Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Off The Shelf: Rainy Day Reads

So far, 2013 has been a diverse and fulfilling reading year! I've since finished four books after The Language of Flowers (which I finished back in January, click here for my reaction) and now it's time to catch up on them with y'all!

(Spoilers are likely, so proceed at your own risk!)

Let's start with The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: 5 of 5 stars.

From the BroadwayPaperbacks/Publisher paperback edition: "Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells - taken without her knowledge in 1951 - became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew."

I've had this book on my radar for quite while, though I can't recall how I first heard about it. A member of my monthly Thursday evening bookclub selected it as our first read of 2013. What an incredible, thought provoking, emotional and utterly fascinating book! Well researched and well written, it is non-fiction that reads like fiction. It grabbed me right from the start. I didn't get bogged down with the medical side of Henrietta's story as I had originally feared. Nearly a month later, I'm still reeling from the enormity of all of these connected stories, the enormous and wide reaching domino affect of one doctor's decision that make up this book!  Henrietta's and her family's stories are as equally compelling as the medical aspect of her immortal cells.  I plan on purchasing a copy for myself in the near future and re-reading it.

Next up is The Richest Season by Maryanne McFadden: 4 of 5 stars.

From the Hyperion Books 2008 hardback edition: "After more than a dozen moves in twenty-five years of marriage, Joanna Harrison is lonely and tired of being a corporate wife. Her children are grown and gone, her husband is more married to his job than to her, and now they're about to pack up once more. Panicked at the thought of having to start all over again, Joanna commits the first irresponsible act of her life. She runs away to Pawleys Island, South Carolina, a place she's been to just once. 
She find a job as a live-in companion to Grace Finelli, a widow who has come to the island to fulfill a girlhood dream. Together the two women embark on the most difficult journey of their lives. Entwined is Paul Harrison's story as he loses his wife, his job, and everything that defines him as a man. He takes off on his own journey out west, searching for the answers to all that has gone wrong in his life. One thing remains constant: He wants his life back. Joanna, however, is moving further away from her old life as she joins a group dedicated to rescuing endangered loggerhead turtles, led by a charismatic fisherman unlike anyone she's ever met."  

This wasn't the light, quick read I expected and that is not a bad thing!  It ended up being more involved, (deeper if you will) and I was pleasantly surprised.  Since falling in love with South Carolina last February, I enjoy reading novels set there.  It also partially takes place in Northwestern NJ in an area I'm familiar with which I enjoyed as well. 

Last on the list is Miss Dreamsville And The Collier Country Women's Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth: 4 of 5 stars.

From the Atria Books 2012 paperback: "A brilliant debut novel from a New York Times bestselling author about a transplanted wife from Boston who arrives in Florida in the 1960s, starts a literary salon, and shakes up the status quo.

In 1962, Jackie Hart moved to Naples, Florida, from Boston with her husband and children. Wanting something personally fulfilling to do with her time, she starts a reading club and anonymously hosts a radio show, calling herself Miss Dreamsville.

The racially segregated town falls in love with Miss Dreamsville, but doesn’t know what to make of Jackie, who welcomes everyone into her book club, including a woman who did prison time for allegedly killing her husband, a man of questionable sexual preference, a young divorcee, as well as a black woman.

By the end of this novel, you’ll be wiping away the tears of laugher and sadness, and you just may become a bit more hopeful that even the most hateful people can see the light of humanitarianism, if they just give themselves a chance."

I learned about this novel through Deep South Magazine's twitter and their tweets about their #SouthernLit chat with author Amy Hill Hearth on January 25th.  I happened upon the book at the library and picked it up but didn't have time to finish it before the chat.  Amy was gracious throughout the chat and feedback on her novel was so positive.  

Miss Dreamville was a quirky and very enjoyable read! I don't normally read southern novels set in Florida so this was one of the few for me.  I couldn't imagine where it was going or how it would possibly end and I couldn't wait to find out.

What have you read so far this year?         


Lisa said...

Henrietta Lacks really is an incredible book that will leave you thinking about it for a long time. And they still do medical research on what they take from us when we're in the hospital or at the doctor's office - we just sign a release now (even though we really aren't even realizing we're signing it.).

Jo said...

Yes, with all of the procedures and so on I've had over the years, I never gave much thought to the fact that there are pieces of me that are essentially all over the country, maybe even the world at some point! Such a strange, foreign and slightly creepy feeling lol!