Summer Book Reviews: 1 of 3

A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong.—unknown

All three of these books carry the message that strong women figure it out.

INHERITANCE by Dani Shapiro

This memoir read as part mystery, part self-help, part literary wonder. Shapiro spoke at the Metro Detroit Book & Author luncheon last year, and we shared brief histories into our surprises, both about our fathers. In “Inheritance,” Shapiro wakes up one morning the daughter of Paul Shapiro and goes to bed with her world upended. I loved the structure of this book and the way Shapiro unfolds the story of her parents' long-dead secrets and the realization she must face on her own: who am I? being the central question. And where do I belong it’s follow up. She shows us through fluid and gravitational story telling how a tidal wave of questions can knock you to your knees, but after the mental chaos stills, how she came to find her footing. 

Favorite line(s):I kept thinking about what it would be like to be in front of a crowd, speaking about my new book to an audience that included my biological father and half-sister. My dad had died before I became a writer. He’d never read my work nor seen me in the context of my professional world as an author. In the thirty years since his death, I had written nine books. I had read from those books to hundreds of audiences all over the world. More times than I can count—with each new publication, or upon receiving a particularly meaningful review—I would talk to him. Dad, look—I wrote all these books for you. 


NORMAL PEOPLE by Sally Rooney

Pared down with only the essential elements of storytelling, “Normal People” is oh so not normal in the magical way Rooney gets underneath the skin of her characters. Marianne and Connell are schoolmates and lovers. Connell comes from a loving home, the son of a single mom struggling to make ends meet. Marianne grows up in a lavish home ignored by her mother and verbally and physically abused by her brother. After high school, Marianne and Connell follow each other to Dublin’s Trinity College where their relationship ebbs and flows through miscommunication and uncertainty of things left unsaid. There are recurrent themes of intimacy and power peppered throughout the book. “He has sincerely wanted to die, but he has never sincerely wanted Marianne to forget about him. That’s the only part of himself he wants to protect, the part that exists inside her.” This is true for both characters and the essence of their relationship. “Normal People” is a love story above all else and it’s terrific.

Favorite line(s):The conversations that follow are gratifying for Connell, often taking unexpected turns and prompting him to express ideas he had never consciously formulated before. They talk about the novels he’s reading, the research she studies, the precise historical moment that they are currently living in, the difficulty of observing such a moment in process. At times he has the sensation that he and Marianne are like figure skaters, improvising their discussions so adeptly and in such perfect synchronization that surprises them both. She tosses herself gracefully into the air, and each time, without knowing how he’s going to do it, he catches her.


I MISS YOU WHEN I BLINK: Essays by Mary Laura Philpott 

Told with acerbic wit and deep emotion, these essays ask the question, if I do everything I’m supposed to do in life right to make me happy—but I’m not happy—do I blow up my life or figure out a way to live in it without always being right? I related to Philpott’s anxiousness about parenting, about marriage, about the multitude of ways we sabotage our own happiness. In “Sports Radio” she expertly writes what is like to be the odd person out without the sports gene. . . .I cannot grasp why adult humans watch other audit humans run around grabbing at a ball, much less why our society agrees that the individuals engaging in this tussle should be paid millions of dollars. It’s the gaping hole in my understanding of humanity. The urgency of sports confounds me, too. The importance of whatever’s happening on the field always trumps what’s going on in real life. Amen, sister. Or the utter hell of handing over your life under the guise of fundraising to help your children’s school in “The Pros and Cons of Joining the Ruby Committee.” It began with a phone call. Beware this call, the one from the acquaintance at your child’s school who “just wants to bounce an idea off you. Letting an idea be bounced off myself is how I ended up in charge of the whole thing.” But it’s not all fun and games. Philpott delves into her depression and subsequent ways of dealing with it with refreshing honesty. The whole collection hums with dark humor as Philpott casts an eye on the absurdity of everyday life. I loved this book.

Favorite line(s):More so than ever before, I missed my college friends. Whenever I could, I schemed to go visit them or get them to come visit in Atlanta, so we could stay up and hash out life in brutal detail. I missed the debates in class and confessions in the dorms and dreams in the dining hall—and not because I missed being in college. I missed feeling known. I missed knowing what the people around me thought, wanted, needed. Whenever we got together, we clicked back into that gear, and our conversations hummed and sparkled.