The Pull of the Stars - Emma Donoghue
There couldn't be a more timely novel to read during the world-wide coronavirus crisis. "Room" novelist Emma Donoghue has written an eye-opener of a story about midwife Nurse Julia Power on the frontline of the devastating 1918 flu epidemic in the maternity ward of the Dublin hospital where she works. Riveting no-holds-barred descriptions of birthing, and life and death scenarios, this is a deeply compassionate book of hope and courage against all odds.
Vesper Flights - Helen MacDonald
Naturalist writer Helen MacDonald shares her deep love for birds and nature in this new essay collection of her observations of the world of birds. Each piece is a delicate vignette of minute, sensitive discoveries in the natural world. I so admire Helen MacDonald for her heatfelt appreciation of all the things in nature that pull at my own heart. I nominate her "Queen of Nature Writing."
The Exiles: A Novel - Christina Baker Kline
Bestselling author Christina Baker Kline does it again! The prolific author of "Orphan Train" and "A Piece of the World" has written another compelling and emotional historical novel. "The Exiles" follows the horrific overseas journey young imprisoned women, many pregnant, of 19th century London are forced to take when they are moved away from the UK to a penal colony in Australia. Revealing the oppression, sexism, hardship, and hope of three women’s lives who intersect on the ship, it was eye-opening to read Christina Baker Kline's take of the vile treatment of underprivileged women. I highly recommend this book that is a sad reminder of misogyny that continues to exist yet ends with hope and faith that good people do exist.
The Book of Longings - Sue Monk Kidd
"I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth." So begins Sue Monk Kidd's newest novel, "The Book of Longings," crafted around the premise "would the Judea/Christian world have been different if Jesus had had a wife like Ana and she had been a part of his story?" Ana is an erudite, self-confident, and spirited woman with chutzpah to use her voice and speak her mind. Through Jesus' teachings and utter acceptance of all people, would the first-century patriarchy have embraced women as equals?
Kidd's Ana is not a typical first-century Jewish woman. Thoroughly researched, Kidd exposes that very early period in history when women weren't allowed to be fearless and articulate, much less use ink and a reed pen on precious papyrus to put thoughts onto paper. Ana is a brilliant writer and she secretly uses ink and pen to document her life and her friends' stories. She is willful. She adamently opposes the choices made for her future by the men in her family. She could care less about society's rules and opinions. Set in ancient Jewish/Roman history, written in a modern tone, I found it captivating to follow Ana's journey, at the start of the Roman occupation of Israel, from Galilee to Nazareth to Alexandria where she fled from her family, married and lived with the man she loved, and then fled for her personal safety when he became an outspoken Messiah, ostracized by the Roman republic.
The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls- Ursula Hegi
I've been a fan of Ursula Hegi's writing since reading "Floating in My Mother's Palm," just one of her many novels that take a unique look at mother/daughter relationships. Her writing is exquisite, her storytelling captivating. I was immediately drawn into the tragic beginning of "The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls," finding St. Margaret's Home for Pregnant Girls to be a sweet distraction from the story's start. Hegi is adept at building and intertwining characters, and at realistically presenting women in a women's world.
The Last Great Road Bum - Hector Tobar
Pulitzer Prize awarded Hector Tobar culled together vagabond world-traveler Joe Sanderson's lifetime of writing in "The Last Great Road Bum." Joe's journey began in Mexico City in 1960 at the age of 18. He spent the next 22 years traveling to war-torn countries from Vietnam to Nigeria and everywhere in between, in his quest for a life worth writing about. Joe died in El Salvador, writing about and fighting side by side with the guerilla rebels during the Salvadoran Civil War. Tobar has posthumously created Sanderson's great American novel taken verbatim, and with extrapolation, from the two decades of writing about Sanderson's world travels and experiences as a road bum, as well as interviewing the people across the globe who Joe wrote about in his journals. I can't recommend it highly enough.