Reviewed: “To the Lions” by Holly Watt

To the Lions is a stunning book.

Holly Watt has created a story that will pull you in, that will haunt you, that will make you think about horrific things that could so easily be reality. And maybe they are. I wouldn’t be surprised.

This thriller, seemingly the start of a series, focuses on Casey Benedict. Casey is an investigative reporter based in London who is adept at going undercover for the sorts of stories that do capture the attention of the world as they are released in troves and mountains of information that bring down the powerful, wealthy people around the world.

Watt is herself is an investigative reporter in England who worked on many exposes that have grabbed the headlines for weeks at a time. This lends a deeper layer to the novel, because it is easy to see the truth and reality in the detail she goes into. And it isn’t a level of detail that even comes close to dull or boring. It is intense.

I’m going to say a little bit about the plot that drives the story. It is not a spoiler, because it is made very clear from very early on that it happens. The purpose of the story, the thing that carries the narrative, is how Casey and Ed, who is inherently fascinating, uncover the the horrifying plot and how far it reaches.

Also intense is the plot itself – one in which the ultra-wealthy, for reasons that appear to be little more than the proverbial ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, travel to Libya to hunt. They hunt humans. Refugees, to be specific. They stay in one of Muammar Gaddafi’s former palaces and then use high-powered rifles to shoot refugees in a refuge camp in the valley below.

Can’t you imagine that happening today?

I can.

I received a copy of To the Lions through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

Reviewed: “Wanderers” by Chuck Wendig

Dear Chuck Wendig,

How did you do that? How did you take every gloomy, depressing, unnerving, alarming, confusing thing… all the things… that are in the news, that are reality and weave them into an 800 page narrative that I could not put down? How did you take the things we humans take great pains to avoid, if possible, and be indignantly outspoken about, when the mood suits us, and use them to tell a compelling, fascinating story of humanity forced to confront all the things we’d far rather ignore?


Maybe it’s better that I don’t know. Maybe then WANDERERS wouldn’t be quite as stunning as it is. And I am stunned.

In WANDERERS, humanity isn’t the good guy. And you wouldn’t think an epic novel with humanity as the unreliable main character would be appealing. Some of us probably far prefer to see ours as the great saviors of, well, of ourselves. Isn’t most of life saving us from ourselves, after all?

That’s what WANDERERS is. It’s a story of a flock of humans who seem to be sleepwalking across the country, and that makes it a story of America… warts and all. The gun culture, the racial prejudices, the religious evangelicalism, the gaping chasm of our two political parties, denials of climate change… it’s all there. But so are the non-warty parts of America. The way we band together in times of crisis, the way we stand up for each other in the face of the proverbial warts, the way we fight for the things that matter to us whether or not they matter to anyone else.

These things don’t often work well together, one always seems to be fighting a losing battle. And WANDERERS shows that hauntingly.

WANDERERS is a story of humanity – white and black, gay and straight, teenager and adult, man and woman, powerful and powerless, educated and everyday. All of those things are represented near flawlessly in this book, as they are represented in humanity. And they all become equals.

I learned things reading WANDERERS, something as important in works of fiction as in works of nonfiction. Some of the things I learned shocked me and some made me happy. They all made me think.

I think that maybe that’s the moral of WANDERERS – to make a reader think. Think about the stories we see in our feeds and timelines before scrolling to videos of adorable puppies barking at themselves in mirrors, the tl;dr things that are a part of life now – because they can be too long, too detailed, or too hard to face.

I follow the creator of this fantastic novel on Twitter so I know his politics, and his politics shows through in the book. That’s fine with me, because they’re my politics too. But it isn’t a book about politics, not really. It’s a book about current events, about life as we know it. It’s a book about what might happen if we don’t pay attention.

And, through all of that doom and gloom, WANDERERS is a book about hope, about courage, and about survival.

The moral of the story, if I had to pick just one, would be “get off your ass and fight for something, anything.”

So, in summary, I don’t know how you managed to pull all of this together so seamlessly, Chuck Wendig. But I don’t need an explanation. I just need this book, to read it again and again and to get other people to read it.

I am in awe and I am awed.

Thank you, Chuck Wendig, for writing this book so I could read it. Thank you.


(I received a copy of WANDERERS through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Reviewed: “The Girls at 17 Swann Street” by Yara Zgheib

Yara Zgheib’s novel of a young woman struggling with anorexia is not an easy book to read and it is not an easy book to review.

It was not easy to read because the pain of the women, they are all over eighteen and under forty, in treatment at a residential program at 17 Swann Street in St. Louis, Missouri is raw and bare and bleak. That is as it should be, with diseases like anorexia and bulimia. Your heart will break for Emm, for Valerie, for Sarah, for Julie, for Anna… for the unnamed characters and, maybe more importantly, for the real women and girls who struggle with eating disorders.

It was not easy to read and no book about the topic Yara Zgheib chose should be an easy read. I think the reader is supposed to be made uncomfortable, supposed to look at the snacks she eats so easily while reading with a different perspective, supposed to realize that there are things cannot be fully understood without experiencing them.

It was not an easy book to review because there are flaws in the story, things that left me wanting more, wanting better, and I don’t know quite know how to say that about a book with anorexia at it’s core.

But it is still a novel and novels are meant to be read and discussed so… Anna Roux is the focus of The Girls at 17 Swann Street. She was a ballerina in Paris who followed her husband, Matthias, to St. Louis for a job. And she got a job working at a supermarket, which is maybe ironic for someone struggling with anorexia. Anna, though, she’s not the most relatable woman in the story. Maybe because she isn’t developed quite enough? There are many, many, many flashbacks to a happier, more nutritional time of her life but they are very oddly scattered and placed, hardly being clear enough to explain present-day Anna before the story is pulled back to Anna at Swann Street. She seems sometimes to be defined by her anorexia, as a plot, when much of the dialogue centers on the idea that no one is their disease, no one is defined by their disease.

I wanted to read more about Emm, about Valerie and Sarah… about the ‘girls’ at 17 Swann Street, if you will. Anna finds out tidbits about why they all are there, but only tidbits. The other girls don’t exist very well without Anna. In away, I suppose, I feel like I was expecting an ensemble story, about the girls at 17 Swann Street, not just the one girl and her friends.

So my advice is this – don’t read this book if in-depth and often haunting descriptions of eating disorders and their affects are triggers for you but do read this book if you want to better understand a life lived with an eating disorder, don’t read this book if you’re looking for a well-developed ensemble story but do read this book if you want something fairly quick and focused on a single character.

  • The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
  • on sale: February 5, 2019 (published by St. Martin’s Press)
  • my rating: 3 stars
  • categories/genres: fiction / literary fiction / eating disorders / ballerinas / contemporary / hard-hitting contemporary / residential treatment programs / new adult

I received a copy of The Girls at 17 Swann Street from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

Reviewed – “The Dreamers” by Karen Thompson Walker

We live in an age when it almost seems like we’re supposed to be suspicious of everything, of everyone who isn’t quite like us, of all that we don’t, or can’t, understand in the time it takes to read a tweet. It’s so easy, so dangerously easy, to be skeptical and to wonder if what we see is ‘fake news’ and to go about our business as if all the business of other people doesn’t affect us.

I can’t say if Karen Thompson Walker meant any of that to be a message in her new novel The Dreamers but it seems to me, a reader of that novel, to where she might have started from. It’s a terrifying thought, really, to be confronted with how purposefully ignorant we humans can be when we choose to be.

But then, terrifying thoughts often make the best novels.

The Dreamers is the story of a small college town in Southern California where students on one floor of a dormitory start falling asleep and not waking up. It isn’t death, it’s sleep. And no one knows why. Much like the proverbial Patient Zero from the news coverage we’ve all seen of ebola outbreaks in Africa, the story blooms out from the floor of the dorm. More people fall asleep every day, at a rate that seems to increase far faster than all the CDC and infectious disease experts could hope to figure out a cause, much less a cure. The story blooms and jumps around the town – from once carefree college students to suspicious doomsday preppers to already nervous new parents and to a few authority figures who like to pretend they’ve got a handle on things.

It’s intense on levels that are eye-opening, in an age when Ebola outbreaks are generally ignored in America unless pretty young white Americans are infected while helping those who are not pretty, young, or white. The story is fiction, of course, but it could be real. Small Town, America could fall under a quarantine when something we don’t understand quite fast enough infects us. Probably something we could’ve avoided if we’d tried just a little harder to be just a little vigilant, in my skeptical worldview. It will happen, sooner or later, and Karen Thompson Walker seems to have grasped pretty much what it will be like.

The narrative of The Dreamers is succinct in that might count as second person, which is the best way I can describe it, because it takes the reader from one place to the next, always seeming to ‘look in’ on what’s going on. Lines like “Here’s Annie with the baby in her arms…” and “Rebecca lies in her hospital bed…” give the story a flow that seems unique and important. It’s almost like getting to look Here, at This before something grabs your hand and pulls you to look There, at That instead. It doesn’t seem like it would make a cohesive plot, but it does. Because The Dreamers is the story of an entire town of dreamers, and the reader needs to know them all.

The plot, the narrative, the creation of a town full of unique individuals… those are only some of things, albeit the major things, that Karen Thompson Walker gets right with The Dreamers. The novel is diverse (who might count as the Main Character is Mei, a Chinese American girl who is painfully shy and yet incredibly strong and what might count as the purest romance in the novel are Nathaniel and Henry, men who found love after Nathaniel’s wife died and now struggle with Henry’s dementia). The novel tells the story of crisis without being weighed down with logistics and detailed analysis, it is humanity at it’s core. The novel leaves questions unanswered, just as they are in life. And the novel is one that will carry you away and make you think, about yourself and about the world around you.


  • The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
  • on sale: January 15, 2019 (published by Random House)
  • my rating: 5 stars
  • categories/genres: fiction / medical fiction / small town fiction / medical mystery / contemporary / literary fiction


I received an advanced copy of The Dreamers from Random House through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

People who read books need to Wander with Virgil in this Leif Enger book

You know that moment when you finish a book, when you close it and all is right in the world? Except for a fear of the next book you pick up because, honestly, how could anything be as good as this one was?

That is Virgil Wander for me. I’m afraid of my next book because the story Leif Enger created is too good, too perfect, too hard to leave.

(I do now plan to read anything else Leif Enger has written, including his grocery list if I can get it!)

Virgil Wander, you see, is a man of never defined age who wanders, there are some fantastic themes running through this novel, through life until he splurges and buys a failing old movie theater called the Empress in a tiny, seemingly failing town on Lake Superior. And then, in a storm, he drives off the road and into icy water. The novel is not so much about his survival as it is about the life he lived compared to the life he could life compared to the life he wants to live. It is about the community he lives in, and how he is a part of it.

The characters Enger creates in this novel, from Virgil himself on down to ones who died before the story behinds, are so incredibly vivid and unique. Even the scenes in story that might seem small and insignificant are packed with deeper meaning. The underlying meaning and message of the novel seems to be that community is family, even if you don’t realize it in the moment. Virgil, for example, knew he lived in Greenstone and had a few close friends. After he survives the accident, he begins to find out just how much he meant to the people in town.

It’s heartwarming. It’s heartwarming because we all need this. We need to know what we mean to the people around us. We need to tell them what they mean to us.

And we all need to read this book, because I don’t want to be the only one dreaming of bike riding with Virgil, fishing for giant sturgeon with Galen, snowplowing with Lily, and flying fantastic kites with Rune.

Please, people, read this book. I know I will read it again. And again.

I received an uncorrected proof of Virgil Wander through BookishFirst in exchange for an honest, original review.

“Pretty Ugly Lies” by Pamela Crane

haven’t read Big Little Lies or seen the show but it’s hard not to have a general sense of what that story is and I think it’s pretty clear that Pamela Crane’s Pretty Ugly Lies is meant to read and liked by the same people who flock to that.

This is an absolutely fine thing because if you like what I understand that story is, if you like psychological thrillers based on the friendships of women, and if you don’t mind a little murder and adultery, you will absolutely want to read this book. It’s a quick read, it’s a pretty good read, and I had fun reading it.

(things after this point are details of the book so… reader beware, a spoiler might slip out)

It starts with a woman sitting next in a pool of her husband’s blood as she holds his cold, dead hand and thinks of how the blood of her children is on her hands too. And then things escalate very quickly.

It does go fast and, to be honest, I wanted it to be longer. The tagline on the cover is “Four Lives. Four Lies. One Killer Among Them.” and, I’m not going to lie, that’s a lot to pack into just over 200 pages.

June, Jo, Shayla, and Ellie are the four friends. They have four husbands – Mike, Jay, Trent, and Denny. There are… eleven kids among them, I think. But I only remembered this near the end of the book, and a lot of time early on was spent thinking “wait, who is married to Denny???” Basically, I wish I couldn’t known these women better, slower.

They all live on Oleander Way in North Carolina. June and Ellie have been friends since high school. I think Jo and Shayla are friends, or maybe just acquaintances? The four don’t all know each other more than polite neighborly interactions.

But the four all have secrets.

Hidden love for a friend, adultery, trying to poison her cheating husband with oleander, and doubts about her marriage that come back to haunt her (I mixed up the order so it does not at all match the way I listed the friends, you’re welcome).

These things make for an interesting story, one I’d have loved to read if it was twice as long – but this isn’t my usual genre so maybe these stories do keep it short. Given the brevity, it was hard to feel attached to any one woman or the other, hard to root for them to overcome their secrets and their lies.

That is not to say that things don’t reach a satisfying conclusion because they absolutely do.

(I received a copy of Pretty Ugly Lies from NetGalley & Bloodhound Books in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

An immigrant story you need to read…

Everyone knows the rules. Never yield the right of way. Never stay in your own lane. Never slow down at a yellow light. If you missed your exit, simply put your car in reverse. You may change the direction of a one-way street. Blow your horn angrily and with abandon.

(a quote contained in an ARC that may not be in the finished book – though I hope it is)

Donia Bijan’s THE LAST DAYS OF CAFE LEILA is the immigrant novel you need to read.

A story of Family in it’s purest, most raw form, it is the story of the ‘American Dream’. It unwraps the almost mythological idea of the American Dream to compare what that means to the people who never come to America but know of it, the people who come to America and strive for it, and Americans who might take it for granted. That sounds like an awfully grand way to start a review but it is a fair way, as you’ll know when come to the end of the story.

One of the most compelling hooks to the story is that our main characters, Zod and his daughter Noor, are Iranian. Zod is the son of a Russian immigrant to Iran and Noor becomes an Iranian immigrant to America, and daughter, Lily, because a child of two incredibly different worlds. That, the immigrant’s story, is the basis for the story, for the characters and the choices they make throughout the novel.

Noor left Iran when she was eighteen, when Zod sent her and her older brother Mehrdad to America to go to school and make lives for themselves. Noor became a nurse, married a cardiac surgeon – an immigrant from Spain, and had her marriage fall part. When that happens, she goes home to Iran for the first time in eighteen years, taking her teenage daughter with her. The timing is painfully opportune because Zod is dying and needs to make peace with his life, just as much as Noor needs to be able to find herself in her roots.

Bijan tells the story of the family mostly with a present-day portrait of Zod, Noor, Lily, and the people surrounding them but there are flashes to the past, to when Noor and Mehrdad were children and Zod was in adoration of his wife, Pari, to when Noor was a young woman new to America, and even further back to when Zod was a student in Paris. The flashes to the past are important, because they tell the story of the Iranian Revolution, of how that shaped a family, and even of how the Russian Revolution shaped Zod and his descendants.

The action of the story, the height of intensity and character definition in it, is when Lily decides she’s been in Iran long enough and she wants to go home. But it is present-day Iran and it isn’t easy for anyone to move freely. Her plan, playing on the puppy love from a boy named Karim, comes off as almost contrived and cliched but, in the end, it shows just the right sense of teenager desperation to go home. And it serves a catalyst for Noor finally finding herself after a lifetime of defining herself by what she meant to someone else. Offered the chance to go home, to go back to being who Lily and Nelson defined her as, Noor stays in Iran to start being who she defines herself as, combining a world that will involve Lily, a badly injured Iranian girl called Ferry, and Cafe Leila – the place her grandparents began with recipes smuggled from Russia.

I am so honored to having been given an ARC of this book and I felt terrible that I hadn’t read and reviewed it soon, but it turns out the paperback goes on sale today (April 7, 2018) so it’s still timely. And it is a book I will buy a finished copy of, pester every reader I know to read, and read again. It is such a rich tale of immigrants, of East vs. West, of a woman’s fight to be her own person in worlds where women are supposedly equal and where they are definitely not, and of family. There is nothing I can critique about the story, and it made me want to learn everything about Iran. These are definite signs of a good book, one that anyone reading these needs to try as soon as possible!

Facts & Figures

  • publication date: April 18. 2017 (Algonquin Books)
  • buy ithere
  • 320 pages
  • genres/categories: fiction / Iran / immigrants / family / women / contemporary / history / San Francisco
  • my reading dates: March 12, 2018 – March 23, 2018
  • my rating: 5 stars
I received a copy of THE LAST DAYS OF CAFE LEILA through NetGalley, from Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own, and are cross-posted on Goodreads, NetGalley, and my blog.

I read (and liked!) the same book as Barack Obama!

And that book would be Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. (At least, I assume he liked it. But he definitely bought it. See?)

Anyway, I liked it.

It’s been awhile since I read it (I am so behind on my reviews and my ARCs, humblest apologies to all authors and publishers and firmest promises to catch up… eventually.) but I did keep a log-journal type thing while I was reading it so this, belated, review won’t be totally worthless.

So this book, that I am super proud to have in common with Barack Obama, is my first Salman Rushdie book and I was very excited to get an early copy (through NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest and original review).

Having been lately fascinated with fairy tales, folklore, and all things supernatural, this was probably the very best book I could have started with. It begins with the story of Dunia the jinnia and the ‘love’ she shared with Ibn Rushd (who was a real philosopher in 12th century Morocco and Spain, and is more commonly known as Averroes). The story then switches to Mr. Geronimo in present day, post-apocalyptic New York City. Mr. Geronimo the gardener is a descendant of Dunia, though I can’t remember if it’s of her and Ibn Rushd, but I think so.

According to my notes, things got a little bit confusing then. Dunia is seen as the jinn/Mother, therefore the mother of all jinn? There seemed to be a war coming between the ever available adversaries of Good vs. Evil. Mr. Geronimo started to float. In a way, I had the sense that there was some prequel story that I should have known first, some research that I should have done to prepare myself for this book. Needless to say, in terms of jinn lore and Ibn Rushd versus Al-Ghazali in terms of philosophy sent me to Google many times.

And then things started to make sense, and I started to love the book. I’d just read American Gods by Neil Gaiman and I started to think of it as comparable to that. The battle of Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Dark is defined by humanity’s lore and history, and we are sometimes oblivious to the things that can change us. But those are lessons that we need to learn for ourselves, maybe without hiding in lore and stories and giving up control to things we can’t control, that might not exist. That seemed to be the message Dunia was trying to craft, though I could be very wrong about it.

The story faltered slightly when, nearly three-quarters of the way through, the two main antagonists were introduced. Zummurad and Zabardast are fine as adversaries, but they lost something in showing up so late. They ended up less three-dimensional, less motivated to fight so hard in the war against Dunia and her father. She and her father, with their kingdom at Qaf Mountain, also ended up seemingly a little abrupt because if how late in the story it became important.

The ending, my notes say, is something I found kind of anti-climactic. I didn’t see the point of it, exactly, and I wondered if I should have read One Thousand and One Nights before I read this. To it’s credit, I feel like I understand something of Arabian folklore now and I do want to learn more. I do want to re-read it, and since I had to rely so heavily on my notes and not my memories of the story, I think I might do it soon.

For the richness of the story, for what I learned from it, I do very much like this book.

a Bulgarian history lesson in a very good book

When I saw an ARC of Elizabeth Kostova’s new novel available for request on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it because her earlier novel THE HISTORIAN is one of my top… twenty-five favorite books of all time. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to read it, and I apologize to Ms. Kostova and the publisher for this late review.

As with THE HISTORIAN, THE SHADOW LAND has skips from past to present and back again. This isn’t the easiest thing to follow until you get used to it, because you have to get used to it or you risk missing an important, powerful story.

I won’t compare this novel to the other Kostova book I read any more than that. This one stands alone and it was simply that one that made me want to read this one.

The lead character, Alexandra, comes off as awfully naive, almost to the point of being cliched in her innocent-American-caught-up-in-European-intrigue storyline. The lead man in the story is more original and interesting, though it’s vaguely irritating that he proclaims to be so proud of his Bulgarian heritage but insists that he be called Bobby instead of Aspurah.

One thing it is easy to love about this novel is that, once again, Kostova manages to weave intricate, not well-known Eastern European history into a fascinating story without having the story end up too heavy with historical facts and figures or too light and uneducated. I’ve never learned so much about Bulgaria as I did reading this book and I thank the author for that. That being said, I went into the story expecting folklore (sorry, one more reference to THE HISTORIAN) but I was pleasantly surprised it went into the Communist history of Bulgaria, and of Europe as a whole, instead. This is, as an added bonus, the first book I’ve ever read set in Bulgaria!

Here’s the thing about THE SHADOW LAND, in conclusion –

I would read the story of the Past, of Stoyan Lazarov and his wife and family as they struggled to survive communism. And I would read the story of American Alexandra and Bulgarian Bobby, of their fight to right wrongs and find healing and love. But I am not 100% convinced that the two stories meld together as well as they should. It’s almost… too much coincidence, luck, and circumstance that Alexandra ends up caring what happened to Stoyan. Basically, I want two books instead of one. Which is always a good thing!

The conclusion of the story (as opposed to my conclusion above, it seems) is a little disjointed because of the separate stories. The Bad Guy is the same in both timelines, in both stories, and that’s a good thing. But Alexandra ends up sort of tossed into what is obviously supposed to be a meaningful relationship with a very minor character, making their love lose some of it’s oomph, and Bobby hardly gets an ending at all.

I cared about these people and I want them to have more, darn it!

Overall, though, it’s a good book and it gets four stars from me for Bulgarian history.

I received a copy of THE SHADOW LAND through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own, my review is posted on my blog, on Goodreads, and on NetGalley.

Coming of age in 1970s Alaska… you don’t want to miss this book…

As a reader, I’ve seen Kristin Hannah books everywhere. I’ve never bought one. Perhaps this was a mistake. Perhaps it was fate, because I was meant to read this Kristin Hannah book.

Either way, requesting an ARC, being ever so kindly granted an ARC, and reading THE GREAT ALONE over the holidays was the perfect way to end a year and start a new one.

This book is long, 450 pages, but I could not put it down and I read it in five days between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s one of those books you rush through because you can’t stop and then it’s over and you’re sad… until you realize you can read it again, almost like new because you read it so fast, and all is well again.
I’m not the only one who feels that way about books, am I?

Anyway, I started reading this tale of wild, untamed Alaska at what might seem like an inopportune moment because I live in Erie and for Christmas Erie got… sixty-some inches of snow in the two days before I started this book. I mean, who wants to read about Arctic weather while you are living it?

Me. Apparently.

I knew this for a fact when I started the book and got to 12% without looking up long enough to realize it had snowed another two inches. This after days of being a little weather-obsessed.

Hannah has created a masterpiece for me with this story. The backdrop of remote, unpredictable Alaska being combined with the struggles of a Vietnam POW and a coming of age story for a teenage girl is immediately haunting and magical.

Ernt Allbright is listless and tormented in regular life after surviving years as a POW during the Vietnam War. He loves his wife, Cora, and his thirteen year old daughter, Leni, but he doesn’t know how to… he doesn’t know how to be. So when a man named Earl Harlan writes to tell him that his son Bo, who died in Vietnam, would want Ernt to have his land in Alaska, the Allbrights leave Seattle for Alaska.

Earl, as it turns out, is more commonly known as Mad Earl and spends his days with his family in a compound that’s part survivalist, part doomsday prepper, and part anarchist. Mad Earl brings Ernt into the fold and they feed off each other, creating a powder keg that’s always ready to spark. More so for Ernt and the demons he battles from the war.

Leni makes friends in Alaska, despite it all, even developing a crush on a boy. The boy is the son of the man Ernt thinks has eyes for Cora, which doesn’t help anything. The tiny town rallies around Cora and Leni as Ernt begins to beat his wife. The tragedy is that Cora doesn’t think there’s any way out, that as long as Ernt doesn’t hit Leni, that he still loves her…

Her constant refrain to her daughter is that “I wish you remembered him before…” and that becomes a sort of theme for the novel. Everyone has a Before and sometimes it’s all you can do to hold tight and fast to that fleeting memory.

As I said, rural Alaska provides a deadly backdrop for the topics and threads that Hannah weaves seamlessly together. Domestic abuse, coming of age, race relations in the 1970s, mental health care for veterans, political beliefs, the wealthy versus the poor, how the law treats women and how it treats men…

There are parts of THE GREAT ALONE that could seem a little forced, a little too perfect. I think they work. They’re forgivable because of everything else that this book is. I can’t go into too much detail because they’re spoilers and I very much need for you to read this book asap.

Seriously. I know this makes for a terrible review but, let’s face it, if you’re following me, reading my reviews… we have similar tastes in books so there’s a strong you’ll love this book as much as I did. Do. Definitely still love this book.

The rest of the books I’m going to read in 2018, be warned. The bar has been set HIGH.

(Also, if you’re seeing this on the book page on Goodreads or something… just get it. You already want to. You won’t regret it.)

(I received a copy of THE GREAT ALONE from NetGalley & the publisher in exchange for an honest & original review. All thoughts are my own.)