire, of unrequited love, and of a religious question that remains unresolved.” This novel’s first two sentences set the tone for the balance of the story, and the error, desire, love and religious … Continue Reading

Anything Is Possible – by Elizabeth Strout

In early 2016, Random House released Elizabeth Strout’s lovely novel, “Lucy Barton”. You can read my review of Lucy Barton in this blog. In May of this year, her new novel, “Anything Is Possible” will be released. Anything Is Possible is a set of nine interlocking stories, with the common link being Lucy Barton and … Continue Reading

Swing Time – by Zadie Smith

“Swing Time” is an incredibly complex book that delves deeply into a variety of topics, including class, politics, race, friendships and relationships, privilege and culture. The story begins in 2008 when the narrator, whose name we are bewilderingly (at least for me) never given, has been ostracized by her famous employer and is hiding in … Continue Reading

Barkskins – by Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx’s 700 plus page epic, “Barkskins”, is the complex story of two intersecting families and the multi-level impact of one of the family’s greed driven destruction of the world’s environment. When you consider that the story begins in 1693 and ends in 2013, it is an almost masterly accomplishment that the novel runs only … Continue Reading

The Underground Railroad – by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” is a chilling story of slavery, focused on Cora and her escape from the Randall plantation in Georgia. The story begins with Cora’s grandmother, Ajarry, kidnapped from a village in Ouidah, and sold over and over again until she found herself in Georgia at the Randall plantation. At the Randall … Continue Reading

Nutshell – by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan’s “Nutshell” is a most peculiar murder mystery (although not so mysterious) told by a most unusual narrator, the unborn child of one of the perpetrators. “So here I am, upside down in a woman…I count myself an innocent, but it seems I’m party to a plot.” Although unborn, our narrator has certain very … Continue Reading
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