Summer Island Book Review

Trauma has a way of shaping our choices like few things can. Though we can pretend that everything is fine, the truth is that it has a way of emotionally eating us alive.

Kristin Hannah‘s 2004 novel, Summer Island, is about two families who are forced to deal with their past. To the outside world, Nora is a successful advice columnist/radio show host. When it is revealed that Nora walked out on her family and cheated on her husband, her career and reputation crumble.

After surviving a nearly crippling car accident, Nora’s younger daughter Ruby becomes her mother’s reluctant caretaker. Ruby is a struggling comedienne who has yet to work through her anger and is offered a tidy sum to write a tell-all article.

When Eric came out, he was excommunicated by his family. After losing his longtime partner to AIDS, he is now dying from terminal cancer. Instead of spending his last days in a formal medical setting, Eric is moved to the family home and taken care of by Dean, his estranged brother. As they reconnect, the hard truth about their collective past becomes harder to ignore.

Adding to the complication is that Ruby grew up with Eric and Dean. Dean also happens to be her first boyfriend and first love. Though it seems impossible, these two families must reckon with their previous choices and the consequences.

Wow. Hannah proves once more why she is one of the finest fiction writers of our era. The tension is so thick that it can be cut with a knife. With a master’s touch, she intertwines the narratives of Eric, Nora, and their not-so-happy family lives. I was hooked from nearly the first page and did not want the story to end.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Summer Island is available wherever books are sold.


Best Books of 2021

  1. The Four Winds: Kristen Hannah has done it again. Her Cinderella-esque tale of a woman who resecues herself from a live of drugery, poverty, and low self esteem is one to be read again and again.
  2. Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People: Ben M. Freeman‘s treatise on Jews, and Jewish history is a must read for anyone who for once and for all wants to defeat antisemitism and all forms of hate.
  3. Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol: Mallory O’Meara‘s non fiction book explores how inspite of a certain image, women have been creating and drinking all forms of alcohol for centuries.
  4. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trumps Catastrophic Final Year: The subject of you know who will be on the lips of writers and political historians for years to come. Authors Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker examine how the former President believed that he did not need help in running the country.
  5. Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood: Writer and podcaster Mark Oppenheimer tells the story of how a single neighborhood was affected by the murders of eleven Jewish residents in 2018.
  6. Peril: Bob Woodward and Robert Costa take a deep dive into how close the American democracy got close to destruction.
  7. The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh: This JAFF by Molly Greeley gives the spotlight to Anne de Bourgh, a minor Pride and Prejudice character who has yet to be fully seen or appreciated.
  8. Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Become Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assasins-and WWII Heroes: This fascinating and powerful tale of three young ladies who led an underground war against the Nazis during World War II.
  9. Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers: Written by the Bonnet at Dawn podcast hosts, this book examines the life and works of the women writers we have loved and respected for generations.
  10. The Matzah Ball: A Novel: Jean Meltzer’s Chanukah themed rom-com about two people who are secretly in love, but cannot speak the words due to the current and past trauma.

Here’s to the books we loved in 2021 and the books we will love in 2022.

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The Four Winds Book Review

When we are feeling down, we are sometimes told that we are stronger than we think we are. As cliché as it sounds, it is also the truth.

Kristin Hannah’s new book, The Four Winds was published last month. The story starts in Texas in 1921. Elsinore “Elsa” Wolcott has three strikes against her. Strike one is that she is unmarried at the age of twenty five with no prospects in sight. Strike two is that she is perceived to be plain looking. Strike three is that her parents are convinced that her former childhood illness is still within her. They keep her tethered to the family, fearing that it will reappear.

One night, Elsa takes a chance and goes out. She meets Rafe Martinelli, the son of Italian immigrants. After a few interactions, Elsa becomes pregnant. She has no choice but to marry him. The book then flashes ahead to 1934. Between the Great Depression and the dust bowl, the Martinellis, like every other farming family in that part of the country, are dealing with hard times. On top of the external pressures, Elsa’s marriage is on shaky ground.

With so many of their neighbors moving to California for new opportunities, Elsa is eventually forced to decide where her future and the future of her children lie. Do they stay in Texas and survive as best they can, or take a chance and travel to the coast?

I know that is only March, but if I was to create a list of the best books of 2021, The Four Winds would easily be in the top five. The first line is delicious and perfect. Elsa is akin to a Cinderella type character who rescues herself. Though it would have been easy for her to sink into complacency and accept her fate, she chose to fight it. I also appreciated the relationship with her preteen daughter, Loreda. It was a natural addition to the conflict without feeling forced into the narrative.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Home Again Book Review

Teenage love is supposed to be romantic, sweet and all together wonderful. But what happens when the real world sets in?

In Kristin Hannah’s 1996 novel, Home Again, Angel DeMarco appears to be on top of the world. A Hollywood superstar, Angel lives what can only be described as a very Hollywood life. Then reality crashes in with a heart condition that could kill him.

Madelaine Hillyard is assigned to be his cardiologist. Madelaine is a superstar in her field, but find it’s difficult to balance a hectic work schedule with raising her rebellious teenage daughter, Lina, as a single parent. Lina is desperate to find out who her father is and makes no bones about it.

Once upon a time, Angel and Madelaine were inseparable. When they are brought together again, they face a tough choice. Can they heal the wounds of the past and their broken hearts (physically and metaphorically) to live as had wished at one time?

Though the book is a little slower narrative wise than the other novels of Ms. Hannah that I have read, I absolutely loved it. The conflict and the drama was just enough to hook me without being either too over the top or too predictable.

I recommend it.

Best Books Of 2018

I’ve read quite a few books in 2018. Below is the list of the best books of 2018, at least from my perspective.

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama: Mrs Obama’s autobiography is insightful, down to earth and one of the best autobiographies that I have read in a long time.
  2. House of Gold by Natasha Solomons: House of Gold was described by another reviewer as a Jewish version of Downton Abbey. I couldn’t think of another description if I made it up myself.
  3. Pride by Ibi Zoboi: A modern-day Pride and Prejudice set in New York City, this Jane Austen adaptation feels old and new at the same time.
  4. We Are Going to Be Lucky A World War II Love Story in Letters by Elizabeth L. Fox: The story of a marriage during World War II told in a series of letter that will make you believe in love.
  5. My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher: When Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds departed this world two years ago, no one knew them better than their brother and son. The book is a love letter to them by one of the people who knew and loved them best.
  6. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: A young girl growing up in the wilds of Alaska learns some hard truths about life, love and marriage.
  7. American Tantrum: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Archives by Anthony Atamanuik and Neil Casey: Based on the character created by Anthony Atamanuik on The President Show, it is a what if story in regards to the fictional Presidential library of you know who.
  8. Not Out Kind: A Novel by Kitty Zeldis: Just after the end of World War II, two women from vastly different worlds meet in New York City and forever change each other’s lives in the process.
  9. Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux: 150 years after the publication of Little Women, the book still resonates with readers across the globe and across the cultural landscape.
  10. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict: Behind every genius is a supportive and loving spouse. But what happens when the spouse is denied her own genius because she is a woman?

That’s my list, what are your favorite books of 2018?

The Great Alone Book Review

Growing up is never easy. Especially when the relationship between one’s parents is tumultuous and your growing up at the end of the world.

In Kristin Hannah’s new novel, The Great Alone, Leni Allbright is a young lady growing up in the 1970’s. Her father, Ernt, survived The Vietnam War, but came home a changed man. Her mother, Cora, loves her husband passionately and will follow him to the ends of the Earth. The ends of the Earth is a small town at the edge of the Alaska wilderness. In the beginning, their new home is nirvana. It is a chance for the family to start over. But the past is never far behind and as winter approaches, Cora and Leni must face the truth about Ernt.

The only thing I can say about this book is wow. Kristin Hannah has done it again. The narrative was tense, dramatic and I was on the edge of my seat until the final page.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Nightingale Book Review

It can be said, that it is the darkest times in our lives that will often force us to do things that we may never have previously considered doing.

Earlier this year, best selling author Kristin Hannah published The Nightingale.  The novel starts in France in 1939. Vianne and Isabelle are sisters, but they are different as night and day. Vianne, the elder by ten years, is the practical, reliable sister. Married with a young daughter, she is content to live as she is. Isabelle, at eighteen, is hotheaded and often thinks before she speaks.

When war breaks out and the Nazis invade France, Vianne watches her husband join the other men to fight for their country.  But the French are no match for the Germans and Vianne, like many women, is forced to house a German soldier. Isabelle falls in love with a man who will ultimately betray her.  Both Isabelle and Vianne will join the fight against the Germans as they both can, risking their lives and the lives of the ones they love.

This book is nothing short of amazing. I could not put it down. The details are tangible. The story is compelling. The relationship between the sisters is vivid.

It is so far, one of the best books that I have read this year.

I highly recommend this book.

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