WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS by Jennifer Coburn
Since losing her father when she was only 19, Jennifer Coburn has always believed she would suffer the same fate and die young. To ensure that her daughter would have amazing memories of their time together – just in case – she decides to take her on month-long European adventures starting at age 8. This poignant and very funny memoir chronicles their summers in cities like Paris, London, Barcelona and Amsterdam, where they overcome fears and challenges, journey off the beaten path and make mother-daughter memories that will last a lifetime – however long or short that may be.
THE SUICIDE SHOP by Jean Teule
I was excited to receive this title from Gallic Books, publisher of the wonderful The President’s Hat. They publish English translations of French writing, and this one is an absolute delight! I know that seems like a weird way to describe a story about death but it’s so original and, surprisingly, pulses with life. It takes place sometime in the future, when the Tuvache family proudly runs a store catering to those who are looking for a dignified and surefire way out of the mess humanity has made of the world. They take their jobs very seriously and are convinced that every glass is at least half empty. Their youngest son, however, is a glass-half-full kind of child and, as he gets older, his happy-go-lucky attitude threatens their livelihood. This is a quirky black comedy with a pretty profound message.
MOTHER DAUGHTER ME by Katie Hafner
As members of the sandwich generation, this powerful memoir will hit home and reassure you you’re not alone if you’re having trouble balancing the dynamics between your children and your parents. The widowed mother of a teenage daughter, Hafner invites her own mom to live with them, and the arrangement quickly brings out all the issues that have been unresolved along with a torrent of emotion. Hafner’s writing is simple yet beautiful, and she tells her story as though she is talking to a friend. She’s real, funny and painfully honest. The book is an ode to family in all its messy imperfections.
SAFE WITH ME by Amy Hatvany
You know I read every Amy Hatvany book as soon as it comes out, and this is one of her best. Dealing with timely and important issues like domestic violence and organ donation, I zipped through it, and couldn’t help thinking I was reading a Jodi Picoult novel. (I mean this as a compliment because Picoult has written stories that continue to haunt me.) Safe with Me begins with the tragic death of Maggie’s 15-year-old daughter and the devastating decision of whether or not to donate her organs. One year later, still griefstricken, she shockingly meets the girl whose life she ended up saving. As she gets to know the family better, she discovers their violent secrets and can’t help trying to protect them. This is a real page-turner and would make a great book club selection.
WOMEN IN BED by Jessica Keener
Jessica Keener words are often achingly beautiful. I loved her first novel, Night Swim, and have been savoring these nine short stories like chocolates, eaten slowly, one by one, from the deluxe box, to stretch out their enjoyment. Keener writes about love in all its incarnations and she packs an impressive depth and richness into each of these tales. Her characters yearn and seek and hurt and heal. The language is quietly eloquent, and although the stories may be short, they will stay with you for a very long time.
Read more from Lois Alter Mark on her blog, Midlife at the Oasis