Nine Novels

I took two weeks off in August and decided to dive into fiction reading. This vacation time was meant to include a big family gathering, a celebration of my parents anniversary, and my 20 year high school reunion. 

All of that was canceled. 

Instead, we mostly stayed in one place. In fact, I got in our car only 3 out of the 17 days- two trips to the store and one disc golf outing. 

We slept. I deactivated my social media accounts. I eliminated screen time-not a show, no online shopping, no movies. It was two weeks of stillness, of quiet, of snuggling and cooking and reading.

The vacation time felt like true Sabbath. And though I read countless children’s books each day, the bottom post is about the nine novels I finished in those weeks.

1. Behold The Dreamers-Imbolo MBue

This novel was a gut wrenching portrayal of the challenges American immigrants face. The contrast in the American dream with the reality of low wages and job insecurity. The characters are complex. The story is both compelling and painful.

2. Where the Crawdads Sing- Delia Owens

This book is a unique story with beautiful nature imagery. The premise of a young girl living by herself in the swamp is hard to believe so at first I struggled to buy in to the narrative but by the end I was hooked and it was a fast read.

3. Before We Were Yours- Lisa Wingate

This Book is a fictional interpretation of the unethical practices of the Memphis Childrens home in the 20s and 30s. It tells the tale of poor children stolen from their families and sold to wealthy folks. The novel follows one family in particular. The story itself is painful and captivating with a silver lining of redemption at the end.

4. Everything I never Told You- Celeste Ng

This novel is all about the writing. Ng creates believable, deep and complex characters. She writes about family dynamics and the unspoken narratives that shape our family systems. The story follows a Chinese American family in the unexpected loss of their teenage daughter, but the story beneath the story is about each of their insecurities and the ways their idiosyncrasies affect their family. The novel top the list of Amazon‘s best books of the year in 2014 and I’ve read that the author spent six years writing this book with four complete drafts until she published. An excellent read.

5. Euphoria- Lily King

This novel is about a love triangle that takes place among anthropologists doing work in the field across the world in Africa. It’s inspired by the story of Margaret Mead. The book made the top 10 list in the New York Times in 2014. Again, this book is all about the characters and the effective subtle writing of King. It was a page turner for me simply because the writing was such a high-quality, even more than the story. Good read.

6. The Nickel Boys-Colson Whitehead 

This novel won the Pulitzer Prize and made the list of Time’s most influential books of the last 10 years. I listened to the audiobook format and the narrator was excellent. The story is about juveniles in an unethical detention center – inspired by the real story of the Dozier School. Issues of race and justice are explored in the pages. An excellent book.

7. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World- Elif Shafak

This novel is told through the lens of a sex worker who is murdered and her life is flashing before her eyes in the last 10 minutes and 38 seconds of consciousness. The premise itself is fascinating. The story is beautiful and heart wrenching. It’s set in Istanbul and focuses on themes of friendship, loyalty, and the complexities of the lives of six people. 

8. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous-Ocean Vuong

This novel is written as a letter that a Vietnamese American son rights to his illiterate mother. He shares vulnerable and intimate experiences of his life to try to explain who he is to his mom. It got great reviews and I wanted to like it but I didn’t. It was painful to read. It’s a tragic story- a tragic letter that broke my heart too many times and I felt nauseous by the end. The book itself is lyrically and poetically written but it filled me with grief and it was too heavy for a vacation read.

9. The Book of Longings- Sue Monk Kidd

This novel is a fictional story about Jesus‘s wife, Anna. The writing is rich and descriptive. Every page is filled with vivid and beautiful language . This book is equal parts amazing because of the writing and because of the story. I loved every page and I didn’t want it to end. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

This brings me to 74 books in 2020, on my way to my 100 goal. My vacation reading reminded me that fiction is my favorite. Nothing is better than a good novel to me. So if you have recommendations of amazing fiction you’ve enjoyed please share-thanks for reading!

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