Thursday, 9 May 2019

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You
Everything I Never Told You
By Celeste Ng



Lydia Lee, favoured daughter of James and Marilyn Lee, sister to Hannah and Nathan, intelligent, beautiful and perfect in her parents’ eyes, is dead.  A non-swimmer, Lydia is found floating in the lake.  Her parents immediately blame an outsider.  But Lydia, it turns out, is not what she seemed.

In small town Ohio in the 1970s, the Lees are an anomaly.  James is Chinese – Marilyn is white.  Growing up, James was often the object of ridicule, and as an adult he still acutely feels the pain of being ostracized.  James put all his efforts into his education, and he excelled.  But what James wants now for his daughter is popularity and conformity – he wants her to fit in.

Like James, Marilyn excelled in school.  In university, she was often the only woman in her science classes.  Men never took her seriously, but Marilyn persisted.  But pregnancy changed all that.  Now a mother of three, Marilyn desperately wants Lydia to succeed where she failed.

Both parents badger Lydia constantly about school and friendships.  She is signed up for accelerated science classes, given pretty dresses and told to go to the dance.  As the pressure mounts, Lydia becomes more and more dishonest about who she really is.  She just can’t maintain the perfection that her parents expect.

Each family member’s story is slowly revealed as the novel goes on.  Nathan is a lover of astronomy and an excellent student.  When he is accepted to Harvard, his parents barely notice.  Nathan is also a very perceptive brother.  He sees the pressure that Lydia is under and offers his comfort and sympathy.

Hannah is younger and creeps about like a cat.  She has grown up being ignored.  She has become silent and watchful, with an uncanny understanding of her elders.

In Lydia’s case, her unhappiness ultimately leads to her death. But was it suicide?  Was she lured to the lake by the undesirable boy she’s been hanging out with?  Each family member pursues their own leads.  In the end, despite their dysfunctionality, Ng offers hope that this family can, somehow, make amends.

Friday, 3 May 2019

You


Caroline Kepnes

Joe Goldberg meets Guinevere Beck in a cozy bookstore in the East Village and it is love at first sight. For Joe.  Sadly, he forgets to ask for her number! Like any love sick person would do, he tracks her down using her credit card information, and finds the perfect opportunity on her Twitter feed to have a second ‘chance’ meeting to ask her out properly.  While a bit of an extreme reaction to most, this is a perfectly reasonable solution to Joe, a serial stalker.

Joe will stop at nothing to insert himself into Beck’s life, even if it means removing the people in her life who don’t spark joy. By adjusting Beck’s social circle and watching her communication through her stolen phone, Joe worms his way into her life without her realizing the true extent of his devotion.  Joe is not the staid, upstanding (if a bit boring), boyfriend she thinks him to be, but a deeply disturbed stalker, obsessed with every aspect of Beck. 

Told from Joe’s perspective, this novel is somewhat unsettling.  All his twisted rationale makes perfect sense when read from his viewpoint. While you know as the reader that everything he is thinking and doing are both criminal and deeply wrong, you can’t help but get swept up in the narrative he is creating for himself. Joe happens to be a weirdly likeable guy despite being a stalker and murderer with no conscience. 

Kepnes does an amazing job confusing who you are rooting for by letting you get to know Joe as the hero he thinks he is, despite showing you every horrible thing he is thinking. Joe’s narrative also has you truly hating those he sees as harmful to Beck.  You find yourself cheering him on as he brings them to their end even as you know what he is doing is wrong. 

As the bodies start piling up, and Joe becomes more and more single-minded in his obsession, will he escape detection? Will Beck escape his love unscathed? And what outcome are you rooting for?!  Well written, intense, and decidedly disturbing, this thriller is well worth a read!    


Thursday, 11 April 2019

Dear Evelyn


Dear Evelyn By Kathy Page
 
Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page is a love story that spans seventy years. Harry, a young man who wins a scholarship that enables him to learn much about his beloved poetry, meets the strong-willed Evelyn when they bump into each other on the library steps in pre-war London.  Drawn not only to her appearance, but also her collection of books, Harry quickly envisions a future together. He walks her home thereby beginning their lifelong relationship. 

Harry and Evelyn marry soon after their chance meeting, just as war breaks out.  Harry is deployed to Tunisia, while Evelyn and their infant daughter, Lillian, escape London to the country. Harry writes home regularly, at first lyrically and poetic, full of the love and desire he holds for Evelyn.  However, as he becomes dragged down by the bleakness of war and death, his letters also become so.  It is one of these bleak letters to which Evelyn comments that Harry is writing not for her, but for him; this is in part truth as Harry’s letters are a means for him to escape the atrocities he is experiencing and to think of a better time. 

After the war, Harry looks forward to returning to family life, hoping to write, but is committed to keeping Evelyn happy by working hard and studying to improve his prospects. Naturally, with each improvement in the family’s life – the big house, the lovely garden -- Evelyn places more demands on Harry, who struggles occasionally with the constraints of domesticity, but nevertheless gives in to her requests to preserve a quiet life.

As Harry and Evelyn move through life together, their three daughters grow into independent women and offer their opinions on their parents’ marriage. They frequently question Harry’s devotion to a woman as hard and demanding as Evelyn, but throughout Harry maintains his love and patience for a life that may not be one he truly desires, but one to which he is truly committed.

Dear Evelyn is a detailed character study that pulls you into the lives of Harry and Evelyn causing you to feel for each of them as you watch the sometimes painful, sometimes joyous ebb and flow of their nearly seventy years together.


For other popular reading suggestions check out Richmond Public Library's Web site at www.yourlibrary.ca/goodbooks/. 

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Small Things That End the World

The Small Things That End the World - Lynes, Jeanette
The Small Things That End The World
By Jeanette Lynes



It’s 1954, and Sadie Wilder just got the call she’s been waiting for.  Her friend, Wanda, has the mumps, and the rich family she babysits for is desperate.  So begins Jeanette Lynes’ The Small Things that End the World. 

Sadie is more than happy to fill in, hoping to prove herself indispensable to the Bannisters.  She is floored by the dashing Forest Bannister in his Austin-Healey, and covets the Bannisters’ beautiful seafoam green appliances.  She even begins to like little Bobby, although she’s not so sure about the baby and her incessant diaper smell.

But diapers become the least of her worries when the storm outside the Bannisters’ upscale Toronto home begins to lash at the windows and the power goes out.  Then tree limbs start to break through the windows and water invades the house.  Eventually Sadie must make her way out onto the roof with her young charges as Hurricane Hazel bears down.

Fast forward nineteen years and we meet Sadie’s daughter, Faith.  Mother and daughter live on a chicken farm in rural Ontario.  The night of the hurricane has left an indelible mark on Sadie – a weight on her shoulders that she has inadvertently passed on to Faith.   When Faith discovers that Sadie has been hiding a family secret, she hits the road, hitch hiking to Thunder Bay to start a new life.

Again we move forward in time to meet Faith’s daughter, Amber.  This mother and daughter pair have moved from Toronto to New Orleans.  As Amber struggles to fit in at her new all-American high school, Faith struggles as a single mother with no family support.  But when Amber stumbles upon Sadie’s name, she knows she must meet her grandmother.

And so we come full circle.  Three generations of women must decide if they can heal old wounds and move forward together. 

Lynes’ strength is her effective use of dramatically different voices for each of her three characters.  Haunted by family secrets, each woman struggles to build her own life, separate from her mother. But despite their mistakes, each character is altogether likeable and the novel as a whole is an enjoyable read.