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Handle With Care

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Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

The “formula” that Jodi Picoult works into her novels is to take controversial subject and present both sides in a way that is equally sympathetic.  Picoult has become a master at this and Handle With Care continues in that vein.

The narrative centers around five year old Willow O’Keefe, a young girl born with brittle bone disease, also known as osteogenesis imperfecta.  Her parents, Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe adore their bright and charming little girl, but life with a severely disabled child is one of severe hardships.  When a lawyer tells Charlotte that she had a good chance to win a wrongful birth lawsuit, Charlotte decides that she need to proceed with the case because the award would help make Willow’s life better.  What she failed to realize, however, was the negative effects it would have on her family and friends.

If you’ve read and liked Picoult books before, you won’t be disappointed with this one.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2009
477 pages

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Euphoria by Lily King

Set in the jungles of Papua New Guinea during the early 1930’s, Lily King attempts to fictionalize the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead through the character of American Nell Stone.

The parallel of Nell Stone’s  relationships with her husband Fen, and eventual lover Andrew Bankson are drawn in comparison to the tribes they are studying.

“I asked her if she believed you could ever truly understand another culture. I told her the longer I stayed, the more asinine the attempt seemed…”

The larger questions of objectivity, given what we know (or don’t know) about ourselves, become a canvas that author Lily King paints this narrative upon.

King is clearly a gifted author, and I appreciated her subtle connections between our world and the PNG tribes. But at the same time, this book fell short with me.  The life and studies of Nell Stone seemed far less interesting than Margaret Mead’s actual life, and that was disappointing.  In truth, there was much about this novel that should have captured my interest, but for some reason I found it a little on the boring side.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2014
256 pages

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Generosity by Richard Powers

After reading Powers’ National Book Award Winner The Echo Maker, I was eager to read another novel by this author.  Generosity, the book I chose, featured a creative writing instructor, Russell Stone, whose life is transformed when an Algerian woman, Thassadit Amzwar, steps into his class.  This woman appears to be perpetually happy – so much so that it affects the typically melancholy Stone and everyone else around her.  Stone contacts a psychiatrist about Amzwar and together, they seek to help the Algerian optimist, but of course, things turn very sour.

Modern fiction is typically not sort of book I’d enjoy, and Generosity was no exception.  I wasn’t moved by the characters, nor was the science of “happiness” Powers delved into something that captured my interest.  It was a big ho hum for me.

2 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2009
306 pages

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The Child Thief by Dan Smith

The Child Thief

The year is 1930 and the location is the western Ukraine of the Soviet Union.  Luka is a former soldier turned farmer, trying to quietly raise his family in a small town far removed from the political turmoil that is embroiling his country.  But fate has destined that his little village would soon be the target of Soviet hostility, as soldiers make their way to these distant farmlands to steal their livelihoods and imprison their men in work camps.  As the village braces for this brutal confrontation, another horror falls on their doorstep – a man pulling a sled with two dead children on board.  The story that unravels from this incident will leave the village reeling and change Luka’s life forever.

The Child Thief is a fast-paced thriller that will leave you gripped to your seat and unable to look away.  It was a perfect of blend of historical fiction with a suspenseful narrative. I loved it!

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012
336 pages

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The Olive Tree by Carol Drinkwater

The Olive Tree

In 2002, Carol Drinkwater published her memoir of finding a new life and career when she purchased an olive farm in France.  It was a wonderful book, and subsequently, the author wrote several follow-ups about her farm and life in France.  With The Olive Tree, Drinkwater journeys around the Mediterranean, searching for the origins and new information/stories about the olive tree itself.

I enjoyed this book immensely.  Not only was this a charming travelogue, with visits to far flung places and interesting people, but Carol Drinkwater managed to make her interest in olive farming fascinating to me.  There were many times I feared for her, a lone woman traveling in Spain, the Middle East and Italy.  There were many times I envied her – savoring the food and the culture of these exotic locales.  I was amazed that she stumbled upon a 3,000 year old olive tree, and I was interested in the effects of climate and modern business practices upon the end product – that bottle of extra virgin olive oil that made it’s way to my kitchen.  But the trip was a harsh one, and I was glad she enabled me to come along without the struggles she endured.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who like to armchair travel with a taste for learning.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2009
434 pages

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The Impeachment Of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln

What would have happened if John Wilkes Booth’s assassin’s bullet had not been fatal?  Stephen L. Carter takes on that question as he presents a thrilling mystery in The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln.  Set two years after the assassination attempt, President Lincoln is facing an impeachment trial.  The law firm defending him has hired a bright young black woman, Abigail Canner, as a law clerk.  Canner arrives at her new offices and almost immediately the partner in the law firm, McShane, is murdered alongside a woman outside a brothel.  Canner becomes central in solving the mystery that is connected with the impeachment trial.

I greatly enjoyed this page-turner.  It was clear the Carter, a professor of Law at Yale University, was well-versed in the legal background that was necessary to make this book believable and interesting.  A very fun read.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012
516 pages

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