The one saving grace of international flights is this: uninterrupted reading time. I’m finally back on track with my Goodreads challenge, and it’s all thanks to being stuck in a flying tin can for twelve hours. Instead of doing a long post for each of these, I decided to do one post with three quick responses.
Book #1: The House Girl by Tara Conklin
This is the only book I didn’t read from beginning to end on the plane. I actually started it months ago but was having a hard time investing in it. However, there’s nothing like having NO OTHER ACTIVITY OPTIONS to force you to finish a book. If you haven’t already gleaned this from all that, I wasn’t crazy about The House Girl.
I’m terrible at summaries, so here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:
A stunning debut novel of love, family, and justice that intertwines the stories of an escaped house slave in 1852 Virginia and ambitious young lawyer in contemporary New York
Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell.
New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.
It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit – if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?
Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.
The premise sounded wonderful, but the book overall left me very cold. I was hoping for more of a connection between Lina and Josephine, but their stories never seemed to intertwine or even echo one another. It felt as though their stories could have been separate novels on their own. The historical aspect of the novel was much more interesting and readable than the modern one, and I found that I cared much more about Josephine than about Lina. Lina’s story felt contrived and had no real resolution, and the end of the novel left me disappointed. This book was based on a wonderful and interesting idea, but it was unfortunately poorly executed.
Book #2: Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined
It’s been a while since I’ve read a young adult novel, and I’m glad this was the one I dove back in with. Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined handled difficult topics with sensitivity, honesty, and humor. The story follows Ingrid, a teenager who’s sent to a summer wilderness camp that ends up being not at all what she’s expecting. Over the course of the summer, Ingrid’s limits are tested physically and emotionally as she begins to unpack her difficult relationship with the mother who sent her there. This was an entertaining read with complex characters and a masterful ending that, while surprising, didn’t feel like a cheap twist. It’s the kind of book I would have adored as a teen, but am able to appreciate as an adult just as well.
Book #3: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
Surprisingly, this is the first Liane Moriarty book I’ve ever read. Based on how much a loved this one, it definitely won’t be the last.
Cecilia seems to have the perfect life, but it’s completely upended when she finds a letter from her husband, meant to be read in the event of his death. His secret ends up intertwining the lives of Cecilia, Rachel, and Tess in ways they never would have expected. I loved Moriarty’s honest and unflinching depictions of marriage, motherhood, and friendship, and the way women of different ages are treated with equal interest and respect. There is a humanity to her characters that made the fast-paced story all the more compelling. I openly wept through the last section of the book, which was deeply embarrassing on a plane. I don’t want to give anything away, but this was a great read, and it convinced me that I really do need to read Big Little Lies!
Now the big question is, as always, what to read next? Any recommendations? What is your favorite genre to read while traveling? Let’s talk books!